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pizza problem

I'm trying my hand at making a thin crust homemade pizza and the dough turned out pretty well except that the cheese was getting overdone/burned before the bottom of the crust browned ....

My first try was not a thin crust and tried pre baking the dough for about 8 min or so and I didn't like the thickness or the chewiness from the pre baking.

My second try was with the thin crust (no pre baking) and I used a new pizza stone (not preheated) with oven temp at 450 and the cheese started to burn before bottom was browned.

My third try was thin crust, but preheated the stone and tried the oven at 425. But I still had the problem of the cheese burning before the bottome was browned.

Any ideas?

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  1. And another detail (not sure if this mattered) - after the first rise, my recipe called for the dough to be punched down and put into large ziploc bags in the refrigerator overnight. Then the dough needed to be taken out and brought to room temp before using. I followed these directions, except my house is rather cold, so my dough was rather cold when I rolled it out.

    1. I always prebake the crusts. I like a thin, crispy crust. Then, I put on the toppings and put the pizza back in, directly on the rack.
      I have lots of pizzas on my blog, with pictures.
      I had a pizza stone, but broke it early on and really didn't want to replace it. I don't do anything special, no special ingredients or tools.

      5 Replies
      1. re: wyogal

        First, I'm still using yeast that is 6 years past the stated expiration date. It is kept in a glass jar in the fridge. I buy yeast in 2 1-pound packages at BJs, and share 1 pound with my son-in-law. I allow the dough to ferment for about 16 hours before starting to roll out the pizza, and we like thin crust.

        Suggestion: preheat pizza stone for 1/2 hour after oven reaches desired temperature. Since you are having a problem with cheese burning, top the pizza with everything but the cheese, and then place in the oven for a few minutes before adding the cheese. I don't prebake the dough because of dough bubbling problem. After the pizza has been in the oven for a while, add the cheese and watch it melt. See if that solves your problem, a problem that I never had.

        Buon appetito

        1. re: ChiliDude

          I just wanted to second the preheat the stone for an extended period of time. Preheating your oven and preheating the stone are not the same thing. It will take a while at the desired temp for the stone to properly heat up. I preheat my stone for about an hour actually when doing pizzas in the oven.

          My second questions would be where in your oven is the stone located? (Top rack/bottom rack/middle?) If your problem is top browning (i.e. cheese burning) then make sure the stone is at the bottom of the oven.

          If that doesn't help let us know more about your dough recipe and type of cheese your are using. If you didn't like the thickness of your pre-baked crust I'm wondering if your dough has too much flour making it dense (and slow to cook and get crispy) or if you just aren't rolling/stretching your crust thin enough.

          1. re: thimes

            not sure why you are replying to my post.... I've done that a few times, too. I'm guessing you are replying to the OP.
            Like I am replying to yours, and not chilidude's.... haha!

            1. re: wyogal

              actually I was replying to Chilidude's and seconding his preheat suggestion and then adding to it.

              I always hit the wrong reply buttons though - the post is still short maybe it won't be too confusing . . . . .

              1. re: thimes

                I figured that, I think he was replying to the OP. I do it, too!

      2. Get a copy of Cook's Illustrated thin crust pizza from Feb/Mar 2010. You bake on a preheated pizza stone at 500 on the top shelf of your oven. My oven goes to 550 and it takes 10 minues for me to bake. I have made over a 100 pies this way and won't go back to another method. The rub is that you need to make the dough in advance and refrigerate for 24 hours but the dough freezes well if you want to make it advance and defrost. Just a great guide to getting excellent pie at home.

        1. I make a thin crust pizza every Friday night. I use a perforated pizza pan. I bake the crust with toppings at 440 deg F for 9 minutes. I take it out, put the cheeses on and bake for an additional 5 minutes; then take the pizza off the pan and place directly on the rack for 2 minutes. I've baking pizza this way for years and it turns out great everytime. I have a pizza stone but it's really just easier to bake in the pan. We like having the cheese on top of the toppings but if you like the cheese on top of the sauce with the toppings over the cheese, prebaking the crust would be the way to go. Good luck!

          1. Is the top of the crust browning? Are you using a conventional over or convection?

            1. I would maybe lower the hydration percentage of your dough recipe...or maybe up the sugar (if used) to inhibit better browning.

              Without knowing the recipe you're using, it's difficult to identify the possible problem areas.

              Electric over? Gas? Broiler? How close to the heating element are you baking the pizza?

              In addition, I never cook a pizza under 500 deg.

              1. I never pre-bake the crusts. If you can get your oven (and stone) hot enough, and don't lose heat in the transfer process, there's never a need to pre-bake the crust.

                If your oven goes to 500, pop the cold stone in the oven, crank it to 500, and let it sit for an hour. If you have 2 stones, put the one you're not using on the top rack also during your pre-heating process. The second stone gives you thermal inertia in your oven, so when you open the door and put a cold pizza in there, there's less catch-up for heating.

                I agree with thimes, if your crust isn't browning enough but cheese is burning, put the stone on the bottom rack.

                Lastly, try to minimize the time that your oven door is open and that the heated stone is out. At 500, it's going to cool pretty quick if you take it out to put the dough on and then add toppings. Ideally, use a peel to transfer the made pizza to the stone - that way, your dough is going straight onto a 500 degree stone, rather than a stone that's considerably less than 500.

                If your oven only goes to 450, getting your pizza onto your stone quickly (via a peel) that's been in the oven for an hour is very important.

                2 Replies
                1. re: foreverhungry

                  I agree ith this. Hot hot oven and preheated for lengthy amount of time for the stone. Lower the rack to get bottom done faster.

                  1. re: melpy

                    Exactly, forever and melpy!
                    Many ovens go over 550 at the 'convection roast' mode.
                    Although no one has mentioned it, my biggest problem with pizza was getting it where I wanted it to be! Let me go out on a limb and tell you my secret! I roll out and prepare my pizza on a sheet of parchment paper, use the parchment to get it on the peel, then slide the pizza and parchment into the oven. To get your pizza out, slide in the peel, when the cool peel is underneath the pizza/parchment and protecting your fingers, grasp the edge of the parchment then slide it completely forward unto the peel. The paper is easy to remove when the pizza gets sliced!
                    Without parchment, I could never get my pizza safely on to the pizza stone...I've even had it go 'all accordian' on me when I tried to push it on to the hot hot stone, but with it, voila! plus the bottom always browns beautifully in five (5) short minutes.
                    I love that the parchment provides 'forensic' evidence of my pizzas journey at 550!

                2. Wow - thanks for all of the great advice! I love Chowhound!

                  Okay, first, this is the link to the thin crust pizza dough recipe that I used. I baked 2 of them last night, one right after the other (more details below):
                  I didn't have bread flour, so I used AP instead. And I think I only needed about 2.5c, not 3c. It didn't specify an oven temp, so I went with 450 and 425 for the 2 pizzas. Like I said, it turned out yummy, except that it didn't brown.

                  I tried this recipe a few weeks ago (when I tried pre-baking) and didn’t like it:
                  I've used this recipe for breadsticks, which were delicious, but I didn't like it as pizza dough - it was too thick and too chewy (and I thought that it was partially due to the prebaking?


                  A few more details: I baked the 2 consecutive pizzas on the middle rack of an electric oven. I used only mozzarella cheese. Toppings were: mini pepperoni, sliced olives, and thin sliced onions. For the 1st, the stone was not preheated and baked for about 15 min at 450. The 2nd, the stone was “preheated” only b/c it had just came out of the oven with the 1st pizza baking on it. So, I took the 1st pizza off, put the 2nd dough on and added toppings. It was probably out of the oven too long. I baked the 2nd at 425 for about 15 min. Results were about the same on both pizzas – cheese was very dark, almost burned. Top of crust was nicely browned, bottom of crust was white.

                  I’ll first try preheating the stone longer, using the bottom rack and getting the pizza on the stone more quickly.

                  I see that many suggestions are to bake at a high temp (500) – my thinking is that this would exacerbate the problem? I guess I’d be wrong in thinking that? I’ll try the higher temp too.

                  Foreverhungry – I don’t have a pizza peel. Is one really necessary? Could I use a cutting board instead?

                  If those suggestions don’t work out, I’ll try prebaking again. Or I’ll try adding the cheese later – might be a good way to hide veggies on the pizza for the kids!

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: cristina3611

                    Yes, you definitely need to pre-heat the stone for at least 45 minutes--for an electric oven I'd say even longer. My gas oven goes to about 550 according to my oven thermometer; I put the stone on the top rack, and bake the pie for about 12 minutes. It is plenty done. I also like thin crust.

                    It would be impossible to take the hot stone out of the oven to make the pizza on top of it. I make the pie on a piece of parchment paper, then slide a rimless cookie sheet under it to move it to the pizza stone, and then slide the pizza onto the stone (parchment paper included). This method may not be as authentic as a wooden peel and a handful of semolina, but it's a lot easier and cheaper, and it works absolutely fine. To make the pizza the right size, before I put my pizza stone in the oven I lay the piece of parchment paper over it and make a creased edge in the shape of the stone. I shape the dough to fit within the crease. That way I know the pizza will fit the stone exactly.

                    Just to put this in context, it has taken me about 12-15 pizzas' worth of trial and error on dough recipes and baking methods to get to the point where I am satisfied with the results. (I really only started doing this seriously about a year ago.) Yeast dough is very hard to get right. Everyone's oven is different, so I bought an oven thermometer. Everyone's humidity in their house is different, so you have to figure out for yourself what the dough is supposed to look/feel like. Measuring by grams works a lot better than by cups, so I bought a scale and got into the whole hydration thing. I have been keeping a bread/pizza diary since January 2011 and only in the last month or so do I feel like I have gotten pizza down to a science. I'm still not there yet with bread (see my thread "Why is my bread crust not crusty?"), but I am getting there. Don't get discouraged!

                    1. re: travelmad478

                      I too make the pizza on parchment paper and slide the dough on the parchment onto the preheated stone (20 minutes of pre-heat in our electric oven is sufficient). Then I bake it for 8-10 minutes on the parchment, take the dough on the stone out, flip so the now-browned side of dough is on top, take off parchment, top the pizza and bake another 8-10 minutes. Crispy, browned and yummy with no burned parts. The parchment can be reused many times.

                      1. re: gourmanda

                        I gave par-baking pizza crusts a shot when I started making pizzas, and I have to say, I wasn't impressed by the results. The baking of crust before the ingredient went on resulted in the sauce and crust not really binding well together. In other words, the ingredients sat on top of the crust, rather than the crust being melded with the ingredients.

                        If your oven gets hot enough, and you use good technique, pre-baking crusts isn't necessary. If your oven doesn't get hot enough, then it may be necessary, though the final product is likely to suffer a bit.

                        The only time I pre-bake crusts is when doing pizzas on the grill, and I'll throw a dough down over fire for a couple minutes, then flip and move to a cooler spot, top, and drop the lid.

                        1. re: foreverhungry

                          Different experiences then. My pizza topping meld beautifully with the crust.

                          1. re: foreverhungry

                            +1 @foreverhungry

                            I don't like prebaking my crust unless I'm grilling (on a grill that doesn't fit my stone which I will also put on the grill).

                            But hey - do what works for you. Good pizza is trickier but once you figure it out it is the best.

                            1. re: foreverhungry

                              I have different results. I really love my pre-baked crusts as does everyone who has ever had them. They work beautifully. I have no need for a pizza stone.

                          2. re: travelmad478

                            Without using parchment, I could never get my pizza safely on to the pizza stone...I've even had my uncooked pizza go 'all accordian' on me when I tried to push it on to the hot hot stone, but with it, voila! plus the bottom always browns beautifully in five (5) short minutes.
                            I also love that the parchment provides 'forensic' evidence of my pizzas journey at 550!

                            1. re: travelmad478

                              I share your time line travelmad! After 25 years of failure, about a year ago, finally got it working really well, and in the last month perfected it enough to try new ingredients and crust additions. My success is due to a 550 degree oven, using parchment paper, rolling the crust out very thin and using a minimum amount of ingredients, usually only tomato sauce, cheese, mushrooms and onions, then adding 3-4 of the thinnest slices of tomat on top. Basil is added after it is out of the oven. The tomat is so thin, the slices disappear! My boy asked me where they went!
                              Never had to bake these 10-12 inch pizzas longer. After being preheated for at least 40 minutes,
                              a swift HOT 5 min browns the crust perfectly, using a pizza stone 4-5 inches from the oven bottom, and a big ole preheated pizza pan placed about 4 inches above the pizza stone as well. Just enough room to maneuver between those two heat jockeys.

                            2. re: cristina3611

                              Just for comparison - my go to pizza dough is from The Bread Baker's Apprentice (excellent book if you're into breads)

                              4 1/2c flour
                              1 3/4 tsp salt
                              1 tsp yeast
                              1/4 cup olive oil
                              1 3/4 c water

                              I think the biggest difference here is the amount of olive oil in the dough. My recipe also has a little more water percentage (I think you are at about 60% and I'm at about 69%). (also an overnight rise which is why less yeast)

                              If you are happy with the taste of the crust but it just isn't browning (though tastes cooked) you might try adding a little more olive oil to your crust. Alternatively you could brush the crust edges with olive oil to enhance browning.

                            3. I've scanned the replies so far and you should be on the right track, but I will add these thoughts:

                              1. Make sure your oven temp is accurate.
                              2. Give up on cooking anything on an unpreheated baking stone (unless you actually want to inhibit the cooking).
                              3. Make sure you're using a good general issue AP or bread flour. (Some artisinal flours, like the Caputo 00 flour used for Naples pies, will not brown properly at less that 750 degrees or so, as in using a wood-fired oven.)
                              4. I agree with the advice to preheat the stone liberally and then put it lower in the oven if the top is done sooner than the bottom.

                              Perfect pizza is a surprisingly complex combination of factors including dough hydration, flours, oven temp, location in oven, nature and amount of toppings, etc. Anytime I've moved to a new house, it takes me at least a half dozen pizzas to begin to know what works in the new oven. (IN my current oven, for example, the stone has to be on the lowest rack but not any higher nor directly on the oven floor.) Happy experimenting!

                              1. I make homemade pizzas every Friday night. I normally bake them directly on the oven rack, but just got a pizza stone a couple weeks ago and used that last week. I normally bake my pizzas at 450 for 10-12 minutes, so I heated the stone for about 20-25 minutes before using my pizza peel to transfer the pizza onto it. They baked up beautifully. I like the direct oven rack method, but sometimes the sides begin to droop down and the toppings slip off a little. The pizza stone is to help the baking and keep my oven cleaner. I would imagine a pizza would take forever to brown on the bottom if you place it on a cold stone to cook -- the stone would barely be hot in the the center by the time the top was brown as the heat is only hitting the exterior surfaces of the stone and the pizza (bottom of stone, top of pizza).

                                1. Here is a technique developed by J. Kenji Alt that I have used with very good results. Details are on the web. Essentially,

                                  Heat a cast iron pan till very hot. Lay the pizza crust in the pan. Put on a thin layer of sauce/cheese/toppings. Put under broiler until cheese is bubbling and you have sufficient char on the crust. Then back to the stovetop to cook the bottom till done. Whole cooking process takes me 5-8 minutes.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: OldSchool

                                    A cast-iron pan would make a perilously small pizza. My pizza stone is 14" whereas I can't imagine a cast-iron pan larger than 10" or so. (At least, I can't imagine trying to lift one!)

                                    1. re: travelmad478

                                      They make 15" cast iron skillets... I've cooked with one before; and unless you're over a campfire, they are somewhat useless (because no burner is big enough!).

                                  2. You must preheat the pizza stone to a minimum of 450°F for 30 minutes because an unpreheated stone will act as an insulater keeping the crust colder than the ambient temp of the oven. Put the crust directly on the stone and not on a glass or metal baking pan.

                                    The dough must come to room temperature before you attempt to bake it. I'd also suggest that you blind-bake the shaped but not topped pizza crust for 5 minutes

                                    1. I have settled on heating the pizza stone for an hour. I spread my sauce (or crushed tomatoes, whatever I am using that day) on the dough, then put the dough onto the stone for 6 minutes (at 450). Then I pull my pizza and add the rest of my ingredients, and bake for another 6 minutes or so. It makes my personally perfect pizza, because some of the water evaporates from the sauce, concentrating the tomato flavor, and the crust is perfect without browning my cheese.

                                      1. thanks again all. I'm pretty sure my problem was that my stone was not preheated enough. Or the preheating that I did too was negated by me taking it out of the oven and assembling the pizza on it. I'm definitely going to try a long preheat time at a higher temp. I don't like the idea of pre baking the crust - I'm not sure why, it just doesn't seem right for some reason! I think I'm in agreement with foreverhungry that I would think the ingredients wouldn't meld well together. However, if my next attempt fails, I'll try the prebake.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cristina3611

                                          It takes at least an hour for my pizza stone to get to the proper temperature. And since I usually make 4 or more pizzas, the last couple of pizza cook quicker and more crisp than the first couple.

                                        2. I've made home made pizza for about 25 years. When I found Peter Reinhart's book "American Pie" my dough went to a whole new and better plane. His different doughs really do work well and will slide from a piel onto a stone easily. (I use semolina flour as the base that makes the slide easier).

                                          1. dude I do not know either? that is why I am searching the internet for solutions. if get any I will post it and I even need your help to find solutions

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: gallayaswant

                                              Oven needs to be pre-heated for 1 hour at the highest temp your oven will go (550 degrees for most home ovens) with pizza stone in the oven. For the crispest crust buy a baking steel (bakingsteel.com) but you can also use a good pizza stone. That should pretty much solve the problem. Also, DO NOT open the oven door while the pizza is cooking or too much heat will escape. Should be done in 8-10 minutes so just peek thru the oven window. And, when you slide the dough from pizza peel onto pizza stone (and you have to open the oven door), do so very quickly and shut the door immediately.

                                              1. re: bakerboyz

                                                The oven will not lose significant heat from having the door open for a minute. I do it to turn my pizza around halfway through baking. The heat retained by the stone is absolutely sufficient to keep the pizza cooking.