Pizza Mistakes You Don't Want to Make
We’ll say it: Pizza is one of the world’s most perfect foods. But some of the things we love best about a good pie—charred crust, chewy dough, and oh! the toppings!—are the hardest to nail in our home kitchens. We spoke with Bon Appétit senior food editor Dawn Perry and assistant food editor Claire Saffitz—two women who know a thing or two about a good pie (after all, they’ve made plenty in the BA test kitchen). Here’s the good news: You can bake a pizza parlor-worthy pie at home. But first, ask yourself this: Are you making these common pizza mistakes?
When It Comes to Salt, a Pinch Is Plenty
“Without salt, flour doesn’t taste like much,” Perry explains. And since pizza dough is made from, um, flour, it’s imperative you season the dough well; most home cooks err on the side of caution when it comes to seasoning, leaving the dough as little more than a vehicle for the toppings. That’s a mistake according to Saffitz, who insists that a good pizza is all about the crust. Most store-bought doughs are also lacking in sufficient salt, says Perry, so you should just make your own. (If you do go the store-bought route, Perry likes FreshDirect’s and Trader Joe’s doughs.) Of course, keep in mind the saltiness of your toppings. You can scale back the amount of salt in your dough—though not too much—if your pizza is about to get hit with anchovies, olives, and Parmesan.
At Last, a Chance to Break Out My Rolling Pin!
Look, no one’s saying you have to become a master pizza twirler. Only the best of the best should let that dough fly high above their heads. But we do insist on one thing: Do not roll out your dough. The bubbles take a beating under a rolling pin, leaving the finished product dense and tough. Instead, think light and gentle, and work with your hands to pull and stretch the dough out to your desired size. Worried your pizza won’t be a perfectly round circle? Free yourself from the stress: “Your pizza can be an oval. It can be a square. It can be any shape you want it to be,” says Perry. If the dough proves impossible to work with—snapping back when stretched, for instance—it’s either been overworked or is too cold. Let it sit at room temperature for a full 15 minutes to let the gluten relax and the temperature rise before trying again.
SEE MORE: 3 Steps to the Best Pizza Party Ever
But My Mom Always Used Jarred Sauce!
You’re not using store-bought dough (right?), so why bust out the jarred marinara? Premade tomato sauce is too sweet—it’s loaded with sugar—and has a distinctly “store-bought” taste that’s hard to ignore. But don’t take things to the opposite extreme either: Both Saffitz and Perry advise against fresh tomatoes on pizza. Placed on the pizza post-cooking, they’re too watery for a satisfying topping, but they won’t have time to cook down properly in the oven, either. (“It’ll just be a warm tomato,” says Perry.) Instead, make a simple sauce by cooking a can of crushed tomatoes with garlic, basil, salt, and pepper. Or make things even easier and make a raw sauce: The BA test kitchen likes puréeing tomatoes, garlic, basil, and anchovy in a blender before spreading on pizza. The same goes for cheese—pre-packaged, pre-shredded cheese has a lot more in it than, well, cheese. Saffitz says the point of making a pizza at home is that you have the opportunity to use quality ingredients. Embrace the chance to get the good stuff.