We all have a favorite pizza place, that special place that feels like a small piece of Italy even if you’re miles away.
Whether it is a small local pizzeria, a family-owned business with a secret pizza dough recipe that has been kept under lock and key for ages, or a famous restaurant you always choose for your important dates, you may think that it is impossible to make this kind of pizza at home.
The truth is - you don’t need fancy equipment, or much experience in the kitchen to be able to make a restaurant-quality pizza at home. Our expert tips, on the other hand, will make the process much easier!
1. The oven must be piping hot
One of the main reasons why you’re never satisfied with your homemade pizza, and you can never make the dough as crispy on the outside and airy on the inside as the experts do, is that your oven is not hot enough.
How hot should the oven be? As hot as it can possibly go, so don’t be afraid to use that maximum temperature setting.
People are generally afraid that high temperatures will dry out the pizza or even burn it. On the contrary, baking the pizza for too long at a low temperature will make the texture hard and chewy, and quite possibly dry out the toppings.
What happens when you bake the pizza at a high temperature is that the air inside the dough forms bubbles, resulting in a soft, airy, light texture on the inside.
The outside crust, on the other hand, becomes golden, crispy, and crunchy - but not too dry or hard, as your pizza should be ready in just a few minutes.
2. Let the dough rest in the fridge
The pizza dough fermenting process is one of the key factors in making a restaurant-quality, delicious pizza from scratch.
While you can leave the dough mixture to ferment at room temperature, and then make your pizza after an hour or two, an advice straight from the pizza experts is to leave the dough to ferment in the fridge.
The longer you leave it in the fridge - the better the texture and the flavor will be. This process truly allows for all the ingredients to marry together, and for the yeast to do its magic.
All you need to do is create the dough mixture, knead it until you’re satisfied with the texture, then place the dough balls into a ziplock bag and store them in the fridge, preferably for 3 days.
Take the dough balls out of the fridge and allow the pizza dough to proof at room temperature before creating the desired pizza shape and adding the toppings.
3. When choosing toppings - less is more
You already know that every Italian would cringe at the sight of a pizza loaded with all kinds of toppings. Every true pizza lover will agree that the true beauty of every pizza lies in the dough, and the toppings should only contribute to it.
While it is completely up to you to choose your favorite ingredients and create your own combination of flavors and textures, we do recommend trying to stick with the basics when you want a restaurant-grade pizza.
However, don’t feel like you have to use all the “original” Italian pizza ingredients to get the perfect outcome. For instance, if you don’t have any fresh mozzarella at the moment, any cheese similar to mozzarella will still do.
4. Take your time kneading the dough
While the internet is flooded with all kinds of no-knead, fast dough recipes, we believe that a perfect pizza calls for a little bit of time and effort.
If you don’t really enjoy mixing and kneading the dough on your own, you can always use a stand mixer or a food processor to make the process a lot easier.
While it is much easier and faster to let a stand mixer do most of the work, we still prefer the good old manual kneading method when it comes to making your pizza dough.
Using your hands to knead the dough will give you a better feel of its texture and more control over the entire process.
5. Preheat the cooking surface
The oven is not the only thing you want to preheat to achieve that perfect, golden crust on your pizza every single time.
As your oven is preheating, you also want to leave your cooking surface in it - preferably a heavy surface such as a heavy-duty baking sheet, upside-down iron skillet, or simply a pizza stone if you own one.
This method will allow for the pizza to cook faster as the dough will quickly reach the necessary temperature. It will also ensure that the bottom of the pizza is properly baked, and the toppings aren’t drying out as you’re waiting for the dough to achieve that crispy bottom layer.
6. Avoid the rolling pin
Now, while this pizza trick may surprise you, we promise it makes a world of a difference. Using a rolling pin on your dough destroys the air in the pizza texture - that same air that forms bubbles and makes the pizza dough super airy and fluffy on the inside.
It is also likely that you’ll make the dough too thin when using the rolling pin, which is why we recommend stretching the dough using the traditional method - your hands.
The dough should be especially easy to stretch if you’ve let it rest in the fridge at least for an hour before forming the desired pizza shape.
7. Don’t add too much tomato sauce
Many pizza lovers make the mistake of drenching their pizza dough in tomato sauce, hoping this will prevent it from drying out.
While the tomato sauce should contribute to the overall tenderness of the dough, you shouldn’t rely on it to make the dough softer. Adding too much tomato sauce could result in a soggy, soft dough, and it could also jeopardize the crunchiness of the pizza crust.
This article was contributed by Michael Cook, Director and Founder of My Conscious Eating www.myconsciouseating.com