Homemade Pizza 101

Ahhh pizza, the ubiquitous delivery food. Easy, cheap, and at your door in under 30 minutes… Or is it really? Between deciding what toppings everyone wants, where you want to order it from, and waiting (oh the waiting!) for it to arrive you could probably make your own in the same amount of time. Really, yeah really.

While you may never get the thin, brick-oven crispy crust of a great pizzeria from your own oven, chances are that you weren’t going to order pizza from there anyway so you can’t bemoan that fact too much. For me, homemade pizza is always better than delivery, regardless of how lazy I am as I make it. As with most things there is the easiest way to do it (yielding delicious pizza) and the “correct” way to do it (yielding more authentic and possibly slightly more delicious pizza).

Here we’re talking about how your average person is going to make your slightly-better-than-average pizza on your average night.


Dough

pizza dough

  • Option 1 – Store-bought. You know what, I’m not ashamed to say that store-bought pizza dough is one of my processed food weaknesses. It’s just so easy and usually doesn’t contain much more than it would if you made it at home. It’s also great to keep in the freezer and always have on hand!
  • Option 2 – Swing by your local pizza shop and ask to buy some dough, they might look at you funny, but most of them will do it!
  • Option 3 – Make your own! Pizza dough was my gateway drug to making homemade bread. Flour, yeast, water, a little salt and you’re set. It’s also a great place to use rapid rise yeast (instead of normal active dry) since the crumb structure isn’t as important as in bread, since you’re stretching or rolling it out anyway. Rapid rise yeast also means you can still easily make your own crust and pizza in less than 45 minutes! A couple tips to making your own dough are to scoop then sprinkle the flour into the measuring cup to make sure you’re not using too much (this is important for any baking) and to knead the dough for at least 5 minutes before letting it rest. If you happen to think about the fact that you want pizza two days from now I’d recommend using normal active dry yeast, letting it rise once, punching it down and then letting it sit in the fridge for a couple of days for a chewier crust with more complex flavors (but that is totally optional!).

Homemade pizza dough also freezes well. Just form it into balls (after the first rise if using active dry yeast) and freeze in a zip lock bag. To defrost, place it in the fridge for about 10 hours or on the counter for about 2 hours. If defrosting in the fridge, let it come to room temperature before forming.

Check out our tips on pizza dough for different diets.


Rolling or Stretching

rolling pizza dough
Regardless of if you make or buy your pizza dough you still have to get it flat. People who are serious about pizza will tell you that you have to stretch or toss it. I’m sure there is a scientific reason why that is true, however, I like to roll my dough because I usually end up making a mess trying to stretch or toss it into shape.

If you’re rolling it, I highly recommend doing so on a floured sheet of parchment paper (or foil) so that you can easily move it onto your baking sheet (you’ll notice we forgot this step in the video!) Unless you happen to have a pizza peel lying around…then use that obviously (which if you do, stop reading now because you’re probably better at making pizza than I am). Once the dough is rolled out on a floured piece of parchment, sprinkle the top with cornmeal, place a second piece of parchment on top, and flip the dough onto the “clean” parchment.


Toppings

pizza sauce
I find that the key to toppings is to make sure that they are as “dry” as possible before placing them on the pizza.

  • The two primary culprits of soggy pizza are two of the most common toppings: fresh mozzarella and fresh tomatoes. For fresh tomatoes, cut the tomato in half and scoop out all of the seeds before thinly slicing, then place them on a paper towel while you prep everything else. Ditto for fresh mozzarella (minus scooping out the seeds of course).
  • Definitely cook sausage, bacon, or other raw meats before topping and then placing on a paper towel to absorb the extra grease. You can even remove some of the grease from pepperoni by placing it on a paper towel and microwaving for 10-30 seconds.
  • For veggies like onions, peppers, and mushrooms, sauté them (or even go so far as to caramelize them) before placing on the pizza, partly for flavor but primarily to remove most of the water. If there is extra grease in the bottom of the pan don’t transfer that to your pizza.
  • Vegetables that contain less water (broccoli, black olives, sun dried tomatoes, etc.) can be placed directly on the pizza. I like to save greens like arugula or spinach until after the pizza is cooked.
  • The positioning of cheese on the pizza depends entirely on you. Technically, most people don’t consider cheese a topping meaning that it goes on right after the sauce and is then topped with whatever else you’re using for toppings. Personally, I find that it really depends on my toppings. If it’s your typical toppings then yes, they definitely put the cheese down first. But if I’m being healthy and putting broccoli on my pizza I usually put the cheese on top to give the toppings a lit bit of extra sauciness!

Baking

pizza on pan
Ok, first get your oven as hot as it will go. Most of our Gatheredtable pizza recipes call for 450 because that’s about as hot as the average electric oven reliably gets, but if yours goes to 500 then do it! (Just reduce the cooking time a little.)

To pizza stone or to not pizza stone? that is the question. Ok seriously, who has a pizza stone? (If you do then obviously use it in place of a baking sheet). If you are a “crispy but chewy” crust fan, place your baking sheet in the oven while it pre-heats to let it get as hot as possible. Once your oven is hot, take the pan out, and transfer your dough and parchment paper to the hot pan. You can also totally skip this step and just place your pizza on a baking sheet and then put it in the preheated oven. Really, as long as you have a very hot oven it will be fine. Again, maybe not professional quality, but still really good. Depending on the heat of your oven and your toppings 8-12 minutes should be all you need!


Grilling

Grilled pizza is a GREAT summer alternative, I mean who wants their oven at 500 when it’s 90 degrees out? And, since your grill get’s hotter than your oven you’ll get a crispier crust.

  • Get you grill hot and ready for direct grilling and ALWAYS have everything ready to go.
  • Roll out the dough, grease one side with olive oil and place oiled side down directly onto the grill, let the bottom cook for 2-3 minutes and then flip (either directly onto the grill or onto a plate it you’re just getting the hang of thing.
  • Add your sauce and toppings to the side you just cooked (if you flipped it onto a plate slide it back onto the grill)
  • Cover the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the dough reaches the desired level of done-ness.

Our Favorite Recipes

pepperoni pizza

Pizzas:

Dough:

Sauce:

Happy Cooking,
Emily

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