Making pizza is surely an art, not at all an exact science and preparing its recipe at home adds something uncontrollable to the process when you run up against problems such as the lack of fully-equipped professional kitchen.
To start with, a true Neapolitan pizza is hand-stretched and cooked in a wood-fired oven without any kind of pan, but you can make delicious pizzas with a gas-fired or wood fired oven.
Which are the differences between a home-made pizza and a restaurant pizza?
Let’s now have a look at how you can make a pizzeria-quality pizza at home. Basically, main differences boil down to the availability of kitchen tools to help you cook like a chef that you can hardly have at hand in your home. Three main appliances stand out:
- the dough mixer: the biggest pizzerias use about 250 pounds of pizza dough per day and making it by hand is unthinkable whether for reasons of time or practicality. In addition, the frictional energy of the mixer causes the dough to heat and favor its rising. Normally the amount of heat generated by the appliance is reported in the technical specs and the most expert pizza makers rectify it by controlling the water temperature of the dough. Home-made pizza needs less dough and consequently little heat is created during the mixing process.
- the refrigerator: the refrigerator is the indispensable appliance for storing food. Commercial refrigerators are large and high-performing products often going hand in hand with cold rooms. The fridge is key to the maturation of the dough as the cold slows down fermentation and stops it altogether at 3°-4°C (40°F) thus lengthening dough development (leavening and maturation are two distinct processes as you can read in this article).
- the oven: the oven is the throbbing heart of a pizzeria. Wood-fired, gas-fired or electric as long as it can provide tip-top performance. The wood-fired oven reaches very high temperatures (450°-500°C) (900°F) and gives food its characteristically smoky flavor. Gas-fired and electric ovens can’t achieve as high a temperature as the wood-powered oven’s (pizza is usually cooked at 300°-400°C) (600°F) but they have the advantage of being more practical (they don’t have to be fed with firewood and can be cleaned up in double-quick time).
Home ovens barely reach 250°C (500°F) even though the latest models can achieve 300°C (600°F) with a function for baking pizzas.
4 ways to make a pizza like a pro
Let’s have a look at how to make pizza in a few steps.
Let’s start by saying that the perfect recipe doesn’t exist. The best pizza dough is the one that fits in with the other elements necessary to its creation: temperature, time and a good hand:
- Dough, fermentation and oven temperatures are crucial for a successful pizza.
- Time to make dough, to let it rise, to spread it and to bake it.
- A good hand to knead it, to divide it and to stretch it.
Remember that behind a good pizza dough recipe there are always choice, fresh ingredients.
At the beginning pizza was a humble dish that shared its ingredients with bread: flour and water. Using a bad water or a poor flour can easily hinder your efforts to make a great pizza. For instance, tap water may not be the best choice if it is hard or chlorinated because it doesn’t go well with yeast (in this case you’d better opt for bottled mineral water).
As for the flour, there’s a whole world at your feet. Currently many mills produce specialty flours that until a few years ago were targeted at professionals and were hard to come by for the general public. Besides, thanks to the growth of the Internet, many manufacturers have expanded their market by exploiting the home-made bread and pizza trends without considering that nowadays even grocery stores offer a wide assortment of flours.
To make a great pizza at home you’d better use Italian Tipo “00” flour with a strength (W) between 250 and 310 and a 10-12% amount of proteins. Pound for pound, a strong flour absorbs more water than a weak one and needs longer maturation times. For that reason, you should slow down rising by resting the dough into the fridge and align dough maturation and fermentation times.
In mathematics, changing the order of the operands doesn’t change the result but pizza is not math and changing the order of the ingredients does affect the result.
Mix the ingredients:
- Dissolve the yeast into the water, then add half the flour, the sugar and mix. Keep mixing while drawing the rest of flour in and finally add the oil and salt.
- Mix yeast and flour, add half of the water and sugar and stir. Keep mixing, gradually add the rest of water and finally oil and salt.
- Watch the video above. Good dough needs to sit and rise overnight, so plan accordingly.
- The Great Outdoor Pizza Company sells the pizza making kit shown in the video and includes the very important dough container and recipe book, buy one today if you don't already have it.
- When the ingredients are well-mixed, place the dough onto a flour-dusted work surface and knead it until smooth. Let it rest for 10 minutes covered with a wet cloth or cling film.
- Place in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
- Split it into equal-sized balls: every ball will be a pizza. This brings up the question: how much pizza dough to put into a pan? You don’t need precision kitchen scales, after all pizza thickness is a matter of taste!
- In case you opt for a rosemary or onion focaccia, allow for a heavier dough than that normally used to make pizza. A greater thickness prevents focaccia from drying out during baking considering that in this recipe you don’t have toppings that release their moisture to the crust.
- Place the balls back into the container and into the refrigerator for another 5-6 hours. Dough balls will last a few days in the refrigerator or can be frozen.
- Now work the dough balls until smooth but don’t over-knead it to prevent gluten from taking too much strength. Then put the dough balls for a few hours in the bottom of the fridge in oiled air-tight containers or covered with a cloth or cling film.
2- Stretching pizza dough
Take the dough out of the fridge at least a couple of hours before stretching it. Dust some flour over the work surface and place the dough on it. Sprinkle some flour over and under the dough and begin to gently stretch it with your fingertips from the middle outwards, widening it into a flat disc.
3- The topping
Now it’s time to top your dough. The less toppings the better for a true Neapolitan taste. Start with real Italian or homemade sauce, fresh buffalo milk mozzarella and fresh basil.
Fresh mozzarella should be sliced and drained for an hour, two if it’s buffalo mozzarella, to prevent it from releasing too much water during cooking.
Learning how to top with light sauce, mozzarella, some fresh basil and you will the family pizzaiolo in no time!
4- Cooking pizza
Follow these tips to cook a home-made pizza as good as that of a pizzeria:
- Preheat the oven according to you oven size for at least an hour or until the temperature reaches an ideal 600F (for gas) 800F (for wood fired ovens).
- Flour the peel and slide the dough onto it, never try to scoop under it.
- With your fingers gently stretch the rest of the dough over the peel hanging a little over the edge.
- Then gently place in the oven and shuffle it a little as it slides into place.
- After 45 seconds or so, check the pizza bottom by using a fork to lift it from the pan. The art is to skillfully slide under the pizza and give it a half tun placing it right back when it was sitting to retain that refractionary bottom heat.
- Check it again in another 45 seconds and then scoop underneath and lift the pizza towards the top of the oven to seal in and finish the toppings (that's called doming).
- Remove the pizza and place on a pizza pan or board, cut and enjoy!
The definitive tips for making pizza like a pro.
Many factors contribute to making as good a home-made pizza as that of a restaurant. Here are four tips for producing some mouth-watering pizzas:
Choose high-quality ingredients
- Try to make dough over and over again until you get the hang of it. Find the right balance between fermentation and maturation times.
- When stretching pizza dough, work it gently but quickly.
- Get to know full well how your oven works.
If you need help selecting a Great Outdoor Pizza Oven, look at our Best Sellers and you always get Free Shipping with us!
Then, keep us posted on your progress… and eat pizza!