Everything You Need To Make Good Pizza At Home

Sorry, your homemade pizza sucks. It's best that we acknowledge it and just move forward. For what it's worth, my pizza also used to suck. But I made it better and now you can too!

Admittedly, I'm no expert. But since I finally got a pizza stone I've been kind of obsessed.

If you want, here's a bunch of useful info on homemade pizza: First read this post on Serious Eats on different kinds of pizza stones. If you want to make thin, NY-style pizza dough, read this blog post on Feeling Foodish. Then watch this Food52 video on stretching dough. Finally, do a search on Yummly for good topping ideas. And then check out my prosciutto-arugula pizza recipe because it's really good and I want you to stay on my blog longer.

But if you don't feel like going through all that, here's some advice that you can probably read in 4 minutes:

1. Buy an Emile Henry pizza stone.

Emile Henry pizza stone

Emile Henry pizza stone

Preferably, the rectangular one. Stretching and rolling out dough into a decent-looking circle is really difficult, so having this large, oblong surface will give you enough space. Why this particular stone? Aside from it heating up really hot and evenly, it has a non-stick surface (you won't need to use cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking), it's easy to wash, you can put on your charcoal grill and you can slice your pizza directly on it

With this stone, your pizza dough will be cooked thoroughly and to your liking - chewy or crunchy. The reason you can't use a regular baking sheet is that it doesn't get hot enough. You'd have to leave your pizza in the oven for longer, so your toppings will probably burn before the dough is cooked through.

2. Get full-coverage, heavy duty oven mitts.

Trudeau oven gloves

Trudeau oven gloves

That pizza stone is going to be heavy. And really hot. Your dinky little half-mitts won't do you much good. You'll need one of those really thick gloves that pretty much just look like embarrassing winter attire. This way, you can grip comfortably and tightly.

3. Get a handheld pizza wheel or pizza scissors.

Zyliss Handheld Pizza Wheel 

Zyliss Handheld Pizza Wheel 

There's nothing more frustrating than frantically sawing through oven-fresh pizza with the hope of serving it hot. A handheld wheel like this one allows you to apply even pressure without hurting your hand. Or you can try using scissors so you don't have to apply pressure at all. The tricky thing with the scissors, however, is that while the act of cutting is easier, you'll have to be extra careful not to burn your hand when slicing through that piping hot pie.

4. You don't have to make the dough yourself.

Photo credit:   Hungry Hungry Hippie

Photo credit: Hungry Hungry Hippie

Homemade is always better, sure. But sometimes you don't have time. Or you're too lazy. Or you're too lazy but you just tell everyone that you don't have time. Just buy it from the store - preferably Trader Joe's. Don't try to get all fancy with the garlic and herb one. And don't fool yourself into thinking you're being healthy by buying the whole wheat dough. Just get the plain one. It's delicious. And it's only $1.19.

5. But if you do make your own dough, let it ferment.

Photo credit:  Lenore Edman  via Flickr

Photo credit: Lenore Edman via Flickr

My favorite dough recipe is a pretty basic one from Food Network. What that recipe doesn't say, though, is that some fermentation is needed for a full-flavored dough, so you'll need to make it about 2 days ahead. (If you don't wait at least a day it won't have much flavor.)

6. Use good quality ingredients for your toppings.

You only spent $1.19 on the dough so don't skimp on the toppings. My favorite combination is prosciutto, parmesan, arugula and reduced balsamic vinegar. I'll usually buy a higher-end packaged prosciutto but freshly sliced from the deli is better. As for the parmesan, I'll just buy a wedge of generic brand cheese and grate it fresh. If you like pepperoni (who doesn't?!) buy something decent; promise me you won't buy the weirdly monochromatic Hormel one.


And there you have it! Everything you reasonably need to know about making your own pizza. Buuut I'm throwing in one last tip because now that I've started it's hard to shut up...

How to use that Emile Henry pizza stone:

  1. Preheat your oven to the highest temperature. It's probably 500 degrees. That's fine.
  2. When it's ready, put in your pizza stone. No pizza yet. Give the stone 15 minutes to get hot.
  3. Take out the stone and place on stovetop. Not your counter; it might crack. Quickly put on your rolled-out dough and prepared toppings.
  4. Bake to desired consistency. About 13-15 minutes for chewy crust. 17-20 minutes for crunchy. For that chewy crust, make sure the dough is rolled out to about 1/4-inch.
  5. When you take out the stone, place it on a wooden cutting board on your counter. Otherwise, the sudden change from a hot oven to a cold countertop might crack the stone.