Let’s talk pizza! While I agree with the concept that “even bad pizza is still pizza”, there are some great techniques I’ve learned over the years that have helped me elevate my pizza game. Some of my favorite tips, tricks, equipment, and recipes are compiled below.
If you’re serious about making pizza at home, there are two options: (1) a good, thick baking stone, or (2) a pizza oven. If you’re looking for a good baking stone, try to find one that’s at least 3/4″-1″ thick. It’s a personal preference on whether you want a circular or rectangular stone – I prefer the rectangular stone because it serves double duty if you’re into baking bread. There’s a ton of good options on Amazon depending on the dimensions of your oven.
If you’re looking for a pizza oven, I highly recommend Pizzacraft’s Pizzeria Pronto pizza oven. It’s not too bulky, portable, and easy to use. It hooks up to a propane tank and heats up to 700+ degrees in 15-20 minutes. In the summertime, I’ll keep it in my backyard. In the wintertime (the only time it really rains in LA), I’ll keep it in my garage near the garage door and make pizza with the garage door open. Super classy but my neighbors love the smells.
If you’re making pizza in a normal oven, the biggest tip I can give you is to preheat your oven with the stone on the bottom rack at 500 degrees for AT LEAST AN HOUR. When I first started making pizza, I thought that sounded ridiculous and I’d get hangry and impatient after 20 minutes. Preheating for an hour makes all the difference – that’s how long it takes your stone to absorb enough heat to give you a delicious crispy crust.
If you’re using a pizza oven, I typically preheat for 15-20 minutes, letting it hang out at a comfy 700 degrees. Any hotter and the crust burns before the ingredients have a chance to cook (who doesn’t want golden brown, bubbly cheese).
Two options, store bought or homemade. If I’m making pizzas for a larger group or I’m short on time (or just lazy), I’ll get the premade plain pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. One 16-oz bag is perfect for two smaller 10-12 inch pizzas, depending on how thin you stretch it. I will caveat that their dough is sticky and wet. I think the easiest way to work with it is to take it out of the plastic bag, split it in two with a bench scraper or knife, and knead each half into a ball with a little bit of flour. Let the dough balls sit on the countertop, covered with a kitchen towel, for approximately 30-45 minutes until the dough is room temperature and they’re easy to work with.
Store bought dough is decent, but you’re never going to get that pizzeria-style crust (in terms of both appearance and taste). There are a bunch of dough recipes out there. If you’re looking for a beginner dough that will be ready in less than two hours, this is my go-to. One suggestion – swap out the bread flour for AP flour if you have it. Bread flour will give you a crisper, chewier crust.
If you have the patience and time, the dough recipe in Joe Beddia’s Pizza Camp cookbook is my all-time favorite. Everything about this book is great, I’d highly recommend it whether you’re looking for a dough recipe or not.
There’s no shame in using a good jarred store bought sauce. However, it’s also incredibly easy to make your own. All you need is one 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes, 1 tsp fine sea salt, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and a glug of olive oil. Stir and refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the flavors meld, then it’s ready to use. You’ll notice how much brighter and fresher the flavors are than the jarred stuff. No need to cook beforehand – the oven will take care of that for you when the rest of the pizza is cooking.
Pretty simple – grate your own cheese. The preshredded stuff is coated with preservatives and fillers that prevent it from melting properly. You can put almost any cheese on a pizza, but my baseline is a combination of shredded firm whole-milk mozzarella and torn bits of a ball of fresh mozzarella.
Go crazy! But add them in moderation, especially if they have a higher moisture content. No one likes a soggy pizza. Some of my favorite recipes: