I’ve been experimenting lately to try to make a better pizza crust and finally discovered the trick for having a crisp, crunchy crust instead of a limp, doughy one.
Back in our pre-cruising days, I never made pizza — if we wanted one, we went out or picked up the phone. Then on the boat, I tried a few times and just wasn’t happy with the crust, so we waited until we were in a town with a good pizza parlor (Big Kajuna in La Paz, Mexico was our favorite).
But once Dave was diagnosed with a milk allergy, that option pretty much went out the window — there’s just so much cheese around a pizza kitchen that cross-contamination is inevitable, even if you order a pizza without cheese. So we crossed pizza off the list.
The problem is that for me, pizza is a basic food. So about a year ago, I started making pizza, determined to figure out how to make a better — no, truly good — pizza crust. In the last month, I finally got good results — and it’s not hard. I just came up with one “trick.”
My past efforts weren’t satisfactory because no matter what dough recipe I used, and no matter what temperature I set the oven at, I still had what I’ll call “limp pizza.” Basically, pizza that you can’t pick up in your hand because the crust just droops. Pizza where the crust just seems underdone or soggy with the sauce. I tried partially baking the crust before I put the toppings on, I tried pre-baking and then flipping the crust over, everything. I couldn’t get the type of crust I wanted.
Then I got an idea when I was making some No-Knead bread — what if I used a heavy pan and preheated the pan in the oven, as I did with the no-knead bread? This has turned out to be the real secret!
Note: Since you’re working with a hot oven and hot pan, only do this in a calm anchorage or marina. And if your oven has any hot spots, you’re likely to burn the crust — think about getting a baking stone, which will even out the heat for everything you bake!
- Pizza dough
- Favorite pizza toppings
- Use any pizza dough recipe, or even bread dough with the gluten developed (so that the dough can be stretched out).
- About 20 minutes before you want to bake the pizza, put the pan you intend to bake it on in the oven and preheat the oven. The heavier the pan, the better the results will be as it will hold heat better.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. or as close as your oven will get – even if your oven will only get to 350 degrees F., this technique will produce much better results than what you’d otherwise get.
- While the pan is preheating, get all the toppings out and ready to go. It’s important to work quickly once the pan is hot, so having everything ready to toss on really helps.
- On a cutting board, counter, pan or even a plate if it’s large enough, pat the pizza dough out to the size and shape you want the finished pizza to be.
- When the pan and oven are up to temperature, take the pan out of the oven. Very quickly (and carefully!) transfer the pizza dough to it – you don’t need to oil the pan as there is a little oil on the dough from its rising. I find that it works best to just pick the dough up in my hands and lay it on the pan instead of trying to keep it flat. Just be careful not to burn your hands! The dough should sizzle a bit as it hits the hot pan – that’s what will make the crust crispy.
- Quickly spread the sauce over the crust, then add your toppings. In general, don’t use more than 3 or 4 toppings in addition to sauce and cheese. It’s important to work quickly, so that the pan doesn’t lose too much heat.
- Put the pan back in the oven and bake about 20 minutes. The exact time will vary, depending on the crust thickness, toppings and oven temperature. For a thin crust pizza with light toppings in a 450 degree oven, check it after 12 minutes. A thick crust pizza with numerous toppings in a 350 degree oven could take 30 minutes.
- If you have cheese on your pizza, the pizza is done when the cheese is melted and starting to turn golden. If you’re like us and not using cheese, look at the crust – when it’s turning golden/brown, the pizza is done.