How To Make Pizza & Pizza Dough

Pizza is not a special-occasion food — it’s an every occasion food. To help you embrace it, we"ve put together a four-point plan for designing the perfect pizza night, the one you can repeat week after week after week. This is Pizza Night, Perfected. 

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Neapolitan-style pizza — with its blistered, puffy rim và thin interior — is baked in wood-fired ovens that approach 900˚F.

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New Haven pizzas, with their thin, charred crust và crisp-tender texture, are forged in coal-fired ovens exceeding 1,000˚F.

Even thủ đô new york pies — well-browned but not charred on the exterior, and chewy-crisp within — are baked in electric or gas ovens that commonly run between 700˚F and 800˚F.

Meanwhile, the average home oven tops out at 500˚F or, if you’re lucky, 550˚F. Which means that it’s impossible to make restaurant-caliber pizzas at home, right? Actually, no: Good, nay, even great pizza can be made at home, but to do so, you need khổng lồ set up your oven to mimic a high-temperature one.

Who better to ask for advice on how khổng lồ recreate restaurant pizza at home than someone who’s had a lifetime of practice doing so? I"ve been making pizza at trang chủ myself for years, and am pretty confident in my technique, but I’m hardly a pro. Which is why I reached out lớn Dan Richer, the chef-owner of Razza Pizza Artigianale in Jersey City, NJ, & the tác giả of the forthcoming book, The Joy of Pizza. (Heads up: We only recommend the cookbooks that we, as bakers, truly love. When you buy through external link on our site, we may earn an tiếp thị liên kết commission.)

Not only has Dan been making acclaimed pies in Razza"s two wood-fired ovens since the restaurant opened in 2012, but he"s been thinking about how khổng lồ get the same caliber of pizza out of his home oven for at least as long. The Joy of Pizza is the culmination of years of pizza knowledge, và a must-have for serious pizza makers. I asked him to mô tả the secrets it contains on how home pizza chefs can make the most of their ovens. 

Andris Lagsdin
Baking pizza requires thinking about more than just temperature. You need to consider the baking surface, oven placement, và more.First, a physics lesson The first thing Dan wanted to lớn emphasize is that while standard home ovens can never get as hot as professional pizza ovens, there are strategies a baker can employ lớn maximize the heat you pull out of them.

“Pizza cooks from many different directions: the top, the sides, the bottom,” he explains. “We bake pizza using two main sources of heat transfer — conduction & radiation.”

Radiation is the movement of energy by electromagnetic waves, which can move through air or a vacuum (just like solar radiation can give you a nasty sunburn if you don’t apply sunblock at the beach). Conduction is the direct transfer of energy from one object lớn another (like when you burn your bare feet on the sand at that beach). The top and sides of the pizza cook via radiation; the underside cooks by conduction. Radiant heat is supplied by the oven"s heating element và sometimes the broiler (more on using the broiler for pizza in a moment); conduction is supplied by whatever surface you bake the pizza on.

The trick to lớn great pizza is getting those two sources of heat to lớn work in tandem. “Pizza is such a quality food because we’re cooking, but we’re also baking,” Dan points out. “Pizza is a flatbread with condiments baked onto it, so we have to get our bread baked & we have to lớn get khổng lồ cook at a similar rate.” & because the crust of the pizza has to keep up with the cooking rate of the toppings, this balance mostly comes down lớn conduction.

Conduction: Surface science 

“For conduction to really bởi vì its thing, you need thermal mass,” says Dan. Thermal mass refers khổng lồ the heat-storing (and delivering) capacity of a material; the greater the thermal mass, the longer it can supply heat to whatever it"s in contact with. (It’s more or less equivalent to a battery, lượt thích the one in your điện thoại — the larger the battery, the longer you can run that phone before it’s in need of a recharge.) 

Kristin Teig
One go-to surface is the baking stone, for its excellent thermal mass. It’s usually the baking surface that’s the limiting factor for pizza: It takes a lot of heat khổng lồ get the underside of the pie to cook at the same rate as the top & sides, so the more thermal mass, the more likely it will be able to lớn keep up. Thermal mass is directly related lớn the density and weight of the surface material in question — denser & heavier is better, provided it has been preheated (or, lớn continue with the battery metaphor, “charged up”) sufficiently long.

The simplest và most accessible baking surface you can use for cooking pizza in a trang chủ oven is a preheated half sheet pan. While that can work in a pinch, a half sheet pan is so lightweight that it quickly cools down after you place the raw pie on it. It just doesn’t have the heat-holding capacity pizza demands. Which means that even once the cheese is browned & bubbling và the rim is golden và crisp, the underside is likely lớn remain pale và soft. 

Switching lớn a baking stone is a major upgrade in terms of thermal mass. (There’s a reason those things are so freaking heavy.) So long as it’s been sufficiently preheated — Dan suggests heating it for at least an hour at the oven"s maximum temperature — it will vị wonders to help the underside keep pace with the top & sides.

Kristin Teig
Another fantastic option? A baking steel.Better yet, there’s the baking steel, which is Dan"s preferred pizza-baking surface at home. These 1/4"-thick slabs of raw steel have a thermal mass comparable lớn baking stones, along with another trick up their sleeves: higher thermal conductivity. Being a metal, steel is far more conductive than ceramic, which means that not only vày baking steels hold heat well, but they also transfer it to lớn the pizza more quickly than stones. Và faster heat transfer means faster cooking.

Dan admits that baking steels, while great, are expensive at about $100 each. Which is why he also mentions a budget alternative: firebricks. Firebricks are heavy, heat-resistant bricks made for fireplaces and ovens, và they cost a mere couple of dollars apiece. “ the least expensive way khổng lồ go, và ironically, probably have the most thermal mass, because they’re the thickest,” he tells me. And what they lack in conductivity relative lớn a baking steel, they 3d for in sheer mass. But, as he notes, they’re not without their drawbacks: They"re so massive that you can’t really leave them in the oven all the time (as Dan does with his baking steel), and they take time to arrange on your oven rack ahead of each bake.

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Rick Holbrook
You can place a steel over firebricks to get the best out of both materials.Finally, you can combine two of these surfaces for even more oomph. “You can vày firebricks in the oven first và the pizza stone or steel on top of them,” he says. “And that’s like supreme thermal mass.” I actually use this layered approach myself all the time. I happen khổng lồ own both a baking stone & a steel, và I tend khổng lồ use them both for pizza: The stone (for added thermal mass) below the steel (for its superior conductivity). It"s the best of both worlds — a heat-pumping baking steel attached lớn a heat-storing stone.

Radiation: Location, location, location 

Of course, radiation has a role to play here, too, so Dan also has advice on where in the oven lớn place your baking surface. “I put the stone anywhere between 6” & 8” from the vị trí cao nhất of the oven,” he says. “All ovens are slightly different, but for the ovens I’ve tested, that’s a good spot.” Heat rises, so placing the surface close to but not quite at the very vị trí cao nhất of the oven maximizes the amount of heat the top and sides of the pie are exposed to, while still leaving ample room lớn get the pie in & out of the oven without disaster.

Andrew Janjigian
Placing your pizza high in the oven maximizes the amount of heat it gets và enables you to lớn use your broiler for an extra boost. Moreover, as Dan points out, it allows the baker to take advantage of the broiler for additional heat both before và during the bake: “I typically flip on the broiler about 10 minutes before I start to bake for that really intense heat lớn get the stone or steel as hot as possible. Và then I flip the broiler on or off as I’m baking, based on how the vị trí cao nhất of the pizza is going in relation to the bottom.” With experience, Dan knows about how long it’ll take khổng lồ get the underside of his pies to crisp up nicely, so if it seems like the top of the pizza isn’t keeping pace, he’ll turn on the broiler to give it a little boost.

Using your broiler lớn superheat your baking surface và to goose the đứng top of the pie while it cooks is definitely an “advanced” technique, requiring practice & a good sense of how hot & how evenly your particular broiler element runs; it’s easy khổng lồ overdo it và end up with a pizza that’s more scorched than charred. But, lượt thích Dan, I agree it’s definitely worth exploring once you’ve maximized the heat output you can get from your baking surface and the bottom element alone.

In the end, though, the best way to keep track of how your pies are cooking is khổng lồ get as close as possible to lớn the action. As Dan explains, “When I make pizza, I’m sitting on the floor of my kitchen — there’s no other way to vị it.”

Learn more pizza tips in our four-point plan for designing your best pizza night: Pizza Night, Perfected.