Whether you’ve got a pizza oven, a grill, or just your kitchen oven, this one do-ahead hack makes all the difference.
Thai Chicken Pizza
Credit: Greg DuPree

We may all be much more comfortable with making homemade pizza now when the stakes are on the low side (family dinner, in other words). But what about taking on a DIY pizza party? Can we do it? 

I'm here to say, yes, we can! 

First, the challenges of a DIY pizza party 

Really, it's about crusts. While you might need only two large pizzas to feed your family, the fun of a DIY pizza party is letting everyone make their own combos. Which means one small crust per person, which even for a little dinner party of 6-8 can be a lot of work. Further, if your guests are not skilled in dough stretching or shifting loaded pizzas from the peel to the cooking surface, it puts you in the position of playing pizzaiolo all night instead of getting to be part of the fun!

The secret to an easy (and fun for you!) DIY pizza party 

So, what's the crust answer? Simple. Par-bake your crusts in advance. By working with a partially cooked crust, you don't have to worry about forming the crusts, and even a novice can easily slide a par-baked crust into the pizza oven, meaning you can do one or two to demonstrate and then let your guests participate without worrying that you'll have a pizza oven or grill covered in flopped-over flipped pizzas.

The best part is that pizza crusts like these can be frozen for up to 90 days, so you don't even have to make them all at once! For me, every time I am making pizza at home, I double the dough recipe and bake-off small crusts with the extra, then freeze. Once I have a good stash, I know I am ready for a pizza party!

How to par-bake a pizza crust

To par-bake a pizza crust, start by stretching your chosen dough the way you always do, being sure to make crusts on the smaller side so that they are about right to serve 1-2 people. Dock the center of the dough lightly a few times with a fork to help prevent them from puffing up—remember that you won't have any toppings weighing the dough down during par-baking. 

As for timing, that will depend on your current pizza baking method. If you use a high heat pizza oven, your crust will only need 60-90 seconds to par-bake. If you are working in your oven or on a grill, you might need 4-5 minutes. 

Let your par-baked crusts cool completely on a rack, then either vacuum seal individually, or wrap individually in plastic wrap and then transfer to a zip-top freezer bag. Even if you are only making a couple of days in advance of your party, still freeze them. If you want to make the crusts the same day as your party, you can let them cool, then stack up and wrap in plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until your party. If you've frozen them in advance, thaw overnight in the fridge before party time. 

How to set up a DIY pizza party

For your party, set out a full range of sauces and toppings, and let your guests make their own favorites. Par-cooked crusts will need less time in your baking method: Just subtract the time you have already cooked the crust from your overall cooking time, and then look for the usual visual clues that your pizza is done:

  • If you cook 3 minutes in a pizza oven, your 90 second par-cooked crust will likely just need an additional 90 seconds to 2 minutes to cook the toppings and finish the crust.
  • If you cook for 12 minutes in your oven, and par-baked for 5 minutes, your pizza will likely be done in 7-8 minutes.

Just keep an eye on your toppings to be sure they are fully cooked! And enjoy throwing the easiest, most fun, and most delicious DIY pizza parties ever.