If it was just about eating pizza then you probably wouldn’t need to go through the process of building a wood-fired pizza oven, and would settle for cooking your shop bought pizza in your kitchen oven or ordering a takeaway but once you have a proper pizza oven then there’s a lot more theatre to it all.
A pizza oven deserves the have a crowd and really makes for a great experience with friends and family, so here’s what you need to know if you’re going to be hosting your own pizza party.
Know how many people are coming
This is a pretty obvious one but preparation is key so knowing how many guests you have will dictate what you need for your party. It affects the amount of dough you need to how long the fire will be going which will impact on the amount of wood you need.
Ensure the oven is dry
If you’ve got a brick oven then it’s possible for the oven to get damp especially in colder months or if it’s been raining. A damp oven will mean your oven won’t get up to the temperature required, will take more wood to heat up, and will ultimately lead to sub-standard pizza’s.
I know this for a fact as it’s happened to me before and no one wants that. So if you do think there’s a lot of damp you will want to light a small fire the day/week before your party to drive out the moisture and perhaps light your fire a little earlier on the actual day of the party to give extra time to get up to the optimal temperature.
Use the right wood
Using the right wood will make your party go smoothly. If your wood is damp then it will not light properly and it will also produce lots of smoke which will result in a less than pleasant experience for your partygoers. Plus there will be no pizza!
You should also make sure you’re using the correct wood for your fire and it’s best to avoid softwood and opt for hardwood which burns hotter, burns longer, and produces less smoke. I’ve written about this a lot further in my ‘Best wood for your pizza oven‘ blog post.
Make your dough the day before
Most pizza dough recipes will give you a useable dough in a few hours, but a slow-proof dough will not only mean you can prepare dough the day before but you will also get a far superior flavour.
You can either use less yeast or you can cold-proof by putting the dough in the fridge after the first proof. With both of these you will want to have the second proof on the actual day of your party, but that’s just a case of splitting the dough up and not having to do any mixing again.
Having a nice clean kitchen rather than the worktops covered in flour is great news for a party!
Proofing boxes are great
Before I bought my proofing boxes I was using any tray or bowl that I could find and it was a real hassle so I thoroughly recommend buying some as they are literally made for the job. They keep the pizza dough clean, warm, and stops it drying out. Plus they’re light and easy to carry so you can take them outside in the garden and even hose them down at the end of the day if needed.
Pizza boxes are fun too
I spoke earlier about the theatre of a pizza oven and I’ve found that people really love eating pizza from a pizza box. No one wants to use a knife and fork, and this way they get to make their own pizza and take any leftovers home too.. if there are any!
Another plus side is that there’s less washing up at the end of the day too! I bulk bought these from ebay, getting 50 flat-packed for £15, which is 30p a box. I’m sure you can get them cheaper if you buy larger amount, but they’re fine for me.
There are quite a few designs of box out there too, so after looking around I settled on these ones which I thought looked really good and mentioned that the pizzas were hand-made, delicious and fresh.
Get an extra peel
An extra peel will allow multiple guests to be preparing pizzas meaning you won’t be wasting the oven’s heat by leaving it empty, plus you get to make more pizzas in a quicker time so everyone gets their food sooner.
I personally use wooden peels for pizza prep as I find uncooked dough can stick more to metal peels, especially for a novice who maybe hasn’t put enough flour on the peel or has loaded their pizza too much.
Plan for different tastes
With a larger amount of guests, and especially children, you will find that there are more varieties of tastes to cater for so make sure you have toppings for vegetarian, hot, meaty, and cheesy pizzas. Those are your four main types and it goes without saying to have quality ingredients so your pizza pack great flavour.
Get your guests involved
The biggest thing about a pizza party is getting the guest involved in making their own pizzas. I’ll usually do a couple at communal pizzas at the beginning so people can start nibbling, then it’s over to the guests. Some will need more help than others, but the main information to impart on them is to keep the pizza base thin and to not overload with toppings as you want the pizzas to cook quickly and to have a crispy base.
It’s not just about pizza
You’ll be cooking pizza when the flames are roaring and the oven is at the highest temperature but once it starts to die down then you can add other things which require less attention. Chicken wings that are slow-cooked and fall off the bone are amazing sides if anyone is still peckish, or if you’re having people around all day then you can make an amazing chilli con carne chilli in your oven.
Got any dough left over? Cook a plain pizza base in the oven and then once cooked spoon on nutella chocolate spread, which will melt and give you a tasty pudding.
Make sure you have fun too
It can get pretty hectic being in charge of the oven, but don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the party. Do the prep beforehand and things will run a lot smoother so hopefully these tips will help you do just that. Enjoy!