If you’ve tried making pizza at home, odds are good that you’ve turned out some pretty mediocre pies.
Not disgusting pizza…just very meh pizza.
I spent years making unremarkable pizza myself, despite having a pizza stone.
And then Cook’s Illustrated changed my pizza-making game.
Now I know how to produce pizzas with a browned, bubbly, chewy crust. Totally not meh!
If you’re happy with your homemade pizzas, then just ignore this post.
But if your homemade pizzas kind of suck, I am here to help.
This is fixable! You too can make good pizza at home.
Here’s what you are probably doing wrong.
1. Your oven is not hot enough.
You need a hot, hot, hot oven for good pizza.
350°F is not going to cut it; your pizza will be pale and flabby.
For a nice browned, bubbly crust, five hundred degrees+ is where it’s at.
Basically, as hot as your oven goes is the correct heat for pizza. I bake mine at 525° and they are done in about 8 minutes.
2. You didn’t preheat your pizza stone.
When I first got a pizza stone, I put my pizza dough on it cold and just stuck the whole thing in the oven.
(I want to go back and have a chat with myself about that. No wonder my pizza was meh!)
Your pizza stone needs to be piping hot by the time your pizza dough hits it. I put my stone into the cold oven, turn it on to 500°F, and leave it for an hour while the dough rises.
Then I can use a pizza peel (an overturned cookie sheet works too) to slide the pizza (on parchment paper) onto the hot stone.
(I just use a basic pizza stone, like this one. I think I got my current stone at Goodwill.)
3. You’re using the wrong flour.
I’ve known for a long time that Gold Medal unbleached works way better for yeast doughs than store brand flour does.
But as much as I like Gold Medal flour, I have to say that it is not great for pizza. King Arthur bread flour is 100% the way to go for pizza dough.
This flour seriously improves the flavor and the texture of the finished pizza crust.
In fact, I consider it to be so essential that I will not even bother to make pizza if I don’t have King Arthur bread flour on hand.
(King Arthur has no idea who I am, and I have no affiliation with them. This flour is just seriously good.)
4. You’re using the wrong cheese.
Pizza is pretty minimalist when you get down to it, and as with any such dish, the quality of the ingredients really matters.
If you are using pre-shredded mozzarella or the cheap rectangles of mozzarella they sell at Aldi, you are missing out.
I like saving money as much as the next person, but when I’m making pizza, I always spring for the semi-soft one pound blocks of whole milk mozzarella.
Other mozzarella will work, but the flavor of this type of mozzarella is miles better than other mozzarella options.
A pound of it usually costs about $5-$6 in my area, but a pound will cover four homemade pizzas. That’s only about $1.50 of cheese per pizza, and I think it’s worth it!
5. Your sauce isn’t that good.
This is another spot where quality really matters. A jar of watery store brand spaghetti sauce is going to put your pizza a little on the “meh” side of things.
I like to make a super simple no-cook sauce with canned diced tomatoes, but if you don’t want to bother with that, buy a high quality jarred sauce (one that’s good enough that you’d enjoy eating it by the spoonful).
Note: I know I said store-brand spaghetti sauce isn’t good, but Aldi sells some decent marinara sauces. I consider Aldi to be an exception to the rule!
To make great pizza, you need
- a 500°+ oven
- a thoroughly preheated pizza stone
- King Arthur bread flour
- a block of semi-soft mozzarella cheese
- a good sauce
I’ve got a pizza YouTube video for you!
If you’d like to see me talk about this topic, plus see me make a pizza and slide it into the oven, well, I made a YouTube video.
If you have pizza tips to add to mine, please share in the comments.
P.S. If you think this post sounds like a bunch of way-too-picky pizza instructions, well, I wrote a post about why I think picky pizza instructions are important.