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Homemade Pizza at super-hi heat: it works

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I've been making pizza myself for a long time with decent results cooking with the typical instructions. Then I heard Peter Reinhart on NPR talking about his book. He said to cook any pizza - homemade, frozen store bought, leftovers - at a really high temp. In fact, he said to go as high as your oven would go.

So, after this, I started inching up the temp - first to 425, then 450, etc. I was worried about going much higher. OK, I'll be honest, my wife was holding me back - figuring there's no way it would get done evenly. We were both worried that I might burn the outside of the crust or cheese.

For no particular reason I cranked my oven up to 550 this time, and let it get good and hot. Wow, what a difference! I used the same recipe and I ended up with the best pizza I've ever had.

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  1. If you dig around for great pizza recipes (as everyone who has bought a pizza stone is wont to do) you'll find a lot of advice on how to disable the lock for your oven's self-cleaning cycle to get it REALLY hot.

    My oven is a low-tech non-cleaning gas version which only goes to 500, and my method is to set it as high as I can and leave it there for at least an hour. Not gas-budget-friendly, but it does produce the closest thing to a NY style crust that I've managed.

    1. I bake mine at 550 F. I also use a stone that live in my oven. Stone on lowest rack, pre-heat the oven & stone for at least 45 mins before baking pizza. I make a rather soft pizza dough that is quite sticky so i form it on parchment. I slide the pizza on the parchment on to the stone with my peel and after about 7-8 mins. I can remove the parchment. It makes great crisp crust.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Candy

        Ditto, almost in it's entirety. My tiles sit on the floor, not on the lowest rack. And I totally agree that a rather soft dough makes a superior crust. But--I've tried putting the dough on parchment and find that it burns onto the bottom crust and is a pain in the neck to scrape off. Do you ever have that problem? I've read that some people bake the crust for a few minutes just to stiffen it up before slipping the peel between the crust and the parchement and removing the parchment, but that just seems like such a pain. In the end, I nearly always use lots and lots of cornmeal. It makes a mess of the oven, but it does (usually) keep the dough from sticking and I kinda like the added crunch.

        Any special tricks you use to keep the parchment from burning? to be able to remove it in one piece?

        1. re: JoanN

          I've had no trouble with parchment but I stretch the crust pretty thin, so by the time the parchment is blackening the pizza's done. Not sure it would work with a thicker crust.

      2. That's what I do, too!

        I turn the dial as high as it will go, and the pizza comes out great, plus the pizza only takes about 10 min to cook.

        1. I have perfected the ability to make thick crust (+/-1")pizza, and still get a crispy crust. The oven must be as hot as possible(500F) and the stone must be allowed to come to max temperature (at least 45 minutes), the crust must be blind baked for 5 minutes before it is topped.
          The extra baking time gives the thicker crust the time needed to bake, and the blind baking allows the crust to start to form before the wet toppings are applied. It is also much easier to handle the crust with a peel once it has firmed up. If you don't have a peel, you do as as Candy said, but I have found that a lightly coated,rimless cookie sheet will also suffice.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Kelli2006

            That's the way I do it, too. I usually check in during the 'blind bake' and pop any bubbles that are coming up.

            1. re: Kelli2006

              Aye, I do the "blind baking" as well.. just about 3 minutes or so on the stone. Before I got my peel, it was the only way I had to keep from ruining my pizza as I put it in the oven. Boy, would that make me mad when it happened.

              I don't use my stone (actually, it's a floor tile) for the actual baking with toppings though... I figured it's mainly there to keep the oven from losing heat when I'm opening the door. I bake it on one of those perforated pie pans.

              And yes, high temp = win.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                When you say "thick crust" are you referring to a "Chicago Pizza type???

                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                  It will work in a deep-dish Chicago style, but I can make a American "Pizza Hut"/foccicia style, thicker crust as well.

              2. I always cook on the pizza stone after heating the oven at 500 for an hour.

                1. Just to echo what others have said, the trick with gas and electric ovens is actually to get them hot enough to cook pizza correctly. That's why coal ovens, which burn significantly hotter than wood or gas, are so prized in the pizza world.

                  1. We crank up the oven and let it get toasty before putting the pizza on the stone, too.

                    I once read a series of posts on http://www.pizzamaking.com re using the self-cleaning feature on cheap electric ovens to cook pizzas. Some real beauties were said to have come out it. (I'm not recommending anyone try it at home - but if I had that sort of oven...)

                    1. I've one of those crap stoves you get in apartments, and even it can be coaxed into making fantastic pizza. Like everyone else, I crank it all of the way up to 500 (as high as it will naturally go) and let it cycle 3 - 4 times after preheating. My pizza stone, of course, is in there the whole time. After the oven has cycled, and about 10 minutes before I put the pizza in, I turn the oven to broil and let it go nuclear. As soon as it seems like the linoleum is ready to melt, I pop in the pizza, and return the oven to 500 for the balance of the cooking time. This works for fresh and frozen, and it is a heavenly way to do a homemade pizza. It's also the only way yo get tarte flambe (referred to as Tarte d'Alsace at Trader Joe's now) to the correct texture.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cpanagakis

                        how funny, I was just thinking about that idea and was gonna ask if anyone had done anything like that. I'm glad to hear it works.

                      2. Oh sure. Now you have forced me to try out a pizza this way. :)

                        1. Is anybody out there???? I know this is an ancient post, but here I am. I have the pizza stone, I have the recipes.... I get it all, but but my stove sucks and every time I blast my oven to 500+ my oven emits fumes and the whole experience takes away from the joy of the pizza (which is always delish, by the way). My oven is clean, but I worried enough once to clean it even more, and then cycled through it a couple of times before making pizza again, but still... it just doesn't react well to high temperatures. So, I cautiously ask.... Until I replace my stove, can I not have a similar effect with a lower temperature? If so, how low can I go??? Thanks.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Moimoi

                            I suspect the apartment oven had never been to 500 before, so there would be an accumulation of stuff that doesn't volatilize until you hit that temp. Running the oven at max for a long enough time with an exhaust fan running in the kitchen may burn off the old residue.