Cooking Class: Pizza 101

 
 

I have a very distinct memory of being a little girl and watching Cheers with my family. “So what?” you say. “Everyone watched Cheers in the 1980s.” True, but I was a little kid and this is the one scene of all 11 years of Cheers that I remember from my childhood. Anyway, in this scene, Carla is eating a giant piece of pizza like a pro with both her hands. And my dad said, “Now THAT’S how you eat a piece of pizza!” That was ingrained in me at that point and I’ve always believed that everyone should eat pizza like Carla Tortelli.

I’m not saying whether you should eat pizza with your hands or with a knife and fork (although I might think you’re kind of a pansy if you do eat it with a knife and fork!) But I do believe that pizza is a very personal thing and that most of us have pizza memories from as early as we can remember–the way we like it is a combination of personal taste, what we grew up eating, and some of those Cheers-like moments. The sauce I posted on Monday and the methods I’m posting today are a jumping off point; they’re the basics. Not only can you experiment with these recipes and methods and make them you’re own, but you should. The way I do things is the result of many years of getting pizza the way I like it (and, if I do say so myself, the way I think a lot of people like it), but try experimenting with herbs and spices, both in the dough and on the pizza. Try different cheeses, different kinds of sauces, liberally grease a cast-iron skillet with cooking oil and then press the dough into it and up the sides and make your own Chicago deep-dish pizza. Now’s your chance to walk on the wild side…

THE BASIC EQUIPMENT

Pizza Stone. A pizza stone is a heavy, flat “stone,” probably ceramic or earthenware. Due to its ability to retain heat, it replicates the concept of placing pizzas directly into giant brick or clay ovens. It is usually unfinished and thus porous, allowing the flavors from whatever comes in contact with the stone to be absorbed into the stone. Here’s mine:

It ain’t pretty, but it’s well-seasoned and happy, turning out flavorful, crispy-crusted pizzas again and again!

Now…the instructions on your pizza stone may tell you to preheat your stone. I’m not going to tell you to ignore the manufacturer’s instructions (okay, so I am), and don’t shoot me if your pizza stone breaks after putting it into a hot oven, but in my experience and my completely non-scientific opinion, I don’t think that 425 degrees is hot enough to shatter your pizza stone as long as it isn’t cold to begin with and as long as it has something on it (like a crust). If you do preheat your stone, you’ll have a heck of a time getting your dough onto the stone in some semblance of a round shape before it starts to cook. Well, you might not have a hard time, but I would; however, I was also dumped by a guy in college because he felt I lacked the physical coordination to cross the plains by foot if necessary. I felt that he was a nutjob.

French rolling pin. By no means do you HAVE to have a French rolling pin, but I much, much MUCH prefer my French rolling pin to my traditional rolling pin, especially when I’m working with large quantities of dough or when I’m shaping dough (like for a pizza). Because of the tapered ends, you can hold a tapered end in one hand and press the other tapered end against the dough in order to achieve whatever shape you’re after. Also, because it’s longer, it rolls the entire quantity of dough at one time rather than going back and forth over the dough, hoping that you’re achieving the same thickness.

THE BASIC INGREDIENTS

Dough. No matter what kind of pizza you make, you’ll need dough. I experimented with many different dough recipes and my friend Lisa’s breadstick recipe ended up being my favorite!
I have to admit that I would love to learn to throw dough. But I also think that anyone who knows me personally would know that it would be a bad, bad, BAD idea for me to toss food products into the air. If any of you are more physically coordinated than I am OR if you already have mad dough-throwing skills (or if you just find food in the air fascinating), check out this video:

Sauce (you can use the basic tomato pizza sauce or a good Alfredo sauce…or pesto…or roasted garlic butter…or anything else you can imagine…)
 

Olive oil; it makes your crust crispy and delicious

Garlic salt; adds to crispy deliciousness.  Garlic Bread Seasoning works great too.

Cheese (about 8 ounces, shredded or in deli slices; for most pizzas, I just use Mozzarella)

Dried oregano; this is the “secret ingredient”–everyone will ask you what made your pizza so dang good and this is it! However…use it on your “traditional” pizzas; I don’t think it would be so tasty on a barbecue chicken pizza!

Desired toppings. Whatever you like on pizza! We’re going into greater detail on this later on in the week, but the possibilities of what you can put on pizza are endless! Personally, our default pizza is Canadian bacon and pineapple…

but our secret weapon pizza, especially in pizza pockets (alas, I wish I could talk about pizza pockets today!), is pepperoni, black olives, green peppers, red onions, and pineapple. Mmmmmm

THE METHOD

1. Begin preparing your dough. Complete steps through the first rise.

2. While dough is rising, prepare your sauce.

3. Preheat your oven (and your pizza stone, if you want) to 425 degrees. While oven is heating, punch down dough and shape into a disc. Spray your work surface, rolling pin, and pizza stone with non-stick cooking spray. Place dough disc onto work surface. Roll and shape into a circle. (Disregard all of this, by the way, if you’re a stinking dough-thrower). Very gently transfer the dough onto your pizza stone and continue to shape up to the edges of the stone.


4. Using a fork, prick several holes in the crust. Drizzle crust with a little olive oil

and brush all the way up to the edges. Sprinkle with garlic salt. Both oiling and garlic salting the crust help crisp it up, give it a great flavor, and keep it from getting soggy in the middle.

5. Bake crust in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven.

6. Spread a layer of sauce (if desired) over the surface of the crust. Top with whatever toppings you like (I do the flat stuff, i.e. the meat, first).   Sara does a layer of cheese first to “glue” on the toppings and then tops with a bit extra after.

 
Then sprinkle with oregano.

7. Return crust to oven and bake 10-12 more minutes or until cheese is melty and the crust is golden brown.

And there you have it. Beautiful pizza, completely non-doughy in the middle, a little crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside.

 

Go hog wild and let us know how it turns out! And speaking of letting us know, talk to us–what’s your favorite pizza? Do you like it thin and crispy or do you love thick crust? What’s the best pizza you’ve ever had? Did you also have the horrible pizza from a boxed mix growing up? Where did you order cheap pizza when you were in school? What are your favorite pizza memories?

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66 comments

  1. Hi, I recently discovered your blog, I really like it.

    I’m in a totally different pizza camp than you though. I preheat my pizza stone in the oven, hand stretch my dough with the back of my hands (which means never a perfect circle,) never pre-cook the dough (I found this makes my crusts very chewy and dry,) and I use a pizza peel to transfer the assembled pizza to the stone. I dust the peel with corn meal to aid in the transfer of the pizza to the stone, and sometimes need to use another spatula to help the pizza off the front of the peel.

    Your perfectly round pie certainly looks outstanding though!

  2. Yeah, Food Guy, this is definitely one pizza school of thought. The pizza we’ll be doing in a couple of weeks is more along the lines of what you do. I love them both and think this one is more like something you’d get at your favorite neighborhood pizza place while the one Sara will be doing in a few weeks is more like something you’d get at a little pizza bistro in a big city.

    Thanks for all your comments! Keep ’em coming!

  3. Would you believe I really dislike pizza? Yup….most kinds too. I can tolerate homemade but it’s rare. I mean don’t get me wrong, your pizza looks fantastic but I’m just not a pizza girl. I know I know…I’m crazy. But it just does not sit well with my tummy!

  4. We make homemade pizza at least once a week at our house and love it! Our default pizza is sausage and green peppers. I make mine very similar to how you do and my pizza sauce is almost identical to yours. Both me and my husband grew up eating Little Caesars, but I way prefer my homemade pizza. Thanks for the great recipes!

  5. Absolutely fabulous, girlies (as usual)… Ok, so I KNOW one of you BYU alums did this too…our freshman year, we would pool our “dining plus” money and buy pizza through…I can’t remember, was it BYU Catering? Anyways, the pizza really left something to be desired, but it was essentially free, so I guess I can’t complain. For Preference that year, we had a group of 40 or so and we chartered a bus up to the Salt Palace and that was what we ate for dinner. We had 20 girls’ dining plus cards to pay for it. Just thought I’d share πŸ™‚

  6. I have to say, the very first thing I noticed was the PERFECTLY round pizza! Even when I’m trying to make it round, it doesn’t look like that. Props to you and your magic rolling pin! That’s pretty impressive.

    I also love the tip about sprinkling oregano on top. I tried that last time and it’s delish!

    I’m also a pre-cooker. I have the best results with pre-cooked crusts.

  7. I never precook my dough. Not that you care… but since it IS my dough recipe, I thought I had the right to add my 2 cents lest people think that I am in the “precook the dough” camp. I also dust the crust with cornmeal, just for the record. πŸ™‚

  8. I just wanted to add that my *total* baking time is almost the same as yours. I generally bake it for 20-25 minutes depending on what toppings are on it. Hmm. How very interesting. So does all your cheese brown up nicely in that short second bake time of 10 minutes?

  9. I’m seriously impressed with your perfect dough circle. That blew me away. And just looking at the end result make my stomach growl.

  10. I’m pretty sure pineapple pizza is the only way to go. I just don’t enjoy a pizza nearly as much if there isn’t pineapple on it. I don’t even care if there’s ham/canadian bacon to go along with it. Something about that salty-sweet combo…

    I can’t wait for the pineapple pizza pocket recipe!

  11. I meant to mention something else (I don’t *think* anyone mentioned this?).

    I’m going to guess that there are a lot of people out there that don’t own a pizza stone. You can still bake a great pizza at home on a cookie sheet. Just preheat the cookie sheet first to get it nice and hot, and you will want to sprinkle some cornmeal if you use that method. I actually like making a big rectangle pizza for parties and cutting it into rectangles.

    Just thought I’d add that!

  12. Thank you for your tutorial. I have really needed to learn how to make pizza crust and pizza sauce. NOW I HAVE BOTH. The pizza turned out fabulous.

  13. For the past year I have been living in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Since I have been here I have desperately missed pepperoni pizza. Lots of people have told me that there is great pizza to be had here in Sarajevo but I haven’t seen a single slice that even tempts me. Besides the fact that they don’t even have pepperoni here, the pizza is so doughy and not nearly cheesy enough. I couldn’t agree more with you that pizza should be crispy enough to eat with your hands. This knife and fork business is all wrong. As a BYU-I alum I really miss Craigo’s in Rexburg. In reality I like my own pizza the best but I am always trying to figure out ways to make it even better. Next time I will try it with your sauce. Thanks for your great blog!

  14. OMG! Fabuloso pizza. My husband and I made this our fun little project tonight. I had the dough made already and he got to roll it out and put all the topping on. I will have to get me a pizza stone real soon as I had to use my heavy duty baking sheet instead. This made for a little thicker crust. Mmm mmm mmm. I also used your sauce recipe too. Keep up the great work. I am so glad I stumbled onto Our Best Bites!

  15. Oh–and I forgot to mention I watched Cheers when I was a little girl too. It was such a family show ha ha.

  16. Making this one for dinner, it will be the third recipe from your blog I have made today. Yes third, again. Yes I am addicted. We had the pizza rolls earlier this week and Hubby fell in love with the crust. I am going to rub a little of the topping from that recipe around the edges of this crust. Yum, I can't wait for the dough to get done rising!

  17. I have a tip you might like. I preheat the stone while I'm making the pizza and roll out the dough onto parchment paper. Then I slide the parchment paper (with the pizza on it) onto an inverted cookie sheet and transfer it to the hot stone in the oven. I love this method because I can bake multiple pizzas on the stone in one night.

  18. Let me start by saying that I absolutely love your website. For once I find recipes that actually taste good. I do have a question though. Do you have a recipe for a whole wheat pizza dough that you would be willing to share? I'm trying to cook light, fresh, and healthy and thought whole wheat would be better for me since I'm trying to splurge on pizza. LOL

    Thanks for your help.

  19. Let me start by saying that I absolutely love your website. For once I find recipes that actually taste good. I do have a question though. Do you have a recipe for a whole wheat pizza dough that you would be willing to share? I'm trying to cook light, fresh, and healthy and thought whole wheat would be better for me since I'm trying to splurge on pizza. LOL

    Thanks for your help.

  20. Wow! I have been on this quest for a very long time to find the perfect pizza crust and I think I have found it. Thanks to you! I live in the country and we don't have pizza delivery and I LOVE pizza so I'm just so happy I found you! Pricking the crust and adding the olive oil made a world of difference in the texture. I didn't have oregano but it is on my grocery list and I will try it next time. Cannot wait to do that! I had enough dough to make one pizza and a batch of the breadsticks…what can I say about that wonderful garlic bread seasoning? YUMMO! Thanks for sharing your wonderful tried and true recipes…such a happy camper here!

    Cyndimac

  21. Mike, it depends on a lot of factors–how big your pan/pizza stone is, how thick you like your pizza, etc. It's pretty safe to plan on using it for 2 medium-sized pizzas.

  22. I don't even have a pizza stone, and this was still the best homemade pizza I've ever had! yum, thick crust deliciousness!

  23. Thanks again for another great recipe. Had the Webelos over and we made pizza…I did the crust beforehand and then they got to decorate them. They both (we only have two) said that it was the best pizza crust ever! πŸ™‚

  24. Just recently found your blog- I'm definitely going to have to try this. The only homemade dough we've done in the past is 2 c all purpose flour, 1 c whole weat flour, and a 12 oz bottle of beer mixxed together and stretche dout on a cookie sheet!

    But, we LOVE topping our pizza with pesto, goat cheese, tomatoes, and chicken…DELICIOUS! Thanks again, I have so many recipes I want to try out now!

  25. I LOVED this post! I slathered my crust with bbq sauce, added some leftover costco rotisserie chicken, turkey bacon, red onions, and LOTS of cheese and it wad delicious!!! Thank-you!

  26. Yum, looks good!

    I've been on a quest for the perfect pizza dough for awhile. I mean, if you're going to do it at home, it's got to taste great, right?

    One trick I saw and tried on another website (sorry, I do visit other foodie websites from time to time) was to roll out your dough on parchment paper, then transfer it to your hot baking stone. Genius! Worked like a charm!! I prebaked it, and it was wonderful – crispy bottom, yet still soft. And no icky cornmeal on the bottom of the pizza.

    I don't own a pizza peel, but I used the parchment and a cutting board to get it in./out of the oven.

  27. I'm planning on using this pizza dough tonight, but was wondering if I bake the dough on a cookie sheet, should I still bake it first for 10 minutes, add the topping, then bake for the other 10? I don't want it to be soggy, which has happened to me before with another recipe. But I don't want it to be too crispy. I like a bit of crunch, but with some softness too.

  28. This has become my favorite pizza method. I’ve made it (and the breadsticks) more times than I can count. Tonight I decided to try something a little different. I made the dough as usual, but this time instead of splitting it in half and refrigerating half, I put it all on my baking sheet and squished it into a rectangle. It ended up being a bit thicker than usual. Then I pressed my fingertips all over the top to make dimples and let the dough rise in a warm oven for 20 minutes. Dimpled it again, set oven to 425, baked 10 minutes. Then topped with jarred pesto, sliced fresh mozzarella, and your garlic bread seasoning. Baked 10 minutes longer, then turned on the broiler to get the cheese a little browned and bubbly. My husband declared the resulting pizza to be the best he’s ever had! The crust was thicker and fluffier than usual, and the dimples helped trap the pesto and keep the oil from sliding off. The garlic bread seasoning added some extra pizazz. We liked it so much that I thought I would share what I did in case someone else would like to try πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to try it with tomato based sauce (my recipe is essentially the same as yours) and regular pizza toppings! Thanks so much!

  29. I’m curious if this dough recipe could be used in a bread machine? I like to make my dough in one, it seems a whole lot easier. Would love to know if anyone has tried it.
    Thanks!

  30. Hi again, so I make homemade pizza every Sunday. We made it yesterday, I used my recipe for dough in the bread machine. But I did use your idea of the fork pokes, the olive oil, and garlic salt. Then pre-baked the pizza crusts. Also used the oregano sprinkled on top. LOVED it! So excited my friend told me about your blog and ordered your cookbook yesterday from Amazon.
    Would still love to know if anyone has tried your dough in a bread machine! Thanks again!!

    1. I haven’t had a whole TON of luck with bread machines (granted, I lived at a very high elevation when I was using one), so I haven’t used one for a long time. You could always try it and see if it works, but I’m definitely not the pro here! πŸ™‚

  31. Did you take down the recipe for the pizza dough that used actual pizza yeast? That’s the one I’ve been using and I LOVE it, but I haven’t been able to find it again. Nothing like being able to make pizza dough from mixer to oven in less then 10 minutes!!

  32. ps…if you did decide to take the recipe down, do you know if that dough freezes well? I always half the recipe, but it would be great to make the whole batch and freeze half of it for tomor..er…next week

  33. You mention using a cast-iron skillet for a chicago-deep-dish style pizza. Does the baking time need to be adjusted, or the pan pre-heated w/oil (think cornbread) for a fried-type crust? My husband is a cast-iron fiend…. seriously, he purchased in the ballpark of 5 cast iron skillets just before we married. I don’t get it but… OK! πŸ™‚ He would be tickled to pieces if I used one!

    1. I’d definitely preheat the skillet with a couple tablespoons of oil, but it would be good if you popped it in cold, too–cast iron skillets are magical and everything tastes better in them! πŸ™‚

  34. Was wondering how long you could store the dough in the fridge for, and if it can be frozen about how long do you think it would last in the freezer?

  35. Can’t wait to try this pizza, but even more, I’d love an update on the guy who dumped you in college. Yeah, if you can’t even toss a pizza dough – there’s no way you’re makin’ in across those plains. πŸ˜‰

  36. I LOVE this pizza dough! We just had a BBQ chicken pizza tonight with this dough and it was amazing! For anyone looking to add a little whole wheat to the dough I used 1/2c whole wheat flour for every 1c of regular flour and I thought it turned out good. Thank you so much for this site, I have not made a bad recipe yet! You guys are amazing!

  37. We just barely got into making homemade pizza, and we will never go back! I’m glad I found this recipe to try. Just thought I’d share one of our favorite toppings is pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon. It is divine.

  38. Question: Do you let the dough rise again before baking, or just shape and immediately cook after the first rise?

  39. Have you ever made this recipe with Wheat Flour? Or half White have Wheat? I love the recipe as is.. just wondering!

  40. Wow!! I loved the flavor the oil and garlic salt gave! It was a great starting point and really helped me out πŸ™‚ only thing I changed this time was make it a wheat dough, which was good! I added a little dough enhancer to make it a bit lighter. Anyway! Yum! Thanks! Will use again!!

  41. One of my favorite pizza memories growing up was that my aunt worked at little ceasars and use to let me eat all of the ingredients in the walk in!!

  42. GLUTEN FREE ALERT:

    Yes, I tried this with a reliable gluten free flour blend that already has xantham gum in it. It is called Better Batter.

    I was surprised at how closely it turned out to yours. I did not get quite the rise that I would have liked, but I think I can get closer if I do it differently. This first time, I had it rise in the oven with the oven light on and it definitely rose but not double the size. So, next time I think I’ll try it in the microwave after I’ve heated a wet towel. GL Flours need the warm moisture in order to rise. I’m also going to try and see if I can get it to rise on the counter top like regular flour but I’m guessing it may not work. Another way is to put it in the fridge for at least 12 hours and see if it rises that way.

    Regardless, I made a 3 cheese pizza using this recipe subing in the Better Batter for the flour (I only needed 3 cups – and you have to whisk the flour first and lightly put it in a measuring cup before leveling it off – so it is nice and fluffy) and my husband gave it an 8 out of 10 but only because he wanted more toppings. he said it has been the BEST gluten free pizza crust we’ve had to date. My youngest who has to be gluten free with me ate 2 large pieces and he is only 3. He even talked about it at daycare the next day!

    I’ll let you know how my other rising methods work out. Thanks for your recipes!! πŸ™‚

    1. I forgot to add that since it did not rise as much I did not punch it down – so I’m thinking it was very very close to your recipe and soooo yummy! πŸ™‚

  43. I’ve heard of freezing pizza dough but I never have. When do I freeze it? Before letting it rise? On the day I want to use it, what do I do? thanks

  44. I know this post was made ages ago, but I still wanted to share a pizza memory! My mom was not much of a cook-from-scratch sort, and we would order pizza from a local pizza shop called ” Vienna Pizza” after the town I grew up in. The pizza shop was right behind where we lived and I remember my dad hopping the fence to go get the pizza and we (my brother and I) would wait in our backyard for him to come back. I remember the pizza being delicious (the pizza shop is gone now:( ). Thin crust, large pieces, not a lot of sauce and cheese with basil sprinkled over top. I love whenever I find a place that serves a similar style pizza. It takes me back!

  45. I am YEARS late in finding your recipe for pizza crust. I live in bush Alaska, an airplane ride away from the nearest pizza parlor. Made this tonight for a fellow teacher & we both loved it. I used a bit of dough to also make bread sticks to serve as an appetizer. Was told I could sell my pizza for $30 each if I wanted to. I can’t wait to make these again, next time bbq chicken I think.

  46. Last night I made home made pizza, trying a recipe for the crust from our family cookbook. It was yummy, but not quite what we were looking for. I said to my husband, what do you think about the yummy bread stick (the one from you guys) recipe for pizza dough? He thought that was a fabulous idea. I said I’d check your website for pizza dough and found how you said that is great for pizza dough! Yay! Now I don’t have to try it just to see, because I’ve heard it from you guys. πŸ™‚

  47. Hi! I tried a number of your recipes and I really like them!I have my recipe for pizza but wanted to try yours because of the success with your other delicious bites… The links don’t seem to be working though… Is there a problem with the page or is it just me?

  48. I tend to like a thinner crispy crust, light on the sauce, and and a light dusting of cheese and toppings. Not quite thin crust, I like some chewiness to the dough. I just shy away from soggy, really cheesy, or overly bread pizzas.

    My absolute favorite toppings make people look at me like I have 5 heads, but I promise it works! Next time you make or order a pizza, try pepperoni and pineapple. It sounds weird at first, but just think of it like a spicy hawaiian. It’s delicious!

    Speaking of favorite pizza memories, there was this place in town when I was going to college called Mimo’s that served pizza by the slice. Each slice required 2 plates, and you could add any toppings from a lengthy list. I made the mistake of ordering 2 slices once. Needless to say I felt ill and couldn’t finish the second slice. Oh and the prices were excellent too! Cheese was $2.00 with $0.50 for each topping if I recall.

    Mimo’s was a hole in the wall compared to the big pizza shop around, Antonios. But I still hold Mimo’s near and dear in my memories.

    Thanks for both an informative and entertaining article!

  49. I have looked and looked and tried every link possible but the recipe for Garlic Bread Seasoning will not open with any of the links :(. So sad. I guess I will have to wing it!

    1. So a year and a half later I am back here and the links on your page are still not working. It would be great if you guys could fix those. BUT I just did a search on you main page and was able to find the garlic bread seasoning recipe and the pizza sauce recipe! Yay!!!

      1. Hey Analise! The links have been updated. Hopefully you find this post a little more helpful now! πŸ™‚ Thanks for bringing it to our attention! — Cat (Assistant)

  50. I’ve been struggling with my homemade pizzas for a while – they’re always hit and miss – but I think this recipe has finally done the trick. The crust was perfect, cooking times were right on, and the pizzas I made tonight (3) were some of the best we’ve made at home. Thank you, especially for the crust recipe and tips!

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