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Craft How to up your pizza-making game

Seven hacks that master chefs rely on for consistently delicious pies

A Waiter Serving Neapolitan Pizza

Pizza-making is a skill that you can sharpen with every pie.

It never hurts to know some of the hacks that professional chefs rely on to guarantee consistent results.

Check out some of our best hacks for pizza, collected below.

1)    Weigh the ingredients

Weighing each ingredient is one of the most important techniques for making great pizza, every time.

It’s especially important when it comes to the dough which must have a specific ratio of dry ingredients to wet ingredients.

Dry ingredients in a measuring cup don’t necessarily reflect an accurate volume. There may be air in the flour. On the other hand, the flour may have been compacted when scooped from the bag.

To ensure the proper ratio of flour and water in your dough, replace the use of measuring cups with a kitchen scale. A digital kitchen scale is ideal, as it provides a level of accuracy that is not possible with measuring cups.

Weighing other ingredients such as the sauce, cheese and toppings is also worth considering. Optimal proportions will have been tested and fine-tuned by a recipe writer beforehand.

Allow your creativity to flourish with your choice of ingredients rather than the amount. More is not always better.

2)    Know your flour

There are different types of flour for different dishes. For example, bread recipes call for the use of bread flour while all-purpose flour is a popular go-to to thicken sauces.

Protein percentage and grind are what distinguish one type from another.

Handmade pizza dough being shaped on a table

Bread flour is considered high-protein, while all-purpose flour has medium protein and cake flour has low protein

There’s also a specific flour for pizzas: Double zero or ‘00’.

It is very finely ground – to the consistency of a powder, increasing its ability to be hydrated and create a good protein structure in the dough.

Double zero is an especially good flour to use if your aim is to make a Neapolitan style pizza. If you don’t have it on hand, you can use all-purpose flour, though the texture of the dough will be chewier.

Many styles of pizza that are popular in the United States and have a crispier crust are made with bread flour. 

3)    Mind your moisture

As with flour, we recommend that you weigh the volume of water you’re adding to the dough, priming it for proper hydration.

Hands of a chef preparing pizza dough on a wooden tray

Since different flour types absorb water differently, the key to a successful dough is achieving the ratio that the recipe prescribes.

The mineral content of the water can also impact the texture of the dough. Hard water, which tends to have higher concentrations of calcium and magnesium, makes for a stiffer dough.

On the other hand, soft water can make a dough too soft.
Strive for a happy medium which, in many parts of the country, is easy to access from the tap. Where that’s not the case, bottled water is a good alternative.

The moisture content in cheese and toppings must also be considered. Too much water content in either can negatively impact the crust, inhibiting its proper development in the oven.

If you’re using fresh mozzarella, we recommend that the night before you cook, you drain the brine from it so that there’s less moisture sitting on the pizza when it comes out of the oven.

Similarly, draining or pre-cooking toppings like vegetables and fresh meats before adding them to the pizza can help prevent a soggy crust. Some high-moisture ingredients will result in a soggy crust if added directly.

4)    Select a specific pepperoni type for ultimate crisping and cupping

Among Americans, pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping. Of the more than 6,000 pizza lovers who responded to a 2021 survey about their favorite toppings, 64% named pepperoni pizza as their favorite.

However, not all pepperoni is created equal. There’s a wide variety, each containing different meat combinations, meat grinds and casing types. The thickness of each slice also impacts how it cooks.

To make a crispy pepperoni pizza, you’ll need a fine-ground pepperoni with a natural casing and a medium-thin cut. These properties will allow each disc to cup, with the edges tightening in the heat, then singeing while the melting cheese it rests on will keep its center soft.

If you prefer a pepperoni that lies flat on the pie, look for one that has a fiber casing. These are stuffed in a different manner that precludes them from curling under heat. Just make sure you remove the casing before slicing and topping the pizza!

5)    Concentrated heat for baking

Baking pizza well requires a concentration of heat. Higher heat makes for better oven spring meaning more air bubbles, better browning of the bottom and edges of the crust, and more even cooking time of the dough and the toppings, meaning everything will be baked perfectly at the same time.

A baked Pepperoni pizza on the metal tray

Much of the work is done for you, if you’re lucky to have an at-home pizza oven, whether it’s a wood-fired one in your backyard or a first-of-its kind countertop marvel like Breville’s Smart Oven Pizzaiolo, which is uniquely capable of producing extreme heat (750F) quickly.

However, if you’re working with a standard two or three rack home oven, we recommend the following approach:

  • Turn up your oven as high as it will go
  • Assemble one rack so that it’s as close to the heat source as possible. This is the rack on which your pizza will sit.
  • Use a baking steel, which is an especially efficient heat conductor, even more so than a clay pizza stone.
  • Line the bottom rack with any cast iron cookware you have to concentrate heat in a single location. This will help preserve the heat in the oven, particularly when you open it to slide in the pie.

6)    An old standby microwave pizza hack

In general, we don’t recommend the use of a microwave for cooking pizza. However, it is a useful tool for reheating it.

Place a glass of water in the microwave with your slice and heat for about 45 seconds.

The microwaves will interact with the water in the glass rather than activating the water molecules in the pizza dough, sauce and its toppings which, in turn, make it soggy.

Of course, make sure that any utensil you put in a microwave is a microwave safe material.

7)    Improvise with a frozen pizza

Among chefs, ‘speed scratch’ refers to improving upon part of a meal that has already been made. This is an especially good hack with frozen pizzas which you can upgrade at home with your choice of additional toppings.

Slices of pizza in box

While you should pre-cook them to avoid adding too much moisture to the pie, there’s ample room for creativity – whether you’re adding cured meat, additional vegetables or more cheese.

The speed scratch approach is a good option for home cooks who have just begun experimenting with pizza making: You can take a break from mastering the perfect crust while focusing your energy on figuring out your favorite pizza topping combinations.