I’ve been making homemade pizzas as a hobby for a few years now, and feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Along the way, I’ve come across a wide range of resources that helped me learn what I was doing, and take my homemade pizza skills to the next level.
When I grew up, my dad’s homemade pizzas were made on portuguese rolls with Boboli sauce. Once I got a little older, I made a few homemade pizzas on Pillsbury dough – you know, the kind that comes in a can. Eventually, most people graduate to using store bought dough balls, which are a great way to experiment with all of the other variables that go into baking your own pizza.
Along the way, I tried lots of different things, and got better by identifying the areas where I needed improvement. I typed my questions into google and stumbled upon a lot of great websites and experts on the subject matter. I’ve never met a homemade pizza hobbyist who was truly a snob, and the community is great.
That being said, sometimes you just want to make a delicious homemade pizza with the least effort possible. We don’t always want to plan days ahead to make homemade dough, but luckily there are a lot of shortcuts that will take your pizza night to the next level without all of the work.
Disclosure: I may receive a commission if you purchase any of the linked products below. I am only recommending things that I use & love. 🙂
Pizza stone vs. Baking Steel:
For the first few years I made homemade pizzas, I used a regular pizza stone which are a great affordable option. However, since receiving it as a gift a few years ago, I now only use a Baking Steel.
The idea behind the Baking Steel is that steel conducts heat in an oven better than any other material, so your pizzas are able to cook at a higher temp in less time. I put my Baking Steel on the top rack and preheat my oven to 550F for an hour.
If you are going to spend any money on your homemade pizza hobby, I highly recommend getting a Baking Steel! It seriously will help you make pizzas better than a lot of restaurants do.
Metal Peel vs. Wood Peel:
This is a trick question, you really should have both.
I use a wooden pizza peel for assembling the pizza. You can either generously flour the peel, or flour a piece of parchment paper on top of the peel & assemble your pizza on that.
Using parchment paper makes it easy to launch the pizza, but you’ll have to make sure to take the parchment paper out after the first few minutes of baking. I would not recommenced using parchment paper in a small oven – I’ve had it catch on fire and that is NOT fun.
A metal pizza peel makes it easier to handle the pizza once it’s in the oven. Since it’s a lot thinner, it slides under the pizza easier. Try angling the edge of the peel slightly downwards to avoid accidentally ripping a hole in your pizza.
Ingredients & Toppings
I am going to lay out the basics for you- what I use for dough, sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. You should also make sure you have olive oil, flour, oregano, and whatever other toppings you want to use. It’s your pizza – go crazy and get creative with toppings if you want to!
If you have access to a Whole Foods, go there and you will have it 100x easier. They keep all of the homemade pizza ingredients in one convenient place together. Their dough balls are really good and big enough to get two medium pizzas, or one extra large pizza out of.
When I get home I lightly flour the dough ball and divide it into two (using one of these things helps with the dough) and then let the dough rise on the counter for an hour while the oven pre-heats. Other store-bought doughs can be hit or miss, but I feel like it’s rare that the dough absolutely sucks. Just be patient and let it rise.
Whole Foods’ pre-made pizza sauce is delicious and definitely worth grabbing. I’ve never met a jarred pizza sauce that I liked, so proceed with caution. One area that I recommend making an extra effort, because it’s fun and simple, is making your own homemade sauce. It’s not rocket science.
Simmer a can of crushed tomatoes (I like this brand) over low heat, and mix in oregano, crushed red pepper, a dash of salt, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. I start with 3 tbsp oregano and 1 tbsp olive oil. Depending on how sweet the tomatoes are, I add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar at a time to cut the sweetness. Last, I add some sea salt little by little.
Just tinker with it until it tastes good – you’re the one eating it so don’t stress about if it’s “good”, just make sure you like it. If that means using ton of oregano, so be it.
You can get fancy with the cheese, but you don’t need to go too crazy. One thing that goes a long way with making your pizzas better is using cheese that is NOT prepackaged shredded. Prepackaged shredded cheese is coated in a preservative that prevents it from melting the way that it should.
Instead of prepackaged shredded cheese, see if your grocery store has freshly shredded mozzarella available. Whole Foods always has it and at $6.99/lb, it’s actually not any more expensive than it would cost to buy a block of mozzarella and shredding it yourself.
If you do want to buy a block of mozzarella and shred it at home, get whole milk mozzarella.
You can’t go wrong with combining a few different types of cheeses. My quattro formaggi pizza recipe is perfect for goat cheese lovers. On my pepperoni pizzas, I usually use a combination of mozzarella, asiago, and romano. Ricotta goes great with sausage and meatballs. Blue cheese is great with prosciutto and fig, if you’re feeling fancy. 😉
Boar’s Head and Margherita are the best brands that you can get at the grocery store. You can buy restaurant quality pepperoni by Ezzo Sausage Co from Pennsylvania Macaroni Co, although the shipping cost is pretty steep.
The pepperoni that they sell at Whole Foods sucks, so if that’s your only option I would recommend going the fancy route & picking up a few slices of soppressata instead.
Basic Tips & Tricks
- Make sure your oven is properly pre-heated and the dough has had enough time to rise and get elastic.
- Keep an eye on your pizza the entire time it is in the oven!
- Do not leave parchment paper in the oven longer than 3 minutes, otherwise it might burn.
- Don’t top your pizza too heavily – be mindful of how much your crust can handle.
- Brush the outer crust with olive oil before baking to get a tasty golden crust.
- How long your pizza needs to bake depends on the type of dough, how hot your oven is, and how the oven is heated.
If you have a question that I didn’t answer in this post, please leave a comment and let me know!