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All the Answers to Your Burning Pizza Questions

All the Answers to Your Burning Pizza Questions

Your one-stop-shop for making better pizza at home

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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!

Making pizza at home can be easy, it can be casual, but it can also be fraught with uncertainties, which lead to questions; lots of them. We’ve dedicated ourselves to answering all your pizza-related questions in The Pizza Issue, but after asking you (and various colleagues) what your burning (as in, “I need an answer right now, please!” not, “It’s burned!”) pizza questions were, we made a one-stop-shop (aka this article) to answer them all!

Before we jump right in, let me give you a few tips on how to make the best use of this article: It’s intended as a resource, not an obligatory “read to the end in one sitting”. So, if you’re reading this article on a desktop, use your “command + f” function to search for specific keywords that you might be interested in and hop between sections to find the answers relevant to you! If you’re reading this on a mobile device, it may behoove you to scroll through rather quickly, stopping and reading when you see specific questions relevant to you.

All that being said, I hope the answers you can find here help solve any of your home pizza making questions. If you have questions that aren’t already addressed, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them or direct you to resources that can help!

Your most asked pizza questions

Where (and when) was pizza invented?

Well, it depends on who ask… according to many (if not most), what we know as the modern pizza was invented in Naples on June 11, 1889, when Queen Margherita visited the city, was served a yeasted dough topped with white cheese, red tomatoes, and green basil (an homage to the Italian flag). Thus the pizza Margherita was born, and the rest was history.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and that answer doesn’t give due credit to the history of flatbreads and toppings around the world that could also be seen as important precursors to modern-day pizza. Persian flatbreads studded with dates and cheese (which one of our favorite chefs, Solha El-Waylly, makes here) or ancient Greek plakous could be the earliest versions of a pizza-like flatbread. So, to answer the question, this is a hotly debated topic that scholars, historians, and foodies alike will likely never agree on. Where we probably can agree? We’re incredibly thankful to have pizza in our lives!

How do I get the crust to be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside?

The key to that “crispy on the outside” crust is two-fold: olive oil and oven temperature. Many recipes for pizza dough call for olive oil in the crust itself, this can be for flavor of course, but it can also help the dough fend off any water from the toppings and make the crust turn out that much crisper after baking. It will also help to brown the crust as it bakes, so if you’re having trouble with very white crust-ed pizzas and want some golden brown action in your home oven, try lightly brushing some olive oil all over the crust before topping and baking it—like I do with my pizza babka.

Most (if not all) home ovens just can’t reach the temperature of a pizza oven, and that’s okay, you can still get fabulously crispy crusts at home, just preheat your oven as high as it can go and use what you have (a pizza stone maybe or an upside-down baking sheet as Lisa opts for), preheating that as well, in order to get that pizza crust the best chance it has to react quickly and bake up to a perfect crisp.

To get that “fluffy on the inside” crust, it all comes down to time and technique. The yeast in your dough needs time to create all those air bubbles in your dough (this happens while the yeast feasts on the sugars in the flour and produces carbon dioxide that gets trapped in the dough), so allowing the dough to proof long enough (either in the fridge or at room temperature) is incredibly important to turn what begins as a dense dough into something airy and light. Once the dough has achieved your perfect proof (this can range anywhere from 1 hour at room temperature to up to 3 days in the fridge), it’s important to shape the dough in a way that keeps those air bubbles (or as many as possible) intact. Watch and learn Lisa’s technique here.

Is a pizza oven necessary or are there hacks to achieve a perfect pizza in the heat-range normal oven?

The answer to this question is no, a pizza oven is not necessary to make really good pizza at home! You can, to some extent, hack your regular oven by using the highest heat setting, adjusting the racks properly so the pizza is close (but not too close) to the top heat source, and matching that with a preheated pizza (or baking) stone or an overturned baking sheet and, when ready to bake, actually broiling the pizza in the super hot, preheated oven. Of course these hacks will only get you so far. If you’re a really avid home pizza maker and the thought of a crust without the telltale leopard char just makes you angry, then it might be worth investing in a pizza oven. However, for most of us, a hacked home oven will work wonders.

Is a pizza stone necessary and if so, what's the right one?

A pizza stone is not a necessity for making great pizzas at home. Using an overturned baking sheet offers a similar effect, blasting the crust with direct heat right as it gets into the oven to help puff it up, but also to crisp up the bottom crust. Most pizza stones are ceramic, which helps them maintain an even heat that isn’t possible with metal baking sheets, but when put to the test in a head-to-head battle, the differences are barely noticeable. If you’re an avid baker and have a pizza or baking stone, by all means use it! But if you’re on the edge, thinking about whether the investment is worth it, we’d recommend searching for a cheaper option over a more expensive one. Why? The material doesn’t differ too much between most brands and they have the tendency to crack, so investing too much money in them just isn’t worth it and a cheap one will do the job!

How do you eat pizza properly?

This is a funny question, I’ll give you that, however it is sort of interesting, especially if framed like this: Is there one correct way to eat pizza? The answer is, well, no; there are lots of ways to eat pizza, although maybe not all of them are “proper.” When looking into this, I found it pretty hilarious that Google brought up 39 million search results when I asked it this question,—and of course, when scanning through them, everyone thinks their method is the only way. I will make no such claim. There are some more popular ways to eat pizza than others (“the fold” being preferable to many over the “the flop”; a knife and fork being necessary for Neapolitan and deep dish), but in my opinion, as long as you get the pizza into your mouth and you enjoy it with minimal sauce and topping spillage (unless you enjoy stains and losing all your cheese), you’ve got it right!

When should I use yeast and when should I use sourdough starter?

This question is all a matter of preference (some people prefer the taste of sourdough crusts), technique, and experience. If you are confident working with sourdough starters and baking bread with sourdough, you should and can for sure make a delicious sourdough pizza dough. If however, you are new to sourdough, not super confident with working starters, or don’t even have a starter, using yeast is not only a totally acceptable way to leaven your pizza dough, it’s in fact the most popular way.

Should I use dry or fresh yeast for my dough, and is there a difference?

The yeast you use for your pizza dough is really only a matter of preference and what you have on hand. Dry yeast is nothing more than dried, fresh yeast, but it can be stored longer and added directly to flour without being activated beforehand, making it more convenient than fresh yeast, which should be dissolved in a lukewarm liquid with a little sugar before being used to make a dough. For more on the different types of yeast and how to work with them, see here.

Your pizza dough questions

What flour is the best for pizza dough? Can pizza dough be frozen? Is there a quick dough I can use for super spontaneous homemade pizza cravings?

The answer to all of these questions awaits you in our guide to making better pizza dough at home.

Can I make a pizza dough with semolina?

Semolina is a flour made from durum wheat. It’s a bit more coarse in texture than your typical flour and the color is usually darker or more golden yellow. There are plenty of recipes for pizza dough that use some or even only semolina flour, as it will add more chew and toughness to the crust and offer a slightly different flavor than other flours. We don’t have a recipe for this kind of pizza dough, but there are plenty out there on the internet—try Jamie Oliver’s for instance!

What should I do when the dough is too wet or sticky?

If your pizza dough is really hard to handle and very wet or sticky, make sure both the work surface and the dough are heavily dusted with extra flour before kneading or gently stretching and folding it (as Lisa does in this recipe video). This should help “organize” the gluten, and make the dough more smooth and elastic and easier to work with. If that just doesn’t seem to be working, don’t fret, oil up a rimmed baking sheet or dish and toss your wet, sticky dough into it. Add more oil, let it proof (stretching it a little to fill out the baking sheet or dish), and use oiled hands to “play the piano” in the dough; boom, you have focaccia. Top, bake, and enjoy!

What should I do when the dough isn’t staying in shape when forming it?

There are a few reasons why your pizza dough might shrink back into itself as you try to shape it for your pizza: it could be that your dough is too cold (gluten tightens when cold) or your dough could have developed too much gluten. Luckily, the solution to both issues is the same: let your dough rest and come to room temperature. Gluten relaxes and becomes less stretchy and elastic the warmer it gets, making it easier to work with and shape.

How can I get a crust that's thin and crunchy?

Depending on how thin and how crunchy we’re talking, you can use our recipe for homemade pizza dough as a base and simply skip the second rise in order to have a less airy crust. In theory, this would be possible with any pizza dough recipe. Not allowing for more air to be trapped in the dough will make the dough that much thinner. However, if you want to go super thin, like a cracker crust, you could do a quick oil crust (which we use for this shortcut tarte flambée recipe). It doesn’t even include yeast, so this crust will bake up just about as thin as you can roll it out.

Your pizza topping and sauce questions

What cheese (or mix of cheeses) is the best for pizza? Which mozzarella should I use, so the pizza doesn’t get soggy?

If I know one thing after reading Ruby’s article on the 12 best pizza cheeses, it’s that there is not really one right answer to the question of which cheese is best on pizza. You have the classic of course, mozzarella di bufala, but you also have low-moisture mozzarella (perhaps the very best answer to the second question posed here), and even Pecorino. So read up, get to know your pizza cheeses, and I’m sure you will make the right choice to suit your own tastes for delicious, super cheesy (not soggy!) homemade pizza.

What’s the best vegan cheese for pizza?

This is a tough question, and one I might just as likely not answer, rather directing you (if you’re vegan) to just leave cheese out of the equation when it comes to pizza (there are lots of great pizzas that don’t include cheese!) However, there are options if you want to make a vegan pizza with some element of creamy, cheesiness. Try topping your baked pizza with cashew Parmesan or cashew mozzarella, for instance.

What’s the best pizza sauce?

Many pizza recipes swear by a one ingredient sauce: canned crushed tomatoes, be they San Marzano or otherwise. Lisa adds some garlic, salt, and olive oil; I rip in some fresh basil; Christian doctors his up with thyme, rosemary, onions, garlic, tomato paste, white balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of sugar.

In addition to tomato sauces, which can be as simple or as complicated as you wish, but white pizzas (pizzas without tomato sauce) are also super delicious and worth bringing up here (like Ruby’s 5-ingredient cacio e pepe pizza). For some white (and other tomato sauce-less) pizza ideas, take a look here for Andreas’ recommendations.

Your pizza styles question (that’s right, there was only one!)

How do you make a stuffed crust pizza?

Stuffed crust pizza was definitely one of my personal favorites growing up; it always seemed so fun and novel, plus, who doesn’t love the hidden surprise of even more cheese with your pizza? Here’s how to make it at home.

Your random pizza questions

What’s the best way to reheat leftover pizza?

There are people in this world who do not believe in reheating leftover pizza. They would prefer you eat it all at once (no leftovers, no reheating) or you eat it cold, straight from the fridge (something I also enjoy from time to time). However, this answer is obviously not for those staunch pizza reheating non-believers. If you want to reheat pizza, here are three methods for doing just that. None include microwaving it, and for this, I’m not sorry.

How to store leftover pizza?

When you have leftover pizza, storing it properly is important. You don’t want to store it in the box in the fridge; that will make the crust dry and hard. So what’s the best way to do it? Well, there are some equally reliable ways: let your pizza cool completely then a) stack the slices into a resealable plastic bag and store it in the fridge; b) stack the slices on a plate (layer with parchment or paper towels if desired) and wrap tightly with plastic wrap before storing in the fridge. With either method, your pizza will keep for up to four days.

Are pizza boxes recyclable?

Good news, the answer here (depending on where you live) is likely yes! It pays to double check your local sources, but according to the American Forest and Paper Association, corrugated pizza boxes (even with residual cheese and grease) are successfully recycled every day.

Published on April 26, 2021

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