Ruby Goss

Senior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

instagram.com/ruby.goss/

This article is part of “The Pizza Issue”, our month-long dive into everyone’s* favorite food. We’re sharing playful new recipes, talking pizza tools and toppings, and answering all your burning (but hopefully not burnt) pizza questions. Join our pizza party by checking out this link for an overview of all our latest stories and recipes—and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for behind the scenes, extra pizza content, and so much more!

You don’t need the perfect equipment to make pizza at home. Sure it’s possible to deck yourself out like a pro (for tips on that scroll down), but it can also be expensive, especially when the ONLY two things you absolutely need to make pizza at home are a baking sheet and an oven. Pizza is truly a food for the people!

And yet, we are creatures obsessed with self-improvement, with fine tuning, with the belief that just one more thing will make us happy. The latter is not always true (hi mindfulness!), but there are a few little tools that can prove very helpful in churning out delicious homemade pizzas.

Let us take you on a journey through the knick-knacks, starting with cheap and cheerful and going all the way up to gear for the pizzaiolo-in-training.

The pizza making BASICS

1.Baking sheets: Flat, rimmed, or round? Does it really matter?

While I did say that you don’t need more than a baking sheet and oven to make pizza at home, I lied—a little. In my humble opinion, the best baking sheet for making pizza in a home oven, of any type, is a rimmed baking sheet, measuring in at about 10 in x 15 in x 1 in (30 x 40 x 3 cm). It’s the perfect size for 2 hungry people or a few snacky ones! Plus, the size means you can stretch your dough to fit the pan (something that’s hard to achieve with your sheet pans with slanted edges) and get crispy edges all the way ‘round. A round pizza pan isn’t a must, but can be helpful when shaping finicky doughs like a cauliflower-crust pizza.

2. Captain obvious: A few notes on your oven

Of course there are supposed hacks, but to make a pizza that’s crispy on the outside with an ideal puffed-up crust and adequately melted toppings—you do need an oven. But, I do hear you asking, what setting should I cook my pizza on? All ovens aren’t made equal. Some boast a fancy pizza setting which pumps out a fierce heat from the bottom of the oven and uses a fan to keep the hot air circulating all around the pizza. For your standard oven, top and bottom heat (with a fan if you have it, but no worries if not) is the most reliable, as is cooking your pizza on the mid to low racks of the oven so you can ensure a crisp base and *not burnt* crust. Some recipes call for finishing the pizza with an extra blast from the broiler, an option if you want to get a bit more browning on the cheese or crust.

3. Bowls, bowls, and more bowls

It’s nigh impossible to write an article about cooking equipment without stressing the need for prep bowls of various sizes; the same is true here. At the very least, you’ll need a big bowl to let your dough rise in, and you might want to put other bowls to use for sauce, topping prep, and so on. In our minds, you can’t beat a stack of nesting glass prep bowls—they’re heatproof, durable, and can pass as “real bowls” for serving from or eating in. Win, win, win.

Excellent *extra* pizza tools, on a budget

4. Scissors—behold the tool that cuts, not scrapes!

Devan, Managing Editor: If you've never cut your pizza with a pair of scissors, I would argue that you're doing it wrong. I first came across them while working as an intern in the office of TV personality and chef Andrew Zimmern. We ordered pizza for lunch at least once a week, and when I saw these pizza scissors come out and do their job in a quick flash, I was stunned and immediately changed into a fervent pizza scissors advocate.

I find them easier to use than the pizza wheel for a few reasons. Number one, you can use scissors to cut the pizza anywhere, there's no chance they will cut or scratch the surface, unlike with the pizza wheel. Number two, they stay sharp! Number three, they can slice through any thickness or style of pizza (even focaccia) with ease. And lastly, multipurpose kitchen tools are much better when you have a small space (as I do), so getting rid of a pizza wheel allowed me to make room on my utensils rack for another microplane (yay!)

While there are scissors that are specifically made for the task of pizza (or focaccia) cutting with angled blades or even plastic pizza-slice-holding-nonsense attached, your regular old kitchen scissors work just as well—if not better. Now go, spread the word of the pizza scissors!

5. A bench scraper that does it all

Lisa, Senior Editor: The bench scraper (also called a dough or pastry scraper) has proven to be irreplaceable for me in the kitchen. It helps me scrape dried-up dough scraps or other ingredients from the countertop, portion pizza dough, and handle sticky dough (like in this recipe) with ease. It also easily ferries a lot of finely chopped vegetables from cutting board to pot with a flick of the wrist. I recommend a stainless steel one, because it can hop straight into the dishwasher after you’ve used it. I love this one in particular because it fits so well in your hand.

6. Do I need a pizza stone? YES! And no?

Traditionally, I’ve been the lazier one in my household when it comes to pizza making (this month has changed me for the better), happy to switch on my oven’s pizza setting, but less likely to remember to heat up the pizza stone. This month, I paired my favorite sheet-pan pizzas (hello my eldest, my middle child, and the newborn) with a warmed pizza stone, preheated in the oven for at least 30 minutes to conduct some serious degrees. I’m not going to bother to drum up the suspense here: Every time I remembered to use the pizza stone, it was worth it! With both the contact of the pizza stone and the sheet-pan the olive-oily bath at the bottom of the pan helped the dough crisp up into a golden-browned crust rather than a thin-skinned base. If your biggest fear of homemade pizzas is a bendy bottom, a pizza stone—which conducts heat and throws it up into the crust—is your best answer.

You don’t need to splash out on an expensive pizza stone, as they can be prone to cracking spontaneously (to guard against this, always put them into the oven to heat up from cold and not shock them into a hot hot hot oven), and tend to all be made of a similar material at the various price points, in any case. If you want an even better conductor of heat—keep scrolling to Steven’s glowing endorsement of steel pizza plates.

Note: I did catch both Hanna and Lisa on various shoots this month upturn a sheet pan and place it on the bottom of the oven as an ersatz pizza stone. It works exceptionally well as a quick fix.

6. Why a veg peeler is the grate-est

For restaurant-worthy Parmesan shavings, open your kitchen drawer—you most likely already own it! No, it’s not your box grater, it’s your vegetable peeler—our chef Hanna and Christian’s go-to to elevate pizzas, pasta, risotto, salads and more. Plating art is only a flick of the wrist away!

8. Or, try the retro-grater

We all love to make it snow Parmesan onto our pasta—but this month I’ve become rather fond of doing so over pizza too, influenced by Lisa who added Parmesan and lemon zest to her Margherita pizza on set, and with that, changed my life for the better. I bought this adorable grater from our Italophile mainstay in Berlin, The Amore Store—and look forward to letting it have pride of place on my table at all future pizza parties, which currently are my visualisation of choice for a brighter future and something I hope the intensity of my thoughts can manifest, soon. Just insert a wedge of Parmesan, wind, and watch it rain cheese, but chic.

9. A pizza peel: The best mode of transport your pizza dough could ask for

Lisa, Senior Editor: A pizza peel is not a must, but it does make the pizza-making-at-home life that much easier. I cover it with a layer of baking paper once the oven is preheated and place my stretched pizza dough on top. I then pull it around to shape it a little further, which is a breeze thanks to the baking paper and a little flour. As soon as it has been topped, I slide the pizza, still on the baking paper, super smoothly into the oven, thanks to the pizza peel (for small kitchens, go for a shorter handle)! Some of you reading might be silently crying out at this point, because the pizza should have direct contact with the hot stone or baking tray for a crispy bottom. But with this tactic, I always achieved the best results: no toppings sliding around, no holes in the thin base, and perfectly round pizzas. As soon as the pizza has baked enough to retain its shape, I remove the baking paper (again, with the help of the pizza peel) which creates a reliable barrier between my skin and the hot oven. You can watch the process in action in this video.

Splash-out on these pizza making upgrades

10. Newsflash: Introducing the steel pizza plate

Steven, Operations Assistant: Splash out on a steel pizza plate. It’s better at transferring heat, giving you a better rise, and it's virtually indestructible. Here’s J. Kenji López-Alt from Serious Eats with a comparison. It’s worth the extra money if you like baking (I use it for everything bread like naan and ciabatta) as it will last a lifetime (unlike a pizza stone which is prone to cracking, as mentioned above). I got mine from The Pizza Steel. They do a great “Steel and Peel” deal (yes, I came for the steel, but couldn't “peel” myself away from the website) and they make different sizes to fit different ovens. I can honestly say it's one of my favorite tools in the kitchen!

11. Nice tools, but should I buy a pizza oven?

To answer, I’ve brought in Lukas, expert in all things refined, as you might have noticed from his barista-level coffee brewing instructions. It doesn’t stop there, here I bring you his pizzaiolo side—in particular the challenge he set himself to bake a “Canotto” style pizza, that is, a pizza much like the Neapolitan pizza, but that aims to be ringed by the puffiest of outer crusts.

How do I manage to bake a canotto-style pizza at home? The answer doesn’t sound easy: A highly-hydrated dough, some pizzaiolo skills and an incredibly hot oven (about 450 - 500°C). First and second, no problem, but the third poses a problem: What kind of oven will even reach that temperature? And more to the point: At home? An upgrade was needed. My choice fell on a Roccbox, a hellishly hot, portable pizza oven made by Gozney.

The advantage of the Roccbox is that the high temperatures mean I can not only bake canotto-style pizzas, but also make terrific steaks. At lower temperatures, tarte flambée, fish and vegetables are a breeze. 2 years and countless canottos later, I still have so much fun with my Roccbox and would never think of trading it in.

Got a favorite pizza tool? Let us know in the comments...

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