Yes - You Can Make Neapolitan Style Pizzas On Your Pellet Smoker
I'm definitely not the first barbecue fanatic to dream of owning a wood-fired pizza oven in my backyard. What's stopping me? The price! A legit built-in, wood-fired brick oven costs thousands of dollars. Plus, what if I end up moving? Then I can't take the brick oven with me.
Maybe you're in the same boat. And maybe you've already jumped on the pellet smoking bandwagon. If so, here's something that might interest you: the wood-fired pizza attachment from Green Mountain Grills (GMG). It only costs $129. And it works. The model I tested (pictured here) is designed for GMG's Jim Bowie and Daniel Boone pellet smokers and fits both the Choice or Prime models. GMG also makes a similar pizza attachment for its smaller Davy Crockett pellet smoker.
I tested this pizza attachment on the Daniel Boone Prime model while putting that pellet smoker through its paces. Click here for our full review of the Daniel Boone Prime itself. The pizza attachment is a welcome addition to this pellet smoker, expanding its cooking capabilities far beyond low and slow smoking. GMG kept the design simple. The attachment consist of three pieces:
1) a funnel shaped metal box that sits directly above the firepot of your pellet smoker,
2) a custom ceramic pizza stone that lays on top of the box,
3) a metal lid that sits over the unit to help trap the heat.
The lid is open in the front for loading and unloading pizzas to and from the hot stone. The entire box is constructed of stainless steel, and the ceramic stone measures 16 x 14 inches, enough for about one 12 inch pizza at a time. The whole thing weighs about 28 pounds and can be stored easily in its box in a garage or shed when not in use.
Installation is a cinch. Just remove the grates, grease tray and heat shield in your pellet cooker, then set the bottom of the pizza attachment into the firepot. Put the baking stone on top, set the lid in place, then close the cooker.
The attachment funnels heat from the firepot up the metal box, which conducts it to the pizza stone. You get some convection heat currents around the stone, and the lid helps radiate heat to the top of your pizza, creating a sort of mini-oven inside your pellet smoker.
How hot does this "pizza oven" get? When I first fired up the attachment, I disregarded GMG's recommendation in the user manual to set the cooker at a moderate 300°F. I know that good Neapolitan-style pizza needs high heat, so I did a little test. I cranked the Daniel Boone to its max temp of 550°F with the attachment in place. Then I closed the cooker and went for a short bike ride to give the pizza stone time to heat up. When I got back about 45 minutes later, I shot a laser thermometer onto the stone to check the surface temp. It registered 925°F! Way too hot!! But it's good to know you can get raging hot temps on this thing. With a cooking surface that hot, you can put a cast-iron skillet or griddle on the stone, let it get ripping hot, then sear a big fat steak in there. You can sear all kinds of foods, a la plancha, as they say in Spanish. Sear shrimp. Octopus. Mushrooms. You name it. This pizza attachment gives your pellet smoker true searing capability. Of course, that's not what it's designed to do. If you sear on this thing regularly, it is bound to crack from the repeated thermal cycling. A baking stone is really meant for slightly lower cooking surface temperatures of 500 to 700°F.
Before cooking some pizzas, I dialed the Daniel Boone controller back down to 300°F, as recommended, so I wouldn't burn the hell out of my crust. After about 15 minutes with the lid open, I checked the stone temp again, and this time it was at 665°F. Perfect. It's a common misnomer that a pizza oven needs to reach 900°F on the oven floor (the stone surface) to cook a great Neapolitan-style pizza. Go ahead. Try it. After you incinerate a few pizzas, take a tip from the pros: 650 to 750 is plenty hot on the oven floor or "deck." Depending on the oven and the amount of heat it delivers to the top of the pizza, my ideal deck temp is around 650 to 700°F.
For the first pizza test, I made my go-to pie, what I call the Magdalena. This pie has the Italian colors of green, white, and red like a classic Margherita pizza but with a punchier flavor combo of pesto, Gorgonzola, and cherry tomatoes. After baking for 4 to 5 minutes, the bottom crust developed some nice char spots here and there and the rim bubbled up beautifully.
The stone recovered its heat in just a few minutes, so I tested several other pizzas, including a sausage, mushroom, and pepper one.
I had smoked some peppers while testing the Daniel Boone's smoking capability, so I used those on the sausage, mushroom and pepper pie. It was fantastic. I also made a white pizza with fontina, mozzarella, and Parmesan. And one with caponata, tomato sauce, mozzarella and rosemary. And of course a pepperoni pie.
The trick with pizza is achieving what Meathead calls "simultaneous pizzagasm." That's when the top and bottom heat in your oven deliver about the same amount of energy to the top and bottom of the pizza so the pizza cooks evenly. More often what happens, especially when baking pizza on a grill, is that the bottom is much hotter than the top. So the toppings are not done cooking by the time the bottom crust is done. Read more here about the science of pizza on the grill. The GMG pizza attachment is slightly better than most setups in this regard. With the pellet cooker set to 350°F, the pizza stone temp hovered around 650°F and the metal top registered about 300°F. That's enough heat to create a nice, bubbly brown rim but not quite enough to match the heat that would come from the ceramic dome of a wood-fired brick oven. Steel doesn't retain heat as well as ceramic, so the lid is constantly giving up its energy to the air. To help achieve higher top temps and bake your pizzas more evenly, keep your pellet cooker closed to trap the heat. Only open it to load and unload the pizza.
The attachment's funnel-shaped design does a great job of delivering the heat from the firepot to the entire surface of the pizza stone. I found that the heat was slightly stronger in the back than the front of the stone because the front is open for loading/unloading. But the side-to-side heat was very even in my tests. You generally only need to rotate the pizza once during cooking, a single 180 degree turn front to back. This attachment actually heats a bit more evenly than a traditional wood-fired oven where the energy is often concentrated to one side where the wood fire is burning.
I did a few more pizza tests starting the Daniel Boone cold and setting it at 350°F with the pizza attachment in place. The stone took about 20 minutes at 350°F to reach a 650 to 675°F surface temperature. That's also faster heating than a real wood-fired oven.
In all my tests, the pizzas cooked in 4 to 5 minutes total. Each one had a good crispy crust with some char on the underskirt and browned bubbles on the rim or "cornicione." I wish the pizzas had a tad more top heat to char the rim a bit more, but that's a minor quibble. This pizza attachment works very well for baking pizza. Load in and load out is easy, and I had no issues with wood ash getting on the pizzas. The pellets and firepot are completely covered by the attachment, so the heat and ash are mostly contained within the funnel shaped design.
Nits to pick
Of course, some smoke wafts throughout the cooker, and technically, it's true: This is a wood-fired pizza attachment. Wood pellets are the heat source. But the "smoky" taste of wood-fired pizza is really a myth. Sorry to burst that bubble. The flavor of wood smoke that we love in barbecue rarely gets infused into pizza, even in a traditional wood-burning oven. The truth is that, in a wood oven, convection currents bring the smoke across the dome of the oven, where it exits out the chimney. The smoke doesn't come in contact with the pizza. In wood-fired pizza, what you're tasting is the char and "leopard spotting" (multiple dots of char) as a result of the extreme, dry heat produced by burning wood, the intense amount of energy conducted to the bottom crust, and the intense amount of energy delivered to top crust. With this attachment, while some smoke does waft through your pellet cooker, it's not enough to enter the opening of the attachment and give your pizza any significant smoke flavor.
The good news is that you can get very high heat on this pizza stone, so you will get some awesome char flavor on the bottom crust. The less-good news is that the lid does not trap an equal amount of heat for the top of your pizza. My thermometer and cooking tests showed that the ceramic pizza stone is always hotter than the relatively thin steel lid.
That simultaneous top, bottom, and all around even heating in a domed wood-fired brick oven is the hardest thing to replicate. In other ovens, various combinations of materials can only come close. That's why I am still lusting after a wood-fired brick oven for my backyard. There's simply nothing like it for making pizza, baking bread, roasting meat, and so many other basic cooking techniques.
But until I win the lottery, this nifty pizza attachment is something I'll use again and again. It heats up faster than a wood-fired brick oven, achieves high enough temperatures for baking good quality pizza, and can also be used to bake bread and sear meats. Plus, it's much easier to use and maintain than a wood-fired brick oven.
While this product is designed for GMG's Daniel Boone and Jim Bowie pellet smokers, I figured I'd give it a whirl on my Pitts & Spitts Maverick 1250 pellet smoker. Even though the Maverick is quite a bit bigger, it fit fine and worked in that pellet cooker as well. The tabs on the front and back of the attachment were just floating in the air, but the 28-pound attachment was still very stable and did not move in my cook tests.
We've also read reports of this GMG pizza attachment fitting on other pellet smokers such as Traeger, Pit Boss, and REC TEC. For reference, here are the GMG pizza attachment's dimensions:
Height: 12 inches from bottom to top of lid + 2 inches for handle (14 inch total height)
Width: 19 inches
Depth: 15 1/4 inches without tabs + 2 inches per tab front and back (19 1/4 inch total depth)
Weight: 28 pounds
Note that the unit we tested is the latest 2020 version with a multi-angled lid. The previous version, which is still for sale on some online outlets, has a rounded lid and slightly different dimensions.
Nice job Green Mountain. I've cooked pizzas outside on gas grills, charcoal grills, kamados, and traditional wood ovens, and this simple accessory makes it a cinch to a cook a legit Neapolitan pizza on a pellet smoker. It greatly expands a pellet cooker's possibilities beyond low and slow smoking. For these reasons, this well-designed, inexpensive, handy, and effective attachment earns our Gold Medal award.