Why is it that homemade pizza never turns out like pizza from your favorite restaurant? It’s not like the basic ingredients are that complicated: dough, sauce and the toppings of your choice. Simple, easy and uncomplicated beyond belief. And yet…it still never quite comes out looking or tasting anywhere near as good as that pie delivered straight to your door from the local pizza parlor. Want to know why? One word. Lean in, listen close and you will hear the secret to why 99% of the pizzas made at home will never taste as good as pizza made by the pros.
The difference between astoundingly great pizza and the rest comes down to ovens. And unless you have a few thousand dollars to invest in a restaurant-quality pizza oven, you are just going to have to get used to the pizza made at home never even coming close to matching your favorite commercial brand pizza. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news. The pizza you are making at home in your standard domestic oven does not need to turn out disappointing. In fact, with just a few essential tools—and a commitment to using only the freshest ingredients—your homemade pizza can be improved in looks and taste by at least 100%.
A nice, lightweight collection of bristles can make all the difference between a damp, soggy pizza barely capable of holding its form and a crispy crust capable of supporting a pizza loaded with toppings. The brush is used to spread olive oil across the entire surface of the crust before you add anything else. This one cheap little tool and this one incredibly quick prep idea paradoxically stops the toppings laid across the surface from becoming so soggy and heavy that the crust below simply cannot support it. (Here’s a bonus tip: lay the cheese directly onto the crust before adding the tomato sauce for further prevention of sogginess).
2. Salad Spinner
A salad spinner may not seem like a very obvious essential tool for improving homemade pizza, but once you start using it, you will immediately understand why. Since you most likely are not going to invest in an oven capable of reaching the 800 or 900 degrees necessary to replicate the texture of restaurant pizza, the next best thing is to replicate the state of the toppings. And here’s one element of pizza toppings you probably never take the time to notice: they are never as limp and chewy as the toppings on your own pizza. This is because professional pizza joints don’t put tomatoes and mushrooms and onions and peppers and other toppings that are naturally moist on their pizzas with all that moisture intact. You can ensure the same result by putting all your naturally moist toppings—from tomatoes to bacon to…ugh…pineapples—in the salad spinner and spinning the residual dampness right out of them before putting them on top of your pizza.
3. Freezer Bags
Freezer bags are essential tools for homemade pizza for one very great reason. Sometimes, you get in the mood for homemade pizza, but you just don’t want to go through the trouble of giving the yeast time to rise in order to make the dough. Freezer bags make that possible. Follow the directions on your crust recipe that WILL mandate giving the yeast time to rise and then make yourself a few balls of dough. Place the balls of dough into freezer bags coated with olive oil (using your brush!) and then situate the bags into the freezer. Now all that is required is taking the bag out of the freezer in the morning and letting the dough thaw to room temperature before you make the crust.
Pizza cutters are wonderful, fabulous tools and for doing things other than cutting pizzas. When it comes to quick, smooth, and easy cutting of pizza slices without harming the toppings, however, nothing beats a dedicated pair of sharps scissors that are long enough to slice completely through a large pie in just two snaps. The trick to making this essential tool a better choice than a traditional rolling pizza cutter is twofold: one, you have to make sure you buy a pair of scissors that are made of a much higher quality metal than pizza cutters. This should not be too hard because most pizza cutters use the cheapest metal possible. Secondly, to make your new pizza scissors last long requires just one simple commitment: only use them for pizza. Nothing else. That means NOTHING else!
5. Cast Iron Skillet
This may sound crazy, but try it a few times until you perfect things and you’ll never go back. Get rid of those expensive pizza stones and shuck those thin pizza pans. Instead, hit the local flea market or Goodwill store and look around for an old—and very used—cast iron skillet. The type of skillet that your grandmother may have used. Real, honest to goodness cast iron. You will know you’ve got the right thing when your arm hurts after carrying it to the register. The pizza can be built from the crush up inside the skillet, which can go directly from counter to oven to tabletop for serving. The cast iron of the skillet ramps up the temperature inside your oven to where it gets at least a little closer to the really high temps inside a genuine commercial pizza oven. The depth of the cast iron skillet is also flexible for allowing you to make everything from a cracker crust to a Chicago style stuffed pizza pie.