Do you like to make your own pizza at home? If you tried and weren’t entirely happy with it, here are six tips I learned from working in research and development for a national pizza chain a few years ago.
1. Don’t bake your pizza on a cheap and shiny cookie sheet. Try to find a heavy baking pan with a dark finish for a crispy crust that will hold up to all that sauce, cheese, and various ingredients.
I have two pans like the one pictured above that were originally used in a pizza restaurant. My daughters-in-law are looking forward to inheriting them some day because we have been unable to find any like them. I rarely wash them because they have developed a patina similar to an iron skillet. I just swipe them with a paper towel.
2. Coating your pizza pan with a tablespoon of olive oil will contribute lots of flavor to your crust. Many restaurants use MUCH more oil, which is one reason their pizza is so good….and filling. If you prefer to use a pizza stone, skip this hint. Personally, I prefer pans so I can use oil.
3. Go easy on the sauce. Too much and the crust is difficult to bake all the way through. Also, too much sauce can cause a “topping-slide.” That’s when all the cheese, meat, and vegetables pull off your pizza slice with the first bite. You should be able to see a bit of crust through your sauce.
4. Sprinkle the cheese onto the sauce BEFORE any toppings. It keeps the cheese from burning and glues the toppings to the pizza while allowing them to cook completely and brown. I like lots of cheese, but just like too much sauce, too much cheese can make it difficult to get a crispy crust. Another option is to save some of the cheese to sprinkle over the top to protect delicate ingredients such as spinach.
5. Beware of ingredients that exude water as they bake. Toppings such as pineapple and fresh mushrooms can leave little puddles of water that take a long time to dry out before your pizza can brown. I recommend you either pat them dry with a paper towel or cut into small pieces.
I keep fully-cooked ground beef or sausage in the freezer at all times to make quick work of assembling a pizza. Defrost the meat before adding to your pizza to avoid the aforementioned puddles and raw spots in the middle of your pizza.
6. Add fresh herbs AFTER baking, as soon as you take the pizza out of the oven so they won’t burn.
I’m including the recipe for a simple pizza I have been making for years. You may notice pesto takes the place of tomato sauce. I like to use my homemade cilantro pesto but any pesto will work.
FYI–I make my own pizza crust dough in a bread machine using the dough cycle.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 13-inch pizza crust (My pizza dough recipe will make two crusts.)
- 2 tablespoons pesto, flavor of your choice
- 4 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup diced, seasoned chicken
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Brush olive oil over the bottom of your pizza pan. Place your flattened pizza dough into the pan and use fingers to stretch it to the edges. Spread pesto over raw pizza dough.
- Sprinkle cheese evenly over pesto, then do the same with the chicken. If desired, save a little cheese to sprinkle over the top of the chicken.
- Place pizza into the oven and reduce temperature to 425 degrees F. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, but start checking at around 13 minutes.
- Pizza is done when lightly browned and crust is golden brown and crispy on the bottom.