We don’t want you to have to call delivery at the last minute.

By Stacey Ballis
March 08, 2020
Advertisement

With pizza, the old joke goes: Even when it's sort of bad, it's still pretty good. When isn’t pizza—one that's hot and ready to slice, whether in your kitchen, at a restaurant, or at the front door—pretty darn good? Even a pizza snob stranded in the airport with nothing at hand but low-budget pie will likely grab a slice and not be sorry. Pizza is good and we love it. Even when it’s not great.

But when it comes to homemade pizza, it's not uncommon to hit some snags that even the most budget-friendly slice shops always avoid. Here are the top five mistakes to avoid when making pizza at home, and how to correct them for an always perfect pie.

Mistake 1: Assuming That You Have to Make Your Own Dough

Are you a regular bread baker, keep two different sourdough starters going, and have a wood-fired brick oven in the backyard? Then homemade pizza dough will be as natural to you as breathing. But if you are not a bread baker, making pizza dough can be complicated and difficult. Many grocery stores now carry really great pre-made pizza dough, and there is no shame in using it. Further, many pizza joints are happy to sell you a ball or two of their dough if you ask them.

Mistake 2: Going Overboard on Toppings

Are pizza toppings like your children—you love them all equally? This can spell disaster for your homemade pie, if that adds up to more than three. More than three toppings will not only overpower your palate, but they will overload the crust and give you something that’s likely going to end up soggy or sodden. Balance protein with produce, stick to the rule of no more than three, or dare to highlight just one single, fresh, high-quality topping.

Mistake 3: Cutting Corners With Pre-Shredded Cheese

I’m all for step saving, and nothing lures a time-pressed home cook like a bag of shredded mozzarella in the dairy aisle. But here’s the problem. That pre-shredded cheese is coated with plant fibers (think sawdust) to prevent it from clumping in the bag. You know what else that coating does? It prevents the cheese from melting smoothly, and it can add a slightly grainy or powdery taste. Get a good block of cheese and grate or slice it yourself. It’s worth the time.

Mistake 4: Not Getting Your Oven Hot Enough

This is a mistake that will nearly guarantee a ruined—and by ruined, I mean limp and pale—crust. The chemistry and physics of pizza dough demand high heat of 500 degrees to get the proper loft and crustiness that make every bite a pleasure, so don’t skimp on the Fahrenheits. To get your oven this hot, plan to preheat an hour ahead, and put your baking stone or sheet in there to get it as hot as possible as well. 

Mistake 5: Rushing to Slice It Up

I know, I know, you’re starving and it smells incredible and it looks done, for crying out loud. But pizza hot out of the oven needs a few minutes to tighten up and settle down before you dig in. Give it a good 5-8 minutes before you cut, and you will be rewarded with slices that separate easily and with cheese and toppings that stay put. The roof of your mouth may thank you as well.