Posted by Dave Arnold
At home I have an old Garland 6 burner stove with salamander that I picked up at a restaurant auction for a couple hundred bucks in 2001. It never got hot enough to do pizza the way I wanted. In runaway mode it only got to 600°F or so. I knew that to make good pizza I’d need some stone in the oven, but that would only increase the thermal mass, make the oven take much, much longer to heat, and lower the final max temperature. Solution: Embed heaters in the stone with thermocouples to boost the heat of the oven. I bought some pizza stones, cooling racks, bendable immersion heaters, high temp wire, and thermocouples and built the rig you see here.
I attached the whole thing to a Watlow four-channel temperature controller and added a solenoid valve so the controller could turn the gas off and on. Here is the idea: The gas-fired oven is controlled via a thermocouple in the oven cavity. The oven is fired from below so the floor of the oven is naturally hotter than the dome. That is good. The heater in the cement I hung from the roof of the oven is controlled by its own thermocouple, so is the floor. The problem is that my apartment has only 60 amps of 120 volt service so electricity is scarce. I can’t make coffee and use the air conditioner at the same time. I didn’t have the power to run both the ceiling and floor elements in the oven. It worked OK just using the ceiling. I was able to get the oven temperature as a whole up to 700°F, with the floor up to750°F (because the floor absorbed so much heat from the bottom-fired oven) and the ceiling up to 750°F (because it had a heater in it). Problem was, after the first couple of pizzas, the floor would start to cool and not recover. Damn. Finally, I added an extension cord to a separate circuit in the bathroom to heat the bottom. Now I can do 893°F in the floor! I just can’t make pizza and use the bathroom at the same time. Not if I want privacy anyway.