Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired This Smart Pizza Oven Is Love at First Slice

Hexbyte Tech News Wired This Smart Pizza Oven Is Love at First Slice

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

When Breville first sent me the Smart Oven Pizzaiolo to review, the company anxiously inquired if I planned to consult my professional pizzaiolo friend. I understood their hesitation. Wood-fired pizza seems like a simple dish, but it’s challenging to get right.

If I hadn’t been making wood-fired pizzas for months, it’s easy to imagine all the different ways I could have messed things up. I could forget to let the dough warm up and rise, or not check to make sure the pizza isn’t sticking to the pizza peel—the wide paddle that holds the pie—before sliding it into the oven. The dough could stick to my hands if I didn’t wipe my fingertips with oil before stretching it out. Oh, and too much fresh mozzarella often makes the center too soggy—so does too much pasta sauce. (Try drained, blended canned tomatoes instead.) It’s more complex than you’d think.

The upshot is that even for pizza novices, the Pizzaiolo is a remarkably easy, foolproof way to turn out restaurant-quality pie. To use the oven, turn the knob to your chosen type of pizza (frozen, NY, pan, wood-fired, etc.), slide the pizza in, and tap the timer knob to start the countdown.

No one needs an $800 pizza oven, but I have to say, I’ve fallen helplessly in love with this one. If you eat a lot of pizza, you will too.

Engineered Eats

Like all of Breville’s products, the Pizzaiolo has been designed within an inch of its life. First of all, the gleaming stainless steel box is remarkably compact, a mere 18.5 by 18.3 by 10.7 inches that fits on a narrow sliver of counter space in my cramped kitchen.

It’s as beautiful to look at as it is to touch, and it comes with some delightful proprietary accessories, like a oil-coated carbon-steel pan with a removable handle for pan pizzas (you’ll need to season it after use) and a tiny, proprietary stainless steel pizza peel that’s dishwasher-safe. The sliding slab of cordierite stone is also removable for easy washing.

It pulls a residential 1,800-watt current to heat up to a mind-blowing 750 degrees. Even with vents on the left and right sides, the insulation is so good that I can store its proprietary pans on top and pile books, receipts, and other detritus next to it without burning them. The heavy door insulates so well that I can also sit within a foot of it on a kitchen chair without getting roasted.

Inside, a 12-inch pizza sits on a small slab of cordierite stone that slides in and out of the door for easy access. Three different heating elements—one under the pizza stone and two concentric rings on top—ensure that no part of your pizza is either over- or under-baked.

An optimized interior heat shield protects your fragile toppings while your crust crisps, and an ambient air sensor and below-deck sensor makes sure the temperature remains consistent throughout the cooking process. I used an IR thermometer to check the temperature in different parts of the oven. Each time, the temperature was consistent with what the label advertised—400 degrees for frozen pizzas, 640 degrees for thin and crispy. It took about 15 minutes to preheat, which is around the same time as for my convection oven but is still remarkable, considering that it’s heating a few hundred degrees higher.

You may not feel like a real pizzaiolo if you’re not anxiously peering through the door, constantly rotating and manipulating your pie to make sure the high heat is touching everything correctly. But it does offer more peace of mind, especially if you have friends or small toddlers running around your kitchen and demanding your attention while you cook.

You can also switch from automatic to manual mode by pressing on the timer switch and turning on the timer knob. It comes with a magnetic cover that you can slap on top of the preset knobs, if you’d like to set the temperature and time yourself to roast vegetables or just exert a little more control over your pizza.

Pizza Party

If you like to pretend that you have the guts and stamina to be in food service, Breville’s machines are fun to play with.

I made pizzas with a variety of doughs, using the recipe that Breville includes with the oven as well as premade balls of sourdough stolen, er, borrowed from a local professional pizza chef and Jim Lahey’s pizza dough recipe. For frozen pizzas, our two favorite (well, my kids’ favorite) pizzas are Newman’s Own pepperoni and Table 5’s cornmeal crust pepperoni pizzas.

The sourdough and the Breville recipe worked out the best; it’s probably not a coincidence that the 240-gram dough ball specified by Breville’s recipe makes a perfect 12-inch pizza that stretches edge to edge on the peel.

The Pizzaiolo has seven different presets, ranging from 350 degrees to 750 degrees; a wood-fired pizza is around 700 degrees. The higher the temperature, the less time the pizza spends in the oven. According to the presets, a wood-fired pizza bakes for two minutes; a pan pizza, 18. I tried baking pizza according to each setting, which was difficult for me since I have very firm pizza preferences.

On the whole, I was happy with the presets. To my chagrin, I ended up using the frozen setting a lot, which allowed me to skip many an emergency Domino’s call. Whenever I make frozen pizza, I’m usually in such a hurry that I don’t let my conventional oven preheat properly. But the Pizzaiolo forestalls that by beeping conveniently when it’s preheated and when the pizza is done. Both the Newman’s Own and the Table 5 came out perfectly done, with a crisp crust and perfectly melted cheese.

It’s also hard for me to judge the accuracy of the pan-style and New York-style pizza settings. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a tasty reproduction of a pan pizza unless it’s from Pizza Hut and dripping with oil, and the only New York-style pizza that I’m aware of is the kind that’s the size of a newspaper broadsheet and sagging off a paper plate. The pan pizza was appropriately puffy and soft, though it was a little drier than I’d like.

But I couldn’t believe how delicious the “thin & crispy” and “wood-fired” settings were. Both produced pies that hit all my benchmarks: Small, evenly-spaced blackish leopard spots on the bottom; a crisp crust; and cheese and toppings touched by the barest hint of a flame. Toppings of all kinds, from delicate sliced padron peppers to huge chunks of sausage, came out moist and intact.

The Pursuit of Perfection

The perfect pizza crust is a holy grail. It makes some people (like me) a little ragey to go to a restaurant and spend so much money on a simple preparation of flour, water, salt, and yeast, just because I don’t have an oven that can get up to 800 degrees at home.

I’ve seen a lot of crazy contraptions designed for this purpose. Admittedly, the Pizzaiolo is a lot more expensive than decking out your stove with slate tiles, or any of the waffle-iron-esque doodads that you might have previously used to get a pizza crust on your kitchen table before now. It’s also not particularly versatile. While you can roast small veggies in it, none of my other pots or cast irons fit in the small pizza slot. Breville also warns you not to use Teflon- or nonstick-coated pans in it, or to cook meat, since the Teflon coating or rendered fat might cause a fire.

My husband also objected to the Pizzaiolo, just because it has a door and no open flames—no gas, no charcoal, no wood-fired pellets. It seems that food is less flavorful when there’s no smoke, and no danger or mystery.

But if your goal is to eat restaurant-quality crisp, crunchy pizza as often and as conveniently as possible, and you have money to burn (ha!), it’s hard to find a device that’s easier to use or yields better results than the Pizzaiolo. I fell into a weekly routine of taking the pizza dough out of the fridge before I picked my kids up from school, and then whipping up a quick broccoli or sausage pizza for dinner. It’s going to be hard to pack up this bad boy.

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired 13 Smart STEM Toys for the Techie Kids in Your Life

Hexbyte Tech News Wired 13 Smart STEM Toys for the Techie Kids in Your Life

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

We found 13 math-filled and science-rich toys for tiny nerds to disassemble, set on fire, and then rebuild.
Anyone who has ever watched a toddler methodically take apart a Tupperware drawer should know that many children are natural-born (ha ha!) engineers. Your only job as a parent is to nurture their creativity… and, well, clean up the mess afterward. Wrap up a few of these STEM toys and books for your future scientist to blow up, burn up, or dismantle. They’ll (hopefully) thank you for the early encouragement when they’re older.


Note: When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.

01

Sourcebooks

Shark Lady

This beautifully-illustrated hardcover book tells the story of Eugenie Clark, the American ichthyologist who became known as “The Shark Lady” and burst through gender barriers along the way. Told by author and zoologist Jess Keating, it will demonstrate to young readers that women can do anything they set their minds to. Oh, and sharks are pretty cool, too.

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Sourcebooks

02

Crayola

Color Chemistry Set

Everyone who has come across a Crayola crayon has probably melted one, whether accidentally or on purpose. Crayola’s Color Chemistry Set includes enough brightly-colored Crayola ingredients for 16 activities out of the box, and up to 50 with common household ingredients. Exploding volcanoes and colorful quicksand are just a few of the eye-catching experiments that you can look forward to trying.

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Crayola

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Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired Wish List 2018: 48 Smart Holiday Gift Ideas That Everyone Will Connect With

Hexbyte Tech News Wired Wish List 2018: 48 Smart Holiday Gift Ideas That Everyone Will Connect With

Hexbyte Tech News Wired

From electric wheels to smart home hubs, this year’s holiday picks will delight tinkerers, travelers, and lovers of timeless design.

01

Vanmoof

Electrified S2

Vanmoof banishes bulky batteries by hiding a 504-watt-hour cell inside this ebike’s 42-pound frame. The front-wheel motor has a city-shrinking 93-mile range, can pump out 500 hill-killing watts, and will hit 20 mph. Even if some knucklehead conquers the built-in lock, a GPS tracker will help you (well, the cops) recover your steed.

Hexbyte  Tech News  Wired

Joseph Shin

02

The Night Sky

Postcard Set

Perhaps the best gift is a gentle reminder of how tiny we are in the universe. Each postcard in this set of 50 features an image of the cosmos, from ancient star maps to NASA archival photos, like Apollo 16’s shot of the far side of the moon. Pin them up for inspiration, or buy some stamps (remember those?) and mail them to distant stargazers.

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Joseph Shin; Night Sky card set courtesy of papress.com

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Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Google’s smart city dream is turning into a privacy nightmare

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers Google’s smart city dream is turning into a privacy nightmare

Hexbyte Hacker News Computers

Cavoukian’s exit joins the mounting skepticism over Sidewalk Labs and the urban data that will be harvested through Quayside, the first section of a planned smart district called Sidewalk Toronto. Sidewalk Labs has always maintained that the neighborhood will follow ‘privacy by design‘, a framework by Cavoukian that was first published in the mid-1990s. The approach ensures that privacy is considered at every part of the design process, balancing the rights of citizens with the access required to create smarter, more efficient and environmentally friendly living spaces.

Sidewalk Labs has been debating how to adopt the framework since it was selected as a Quayside planning partner last year. The team has held countless meetings with the public and technology experts, including Cavoukian, to explain its thinking and ensure everyone’s concerns are considered in the Master Innovation and Development Plan due early next year. (The plan is effectively a final pitch or proposal that will need to be approved by the City of Toronto before any building work can go ahead.)

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Sidewalk Toronto

Privacy, of course, has been a constant source of discussion. Some Torontonians are nervous because of Google’s reputation as an advertising business and the vague information Sidewalk has given about data collection so far. Sidewalk Labs, though, can’t be specific because it hasn’t finalized anything — it’s still researching and considering its options.

Still, progress is being made. Sidewalk Labs published some initial proposals for data governance in Quayside last week. The bottom line: It wants someone else to handle the issue. The company suggested an independent trust that would oversee all data collection in the neighborhood. If any company, including Sidewalk Labs, wanted to set up citizen-tracking hardware or services, they would need to file an application, called a Responsible Data Impact Assessment (RDIA), with the trust first. Some applications could be “self-certified,” or quickly approved, while others would require careful consideration by the group.

Which sounds great, right?

Cavoukian believes all Quayside data should be de-identified at the source.

Sidewalk Labs says all of its applications would follow Cavoukian’s privacy by design framework. But here’s the rub — the trust would also have the power to approve applications that don’t anonymize data at source. In its proposal document, the Alphabet-owned team gives a theoretical example involving video cameras in public parks. The application, Sidewalk Labs says, couldn’t be self-certified because it involves personal information. It could be approved, however, on the condition that the video footage is only used for park improvement, and that the files are destroyed on a rolling seven-day basis. The company in question would also need to erect signs near the cameras and add their locations to a public registry.

That wiggle room concerns Cavoukian. She believes all Quayside data should be de-identified at source to maintain citizen privacy. “The minute you say, ‘well it’s going to be their choice,’ you can bet more and more data will be collected in personally identifiable form,” she said. “Because that’s the treasure trove. That’s what everybody wants.”

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Sidewalk Toronto

Cavoukian heard about the decision at a Waterfront Toronto Digital Strategy Advisory Panel meeting last week. “[Sidewalk Labs] told this group in no uncertain terms that the proposed Civic Data Trust would have broad authority, including decisions relating to the de-identification of personal data,” Cavoukian wrote in her resignation letter. “[Sidewalk Labs] indicated this group would be ‘encouraged’ to de-identify personally identifiable data, but that the decision would be theirs to make.”

Sidewalk Labs takes a different view. The organization is committed to privacy and will follow Cavoukian’s framework. It doesn’t, however, think it should be responsible for setting policy in Quayside. An independent trust, the team argues, would be better equipped to make these decisions — even if they allow other companies to collect personally identifiable data.

In a statement, the company said: “At last week’s meeting of the Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel, it became clear that Sidewalk Labs would play a more limited role in near-term discussions about a data governance framework at Quayside. Sidewalk Labs has committed to implement, as a company, the principles of privacy by design. Though that question is settled, the question of whether other companies involved in the Quayside project would be required to do so is unlikely to be worked out soon, and may be out of Sidewalk Labs’ hands.”

Hexbyte  Hacker News  Computers Sidewalk Toronto

The debate, then, is whether Sidewalk should force the trust — and, by extension, every company in Quayside — to de-identify data at source.

In her letter, Cavoukian said: “Just think of the consequences: If personally identifiable data is not de-identified at source, we will be creating another central database of personal information (controlled by whom?), that may be used without data subjects’ consent, that will be exposed to the risks of hacking and unauthorized access. As we all know, existing methods of encryption are not infallible and may be broken, potentially exposing the personal data of Waterfront Toronto residents. Why take such risks?”

Cavoukian is now pressuring Waterfront Toronto, the government entity that hired Sidewalk Labs, to change the company’s mind and enforce de-identification at source. “You have to lay down the law,” she told the group.

Cavoukian isn’t the first privacy expert to abandon the Quayside project.

Cavoukian isn’t the first privacy expert to abandon the Quayside project. Saadia Muzaffar, founder of TechGirls Canada, left the Digital Strategy Advisory Panel earlier this month. In a resignation letter, she said Waterfront Toronto had shown “apathy and [an] utter lack of leadership regarding shaky public trust and social license.” The advisory panel was attended “in good faith,” she said, but showed “a blatant disregard for resident concerns about data.”

These disagreements will add to the concerns of Torontonians. Sidewalk Labs still has time to address these issues and create a master plan that will be accepted by everyone. If the company continues to lose public trust, though, there’s a good chance residents and government officials will make up their minds and reject the plan before reading the first page.

Images: Sidewalk Labs