Temperature and the baking surface are crucial factors in turning the dough and toppings into pizza. Any method will convert the dough to a semi-eatable form, but we strive for perfection.
Thin crust and New York-style pizzas require high heat and a quick bake. The issue many people run into with baking thin crust pizza is cooking it on a baking sheet. The baking sheets with holes marketed as “crisper pizza sheet” or similar suffer from the same issues as the solid ones. What happens is the heat doesn’t start cooking the bottom of the pizza soon enough and due to the uneven heating of most ovens it is not completely cooked in the center. Moisture is also trapped under the dough keeping a good pizzeria-style crust from forming.
What is need for cooking thin crust pizza to perfection is to get the heat to the bottom of the dough as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is by cooking on a preheated baking stone placed as close to the heating element without touching it. Most commercial pizza ovens have a large stone as the base which pizza is cooked directly on. This immediately transfers heat to the dough quickly setting the dough and giving the perfect texture. When using a baking stone for pizza it must be preheated for about 30 minutes after the oven has reached 500 degree Fahrenheit. The extra pre heat time is needed because the density of the stone causes it to heat slower than the air inside the oven, but in turn the density allows the stone to retain much of the heat when the dough hits it so it cooks quickly.
Once you have a scorching hot baking stone you will need to place the pizza on it, intact, and without burning yourself. This is done with a wooden pizza peel. These are fairly inexpensive but if you have about a 14×16″ wooden cutting board you can use that as well on the smooth side. Plastic doesn’t work. The trick to using a pizza peel is to apply a dusting of flour or cornmeal on the wooden surface prior to placing the formed dough on it. The flour or cornmeal keeps the dough from coming in contact with the wood and allows the pizza to easily slide off the wood onto the stone with a quick forward motion then a snap back with the peel. This may take a try or two but don’t get discouraged. I prefer cornmeal as it adds additional flavor and doesn’t hydrate as quick as flour thus there is less chance of it sticking to the wood surface.
If you aren’t quite ready to invest in a baking stone and pizza peel the next best method is using pizza screens. These allow the rising heat from the coils in your stove to immediately come in contact with the dough. When using screens make sure you get a good coat of non stick spray on it to avoid as much sticking as possible. These can be purchase through amazon.com. Please see our tools page for a link to the product or click here
Deep Dish / Pan Pizzas
You can make great pan pizzas using a cast iron skillet or an aluminum deep dish pan. The texture of the crust will be different but when done correctly gives great results. Deep dish pans are best for Chicago style pizza because they are deep enough to layer all the toppings you may want. Baking pizza in a container requires a lower temperature and additional time. For baking in a pan 350 degree Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature because it allows the heat to cook the pie completely without creating a crust that is too hard or burning the top. Always remember to use canola oil to coat the inside of the pan to avoid sticking. Deep dish pizza can be backed on a hot baking stone if you have one or approximately eight inches from the heating element.