I’ve been saying it for a while, but today I’m finally bringing you my comprehensive guide to at-home pizza making! This includes my must-have pizza products, how to make quick pizza dough, how to shape a pizza, and the best way to bake it. The instructions may seem a little daunting, but once you have the right tools and gain confidence in the process, pizza night will quickly become your most enjoyable night of the week.
WHAT TO BUY
Of course you can make pizza without any of these, but by keeping just a few simple items in your kitchen, your life will be easier and your pizza more delicious.
MAKING YOUR DOUGH
Basic Pizza Dough
Yield: 4 10-12 inch pizzas
- 20 ounces bread flour (about 4 cups)
- 12 ounces water, warmed to 100-110°F
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Set the bowl of a stand mixer on a kitchen scale, zero the scale, and pour the flour in. Add the salt and water. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water and allow to sit for a few minutes, until it has dissolved and starts to foam.
Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Replace the paddle with a dough hook, add the olive oil, and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the machine, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a 70-75°F area to rise for 1.5-2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. Once the dough has risen completely, transfer to a lightly floured work surface and cut into four equal sections. Working with one portion at a time, stretch and shape the dough into a circle, about 10 inches in diameter.
Refine Baking Tips
Although less common in US stores, if you have access to Italian 00 flour, use that in place of the bread flour for the best results.
SHAPING YOUR PIZZA
Shaping dough into a perfect circle, is easily the most challenging part of at home pizza making. I have certainly improved my skills with each practice, but I have also learned to embrace the rustic, homemade feel of a misshapen pie. Here’s a few tips to help lessen the learning curve:
- Homemade Dough my pizzas are easier to shape when I make my own dough from scratch, than when I attempt to use store-bought dough. Homemade dough is (hopefully!) higher quality, fresher, and more elastic, which makes all the difference.
- Make Them Small I typically make thin-crust pizzas that are about 10-12 inches in diameter (using 1/4 of my dough recipe for each). A smaller amount of dough is easier to work with and more manageable to transfer between your prep area and your pizza stone.
- Press & Stretch once you’ve sectioned your dough and placed on a floured surface, use stiff fingers to press the dough outward into a circle, frequently lifting and rotating the dough around. Continue pressing until the dough has gently stretched to the desired size and thickness.
- Let It Rest if you feel like you’re fighting with the dough and it’s springing back to a smaller shape, take a break, and let it rest for 10 minutes before resuming shaping. If you are using pre-made dough that has been frozen or refrigerated, make sure it is brought completely to room temperature before shaping. Cold dough is more likely to bounce back to its original shape, or tear, instead of stretching.
BAKING YOUR PIZZA
- Get It Hot depending on the season, I use either my oven or my grill for baking pizzas. I actually prefer my grill since it seems to get hotter and it’s naturally at a better height for seamlessly sliding pizzas in and out. The only downside to a grill is that you likely won’t get a nice golden crust since there’s no direct heat coming from above. No matter what you decide to use, make sure you crank the heat up as high as it will go. For most ovens that is 500-550°F, but for some grills is may be higher.
- Heat Your Stone I recommend preheating your pizza stone for at least 30 minutes prior to baking, since a hot stone is what ensures your pizza has a sturdy and crisp bottom.
- Transfer with a Peel when I first got my pizza stone, I naively thought a pizza peel was non-essential, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. How are you supposed to get a fully assembled, yet floppy and uncooked pizza from your counter onto a hot stone? A pizza peel. I highly recommend placing your shaped dough onto the pizza peel, and then adding toppings since it can be challenging to slide a heavily topped pizza off of a counter top.
- Use Cornmeal I top my pizza peel with a little bit of cornmeal (instead of flour) to prevent sticking. Since the pizza may be sitting on the peel a few minutes while you load on your toppings, flour can be absorbed into the bottom of the dough and create a sticky mess. The coarser cornmeal grains maintain a slick surface so it’s easy to slide the pizza right onto the stone.
- Act Fast once your pizza is ready to hit the oven, slide it from the peel to the stone in one quick motion. The longer you linger in front of a hot oven or grill, the more your dough and cheese will begin to soften and become difficult to transfer.