Essential tools for making Modernist Pizza
Get beneath the crust and into the deep science of pizza making with our new book Modernist Pizza
Modernist Pizza is the definitive guide to the world’s most popular food. Created by the team that published the critically acclaimed Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking and Modernist Bread, this groundbreaking set of books is the culmination of exhaustive research, travel, and experiments to collect and advance the world’s knowledge of pizza.
In this three-volume set, authors Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya share practical tips and innovative techniques, which are the outcome of hundreds of tests and experiments. This might seem like an unduly high-minded approach to such a common dish, but it’s well in keeping with Myhrvold's work.
The author was Microsoft's Chief Technology Officer for many years, and undertook postdoctoral work with Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge. Having earned a culinary diploma from École de Cuisine La Varenne in France, and retired from Microsoft, he now pursues several lifelong interests, including photography, cooking, and publishing books such as this. Combining deep insights into the chemical and physical processes that take place during pizza cookery with well-researched sections on pizza’s culinary history and geography, Modernist Pizza will turn the sloppiest of giuseppes into perfect pizzaiolos. How? Well, aside from a great oven, the book lists the other essential tools for making the perfect pizza.
Scales “Measuring ingredients by weight, rather than volume, will make a huge difference in your results,” The book advises. Modernist Pizza recommends a scale for general use, with single-gram increments, and, if possible, a precision scale for weighing smaller quantities of certain ingredients, such as yeast.
Thermometers “A digital probe is best,” according to this new book, though an oven thermometer is useful too, as is combination timer/thermometer probe, which takes care of two jobs in one.
Timers The Modernist pizza offers little guidance on these, beyond impressing upon the reader that their alarm is LOUD!
Plastic tubs The team at Modernist Pizza favour square, clear plastic bins with airtight lids, made by the catering product manufacturers Cambro.
Plastic bags or tarps Plastic rubbish bags can be used to cover pizza dough to prevent it from drying out, though Modernist Pizza’s authors prefer transparent, compostable bags.
Mixer Most pizza doughs (and certainly those contained in this book) require mixing for full gluten development. You can do this by hand, but a mixer saves a lot of hard work.
Bench knife Also known as a bench scraper, these sharp, metal implements can be used for cutting dough, lifting sticky dough, and scraping dough residue off a worktable.
Fermentation tub Once pizza dough is balled, it needs to be kept in an airtight tub while fermenting.
Peels We can all picture these peels, or large paddles the pizzaiolo uses to place and retrieve pizzas from the oven. The Modernist Pizza recommends metal rather than wooden ones, since they tend to be thinner and can slide under the crust. A perforated metal peel is the best, since this allows excess flour (which can cause the pizza to burn) to fall away.
Water spritzer These can be pretty basic; Modernist Pizza just advises that the water in these squirters should be changed weekly.
Sheet pans and specialised pizza pans You can cook all the pizzas in this new book on a simple, aluminum sheet pan, however, a few specialised pans do offer advantages. “Some have reinforced frames that keep them from warping in the oven, or curved surfaces to prevent the pizza from sticking. Others are made of thicker, denser metal that produces a crisper base.”
Sauce spoon or ‘spoodle’ This is for spooning sauce onto dough. Modernist Pizza's authors favour one with a flat base for spreading.
Food mill Tomatoes are passed through this tool to make pizza sauce.
Box cheese grater/ food processor or Robot Coupe cheese grater attachment for a mixer The Modernist Pizza recommends any of these for shredding blocks of cheese.
Squeeze bottle This is to be filled with olive oil (or another, preferred oil) so it can be squeezed onto your pan or pizza, before or after baking.
Wheel cutter Modernist Pizza recommends this classic pizza implement when slicing up pies.
Scissors The book also advocates the use of scissors for cutting up pizzas; this method doesn’t crush the crust.
Baking steel or pizza stone Finally, if you’re baking a pizza in a domestic oven, Modernist Pizza recommends one of these. Or actually, “for more even heat radiation, you can stack two togehter, but this is optional.”
For more on this, and much else besides, order a copy of Modernist Pizza here.