Making your own pizza isn't hard—it helps to have a few basic tools like a wooden pizza peel and a pizza stone (but see the tips below for how to make a pizza without them).
Once you start making your own pizzas, you'll probably find that your pizzas are just as good, if not better than, the ones from your local pizza joint.
There's one thing that can't be mentioned too often, and that is: keep your pizza peel dry. Even a little dab of sauce or oil or whatever can cause the pizza to stick to the peel when you try to slide it into the oven.
If that happens, you could see your toppings fly off into the oven, or the whole pizza might swing itself out into a totally random shape. Or the whole thing might even flip over. Not good.
For the steps described below, you'll need one batch of pizza dough.
- Bring one ball of pizza dough to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. If your dough is frozen, thaw it overnight in the fridge, and then bring to room temperature 30 minutes before you begin.
- Preheat oven to 450 F. If using a pizza stone, make sure the stone is in the oven when you begin preheating.
- Dust a wooden pizza peel with cornmeal. This will help the pizza slice smoothly off the peel and into the oven. You could use flour instead of cornmeal, but cornmeal adds a nice texture and flavor to the pizza crust.
- Place the dough ball in the center of the pizza peel and, using the heel of your hand, flatten it into a round disk.
- Crimp the edges of the disk with your fingers. This raised edge will form the outer crust of the pizza and will help keep the sauce and toppings from overflowing the edge of the crust.
- Working at the edges, stretch the dough in a circular motion until you have a round crust about 12 inches in diameter. Be careful not to make any holes in the inner part of the crust. If that happens, try to mend them as best you can by pulling up folds of the dough and pressing them down over the hole.
- Lay the stretched dough down onto the peel. Ladle sauce onto the center and spread it outward in a spiral. Leave about an inch of unsauced crust at the edges.
- Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese atop the sauce and then arrange other toppings evenly atop the cheese.
- Open the oven and gently slide the pizza off the peel and onto the pizza stone, jiggling it a bit if necessary to loosen it.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges of the crust are brown and the cheese is bubbly. Use the peel to remove the pizza, taking care not to spill sauce or cheese onto the peel. (Also see the third tip below.)
- Slide the cooked pizza onto a dish or baking sheet and use a pizza cutter to cut into six slices.
- Make sure that there are no holes in the dough before you sauce it. Sauce leaking through the crust will cause it to stick to the peel, which could wreck the whole thing when you go to slide it into the oven.
- Once you apply the sauce to the dough, consider yourself on the clock. Don't wander off or take too much time (more than a couple of minutes) to finish topping the pizza and get it into the oven, or the sauce may leak through the dough and cause the pizza to stick to the peel.
- Use an aluminum pizza peel for removing the pizza from the oven. Yep, that means you'll need two separate peels, a wooden one for putting pizzas in and an aluminum one for taking them out. But this will help you avoid getting sauce on the wooden one.
- If you don't have a pizza stone or a pizza peel, you can still do this! After you stretch out the dough, lay it down on a wide sheet pan dusted with cornmeal. Then sauce and top the pizza as described, and transfer the whole pan directly into the oven. And when it's done, just pull the whole thing out.