Anyone else a fan of homemade pizza? With the weather being insufferably cold and snowy lately, I have found myself baking more and more for comfort and for joy. Standing tall among pies, cookies, breads and cheesecakes, pizzas have been a personal and a family favorite, and for good reason. There is something magically satisfying about making the dough, packing it with toppings, and finishing it in the oven, layers of thick aromas permeating the kitchen. But, what kind of baking (equipment, method etc.) is the best for pizza? 🙂
According to baker and cookbook author Peter Reinhart, brick ovens found in pizzerias are ideal for baking pizza “because of how the heat radiates and flows.” In American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, Reinhart acknowledges issues with home ovens, such as low maximum temperature and lack of insulation, and offers suggestions for improvement by examining several possible scenarios:
- Without a baking stone
For standard home ovens with no baking stone, Reinhart recommends using a sheet pan and brushing it lightly with olive oil. “After shaping the dough, place it on the pan, finish topping it, and bake it on the lowest shelf, closest to the heat source. As the oil gets hot it will, in essence, fry the bottom of the crust, crisping it while the cheese and toppings finish off.”
- With the broil function
Another option would be using the broil function first to warm up the oven, then switching to the regular baking setting once you put the pizza in the oven, a move which helps to bake the crust and the toppings evenly, according to Reinhart.
- Preheating the oven
Last but not least, Reinhart recommends preheating the oven for 45 minutes “rather than the usual 15 minutes needed for most baking.”
- Arguably the best for home baking: pizza stones
Reinhart argues that pizza stones can make a significant positive impact, but the trick is to find the best shelf for it inside your oven, and this takes time and experimentation. “Some ovens perform better with the stone closer to the bottom, while others do better with it on a higher shelf (…) I used to think that the ideal location was the oven floor, and this may work in some gas ovens, but it is the least likely location for good thermodynamics in many other home ovens.”
Reinhart recommends at least one hour preheat time for your oven & stone to absorb the heat effectively, and restates his assumption that the broiler function can help to bring the oven to optimal temperature for pizza baking purposes.
Reinhart also writes highly of the convection function, which makes the distribution of heat more efficient, and warns that “any pizza will bake about 25 percent faster in a convection oven, with or without a stone, so you will need to keep your eye on it.”
I don’t use the convection setting of my oven as often as I should, but I do love my pizza stones, and I have noticed a significant improvement in the texture of the crust ever since I started using them, about 1 1/2 years ago.
Anyone else a fan of pizza stones? Let me know in the comments, and happy cooking and baking 🙂