If there are two things I can do in life, it’s pizza and banana bread. And maybe tomato soup.
Over the last eight years, I’ve devoted a lot of time to perfecting the art of homemade pizza, and I figured I could save you some trial and error by passing along what I’ve learned. Besides, what mom doesn’t want crazy great pizza in her arsenal?
9 Tricks for Making AMAZING Homemade Pizza
1. Pizza stone. Pizza stone. Pizza stone. When I mentioned this post to my husband, he said, “Are tricks 1-8 going to be ‘use a pizza stone’?” Yeah, it’s important. A pizza stone will give you that crispy crust that you can’t achieve with a regular pan. And as you use it over time, it becomes seasoned and gives your pizza an extra depth of flavor. (By the way, don’t wash your pizza stone with soap; a pizza stone is porous. Brushing it off or giving it a quick rinse in water is all you need.)
2. Preheat the oven with the pizza stone inside. It’s gotta get hot! And putting a room-temp stone into a hot oven could cause it to crack.
3. Crank up the heat. I worked my way up gradually to high heats, because they made me nervous, but now I’m comfortable going as hot as my oven allows (550). Pizzas cook fast (about 7 minutes) and develop a perfect crust (never an underdone middle) and some beautiful browning on top.
4. Cook pizzas on the middle rack. I experimented with the bottom rack, because I wanted to get a nice crisp crust, but then the toppings wouldn’t brown. So I’d have to choose either a too-dark crust or underdone toppings. If you cook on the middle rack—with the oven cranked up—you can get the top and bottom to finish at the same time.
5. Use parchment paper. Shaping your dough right on lightly floured parchment paper eliminates the hardest part of making pizza: getting a stubborn pizza to slide OFF the pizza peel! The pizza slides right onto the stone. If you like, you can pull the parchment out after a few minutes of baking. I’ve found that the crust cooks great either way, so I usually don’t bother.
Full disclosure: Parchment paper is rated to 420 degrees. I’ve never had a piece spontaneously combust, but I thought I should warn you all the same. 🙂 I also know of great bakers, like the team behind Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, who use it all the time, too.
Side note: If you don’t have a pizza peel, an upside down cookie sheet (the smaller the lip the better) works in a pinch.
6. For thin crust, find a dough that is pliable. To stretch to 1/8th of an inch without tearing, it needs to be just the right texture. In an upcoming post, I’ll share my favorite recipe, which is as unfussy as it is delicious. You can pull it across your fingers until it is really thin, but as long as you keep it moving, it won’t tear. (I’ve tried more than half a dozen pizza doughs, so I know they’re not all made equal on this account.)
They say using a rolling pin “agitates the gluten,” which makes it retract. I like to stretch the dough by hand anyway, because I like a little imperfection in the finished product. 🙂 For a thin crust, rotate the dough in the air, letting the weight of it stretch it out. If it isn’t going as thin as you want, let it sit for five minutes and then try again.
7. The stickier the dough, the crisper the crust. And inversely, the drier the dough, the chewier the crust. Aim to err on the side of sticky, because a sticky dough is easier to correct (without sacrificing quality) than a dry one.
8. Make your own sauce. If you have time, making your own sauce will take your pizza over the top. This sauce recipe is my favorite. I like to use San Marzano (canned) tomatoes and an extra clove or two of garlic.
9. Use the best ingredients you can, and don’t load up the toppings. Going too heavy can make the crust not cook well; it only takes a handful of toppings for a small pizza. Also, remember to add any fresh greens (arugula, basil) after the pizza comes out of the oven. The heat of the pizza will soften them up and make them more pungent, but they’ll retain their color and texture.
That’s it! I thought I would mention that I left all of the pictures unedited, straight out of my iPhone, so you would know that you can TOTALLY make pizza just like this at home. (Or are you already??)
Let me know if you have any questions; I LOVE to talk pizza!
Check here for our family’s favorite pizza dough recipe!
While I no longer share recipes, I do have LOTS of great content for women who are looking to trade overwhelm and fatigue for focus and peace. ❤️
If you’re new here, I’d love to point you to my top 5 articles! Make a cup of tea (or a slice of pizza? 😉 ) and stay a while!
- 32 Ways to Savor Your Children While You Have Them
- 9 Hard Truths You Need to Hear About Clutter
- 10 Clutter-Clearing Strategies that Will Gradually Make Your Life 100 Times Easier
- 12 Must-See TED Talks for Purposeful Women
- 24 Self-Care Practices for Mothers
You’re also welcome to grab this free PDF—to help you clear out some space in that overcrowded mind of yours!
Love this post, Erica! We are a die-hard homemade pizza family, too…and if I recall, your tips about the parchment paper and pizza peel (from your recipe blog, years ago!) got my husband more interested in honing his techniques 🙂 Now, we own commercial-grade deep dish pans, pizza screens, and our pizza stone is a kitchen essential. Most recently, my husband has been making authentic Italian-style pizza (with finely-ground Italian flour, San Marzano sauce, and fresh mozzarella), and it’s amazing!
I’m excited to try your tip about using arugala. Sounds tasty! Thanks for this fun post…and happy pizza eating 🙂
WO, girl, that sounds incredible! Deep dish pizza sounds like a fun venture. Totally and completely different from thin crust. (If you have pizza posts on your recipe blog, feel free to point me to them!) And what a happy arrangement – that your husband is into making it, too!
Elise N. Black
Love the color of added greens after baking. Have you tried a wee sprinkling of cornmeal instead of parchment? Works beautifully.
Hi Elise! Yes, I have but it’s been a while! I think back when I was using cornmeal, I used to make pizzas that were too large in diameter and weighted down with too many toppings, so even with cornmeal, they didn’t slide well. Now that I’m not doing that, I’d probably have better luck! Thanks for the reminder!
That is a very beautiful pizza! We like to make it too and since our very similar sauce recipe and favorite dough recipe make far more than we can eat in one dinner we make freezer pizza kits. We package up the extra sauce in one pizza sized portions and freeze the dough in balls. Then on a busy day we can just pull a kit from the freezer and have homemade pizza.
That is awesome, Marcella! I used to make a few pizzas at a time and freeze them all made up on circular cardboard cutouts, but I lost interest because it was too much work at one time. I really like the idea of freezing the sauce and a dough ball; that’s manageable! Question if you get a second – How do you thaw the dough? Just take it out of the freezer and set on the counter a few hours before? And, if your recipe calls for rising, do you let it rise before you freeze it? Thanks!
We mix the dough, divide it into balls and the ones going into the freezer go into ziplock bags that get a quick spray of cooking oil. They go immediately into the freezer. I do let them thaw on the counter and they warm up and rise then.
I think Peter Reinhart’s pizza class is still free on craftsy. Have you done those classes? They are fun and you can watch on your schedule, repeat as often as you like and have printable recipes.
Marcella! (Sorry I’m a little late responding.) Ooh that is so cool! I never have, but I love the idea. Thanks!
Lisa-The Domestic Life Stylist
I was wondering if you do delivery? I could go for a slice right now!
I LOVE this post!! I’d love to know even more details. What pizza stone/peel do you have and where can I get it? I’d also love to see your crust recipe and some of your favorite pizza toppings. Do you typically do thin crust?
Hi Amy!! OF COURSE we have a love for pizza in common. It seems like we have everything else in common too! So I’ve had two pizza stones over the years, from Bed Bath Beyond and Target. No complaints with either, although one did crack after about five years, but I hear that’s not unusual. If I were going to spend a bit more, I’ve been eyeing the first two on this list: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/…/pizza-stones-which…. They both have great amazon reviews, too.
I pretty much always do thin crust, because we love it, but I think it would be dreamy fun to break into the world of deep dish!
I’m shooting to do a follow-up post in a week or two. Do you guys make pizza often at home?
Emily C. Gardner
This is fantastic! I have a post in my drafts about ways to jazz up a store-bough pizza crust, but this is re-inspiring to make my own again. Thanks for all the tips and for using unedited photos 🙂
I love your idea of how to jazz up a store-bought pizza crust! Heaven knows we all need quick weeknight meals! My pizza process is kind of an afternoon event, which I actually love, but can only manage once or twice a month… 🙂
This is great! We have a family coming over to have dinner with us soon, the mom of which is vegetarian. I’ve been wondering what in the world to cook, but a homemade vegetarian pizza would be scrumptious and would probably satisfy everyone (dads and small children included!) I don’t have a pizza stone, and the idea of making my own dough sounds intimidating, but I will consider this as a possibility. It sure beats my idea of serving baked potatoes. Thank you!
Looks yummy! Can you share your pizza crust recipe? I haven’t found one that I love yet.
Hi Suzanne! Yes! I will definitely share it in the next couple of weeks. Hope you like it!
Amy | Club Narwhal
Erica, you are my hero 🙂 We love making pizza at home but have yet to invest in a pizza stone! Just saw your response above about stones and will have to go browse BBB and Target!
Richella @ Imparting Grace
This looks awesome, Erica! I’ve never made homemade pizza that I thought was really good. I need to try to make it your way!
Thanks for the tip on sticky dough/crispy crust! I always thought it had something to do with how long you leave it in the oven.
The tip about using parchment paper under the crust while preparing and cooking is a genius way to help keep the crust from sticking. As you said, the hardest part of making a pizza is getting it off the rack once it’s cooked. I often end up either ripping the crust by accident or am left with a burned layer of crust on my pan that has to soak for two days to get off. Thanks for the brilliant tip for the next time I make pizza.
Nice. Thanks for sharing!
Nkoana Thabang SIlas
Im a lover of pizza but not so much a fan of making it myself as it never comes out the same way as the one i buy as the pizza joint and by the time i have finished preparing it im almost full.
I agree that you should turn the heat on as high as it goes when cooking pizza. You just need to make sure to keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn. As long as you take it out of the oven promptly, it should turn out great.