KEY POINTS:
* Many foodservice operators are working with older, uncalibrated ovens whose temperature controls are no longer 100 per cent accurate
* Burning pizza cheese is often a telltale sign that your cooking temperature is too high, as most Mozzarellas can’t withstand extreme heat
* Especially for those operators making the bulk of their pizzas for the home delivery market, reducing the cooking time to compensate may not be an option
* If you want to run your oven at higher temperatures for longer, Perfect Italiano Ultra may provide a solution

TODAY’S CONVEYOR OVEN technology seems almost foolproof — with a myriad of temperature and timing controls making it easier than ever to ensure the perfect pizza. Even employees with minimal training find the latest conveyor ovens simple to operate, delivering pizzas that cook evenly and don’t burn.
But not everyone can afford the latest state of the art tech. Many foodservice operators are working with ovens that have seen a lot of use, and often haven’t been calibrated as per manufacturer specifications.
This is especially the case if you’ve purchased a pre-existing foodservice business along with its equipment — often you’ll have no way of knowing how well the oven has been looked after. It may look and run perfectly well at the start, but what about six months down the track?
One of the most frequent problems to manifest itself over time is the difficulty of ensuring your oven is running at the correct temperature. Regardless of whether you’re using a conveyor or deck oven, aging technology and the lack of accurate thermostat calibration can lead to your pizza cooking at too high a temperature. When that happens, the first telltale sign is often that the pizza cheese burns.
“Especially if you’re operating an older oven, say one which has been in regular use for 15 to 20 years, the temperature control will probably no longer be 100 per cent correct, and when you’re running it at a high melt temperature, most Mozzarella cheese is going to burn,” explains Mark Williams, Perfect Italiano’s State Sales Manager for Victoria.
Mark regularly visits foodservice operators across Victoria’s independent pizza restaurant, pub, club and café markets and says it’s not uncommon to see older ovens in which pizzas are cooked at temperatures of 265 to 270 degrees for around nine to ten minutes.
“In Australia we have a tradition of blistering the cheese, which creates a certain taste profile, so operators do like to run their ovens for longer when cooking pizzas,” he says.
For pizzas laden with heavy toppings — for example the great Aussie favourite, Meat Lovers — this isn’t such an issue, but when you’re cooking a cheese-heavy pizza such as Hawaiian or Margherita, you may run into problems with burning cheese.
While the solution might seem obvious enough — just reduce the cooking time to compensate — this isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially if you’re making the bulk of your pizzas for the home delivery market.
“A lot of the independent pizza operators will base their cooking time on the turnaround time for their delivery drivers,” Mark points out. “If a driver takes nine or 10 minutes on average to make a delivery and come back, they will time their pizza to be ready by the time the driver is back to pick it up — so it stays in the oven for up to ten minutes.”
In these cases, it’s the quality of the cooked cheese which can make or break the customer’s impression of the pizza.
“Customers have a visual expectation as well as a taste expectation,”
Mark emphasises. “When it comes to cheese on the pizza, it’s all about the stretch, the blistering — it’s very important to have an even spread of cheese over the top.
“A good quality cheese is designed to ensure browning quality as well as taste, and a lot of expertise, research and development goes into designing the product nowadays. At Perfect Italiano we put a lot of emphasis on the innovation side, because the quality of the cheese does affect all aspects of the pizza.
“A lot of cheap pizzas won’t bring you repeat business because the pizza is chewy, it’s burnt, it has pools of oil, and the toppings are overcooked while the base is undercooked.”
Mark says the team at Perfect Italiano were determined to solve the issue of cheese burning in older, often uncalibrated ovens. “That’s how we came up with Perfect Italiano Ultra which is a high melt cheese — no other cheese can take the kind of heat that Ultra can.”
So if you’re running an older oven or simply like to run your oven at higher temperatures for longer, Ultra may be the ideal solution for you.
“Ultra is designed to withstand high heat over a longer time span, and the key test is that it stands up with the likes of a Margherita pizza,” Mark says. “Especially when you’re cooking a heavily cheesy pizza, then you need a cheese like Ultra which will withstand the heat and still perform.”
Of course every oven is different — but once you’ve got your oven temperature issues sorted, then you’ll be able to offer customers pizzas of ongoing consistency, which is a key element in generating repeat business.
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