Everyone is fond of this king of Italian cuisine. The hot and cheesy pizza.
I remember my first pizza was a ‘masterpiece’. The crust was uneven, cheese flowed down in the oven tray and tomatoes secreted all the juices to make the top watery.
But I don’t regret that. I made a memory and learned a lot from my first pizza.
I’m here with some targeted tips and tricks to make your favorite pizza at home within no time. And of course, much better and tastier than the restaurant and take away pizzas.
I gathered these tips by watching different cooking shows, MasterChef India and MasterChef Australia and MasterChef blah blah…
So, trust their authenticity without any hesitation.
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How the homemade pizza is different from the restaurant pizza?
Basically, the main difference is the availability of kitchen appliances to help you cook like a pro, that you can hardly have at hand in your home.
Three main kitchen appliances are:
Bigger Electric Dough Mixer:
Thermodynamics is involved here.
There are big dough mixers in pizzerias that knead almost 250 pounds of pizza dough, daily. The friction force in the mixer generates heat energy that adds ten times more flavor and softness to the dough.
It’s that simple.
At home, the amount of dough is very small and so is the heat energy. This minimizes the flavor.
Knead the dough well, with hands or with the mixer. Add warm milk or water to give extra warmth to the dough.
The Super Cool Refrigerator:
Refrigerator plays a key role in the maturation of the dough. The process of fermentation slows down by lowering the temperature.
Not only this, it ceases fermentation and altogether stops it around 40°F to 50°F.
Commercial refrigerators have higher efficiency as compared to domestic ones.
Proof your dough slowly in the refrigerator.
This is the most essential step in creating a good dough. The process of fermentation is slowed down, developing the right flavor and texture to the dough.
When the yeast breaks down, it makes the cooked crust lighter and tender, making small air holes in it.
Isn’t it a big deal?
I have a huge difference in my crust when I followed this trick.
The Hot Oven:
The heart of any pizzeria is its oven. Commercial ovens are gas-operated, wood-fired or electric.
Nowadays, gas ovens are in greater practice as they are easy to be handled and save time plus energy.
(Temperature range: 600°F to 650°F)
Wood-fired ovens offer much greater temperature than the rest of both. Adds typically extra rich smokey flavor. But it’s somewhat difficult to clean and operate.
(Temperature range 900°F to 950°F)
Comparatively, domestic ovens just reach 500°F. Some companies may offer the latest models that can achieve 600°F with a separate function for baking pizzas.
The basic difference is the super-hot firey oven.
The huge temperature.
Preheat the oven. Set in at maximum temperature.
Hotter the oven, better will be that thing…called the scrumptious pizza!
Now, let’s stretch the cheesy-pull of mouthwatering pizza and make it (professionally) at home.
1. Readymade pizza bread:
If you’re a beginner, I recommend a readymade pizza bread.
Sometimes you don’t get time to make fresh dough, or don’t master to make it, just buy it. There might be some bakeries or pizzerias around you that sell dough.
They come in different brands and packaging. Just spread a thin layer of pizza sauce, meat (roasted) or veggies and top it with cheese and seasonings.
You are done with the homemade pizza.
2. Grab a recipe and follow it:
Go for an easy recipe of dough.
Here goes one of the easiest dough preparation that’s like the one I follow.
Don’t miss any ingredient. Use measuring spoons to add the exact quantity.
3. Use The Right Flour For Pizza:
Using the quality flour greatly affects the texture of the pizza.
Many of us use all-purpose flour but I don’t recommend it. The reason is; it has less gluten, so the crust will have a denser crumb – like a cake.
I prefer Italian “00” and Caputo “00”. Both work quite well for gas-operated as well as wood-fired ovens. (Obviously for your home kitchen too.)
The “00” refers to the finest grade. Its protein content is between 12-15%. This means more gluten – that makes it suitable to rise in the refrigerator as gluten degrades over time.
4. Substitute Milk For Hard Or Soft Water:
“Use lukewarm milk instead of water. I sometimes use condensed milk to give creamy softness as well as sweetness.”
Says Di Fabio.
The problem is all about the hardness and softness of water. Hard water has a good amount of calcium carbonate which is bad for pizza dough. It resists the fermentation process that allows the dough to rise.
Likewise, soft water has minimal mineral content and is bad because it forms a soft and sticky dough.
If you live in the area with either one of these water tendencies, replace the water in the recipe with milk for dough. It rises the dough much better.
5. Kneed well:
“Kneading well is very necessary to yield a good dough. It develops gluten, the web of interlinked proteins that gives structure to baked goods. Prefer a stand mixer when you’ve got a lot of pizza to make, but it’s not the only way to knead your dough. In fact, as I’ve discovered, using a regular food processor can actually help you produce gluten faster. And pretty much better than you can do in a stand mixer.”
Says Chef Gulzar Hussain.
When I didn’t have a stand mixer or a food processor, I used to follow a minimal-knead method.
Here is my three-step method:
(For soooper busy/lazy moms)
- Just mix together all of your ingredients.
- Wrap up a plastic sheet on the bowl.
- Refrigerate the dough overnight.
The next day, the dough will be ready to proof and stretch.
One bowl method. No cleanup at all.
And works for all kinds of dough.
6. Brush the bowl and dough with oil:
Use olive oil, coconut oil or regular vegetable oil to brush the bowl as well as the dough-top. Oiling keeps the dough from sticking to the container when it rises.
Also, it adds extra elasticity too. You’ll find a super elastic dough when you knead again. (before making a round crust)
7. Cover The Dough With Kitchen Towel or Plastic Wrap:
After you knead the dough, let it rest at room temperature for an hour. Then move it to the fridge to ferment in bulk.
Don’t forget to make the bowl airtight. Use a plastic wrap or kitchen towel to cover the bowl completely.
By Richard Blais, top American chef.
- Minimum time the dough takes to ferment is 24 hours to create a big taste. If you rest it overnight, then it is better than nothing.
- Even after the dough rises, the yeast is still active. You need to warm up the dough when you take it out of the fridge. So, before stretching it, cut 250g pieces of the dough and ball them up on the worktop and rest for an hour to get warmth. It gives an in-depth flavor.
8. Stretch the Dough:
(Don’t roll it)
Rolling with the rolling pin makes the crust flat and thin. Once the dough rests to the room temperature, it is easy to be stretched.
Dip your fingers in some oil and press the ball down to give it your favorite shape with raised bubbly edges.
Making a perfect round circle is not that compulsory.
Most of the Neapolitan monsters are a bit irregular with swollen edges. (A bit burnt too, as I see the game)
Like this thing:
9. Add a Thin Layer of Sauce:
Choose any sauce you like. There is no hard and fast rule to use pizza sauce only. It may be fresh tomato sauce or ready-made sauce, apply a thin layer.
Adding in a bulk (to make it delicious) makes the crust soggy and watery. (Spoiling the whole taste)
So be steady with the sauce.
10. Make your own sauce:
The best way to make a restaurant-style pizza sauce is by making it yourself.
Yes, it’s as easy as you think.
When I make it, I don’t bother to use fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are best in consistency, sweetness and acidity.
I pulse tomatoes and chopped garlic and onions in a food processor. Then simmer for 3 to 5 minutes with olive oil.
Add red pepper flakes, peprika and salt to taste.
I’m done, and so will be you.
11. Mozzarella for cheesy pull and chaddar for taste:
I use both as mozzarella gives the glorious cheesy pull and chaddar adds the taste.
You can find a pizza cheese in the market which is the combination of both. I used it many times but found more flavor when I myself used them separately.
12. Avoid fresh mozzarella:
Though it’s delicious.
But it contains lots of water and will turn into a custard-like shape in the end. I feel it easy to buy a big slice and refrigerate it and grate it down when make pizza.
Try to make things easy for you as much as you can.
13. Get a Full-Fat Cheese:
They give a better melting state as compared to dry and less moistured cheese. Mozzarella is again best known for its creamy meltability.
You can experiment with provolone or parmesan.
14. Don’t load up a lot of Sauce or Cheese:
Excess sauce and cheese can add moisture to the base and crust. To make it crispy, I recommend using one cup of cheese and a thin layer of sauce.
15. Select a Pizza Type:
First, make sure which sort of pizza you’re going to bake. Extra loaded, Chicken Tikka Pizza, Beef Pizza, Hard Core New York style Pizza or whatever.
Of course, this will make it easy to select toppings for your pizza.
16. Follow The Rule Of Three Only:
World’s top pizza chefs follow the rule of three toppings only. Don’t burst out the crust with everything yummy you’ve in the fridge.
Excluding sauce and cheese, three of the ingredients (that pair up well) are enough.
I limit to just two or three. And ask myself whether the new ingredient makes harmony with the previous one or not.
I usually do this combo:
- Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, Spinach and Olives
- Onions, Tomatoes, and Mushrooms
- Bay leaves, Bell pepper and Olives
- Sausages, extra cheese, Black Olives
17. Avoid Runny Sauces And Wet Toppings:
The oven bakes only. It hasn’t much time to cook wet toppings. And the same goes for runny sauces.
Make sure that sauce is not watery and veggies are dry enough otherwise the outcome will be a soggy and knife and fork type pizza.
18. Saute Your Toppings:
Each vegetable has a different cooking time. It’s better to precook them for tenderness.
Saute greens like Egg Plant, Zucchini, Broccoli, etc. (You can grill them too)
Fine slices of Onions, Tomatoes and Bell Peppers are okay to go direct in the fire.
19. Add Soft Herbs In The End:
What I do is somewhat different from the rest. I sprinkle herbs (dry or fresh, either) when the game is half done.
Benefit: This restores the flavor of tender herbs. Herbs like Oregano, Rosemary, Parsley or Basil don’t get wilted and blackened.
I suggest you do the same.
20. First, Brush the Pizza Crust With Olive Oil:
Sometimes we cook the crust for just a few minutes before adding sauces and toppings. It’s though a good practice that enhances crunchiness.
Before baking the crust, applying some oil will multiply the flavor.
If you haven’t done this yet, just do it and tell me how much flavor has been added to the pie.
21. Preheat the Oven:
Gordon Ramsay believes;
Normally, hotter the oven, better will be the pizza. It’s because the early phase of baking helps air bubbles and vapours inside the dough to expand, making the interior bubbly and exterior crusty.
He further says that the ideal temperature for pizza is between 450°F and 500°F. If you work with a wood-burning oven, set the fire 45 minutes to an hour before you start baking pizza.
22. Pizza Stones Are In Trend:
They’re replacing pizza pans. As it holds more heat, it will start baking the crust as soon as you place pizza on it.
I normally use a pizza pan for making pizza for my family. But for gatherings where obviously I need the bigger-sized pizza, I use a pizza stone.
You need to know how to work with it.
That’s quite simple.
Place a stone on a lower rack of oven. Start the oven if it’s electric or gas-operated. If it works on wood-fire, lit the fire.
Stone heats up along with the oven.
After 45 minutes, place the pizza on the stone.
And that’s it.
23. Use A Pizza Peel:
If you’re using a pizza stone, you need a Pizza Peel too. It helps to transfer pizza to the stone safely.
- Pizza Peel comes in metal as well as wood. Both are sold online and you can buy easily. I prefer using a wooden one. The reason is; pizza dough sticks to metal peel as it starts getting moisture. I personally found no issue with the wooden peel.
- Buy the Peel with thinner edges. It makes the pizza shift easy.
- Make a mixture of semolina and flour. (1 tablespoon each) Sprinkle it to the peel. Semolina acts like a +small ball bearing while handling the dough. This ensures it doesn’t stick to the Peel or Stone and adds a nice flavor to the crust. (Cornmeal is also used in place of Semolina-flour mixture)
- Place the edge of the Peel on the tip of the Stone. Give a quick motion and bounce back the Peel. Pizza lands freely and perfectly in the middle of Stone.
24. Check the Pizza Right After 5 minutes:
Once you see that the cheese is melting, and the dough has changed its color, remove the pizza from the oven.
Now is the time to brush some oil to the pizza surface and garnish it with your favorite toppings.
Place it in the oven for 2 to 3 more minutes.
25. Rotate The Pizza:
If you watch some part of pizza is browning faster than others, rotate it before it burns. Use again Pizza Peel or spatula.
You can also turn it after adding toppings.
26. Don’t Remove the Pizza Too Early:
I made this mistake several times in the beginning.
I get nervous that there might get something wrong with my darling pizza as it has been too long since I placed it in the oven.
And the result is; a half-cooked pizza.
As long as the edges are white, don’t ever touch the pizza. (The oven door!!!)
With the time, I found that it’ll give the best results if I give it a few more minutes. It helps the dough to cook perfectly from the middle.
The edges become more crunchy.
And the cheese sheds more flavor.
27. Use a Pizza Cutter for Fine Triangles:
No knife can replace a pizza cutter.
Buy it once and it will help you in so many other ways too.
My first pizza wasn’t perfect.
And I know you don’t want to hear this, but you too are not going to rock the party in the first place.
The tip is; make more and more and more pizzas.
Try different recipes.
It’ll get easier and yummier over the time.
How this post has helped you to improve your pizza skills? Comment below.
And if any difficulty you’re facing to make a delicious pizza, ask frankly!