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can't seem to get a perfect pizza crust

i have the stone, i crank up the oven full blast, i preheat for a hour, and just cant seem to get the balance of crisp outside and chewy texture. i either have nice outside crust, but soggy middle or it's dried out and like biting into a cinder block. any tips on how long to leave it in for or how to know when it's done?

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  1. wow, you've preheated for an hour and it still gives you trouble? i usually preheat for about 20 minutes and the pizza only takes, maybe, ten minutes to cook. crispy bottom, crewy crust. i use a pretty standard dough recipe that i make in my breadmaker. maybe you should experiment with different doughs to get one that will work for you? i've seen recipes with just flour/olive oil/salt and all the way to ones with egg and dry milk powder. also, how thinly are you rolling it? i like to roll mine pretty thin and then fold up the edges to make the crust part (i'm totally incompetent with the whole using my fists and twirling it thing to get the middle "naturally" thinner than the edges). i also always put it on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes and i think that helps prevent the crust from getting soft when it comes out.

    1. No need to pre-heat for an hour. The stone does take time to reach the proper temperature, but as indicated by LNG212, 20 minutes to a half hour should be plenty.

      What exactly are you trying to bake? (i.e. home made dough, store bought pizza shells, etc.)

      The site www.pizzamaking.com is an *extremely* detailed resource that might have the info you're looking for. On the other hand, some of the techniques and equipment they use may not apply to most home chefs.

      1. Yeah, I am thinking if your oven temp is correct and you are using a good stone, preheated, it's gotta be your dough. Pizza doughs are really simple, very rustic, flour, water a tad of oil and yeast.

        I have made mini pizza in a cast iron pan on the stove top to test th doug, maybe you might wann mini-experiment thar way?

        1. Your crust probably isn't thin enough. You need to really stretch out the dough for a while before getting it ready to cook.

          1. i always make my own dough and have experimented a few different ways so i don't think that's it. the reason i preheat so long is because my tiles are pretty thick. i guess what i'm looking for is how do you know when it's done? i've taken it out when it looks good, but wound up having a raw center. there's also had times when i left it in and had it look great with bubbles in the crust, but was much too overcooked.

            1. i think you're doing everything right. maybe a tad more yeast, a pinch more salt and a tad less messing with the dough.

              i bake a pie for six minutes or so at 500 degrees. never more than seven minutes. i like a simple pie (margarita) but a little sausage is ok, too.

              1. Hi Doctorquality,

                To be honest, I've never cooked a pizza more than 5 minutes, tops, on a tile in my oven. As the others have said, thinness is key.

                Here are things BESIDES crust thickness which will, in my experience, make the centre soggy:

                TOPPINGS
                a kitchen oven simply can't give the fierce heat of a real pizza oven (sigh) you might need to cook your toppings first. For example, I dry fry my bacon and pancetta first to crisp them up, and I dry fry my mushrooms (chopped) in a nonstick pan to evaporate all the moisture. Because otherwise the heat of the oven will cause the mushrooms to sweat, which means they give off moisture, which means... soggy pizza. So if you're using moist ingredients, don't rely on the oven to cook them - dry fry to remove moisture, or saute if you want that sort of flavour, or even roast the toppings first for a very good depth of flavour. THEN put them on the pizza base ans cook the base.

                CHEESE
                And obviously, go easy on the cheese. Too much cheese will make the pizza soggy, too. I found through trial and error that pizzas call for a lot less cheese than I imagined. Even if you manage to cook the middle of the pizza, a very cheesy pizza will droop as soon as you remove it from the piping hot pizza stone. Which makes it difficult to eat by hand, as well.

                If you take care of both these things, all you need to look for when you cook it is for the crust to be cooked. I find five minutes in my oven for a thin crust is perfect; taking them out of the oven, tearing them open and checking is really the best way to check. And remember, fifth pizza down the line will take longer to cook than the first, due to temperature loss on both the stone and in the oven itself (opening and shutting the door and all that). Sometimes it is best to cook a couple pizzas, and have everyone eat them while the oven and stone heat up again for ten-fifteen minutes.

                Enjoy your pizzas - so much delicious fun.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Gooseberry

                  Agree with the dry ingredients. 3 additions:

                  For the mozzarella, I buy fresh mozz for flavor but often it has too much moisture, which can also be released when baking. So I slice it, lay it on paper towels, salt it, and put another layer of paper towel on top. Roll it up, and set it aside for 1/2 hour while preping your other ingredients. The paper towles will be soaked through, and this should help stop moisture from puddling on the pie.

                  For tomatos, you could use a cooked, thickened sauce, but I like the lightly cooked flavor of raw tomatos from the can, so I drain them in a strainer, crush them up by hand, and squeeze hard, wringing out excess moisture until they pack like a snowball. One 28 oz can might look sparse, but is actually perfect for a 14-16 inch pie. Also, since it isn't a seasoned sauce, I microplane a clove of garlic in, and sprinkle very finely sliced onions over the tomatoes when assembling the pie--they almost dissolve when cooked, so it isn't like an onion pie, more like a seasoning (plus, of course, salt and pepper.)

                  Last, if your oven has convection, use it...it speeds up the cooking, helping you get a bit closer to the heat of a commercial pizza oven.

                  1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                    I do that with the fresh mozzarella but still get seepage on the pizza. It's worth it beucase it tastes so good but I do have to blot the pizza when it comes out of the oven and it does affect the texture. Anyone else have a solution to wet pizza w/ fresh mozzarella?

                    I do the same thing w/ fresh tomatoes and it's also a problem--not as much as with the mozzarella but still more dampness than I want.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Are you using a pizza stone? I think that's the biggest trick to a crisp not soggy crust. And maybe using a little less of the wet stuff.

                      1. re: kary

                        Yes, I use a stone. Oddly, it's not a soggy crust but just wetness on top of the pizza from the cheese. I don't have the problem w/ non-fresh mozzarella, just the fresh.

                      2. re: chowser

                        I haven't had that problem, but I can suggest 3 possible remedies:
                        1. Extend your drying time, and add some extra paper towels, maybe even changing to fresh towels halfway through.
                        2. Weight the mozzarella? Don't know if this would work, but maybe you could try a bit of pressure, like some people do with salted eggplant slices to drive our moisture and bitterness.
                        3. I've found a "fresh packaged" mozzarella I like a lot, that is a bit drier than the ones you find sitting in water. Frankly, the flavor is better than most supermarket "fresh" mozzarellas, which IMHO, have no flavor (Obviously, if you have a great source for really good fresh mozz, disregard. But BelGioiso (sp?) is a great, consistent product, and good enough to use in a Caprese salad. (http://www.belgioioso.com/FreshMozz.htm

                        )

                        Last note, with the tomatoes, I really squeeze the ***t out of them, to get them dry, wringing out as much moisture as I can, and the remaining "meat" is pretty dry. Also, when I put it on, it looks a bit spare, probably less than 50% coverage of the total area of the dough, not even counting the border. It seems to be plenty, though, and I never have a puddle problem, using a stone, and a convection oven with a max temp of 500 deg.

                        1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                          Good ideas, I'll try them. I've been using mozzarella I buy from farmers markets, so really fresh. The Bel Gioso (I have not idea how it's spelled either) doesn't do that but doesn't taste as good either. It did occur to me to squeeze the heck out of the tomatoes but I wanted to pretty shapes. Next time I'll go for taste over appearance. Thanks!

                        2. re: chowser

                          I'd suggest tearing the mozzarella into pieces, and putting them on the pizza the second the pizza comes out the oven. Residual heat will make it melt, but barely. If you want what my bf calls 'the roasty cheese flavour' use a small quantity of another, drier cheese on the base, bake, then top with mozz outside of the oven. I must admit to using a good quality processed mozzarella as my 'grating, melting' cheese base. Mozzarella to my mind belongs in the category of after-add-ons, along with: avocado, rocket leaves, etc.

                          1. re: Gooseberry

                            I love the baked mozzarella flavor and texture. I'll try the other things see if they work, if not I'll try it as an add on. But, the water has to go somewhere, though, even if you add it on after?

                            1. re: chowser

                              Not necessarily - I think the top of a pizza in the average home oven (i.e. not a pizza oven) is hot enough to melt the mozzarella, but not to a crisp cheesiness. The sheer dry heat of a professional pizza oven evaporates quite quickly the moisture in many things - bacon, mushrooms,etc - and I suspect cheese is not immune to this. And when you consider the fact that the longer the cheese is sweating on the pizza, the soggier it will get, I think you have a persuasive argument for adding it after baking: it should melt a bit around the edges, but hopefully retain much of its moistness inside (rather than weep onto the crust), and it is being eaten almost immediately so the crust doesn't have the time to absorb the moisture and get soggy.

                              This is just a theory - I'd like it if someone could report back on its validity!

                    2. I use Todd English's "Figs Table " recipe" for the dough ( substitute fast rise yeast), preheat the stone 1hr. as he suggests (500 'convect roast setting, lowest rack position), then bake 7 min. I make thin crust pizzas and this method works just fine.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: JazzyB

                        Do you have a link for that recipe or could you post?

                        Figs is one of my favorites! Mmmmm. Thin crust... I'd like to try his mushroom pizza with the portabella puree... probably in top three pizzas I've ever had in my life. I think, ummm, my sweety made 1st and 2nd place. Todd gets 3rd.

                        I'd like that recipe though if you wouldn't mind... thanks!

                        1. re: foxy fairy

                          Portobello, porcini, button mushroom puree: 1T. olive oil/ 2t. chopped garlic/ 1/2 cup sliced onion/ 1/4 cup red wine/ 1/2 cup trimmed,coarse chop porto. mush. caps/ 1/4 cup dried or frozen porcini, coarsely chopped (soaked and strained if dried)/ 1/2 cup button, coarse chop/ 1/4 to 1/2 t. kosher salt/ 1t. fresh rosemary, chop/ 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream. Large skillet, med. heat: add oil, garlic, onion till translucent. Add wine to deglaze. Add mushrooms till soft (8-10 min.). Add salt, rosemary, cream. Cook till slightly reduced (3-4 min). Transfer to food processor and pulse till consistency of thick mud. Keeps 1 week refrigerated. For the pizza, preheat stone 500' 1hr. Cover surface of dough with 1t. oil, 1/4 t. minced garlic and pinch s&p. Be sure to leave 1" outer lip. Distribute 3 oz. fontina. Top with 1/2cup mushroom puree and 1 thinly sliced porto. mushroom cap. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 t. parmesean. Bake until browned 6-7 min. Garnish with 1 1/2 t. parm., pinch of black pepper. Drizzle with truffle oil.

                          1. re: JazzyB

                            This sounds delicious, but half a cup of each mushroom doesn't sound like anything when you consider how much mushrooms shrink through cooking. Did the recipe also give weight, and how much is it supposed to yield? Thanks.

                            1. re: Gooseberry

                              Recipe quantities are exactly as printed in " The Figs Table" . This amount was for 2 (small) pizzas. Increasing the quantities shouldn't be a problem. T.E. probably makes 50X this quantity for the restaurant.

                      2. I have a thicker crust because I don't have the patience to pull / roll the dough out for a thinner crust. I bake my pizza for 20-30 minutes. How I tell it's done by 2 things
                        a) tap on the crust, it should sound hollow and b) lift the pizza up and check the bottom, it should be have brown spots. If it's still white, cook it longer!

                        1. I haven't tried in a long time, because I (and most of you here) don't have the right oven.

                          I used to make pizza a lot - even taught people how to make it with great feedback - but I was never entirely satisfied with the crust. I researched recipes, and there was no "magic" crust recipe that was much different from any other recipe out there.

                          Then I taught my class, one night, in a kitchen with a large (commercial) convection oven. MIRACLE! The same recipe that was barely acceptable to me, dense and chewy from a home oven, was puffy and beautiful - crispy outside and soft inside.

                          That, I have come to believe, is the secret: the right oven.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: wayne keyser

                            two suggestions:

                            1) Crust - substitute a half to full cup of semolina flour into your recipe (sub out an equal amount of AP flour.) We find this an essential step for a great crisp pizza dough. Spray or brush your cooked crust edges with nice EVO when it comes out of the oven.

                            2) Cheese - maybe this is a no brainer but just in case: put your grated mozzarella right on top of the dough. the high heat melts the cheese and "seals" the crust to prevent it from becoming soggy from wetter toppings. We do not use any sauce - it's just too wet. Instead we chop roma tomatoes and sprinkle overtop of all toppings just before cooking. (Prob the same idea as the squeezed out canned tom. suggestion). It's true fresh mozz. does make things a bit wet - so we use it only occasionally and save it instead for a nice caprese salad.

                          2. I hope this doesn't come across as insulting, but is your oven clean? It can make a difference in how evenly it bakes.

                            Also, I'm wondering about your stone, because you called them tiles further on in the thread. I wonder if they are a material that holds heat? Perhaps you need a real baking stone, one made specifically for that purpose? Other than that, I just wonder if your oven is actually hot, and if you have a thermometer inside to verify. I've never had anything but a deep dish pizza with the problems you describe, and I was able to tinker with that where it doesn't happen anymore. I'm not one to sauce a pizza, and I precook toppings, and press the water out of anything like fresh mozz, etc. If all that's been covered, I think you may just need to change your equipment, starting with the stone.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: amyzan

                              I think the OP might be using natural terracotta tiles - pretty much the same thing as a pizza stone, in terms of the heat it conveys. After all, the base of most pizza ovens aren't covered in baking stones, but bricks. I use a tile for baking bread at 450F - no problems with heat, as long as it's pre-heated.

                            2. I've found that when I've got the oven full-blast (@500), I can bake the pizza on a standard pizza pan or insulated cookie sheet for around 6 minutes, then slide it off the pan to the rack for about a minute, and it crisps off the bottom of the crust nicely.
                              I really don't seem to have a problem with excess moisture, but I rarely have fresh mozzerella on hand.
                              I HAVE a pizza stone, but it's always buried under things, and the last time I used it I suffered an extreme pizza accident and left about half the pizza baked onto the stone.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: podunkboy

                                I keep my pizza stone in the oven all the time, on the bottom rack. I think it helps the oven retain the heat, especially when you open it (like reversing cookie pans).

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Ditto. It's so easy just to keep it in there and not have to worry about pulling it out when you want to use it. (esp. since mine weighs a ton!)

                              2. I too have troubles with soggy pizza. I'm going to try making sure my ingredients are dryer. I discount the need for better equipment, otherwise "take and bake" pizza would also bake up soggy, but it does not -- it's just right, even with pounds of toppings on it. And it bakes on that stiff, thin, white cardboard-like "pan" it is delivered on, directly on the rack, no convection turned on. Can it be the order in which the ingredients are piled on, the dryness, or are they par-baking the crust?

                                Another really frustrating problem I have is stretching out the dough. It is just too elastic, and won't stay put. It's a gigantic fight.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: waltbx

                                  If the dough is fighting you, its too "excited", and needs some rest...

                                  Part of it is just the dough itself, and I find some doughs handle more easily than others, so try different ones. I buy mine locally from a pizzeria that makes their own dough in store (they have a giant "KitchenAid type mixer right by the overs, that has a bowl the size of a garbage can). Most places get commercially prepared dough, which I find tougher to handle.

                                  But the big thing is letting it rest a bit. If you are stretching it, and it is snapping back, let it sit for 5-10 mins, and relax. also, keep the dough out at room temp for an hour or so before stretching. it shouldn't feel cold...you want it at a warm room temp, and it should feel airy (even a bit "foamy", if that makes sense..), not dense, as the yeast let's it rise a bit, and relaxes the gluten.

                                  Last, don't work it too much...that gets the gluten going again. You have to handle it quickly, and get it into shape without overworking. If you work it too much, the elasticity comes back, and you need to let it rest some more.

                                  As far as soggy, as noted above, the pizza and all its ingredients should be surprisingly dry before going in, especially the cheese and tomato, which release a lot of moisture. Also, if you use wet toppings like mushrooms or zucchini, it's worth pre-saute-ing them to get the moisture out, before adding them as toppings. Then, get your oven as hot as it will go (I get mine to 535 degrees (500, plus the 35+degree correction it allows, and set on convection (My Kitchen aid has a "roast convection" setting that uses top and bottom elements, plus the convection element and fan, and let the stone heat up for a good 45 mins-hour. With that, its about 8 mins from the time the pie goes in, until it comes out, and I avoid opening the oven during that time, as it lets a lot of heat out.

                                  Good luck!