Look, all pizza is good. It’s pizza. And you can probably order a ton of subpar delivery pizza for a little bit cheaper than what it would cost to invest in some quality ingredients to make your own — but would you rather have a medium amount of good pizza or all you can eat of pretty good pizza? A medium amount of good pizza, all day in our book. Fortunately, DIYing pizza at home is actually pretty easy, and it’s so much more legit than grabbing something from a chain.
To raise my homemade pizza game, I asked real chefs their tips, and now I’m sharing them with you. Study up, and get ready to impress yourself with your own pizza skills at first bite.
1. Use the right flour
If there’s one thing pizza chefs can agree on, it’s that all-purpose flour just doesn’t cut it when making pizza at home.
“It doesn’t have enough protein to make a great crust,” personal pizza chef Marcus Roberto told us. He recommends using bread flour or unbleached flour for best results.
Neal “Nello” McTighe, CEO and founder of Nello’s Sauce, recommends using 00 pizza flour. It has more gluten than all-purpose flour has, which helps you get the perfect chewy, crispy pizza crust.
2. Season your dough
Chef Tony DeRienzo of Boston restaurants Abby Park and Novara urges pizza novices to not overlook one crucial ingredient: salt. “Season the dough with a little bit of salt. Keep in mind the saltiness of the toppings you plan on using, but overall, the dough will need some flavor, as it is made from flour.”
Without adequate seasoning, the dough will taste bland, resulting in a subpar pie.
3. Don’t use pre-shredded cheese
Pre-shredded cheese is decidedly not a key to great pizza at home.
Chef Marcus suggests using whole-milk, low-moisture mozzarella instead of the part-skim mozzarella you might find at your grocery store.
“The whole-milk mozzarella has more fat, so it will melt very nice without burning, while the part-skim may get dry and burn,” he explained.
Chef Tony recommends using cheese as a way to play up contrasting textures, suggesting a thin and crispy pizza crust topped with creamy burrata.
4. Keep the sauce simple
“It’s very important that you do not use paste- or purée-based sauce. Start with crushed whole plum tomatoes or a prepared sauce from whole tomatoes only,” McTighe recommends.
Chef Tony takes a similarly simple approach: “If you don’t have the time to purée fresh tomatoes and start completely from scratch, buy a can of crushed tomatoes, add some salt, pepper, garlic and basil in a pan on the stovetop, and you’re good to go.”
Meanwhile, Chef Marcus goes super simple, opting to not precook the sauce at all.
“Tomatoes need to taste like tomatoes, not spaghetti sauce… Don’t cook the tomatoes to make your sauce — the tomatoes will cook perfectly on top of your pizza when it goes into the oven with the other ingredients,” he advises.
5. Fresh is best
When deciding on your pizza toppings, think about what produce is in season. Ramps and asparagus are lovely in the spring; eggplant and fresh basil taste divine in the summer; and in the winter, cured meats and leafy greens will do just fine.
As for tomatoes, unless it’s the peak of summer, opt for canned. San Marzano tomatoes are packed and processed at the peak of ripeness, giving you the freshest flavor when tomatoes are out of season.
6. Preheat your pan
Many professional pizza kitchens use a brick oven. Assuming you don’t happen to have a kitchen fitted with one, preheating your pan (or pizza stone or pizza steel) will help you get a nice, crispy bottom on your crust.
7. Give it lots of heat
One of the advantages of a brick oven is that it can get hotter than what most people have in their home kitchens.
That’s why Chef Marcus’ motto is “the hotter, the better” when it comes to making pizza at home. He recommends heating your oven from 500 to 550 degrees F at least, hotter if your oven can handle it.
Using these tips, along with your favorite dough recipe and toppings, will make your next at-home pizza night a hit. Now comes the hard part — trying to decide on the toppings!
Originally posted August 2016. Updated October 2017.