We’ve all been there, your homemade pizza is plain, boring or just missing something. Have I painted your culinary nightmare yet? If so then you’re in the right place. A few years ago I was in your shoes.
I rarely made homemade pizza because it was nothing special. I could take it or leave it. Scott introduced me to cooking with a pizza stone and now I’m hooked. Total game changer. Now we make pizza 2 or 3 times a month and it’s worlds above a frozen pizza or delivery. So at the risk of sounding like a cheap infomercial, here are 7 easy tips on how to make better homemade pizza.
1. Use a Pizza Stone
This is the most important tip and it’s why I’m putting it first. Why use a pizza stone? A pizza stone gives you perfectly cooked crust with brick oven like qualities. The secret is getting the stone HOT. Preheat your stone for 45 minutes to 1 hour in the oven at 500° F before baking. This will cook the crust FAST, about 10-15 minutes, giving it a crispy outside and soft (but not soggy) center. It’s hard to describe, but when you bite into the perfect crust you just know it.
For this method, you will also need a pizza peel to transfer your pizza on and off the stone. Pizza peels come in all shapes and sizes and are made of wood or metal. Here are a few good tips from chow.com on using a pizza peel.
2. Thinner Crust
If your dough is too thick it will take away from your toppings and make the pizza too heavy or soggy (shoot for about 18 ounces). If I buy pre-packaged dough I end up removing a little so the crust can be slightly thinner. Use a rolling pin to start and then use your hands to really stretch the dough out. Room temp dough will spread better than cold dough.
Work your way around the dough by rolling from the center out to form the perfect circle. Full disclosure, I typically buy pre-made pizza dough because you can store in the freezer and thaw during the week (I know, I know…how could I possibly do that…but it’s convenient if you’re in a pinch). Look for flavored dough such as basil or beer, or make your own.
3. Use Plenty of Flour
This is another big one. Add a handful of semolina or all-purpose flour to your pizza peel so the pizza can easily slide off the peel when transferring to the oven. Semolina flour is best as it’s more course than all-purpose flour. It creates a ball-bearing effect so the pizza can easily slide off the peal. This goes hand and hand with well-floured pizza dough. You want the pizza to easily slide across the peel when shaking. Sliding the pizza onto the stone can take a little practice. If you quickly jiggle the peel back and forth you can slowly slide it right off the peel.
4. Cooking with Fire
Most of us don’t have access to a 1,000 °F brick oven and if anything or anyone is on fire in your kitchen then likely things have taken a turn for the worse. Anyway, it’s really important to bake at 500 °F. This bakes the crust very fast and will crisp up the dough on the outside while leaving it soft on the inside.
At around the 10-minute mark, or when the crust starts to turn golden brown, turn the broiler on high and let the pizza further crisp the crust for about 1 minute. This will give you that much-desired wood-fired pizza crust with slightly charred cheese and edges. This is the stuff I dream about at night. Keep a close eye on the oven because your pizza is only going to cook very quickly. Once it starts to burn it will burn FAST.
5. Use Olive Oil
Brush olive oil over the entire top of the crust and season with a little salt or garlic before adding any toppings. And I mean the entire crust—from the center out to the edges. The olive oil and salt will give your crust lots of flavor and also contribute to the golden crispiness.
6. Choose Your Toppings Wisely
Simple always tastes better. Choose 2 or 3 complimentary flavors and use them sparingly or your pizza dough will be too soft and heavy. For crisper crust keep toppings light, especially the sauce.
Also, fresh sliced mozzarella makes for more authentic, Italian-style pizza. Speaking of toppings, a pizza wheel keeps your toppings where they should be. It’s also easier to cut the perfect slice. Nothing is worse than dragging your cheese across the pie with a knife as you divvy it up.
7. Get a Good Pizza Recipe
When in doubt, find a killer recipe. Try one of my simple pizza recipes below.