How did I end up with an Uuni pizza oven?
When I bought my Weber gear I tried to do pizzas on a pizza stone in the grill and whilst it was OK, it was never a great pizza. I went on to buy the Weber pizza oven attachment which was better but it took an incredible amount of effort to get it hot enough, burnt a lot of fuel, took ages to cook each pizza and didn’t cook the top or crust the sides properly.
I was playing with the idea of buying a proper Italian pizza oven when I noticed Uuni on Kickstarter. It looked cool and quite different, they had some great pictures of pizzas but I wasn’t convinced it could be as easy as they said it was. Gradually, more and more folk in the BBQ community were buying Uuni pizza ovens and raving about how easy they were to light, use and cook with but posting pictures of awesome looking pizzas. I placed my order! (It is as easy as they say it is and the results are awesome!.)
Since writing this page Uuni were kind enough to send me the Uuni 3 so I could update it to cover the 2S and the 3. With plenty of cooks under my belt on the 3 I have now updated the page.
The notes below are my own notes written since owning first the Uuni 2S and later the Uuni 3. I am in no way a pizza expert or even an Uuni expert but I am slowly learning how to cook decent pizzas and am gradually improving. There are real Uuni/Pizza experts out there who can talk to you in minute detail about hydration levels, dough proofing temperatures and all sorts of similar things. I am not at that stage, might not even get there but my notes have helped me create pizzas better than the ones out of the supermarkets or from takeaways so I am pretty happy with that! Hopefully my notes can help others too 🙂
Here is a picture of my Uuni 2S when it lived outside and when it was still shiny! 4 legs, one on each corner. Pellet tray in the back, temperature adjustment and pellet top up through the funnel at the back.
Major differences on the 3 are:
- It has 3 legs rather than 4 (2 at the front, 1 at the back in the middle)
- The chimney clips on to the body rather than twists and locks in
- The back end tapers down slightly,
- The pellets are “housed” in an almost seperate box attached to the back.
- The pellet funnel is square rather than round and is a bit lower.
- Temperature adjustment is done by altering a screw that alters pellet flow.
- You get a flame guard to stop your pizzas hitting the lit pellets and to control the fire a little.
This shows the new pellet box on the back of the Uuni 3:
You don’t need anything extra once you buy the Uuni but there are a few things I have bought over time which have either made things easier, more consistent, taste better and look better too!
Flamers: These are great for lighting the pellets – £17.99 for 200 from Amazon
Lighter: Turbo Jet Flame long nose lighters! – £4.99 for 2 from Amazon
Rest/First Rise: 6 litre food grade container with lid – £5.24 from Amazon
2nd Rise/Proof: Food grade pizza dough trays (x3) – £22.95 from Amazon
Jam Funnel (for the Uuni 2s and/or the Uuni 3 to keep the pellets topped up and the fire roaring!): £6.25 on Amazon
Wooden Pizza Peel – Stops your pizza sticking when you launch it: £9.99 from Amazon
IR Gun – Make sure to get one that goes to 550c: This one is £17.99 on Amazon:
Lighting the Fire: Looftlighter – This helps speed up the process of getting to maximum heat but also helps maintain a high temperature between pizza cooks: £52.49 on Amazon
Portable Fan: This is a much cheaper alternative to the Looftlighter, gives a real boost to the fire before and during cooking. Recharged over USB and only £10 on Amazon.
Cast Iron: Uuni cast iron dish – £14.50 on Amazon
A great book I have been using lately is “The Pizza Bible” by Tony Gemignani. Currently £17.68 on Amazon:
Following the Margherita recipe from this book I ended up with the best pizza I have cooked so far!
Uuni 2S – Method 1: It’s very easy to light the Uuni, but it’s taken me a while to master a technique which now appears to be fail-safe.
Start off by raising the hopper to the highest point. The hopper controls the temperature and the lowest setting appears to be the hottest.
Take the pellet crate out and put 2 large fistfuls of pellets in.
Put the pellet crate back in part way and slot in a “Flamer” firelighter before pushing the crate all the way in.
Make sure the hopper handle is facing inwards away from the fire and make sure the pellet scoop is in the hopper. The Uuni works on convection so you need the scoop in and the front door shut.
I light the flamer with one of the long nosed fire lighters. You can use a blowtorch to light it but I find it harder to get the fire going. With the flamers it’s a quick light and walk away.
The flamer will get to work quickly.
You will see a bit of smoke as the pellets get going.
Lighting Tip: When my Uuni was outside there was always a gentle breeze which helped stoke the fire. When I had a BBQ Hut built there wasn’t a breeze inside and the fire seemed to struggle to light a bit plus the smoke was heavier at the start. I started blowing the back of the hopper to get it going but then I remembered I had a looftlighter so I have started using that to give the fire a good kick at the start. This has helped reduce the amount of smoke and made the fire take much quicker. I have also given the pellets a blast with the looftlighter when I top up with pellets between pizza cooks which ends up like a turbo boost to the fire!
After 3 minutes I drop the hopper 1 level. Lately I have just been dropping it right down to the bottom at this point but gradual changes work. Stick another handful of pellets down the hopper.
After another 3 minutes drop the hopper to the bottom notch and fill it with pellets up to the top of the collar (the bit that sticks out above the top notch below).
The fire will be well under way now.
After about 10 minutes from lighting the flamer the fire should be raging and the stone should be above 500C. I use this IR Thermometer from Amazon, only £19. Make sure you get one that goes above 500C, this one goes to 750C. If your stone isn’t at 500C close the door and leave it for a bit. Make sure the pellets are topped up above the collar.
Gratuitous arty fire shot!
Gratuitous arty smoke shot!
When the fire is well underway and you are at temperature, you will hear the flames roaring inside the oven.
Be careful when you open the door as the flames roll all the way up to the front!
You are now good to go!
Uuni 2S – Method 2: Preferred method.
I spotted this video on You Tube:
It suggests dropping the hopper to the lowest level, putting 2 handfuls of pellets in the hopper, lighting it and waiting 3 minutes then topping the pellets up to the level of that first notch on the hopper.
I did this on a recent cook and it was really easy to get the Uuni lit and up to temp, this will be the preferred method in future:
Uuni 3 – Method 1:
The instructions say to add a handful of pellets, light it, leave it a while and then top it up. I tried that and it worked well but you have to stay on top of it keeping the pellets topped up. I find this technique much easier.
Fill the tray with pellets and add a flamer at the front:
Light the flamer and put the tray in the Uuni.
Leave it 5 minutes then fill up the pellet funnel – only ever fill it up in line with the screw on the outside, any more and it seems to block the funnel or choke the fire.
Uuni 3 – Method 2:
As above but use the Looftlighter and a couple of minutes after lighting the pellets give it a couple of minutes of Looftlighter at full power!
You get a cracking fire going with this, in no time at all the Uuni is roaring like a jet fighter!
This works for the 2S and the 3. Maintaining the fire in the Uuni takes a bit of concentration, you need to keep track of the pellet line, check the fire, check your stone temperatures and keep topping up. Sometimes, making and cooking the pizza takes a lot of concentration as well which can cause you to forget about the pellets and that leads to a temperature drop. The best way I have found to avoid this is to buy a Jam Funnel, add it on the pellet funnel and fill it with pellets. It keeps the fire roaring and you can see at a glance if it needs topping up or not. The beauty is it holds so many more pellets you don’t need to top up so often.
Using the Jam Funnel and the Looftlighter allows you to get up to temperature in record time. From lighting the flamer to having the stone at 550c is under 10 minutes.
I have tried a lot of pizza doughs over the years and I tried a few of them with the Uuni; but the easiest recipe I have found so far is from Uuni themselves.
You can make the dough on the day but the taste and flexibility of the dough does improve if you leave it a couple of days. It’s hard to be so organised though and if you are in a rush making the dough on the day is fine. I use our Kitchenaid with a dough hook to knead the dough, makes it even easier!
Early on I was using 00 flour from the supermarket, dried yeast in a pot from the supermarket and I was rolling the dough with a rolling pin. Through trial and error, practice and tears, I have found the best results come from:
- Molino Grassi 00 flour – I tested this as the first change to our process and the difference in the dough was unbelievable. Lighter, more flexible and the crust on the edge formed far easier. I got it from Amazon, 10KG for £10.
- Saf-Levure yeast – I tried this instead of supermarket yeast and the smell of the dough was very different, it had a smell that reminded me of fresh bread in a bakers. The dough rose better, was more flexible and crispier. £6 for a big pot on Amazon.
Pizza Dough Tips:
- You can get fresh yeast from the supermarket, just go up to the bakers bit and ask them. I have tried it once and didn’t get as good results as I did with the Saf-Levure. I will try it again but it’s handy having a big pot to one side.
- I have also tried premium British 00 flour and not had results close to the Molino Grassi flour. This flour has a high gluten level which helps create more bubbles in the pizza dough.
- On one cook the dough didn’t rise much and I blamed it on the supermarket yeast we had used. But the next time round my wife checked the temperature of the water before she put the yeast in and it was 46 degrees Celsius. Looking online the optimum temperature range for yeast fermentation is 27c to 38c. We added more cold water and got it down to 36c, this time the dough rose much better so maybe 46c is too hot for the yeast.
- Only ever shape the dough with your hands, don’t use a rolling pin as it knocks the air out which stops the crust rising as much.
- If you don’t want to make fresh dough or don’t have time you can get frozen pizza dough from Northern Dough Company in the supermarket which folk have had good results with.
Fair bit of detail in this blog post:
I followed this video when making the dough:
I left the yeast in the water for 10 minutes before adding it to the flour and the mixed dough was put into a 6 litre plastic container for 2 hours. I got the container from Amazon for £5.23:
It was then rolled underneath to form smooth dough balls and put into 3x 7 Litre Plastic Stacking Food Grade Commercial Pizza Dough Trays. I got 3 of these from Amazon for £22.95. 2 trays hold dough and the top tray acts as a lid but the trays are the right size to fit in the fridge when you want to cold prove the dough.
Dough method 2:
Recently I bought “The Pizza Bible” book which is full of recipes, hints and tips. One dough recipe has a Poolish starter you use along with a cold prove. With this dough recipe I got amazing leoparding on the pizzas:
The only thing with this dough recipe is I find it quite wet and the dough is really, really stretchy so is harder to shape but prone to tearing also. With a steady hand and patience it produces good results!
To start with we were rolling the dough with a rolling pin but we weren’t getting much of a raised crust round the edge of the pizza. I watched a few videos online and started stretching the dough by hand just by spinning it round with one hand and squeezing it with the other. This became a lot easier when we started using the Molino Grassi flour as the dough was far more flexible so easier to work with.
Sometimes you get an odd batch of dough that doesn’t want to behave. You can use a rolling pin but it might affect the crust so I have rolled a glass in the middle before as you can roll out the dough and avoid the edges.
At one point I did test using the rolling pin then folding the edges of the dough back in to create a sausage but it didn’t really work!
If you want a raised crust stretch the dough by hand. To stop it sticking keep dusting it with plenty of flour and before you put it down make sure the base is dusted. I don’t put it on the peel and build the pizza until the last possible moment as any heat in the base could cause it to stick to the peel.
Cold proofing the dough seems to help keep the dough stretchy enough to shape.
This video provides good information on making stretchy dough:
Again, I have tried a lot of pizza sauces over the years but my favourite is this one by Kenji.
The tomatoes I use are Lupetta San Marzano plum tomatoes D.O.P – I got a 12 pack from Amazon with the flour and yeast for £16. It’s out of stock at the moment but these Zia Rose San Marzano plum tomatoes D.O.P are available at £16.70 for 12 tins which I have also used.
I have tried British tomatoes but the results weren’t quite as good. Plum tomatoes are better than chopped as the chopped can be firmer. When we don’t have tomatoes we have used jars of passata which, whilst not as good as the tinned tomatoes, still turn out a nice sauce.
I know an authentic pizza will use Mozzarella di bufala Campana D.O.P but it’s not a strong tasting cheese and with the balls you slice the cheese and end up with discs of cheese on the pizza. The pre-grated stuff is quite odd, again it doesn’t taste of much but seems quite plastic in it’s texture! You will end up with a better spread of cheese on the pizza though.
Personally I prefer to grate some hard cheese, even better if you have cold smoked the cheese in advance. Pizza aficionado’s will kill me for this but one I liked the best was Pilgrim’s choice extra mature cheddar cheese which I had double cold smoked over whisky oak. The flavour of that with some pulled pork on was cracking! Experiment and see what you like, my wife doesn’t like strong tasting cheese so prefers mozzarella but I prefer a stronger tasting cheese. I think it’s best to use grated cheese though, preferably one you grate yourself.
Best advice here – keep it simple.
In an ideal world if you have 2 peels you make it on one then slide the other one underneath which helps make sure it will slide into the pizza oven to cook. As you work with the dough and move it about make sure to keep dusting it with flour. Don’t put it on a hot peel as it will stick and don’t over sauce as that can cause it to stick. Best advice is to have the pizza on the peel for as short a time as possible to reduce the risk of sticking!
If it does stick, try and get another peel (or spatula / fish slice) underneath to raise it so you can chuck some flour underneath. Semolina flour seems to work best but can be quite hard to find for some reason, if you don’t have semolina flour just use the same flour you used for the pizza base.
Making the Pizza – Tip 1: I had some issues with the bases sticking on one run so I made the pizza on one peel then slid another one underneath before moving it back to the original peel. I then keep wiggling the peel to keep the pizza moving stopping it from sticking.
Spread the pizza sauce thinly round the base leaving a rim round the edge, then place your toppings on. If you put loads of stuff on the pizza it won’t cook properly. I tend to try and keep it down to 4 slices of meat as you get a well cooked top.
Making the Pizza – Tip 2: If the pizza base is sticking to the peel the you can use semolina flour or standard flour to try and stop it but too much will cause the base to burn. The best thing I have found is a wooden pizza peel – £9.99 on Amazon. With a little bit of flour it’s stopped the pizza sticking completely, use the wooden peel to launch the pizza and the metal one to spin it.
Check the temperature of the stone. If it’s 500c or above slide the pizza in. Aim for the centre of the stone. On the Uuni 2s you can catch your pizza on the flames at the back and burn it so the centre is best.The flame guard on the 3 helps prevent this but you can still burn your pizza if it touches the guard long enough.
For some reason it took me a long time to learn you don’t need to take the whole door off to put stuff in / take it out. You just pivot the door up on it’s latch!
Now, this thing burns hot and it will cremate your pizza if you aren’t careful. My method, which does sound mad, is as follows:
- Count to 40 – take pizza out, spin it 180 degrees and back in.
- Count to 30 – take pizza out, spin it 90 degrees and back in.
- Count to 30 – take pizza out, spin it 180 degrees and back in.
- Check pizza for any bits that need a bit extra. Usually a maximum count of 10 here or it will burn.
- Should be under 2 minutes all in.
When the pizza is ready, put another fistful of pellets in the hopper then go and make the next pizza. If you have the jam funnel in, make sure it’s topped up and give it a whack to knock more pellets down. The time it takes to make the next pizza is usually long enough for the Uuni to get back up to temperature. Check it’s 500C or above before trying to cook the next pizza.
Cooking the Pizza – Tips:
- If you aren’t using the Jam Funnel add more pellets each time you take a pizza out. The temperature should be back to 500C+ by the time your next pizza is ready. Check the stone with the IR gun before you put the pizza in though.
- Without the Jam Funnel it’s almost a 2 person job to make and cook the pizzas. You can do it with 1 person if you are incredibly organised or just a pizza ninja (neither apply to me!). The Jam Funnel makes it far easier for one person to do everything.
When my BBQ hut was built I ordered a load of stuff from Nisbets and as part of the order I bought the 3 types of cast iron sizzler dishes they sell. I seasoned these by rubbing rapeseed oil on then sticking them in the oven at 250c for half an hour, letting them cool and repeating the process a further 2 times.
When you cook on cast iron make sure you only use a little bit of oil or it will flare up. First time I cooked on it there was a raging inferno inside the Uuni!
The cast iron gets crazy hot in the Uuni, I have taken to moving them using 2 pairs of welding gloves. The gloves are easier to use than the handle you get but a single glove wasn’t enough first time!
I have had great fun cooking on the cast iron dishes lately and will be doing more in the future as well:
Cast Iron – Tips:
- Don’t put too much oil on the pans, it will ignite!
- My pellets are hard to light.
- I only use Uuni branded pellets, they are hardwood pellets from a traceable source. Other pellets might be cheaper but are usually softwood and probably not so traceable.
- Store the pellets in a dry place if possible. Mine are loose in my hut and I haven’t had any issues but an air tight box wouldn’t hurt.
- Use the methods listed above, especially with the flamer.
- My pellets are smokey when lit.
- As above with the Uuni branded pellets. I have seen other pellets that kick off no end of smoke, usually softwood rather than hardwood.
- Are they damp? Keep them warm and dry.
- Is the fire a bit poor? Use the lighting methods above and if in doubt buy the Looftlighter and give it some heat turbo!
- I can’t get the temperature up to 500/500c.
- Follow the techniques I mention above. Keep it topped up with pellets and after 15 minutes you should be at 550c.
- I can’t shape the dough properly.
- Watch the videos above. They are really handy.
- Follow the tips for making, resting and proving the dough as it will make it easier to handle.
- The pizza sticks to the peel.
- Lightly flour the peel/base before shaping/making the pizza.
- Semolina flour is best if you can find it.
- Don’t spread the pizza too thin.
- Don’t put too much sauce on top.
- Don’t let it sit too long before you cook it.
- Buy a wooden peel, far easier to launch the pizza off.
- Lightly flour the peel/base before shaping/making the pizza.
- My pizza base is burnt.
- Probably too much flour on the base. Use less flour/use semolina flour or use a wooden peel to launch.
- Is there anything on the pizza stone burning that might burn the base?
- My pizza base isn’t cooked / is damp.
- The pizza stone probably wasn’t hot enough when you started cooking. Buy an IR gun and check the stone is over 500c before cooking.
- Too much sauce / too many toppings maybe.
- The temperature keeps dropping.
- Keep the hopper topped up with pellets. After you take a pizza out make sure it’s full up and burning new pellets.
- Try the Jam Funnel to make things easier.
- Use a fan or the Looftlighter to give it a quick turbo before the next pizza!
- Make sure the door is on properly.
- Keep the hopper topped up with pellets. After you take a pizza out make sure it’s full up and burning new pellets.
- My pizza is burnt.
- Take it out and spin it more often, keep an eye on it.
- The crust won’t rise / isn’t “spotted”
- Follow the tips above, so many things affect this. The flour, yeast, kneading, rest, prove and cooking temperature. From my tips above you should be fine.
- I used to eat ham and pineapple pizzas as a kid. They seem quite controversial with some folk but each time they are mentioned I want to make one!
- What can I cook in the Uuni.
- Almost anything! (as long as it fits!)
The Uuni pizza oven is an absolute steal at £200. The quality of the pizza you can get out of it is frankly unbelievable.
It takes a bit of practice but hopefully my notes will help. I haven’t settled on any of my techniques yet and would love to hear any tips from other Uuni users that might help me improve my pizzas further – comment below or message me on Twitter.
You aren’t just restricted to pizzas either, I have done flatbreads on the Uuni and have recently cooked some meat in the sizzler dishes (see above).
Below are some of my favourite cooks on the Uuni to date. I am by no means an expert and there is still room for improvement but I will create a post on my blog showing the progress from the first pizza to where I am now as it’s quite an improvement.
You can cook sweet pizzas as well!
Update 27/12/17: I have finally written up “Uuni: A year of Pizza”: