Food 101: How to Make a Pizza
As you may have guessed by now if you’ve spent any time on the blog at all, we’re big fans of pizza. Pizza is one of the most perfect foods around. It’s delicious, it’s portable, and it’s relatively cheap both to buy and make. Specialty slices are great, but nothing beats a really good regular cheese slice. The sauce, the cheese, the crust…they all just go perfectly together. In my opinion pizza is comfort food at its finest. There’s no problem pizza can’t solve.
Now we make a lot of specialty pizzas (at least one per month),and we’re all for people experimenting with their own fun pizzas, but with all things you should master the basics before moving on to the advanced. So this post will go over the basic pizza making techniques for those who may be less familiar with pizza making than we are (and there’s nothing wrong with that!).
First let’s go over the basic components:
The dough is probably one of the most important parts of the pizza. It’s going to be a part of every single bite, from beginning to end, so you want good dough. If you have crappy dough you’re going to have a crappy pizza. You can certainly make your own pizza dough if you want to and have a good recipe. We rarely make our own dough, but that’s mostly because we rarely have the time to wait for dough to rise. We do however, purchase our dough from a pizzeria. I highly recommend buying your dough from a pizza place if you’re going to buy dough. Grocery store pizza dough is often cheaper, but we’ve tried it a couple of times and it just isn’t very good. It’s much harder to stretch and often lacks the same delicious flavor/texture as pizzeria or homemade dough.
Traditional cheese pizzas feature a red tomato sauce. Ideally you will use a homemade sauce. Making sauce at home is really easy and preferred because you can easily make it to suit your personal tastes. For example I prefer sweeter/more basil-y sauces (esp. for pizza) whereas Erik prefers sauces with a bit more kick. And we can have either or both when we make our own. However I realize not everyone is going to want to make a pot of sauce just for pizza, so if you really want, you can used jarred sauce. If you are going to go this route, I highly recommend still adding some herbs and spices to it to give it a more personal touch. Pouring sauce straight from a jar onto your pizza will be okay, but really making it your own will be better.
Mozzarella is pretty much a must on a cheese pizza. It melts super well and adds a nice, subtle creamy flavor. If you want more than just mozzarella you can easily add some parmesan, provolone, even maybe some cheddar. Or you can also very easily buy the pre-shredded bags labeled “pizza blend.” We’ve done this. There’s no shame. For a basic cheese pizza the cheese should be shredded before going on the pie. If you’re using fresh mozzarella and want a slightly different style you could just slice it and place the rounds on top. The cheese will not melt into total pizza coverage this way however, so just be aware of that.
As for what to cook your pizza in/on? If you plan on making a lot of pizzas I’d definitely recommend buying a pizza pan. This will get you the most uniform looking pizzas. If you’re not ready to commit to buying a new piece of kitchen equipment you can easily just freeform your pizza into either round or rectangle shape and bake it on a cookie sheet. You could also bake it on a pizza stone if you happen to have one.
Now then…time to get down to business. While prepping the pizza, have your oven pre-heating to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Pizzas are traditionally cooked in super hot ovens. First lightly oil and then dust with corn meal the surface you’re going to bake your pizza on (pan, sheet, or stone).
Then stretch out the dough to the appropriate size. It’s best to do this using your knuckles to lessen the chance of puncturing your dough.
Once your dough is ready, the first layer is the sauce. You really don’t need much sauce. It’s going to be tempting to really lay it on thick, but if you do your pizza will be soggy and floppy. Start with a small amount of sauce in the middle of the pie, and using the back of a spoon spread it out to the edges, leaving an inch or two uncovered for the outer crust.
An optional step: if you want to get your crust a nice golden brown you can brush on a baking soda wash. Simply mix together ½ cup of water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda and brush along the outer crust.
Next comes the cheese. Sprinkle the shredded cheese liberally over the top of your pizza. My personal motto is that there’s no such thing as too much cheese.
Bake your pizza for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through.
Once out of the oven, allow the pizza to rest slightly before removing from the pan/sheet/stone and cutting. This will help prevent everything from sliding around when it’s moved.
All that’s left now is to eat and enjoy!
Once you get the basic steps and order of things down it’s easy to come up with different types of pizza to try.