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Please help me improve my pizza further

My pizzas are improving week on week with some good advice, but can anyone hand me secret tips?

Here's what I have so far:

Shape the dough like this: http://joepastry.com/index.php?cat=155
keep a baking tray at the top of the oven while it's preheating, then add water when you insert the pizza to create steam
Leave the pizza dough in the fridge for one day
Get a pizza stone (not done yet


I think the main area to improve is the flavour of the dough. It still tastes like cheap store-bought bases

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  1. If you like the flavor of sour dough you might like to try using a sour dough starter. I am fond
    of the flavor and always make my dough with a sour dough starter. I feel that it is a great
    improvement over straight dough

    1 Reply
    1. re: paul balbin

      I am a little wary of making things very far in advance, although I was talking to Donna about sourdough. She thought it might have yoghurt in it :)

      I've always wanted to try making it though. Any recommended recipes?

    2. Look at "Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day" cook book. Not only will you have better crust but it's one of the easiest bread doughs to make and cook with. Far easier and better than the no knead method (though this one is "no knead" too).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Fuller

        Is there a recipe online?

        Just going to read that pizza site now, I'll check back on everyone soon

      2. Pre-heat stone on lowest rack in the oven, oven temp as hot as possible
        Plenty of salt, I'll use up to a tablespoon of salt for 5 cups of flour
        Try adding some semolina, maybe 20% of total flour, gives a nice chew to the crust

        1. Everything I know about pizza, I learned from this site.

          1 Reply
          1. re: grampart

            Will read that forthwith, thanks ;)

            Ok, I've just read through a few recipes, but nearly everything involves the same amount of ingredients... how important is the mixing time etc? I've made the classic mistake of overworking bread dough before. Would "overworked" pizza dough be a better thing?

            I don't do much to it, I generally mix it together until it looks a bit like you'd expect, and then a little more, maybe 1 minute extra?

          2. If you have the time, I would let you dough sit in the fridge for three days. Doing this you will notice a huge difference in taste. Also, I would recommend using bread flour, if you aren't doing it already. I noticed the bread flour gives the dough a much chewier texture.

            I never thought about putting a steam pan in the oven while I cook pizza. I use that method to bake some of my breads, but I am going to have to try that out. Does anyone else use a steam pan for their pizzas?

            29 Replies
            1. re: pcerepak

              I have started making pizza at home within the last year and after many trials I've finally settled on Peter Reinhart's Neo-Neopolitan Pizza Dough as my favorite. If you search on Google Books you can get the full recipe. Also, check out the freshloaf forums if you haven't been there yet, lots of good info.

              Also, if you're thinking about getting a stone, I highly recommend a Fibrament. Mine has been fantastic for pizza, bread and anything else I can throw at it.

              1. re: taylor04

                I actually used Peter Reinhart's recipe, and I still found it lacking.

                Sourdough may be the way forward. Thanks for the stone recommendation, but I'm not sure how easy that one will be to get for me personally (outside the US)

              2. re: pcerepak

                No. My guess is that water/steam in the oven is completely unnecessary. I don't think it would really hurt anything but I don't think it would be worth the trouble either. Pizza cooks fast. Real fast. Professional/commercial pizza ovens are not steam injected. Let's think about it: you've got a wet sauce, wet cheese, sometimes wet tomatoes/vegetables or meats (which release fat)... why would you add steam to the oven? Well I know WHY you add steam (to allow the crust of the bread to expand to it's fullest) but pizza crust is not a boule.

                1. re: Fuller

                  Although I don't do it, I think a spritz or three of water from a spray bottle would do the trick.

                    1. re: Fuller

                      Possibly, crispen the cornicione.

                      1. re: Fuller

                        Fuller, as below, without a stone my pizzas take 15m + is it still pointless?

                        I have to say, I chucked the base in for 2 minutes on it's own before toppings just to crisp it a little (I used tomato sauce, despite ostensibly making a "neopolitan") and when retrieved, there was steam coming off (before adding water to the pan).

                        But yes, I was thinking of breadmaking.

                    2. re: Fuller

                      Agreed. the toppings are creating steam. and i cook pizza in 4 minutes, so i can't imagine adding steam would matter. there are plenty of people who seem to cook pizza for 15 or 20 minutes (i have no idea how that would taste), so maybe steam might help then.

                      1. re: tommy

                        You have a pizza stone? even at full whack my pizzas still take 15 minutes or so.

                        1. re: Soop

                          yup, I have a pizza stone. oven on its highest temp.

                          1. re: Soop

                            I use a Fibrament stone and my oven temp reaches about 575 after an hour preheat AFTER the 550 preset is reached and my pizzas still take about 7 minutes.

                        2. re: Fuller

                          I should think steam would work against a crispy crust. For breads, early steam is followed by further baking without steam. Pizzas aren't in the oven long enough for that further baking without steam.

                          Try leaving the dough in the fridge for two or three days.

                          When you get your stone, test it on different shelves of the oven, until the bottom and top of the pizza are baked properly in the same amount of time.

                          Put your oven at its hottest temp, and preheat the stone at least 45 minutes, but an hour is better.

                          I myself am not keen on sugar in a pizza dough.

                          When you remove the pizza from the oven, put it on a cooling rack for a minute or so, before you put it onto the pan. Otherwise, steam can form under the pizza and make the crust less crisp.

                          1. re: Channa

                            My pizza recipe suggests putting the stone in the oven to heat up. You make the pizza on a board covered with a sprinkle of flour and a sprinkle of corn meal. When the pizza is ready to be cooked you slide it off the board and onto the hot stone. I tried that once and found it too way too much of a pain. One little sticky bit of dougn and all my toppings start rolling around while I try to shake the pizza onto the stone all they while not burn myself. Does anyone else do it that way?

                            BTW the pizza dough I use the most is awesome. Quick rise yeast 1 minute in the food processor, 2 minutes of kneading, rest for 20 and good to go! Flour, yeast, olive oil, salt and warm water. I can get the recipe if anyone wants to try it (it's at home and I'm at work)

                            1. re: julesincoq

                              if you're not sliding the pizza from a peel, how do you get it in the oven?

                              1. re: tommy

                                The idea is that the corn meal will allow it to slide right off the board. A small pizza does but a larger one gets all streched out of shape.

                                What's a peel?

                                1. re: julesincoq

                                  How do you get your pizza onto the stone? You said that you tried to slide it off the board once, but it was too much of a pain. So what is you alternate approach?

                                  1. re: tommy

                                    I've been making smaller pizzas so they will slide off my board more easily. What I'd like is an assistant to two to help me slide it off with a couple of spatulas while I hold the board (I'm a one adult household). A peel would be a good idea.

                                    I just want to make a big pizza so we can all eat at the same time and I'm not jumping up and down to get the next one out.

                                    I have done large pizzas (rectangle shaped) on an up-side-down cookiesheet and just slide the whole thing in cold. The crust is ok but not nearly as crispy. I have also tried cooking the crust part way through (same method) and then taking it out and topping it and putting it back in. This way even if it's not being slid onto a hot stone it is at least getting more cook time.

                                    Maybe what I need is a big stone and partly cook the large crust first and then slide it onto a hot stone. It would slide better if it was already partly cooked......Will have to search for a big stone and try that way next. Thanks for getting me thinking about it!!

                                    1. re: julesincoq

                                      I think you just need more cornmeal and evidently a larger pizza stone. A large rectangle works best. Those cheap things (my opinion of course) from Bed Bath & Beyond aren't worth the money. Look online - I can suggest a fibrament - someone mentioned that earlier up the thread.

                                      In other words, I wouldn't pre-bake, then top, then finish. Use cornmeal, and make sure that it isn't sticking BEFORE you get it to the oven.

                                      1. re: Fuller

                                        I agree with this. Go to your local tile shop and get an unglazed query tile.

                                        I have one big enough to barely fit in my oven which allows me to cook larger pizzas. Granted this may be overkill, it allows me to vary my pizza sizes whenever I want not worry about it sliding off the edge.

                                  2. re: julesincoq

                                    A peel is the large wooden (or metal) "spatula" for lack of a better term. The peel is the "board" you're referring to.

                                    A pizza stone REQUIRES preheating to work. It should not be a suggestion, a question or an argument: a pizza stone needs to be preheated. Otherwise you might as well just be baking on a cookie sheet. If your dough is sticking to the board/peel use more cornmeal. It's how the professional kitchens/pizzerias do it and it's also how home bakers who know how to use pizza stones and peels correctly do it.

                                    So to answer your question "Does anyone else do it that way?" Yes, everyone does it that way... if they're doing it correctly.

                                    1. re: Fuller

                                      This is a great peel. The only drawback is you're limited to a 14"-15" max diameter.

                                      1. re: grampart

                                        I'm sure they're nice but unless you're hanging it for decoration, there are far cheaper options.

                                        1. re: Fuller

                                          i don't think you're understanding what the superpeel does. it meets the needs of julesincoq, as far as "helpers" go.

                                          1. re: Fuller

                                            If one has problems getting the pie off the peel, they are indispensable. Also, you don't have all that mess of corn meal on the stone, in the oven, and (worst of all) stuck to the bottom of the pie.

                                  3. re: julesincoq

                                    Try rice flour instead of cornmeal of lots of regular flour. It's super slippery, and makes transfer from the peel to the placing peel (in my case, for the WFO) or to a stone a cinch.

                                    1. re: modthyrth

                                      Wow you guys are amazing! Thanks for your help. I only make pizza for a treat now and again (low carber) but I'm really looking forward to trying out your tips. Need to get a propper peel and a better stone. Fun!

                                      1. re: julesincoq

                                        To get it to slide, you want something with small, spherical grains, like polenta or something. they act like mini ballbearings.

                                        1. re: Soop

                                          flour works and doesn't add corn flavor, which is oftentimes preferable.

                              2. re: pcerepak

                                I haven't had bread flour for a while, just the last of my all-purpose - and now I've just bought 1.5kg more. Still, it's not like flour goes off too quick. I'll get some nice stuff.

                                Thanks for the tip on the slow rise.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  OH MY GOD! Combining my two favorite things (cast iron and pizza). I am gonna have to check this out for sure!

                                  1. re: pcerepak

                                    You have to work quickly, but it works beautifully.

                                2. I bake my pizza in my propane gas grill because I can get it heated up to about 750F. Pizzas in Naples, Italy, are baked at 1050F for about 90 seconds and they are so delicious. I think temperature has alot to do with a successful crust.

                                  I assemble my pizza on a round metal pizza pan with lots of holes. I oil the pan and sprinkle it with fine corn meal before I lay the dough down. I also think it is very important to use bread flour. The crust is flavorless with AP flour.

                                  I preheat the grill with all 3 burners open as wide as they'll go. I put the pizza pan on a wok ring in the middle of the grill. If you put it right on the grill it will burn. The pizza takes about 4 minutes to bake and the crust is perfect. You have to remove it immediately from the metal pan, though, it will burn on the pan within 45 seconds because the pan is so hot.

                                  The crust is crisp and brown on the outside and still chewy on the inside. It's not exposed to heat long enough to dry out. The cheese also browns really nicely rather than just melting. This is as close as I've been able to get to the results from the blazing hot wood ovens in Italy.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: runwestierun

                                    That sounds like a great idea!

                                    Does anybody par-cook their crust before adding toppings/finishing?

                                    I like really thin and cripy crust, so i typically par cook to ensure it doesnt get soggy.

                                    1. re: afeltz

                                      I have done it a little. Might do it more next time.

                                      It was frustrating, as it was up there with the best I've ever made, Donna told me she didn't want one, but ate loads of mine 9____9

                                  2. No chance of me getting a fibrement, what do people think of this as a close second?

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Soop

                                      Other than the smallish size, it might be alright.

                                      1. re: grampart

                                        It'll cook a 12" pizza, good enough for me

                                        1. re: Soop

                                          Ok, I've actually ordered a granite chopping board. 400 x 300 x 15mm

                                          Half an inch thick might be a little thin... but considering it costs £12 including shipping, I think it's better than getting a £50 granite "pizza stone"

                                          1. re: Soop

                                            Granite spalls in high heat, so it might not last long for you. I don't know how high the heat has to be to get spalling--maybe oven temps are just fine. But I do know that granite isn't suitable for the deck of wood fired ovens, where we're cooking at 800+ degrees.

                                            Granite is also a pretty lousy surface for your knives, too. I'm surprised to hear of people selling that material as either a cutting board or a pizza stone.

                                            1. re: modthyrth

                                              god yeah, I'd never use it as an actual chopping board.

                                              What is "spalling"? Granite is pretty good for heat as far as stone goes, but my oven is only ever going to get to like 250 C or something.

                                              1. re: Soop

                                                Spalling is when little flakes of stone start flaking and popping off in high heat (extra fiber for your pizza? ;-) ). Eventually the whole thing will crumble. But like I said, I have no idea at what temperature that starts, only that over 800F it's definitely problematic.

                                    2. Job done!

                                      I don't even have my pizza stone yet, but I've basically perfected the kind of pizza dough/crust I was looking for.

                                      Eventually I made 1 dough, let it rise, then refrigerated for 3 days.

                                      The second, I made and refrigerated straight away for 2 days.

                                      then I combined the 2, let it warm up, then stretched into shape.

                                      Then baked in the oven for 3-4 minutes before topping and returning.

                                      The crust was absolutely perfect, and I am over the moon! Thanks everyone!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Soop

                                        So you made 1 pizza out of the 2 doughs?

                                        1. re: grampart

                                          Yeah, and it really worked well.

                                          The "fermented one" (described here: http://joepastry.com/index.php?cat=119 "Over the course of the night some very interesting things happen. Yeasts continue to reproduce, creating alcohols (and as those of you who've read other posts of mine on flavor know, some flavor compounds are only "unlocked" by — i.e. will only dissolve in — alcohol). Bacteria grow and create flavorful acids. And enzymes proceed to run amok slicing and dicing long-chain carbohydrate molecules (starches) down into sugars.

                                          All of this is a great boon to a baguette dough (or any other bread dough it's added to), both in terms of flavor and color. "


                                          Has kind of a sour smell and flavour, while the other one is more bready. Together, it's a great balance.

                                          I actually took some crusts out to show them off; I didn't expect anyone to eat my leftover crusts but they went down well!

                                      2. My "pizza stone" arrived today, and it's perfect - a great size. I had to scrape the little rubber feet off with a scalpel, and I'm a little worried about what's left burning. I'll let you know how it goes.

                                        1. Can I just ask a couple of questions?

                                          The stone should ft on the floor of my oven, but should I put it on a rack?
                                          Is it ok to preheat (from cold) straight to full power?

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: Soop

                                            The stone goes on the bottom rack, placed at the bottom of the oven.

                                            By from cold to full power, I assume you mean preheating the oven to it's max temp, which is what for your stove, 550*-575*? How hot you turn the oven setting to depends on your stone. Some stones can't take really high (800*) temps, depends on the stone's material. Read the manufacturer's info that came with.

                                            Yes, the stone goes into a cold oven and should heat for at least a half hour, even longer, depending on which Chowhound you are. This preheating starting from cold will prevent thermal shock and cracking. There's lots of opinions on how long to preheat the stone, but the bottom line is to have a very hot stone.

                                            Interesting that your pizza stone has/had rubber feet. Are you sure it's meant for pizza? Are you sure they were rubber? I don't mean to insult your intelligence, but I've never seen that, kinda defeats the purpose of using it in the oven. Unless they weren't actually rubber feet, maybe silicone and could have withstood some heat, but I haven't seen silicone feet either on a pizza stone, probably not even a good idea. Read on:

                                            Some pizza stones have stone feet to improve stone balance on the oven rack, maybe that's what you carved off, whoops. Oh well, gone now.

                                            There are a number of threads about pizza stone usage, care and cleaning here at chow, search "pizza stone" for more info.

                                            Have a great deal of fun with your stone!

                                            1. re: Soop

                                              depending on your oven and how you are going to use it, it can go on any rack. mine is on the top, about 3 inches from the top heating element.

                                              hearing about these rubber feet is troubling. you should probably post the link to the product that you bought to get some feedback.

                                              1. re: tommy

                                                I don't think they're rubber at all, rather stone feet. Rubber makes no sense whatsoever.

                                                Meant to mention to Soop that where you place your stone also depends on where the heat is in your oven, some are bottom-hot, some aren't, some people bake first, then crank up the broiler element on the top to finish. Depends on either gas or electric, etc. Mostly the stones go on the bottom of the oven, however.

                                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                  If this is the she bought, it does have plastic feet and was not intended to be a pizza stone. Might work though?

                                                  1. re: grampart

                                                    The link didn't work and Soop is a he. The sold ebay article is listed as a granite chopping board.

                                                    My feeling is that anything granite with rubber or plastic feet is meant more for serving cheese, fruit, or hors d'ouerves or for negligible cutting board use, certainly not for high heat baking.

                                                    EDIT: I see upthread that there was some discussion about possibly purchasing a granite cutting board, rather than a bona fide pizza stone. So maybe it came with rubber feet. Hopefully it will be ok and last. Carry on.

                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                        Well, I just tried the link again and now it's fine. It was showing a "page not found" message earlier. Internet blip.

                                                        Hopefully it's not what or close to what was purchased. So not a pizza stone.

                                                      2. re: bushwickgirl

                                                        lol, yep, that link is exactly what I got - saved me £30, and it's basically the same thing!

                                                        My oven is gas, and will go up to 500 F. It's an oven only.

                                                        It's also way hotter at the top, but I figured it's more useful at the bottom when I'm not using it specifically for baking.

                                                        Thanks for your help with this

                                                        1. re: Soop

                                                          OK, good luck with it. I just googled "granite pizza stones" and apparently Jaime Oliver himself uses a big granite slab.

                                                          Now I'm going to have to look around at clay and granite $$ options before I buy one again. I've only had clay.

                                                          The rubber/foam feet remnant will burn off, BTW.

                                                          Yes, just leave the stone at the oven bottom when not baking.

                                                          Enjoy the fruits of your pizza labor!

                                                          1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                            Will do. Hey thanks again, you've been great, all of you

                                              2. Ok, I tried the stone yesterday and it was a bit of a fail. It had been preheating for hours, because I made some bread on it before.

                                                The bread turned out heavy and stodgy which I put down to my dough, and then the two pizzas didn't turn out very crispy.

                                                The two things I can think of to change are:
                                                put the stone higher up in the oven
                                                Bake it before topping

                                                so far: definitely not worth the money.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Soop

                                                  The stone should go as far down in the oven as possible so the heat can circulate above it. My always sits on the lowest rack in my oven at all times. When not making pizzas, it helps to regulate the temp when you have to open the door alot.

                                                  If your pizza wasn't crispy, either you didn't cook it enough, your stone wasn't hot enough, you added too many toppings (or too liquidy toppings) or your dough was bad. Was it just limp or soggy?

                                                  Was the bottom of the pizza charred slightly? Since the stone should be really hot, at least the bottom of the dough should be browned? I'd also suggest lightly oiling the dough before topping it, this will create a barrier and prevent the dough from getting soggy.

                                                  1. re: ESNY

                                                    There is no correct position for the stone. The important issue is that it is preheated long enough. Not getting the stone hot enough is going to cause more issues for more people than having it at the top of the oven rather than the bottom.

                                                    I have mine at the top of the oven, and I cook pizza in 4 minutes. Works just fine.

                                                  2. re: Soop


                                                    Do you have a cast iron skillet? If so, have you tried the method I mentioned above? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/683259

                                                    Ever since trying it, I haven't bothered making pizza any other way.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      I used to use my cast iron pan for my pizzas - I preheated it in the oven (sometimes I was lazy, and didn't even preheat it at all. Before that, I used to precook the crust first, but after I became experienced, I didn't need to do that anymore.

                                                      Then after visiting my daughter in New Haven, and visiting Pepe's & Modern (Sally had a nerve to be closed for vacation when I was there!), I decided to work on a thin crust. Had a dry spell when every pizza I made turned out horrid, but now this is what I do:

                                                      I use a standard round aluminum pan.

                                                      Preheat my oven to the hottest setting. (550 degrees for me)

                                                      Make sure I put the pizza on the lowest level possible.

                                                      I always use unbleached all purpose flour - either King Arthur, or one other generic store flour that seems to me, to be the same.

                                                      I knead by hand, so believe me - I cannot over knead. Sometimes I use the no-knead bread dough recipe, but lately I just don't plan well enough ahead. Dough has only flour, yeast, salt & water. (Will look up the recipe later if anyone is interested - right now my smallest dog is sitting on my lap, terrified of the storm we are now having, and I'm dog sitting another who seems to be a bit afraid, too... lol, I'm true to my name). I tend to add a bit more water than most recipes call for - I've been making bread for more years than I want to admit, so I've become used to a higher hydration.

                                                      When I have it in the house, I substitute a small amount of semolina flour in the recipe - not too much, or I find my dough gets too heavy. Maybe a cup or so (I usually make enough dough for four large pizzas, a double recipe for me). That's a guesstimate.

                                                      I'm cutting back on effort and fat, so lately I've been using (gasp - my mom would disown me, if she could do it from the other side, lol) canned sauce, and also the standard part skim mozzarella - but whole milk mozzarella is much better.

                                                      Just the same, my kids tell me my pizzas are better than any they can buy locally (and they are very fussy). Unless I have someone coming for dinner - then I manage to screw up everything. Think I'm a poster child for Murphy's Law...

                                                      Mmm - now I have to make some tonight..

                                                  3. Thanks to all todays answers, but I have found the solution. I moved the stone up today, and cooked 3 pizzas, but the mitigating factor is purely cooking the base "dry" before topping and heating.

                                                    The dough wasn't as good ( having had only 24 hours to pove), but today I had perfectly crispy base and (although slightly moist) perfect toppings. the mozzerella was stringy and perfect.

                                                    So afaik, the perfect pizza needs a pre-cooked base, and then it is perfect. really crispy.