Pizza for Pubs

Pizza can represent a significant opportunity for some pub caterers. It provides a focused menu, fast throughput of customers, has global appeal and does not require the kind of kitchen staff training that a full service restaurant or gastropub needs.

If bent on providing the best in pub pizza or pub restaurant pizza then there is a range of dedicated kitchen equipment available which makes preparation and cooking of pizzas consistent and quick. This equipment represents a significant capital expenditure, but if you only want to feature pizza as part of your menu there are still elements of this kit that will provide you with the tools you need. Whether you want to concentrate on pizza as your main menu item or be “part time pizzeria”, the principles are the same.

The base for all pizza is a type of bread dough and for this you will need a mixer. Vertical Cutter Mixers are high speed mixers with agitator speeds at about 1700 rpm with finished dough produced in under two minutes. (Probably not needed in all but the busiest of pizza restaurants and not in the average pub.)  Planetary Mixers consist of a large bowl for ingredients and a dough hook agitator that stirs the dough. There are usually attachments (a grater or vegetable preparation equipment). The planetary action causes the agitator to move in a figure of eight, allowing the dough to uniformly mix. A good general addition to any kitchen, whether catering for a specialised pizza or more diverse menu.

Low volume outlets can weigh out a dough ball and roll with a rolling pin working and turning the dough to the required diameter. Hand-tossing is wonderful cooking theatre, but requires great skill by the pizza chef and is probably not essential in a back of house cooking environment.

For the higher volume outlet a mechanical press gives a uniform shape and thickness. There are three types of mechanical pizza press, the sheet roller, the cold press and the hot press.

The sheet roller is a type of pastry roller, through which dough is fed to produce a large flat sheet. A hand cutter is then used to cut out the required diameter of pizza dough and the leftover dough goes back into the roller. This is for very high volumes of fresh pizza and not really necessary for smaller pub operations.

A cold dough press has a portion of dough placed on a baking dish and the dough is pressed to shape. Cold pressing gives a very uniform crumb structure, more like a bread than a crispy thin pizza.

Hot pressing forms a skin on the pizza dough, which can allow for a rising up of the edges (deep-pan) and gives a crispy finished base after cooking.

Having the space available for preparation is essential for any pizza operation, you’ll need a flat surface for working, usually in stainless steel, at the back of the work surface should be salad pots for your pre-prepared toppings such as onion, tomato base, olives, ham, etc, (and all within easy reach of the pizza maker).

Finally grab fridges/freezers items that for such as extra cheeses, speciality ham, tuna, prawns, etc, as well as dough balls for rolling out. Specialist equipment is available for a dedicated pizza operation but you can adapt the line you have in an existing kitchen for pizza production.

The way the pizza is cooked is as important to the finished quality of the pizza as dough. There are traditional stone ovens and high-speed ovens, the fastest type of pizza oven is the conveyor oven, either radiated heat or forced hot air (impinger ovens) and is the fastest way to cook pizza from scratch.

There are two speciality pizza ovens, the deck oven and the traditional stone oven, whilst the latter is probably not going to be purchased by an average pub but I have included it for the sake of completeness. Open brick ovens require more effort and experience by the operator and come as wood-fired, gas or electric ovens. Stone baking surfaces have several advantages, because pizza is best cooked from the bottom up to get a crispy crust and cook toppings, stone works well. Pizzas cooked in wood-fired ovens look and can taste different and are generally darker in colour than those cooked in other styles of ovens. Both of these types of oven are hugely expensive and beyond the budgetary reach of most pubs.

Deck ovens are multi-level conventional-style ovens each with their own door with two decks or as many as five or even more. This allows many pizzas to be cooked in the oven with different start and finish times. The base is usually stone or ceramic tile, so the effect on the finished pizza is similar to the traditional methods. They are controlled in the same way as a conventional oven and have a door to keep the heat in. This type of oven is typically offered by frozen pizza suppliers in return for a solus supply contract.

Accessories for production and presentation, such as, long-handled oven trays, pizza cutters, serving boards, etc are available from most commercial catering equipment suppliers.

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