Whether you shelled out for delivery or labored over a homemade pie, fresh pizza is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Ideally, the crust is warm, crispy, and smells faintly yeasty, and the cheese is just piping hot enough to scarf down without burning your mouth. However, cutting the pizza itself doesn’t always go so smoothly. The pizza cutter might not be sharp enough to permeate the crust, creating jagged slices—worse still, you may end up pulling off some of the cheese in the process. As someone who’s massacred one too many pizzas from late-night takeout orders, I decided to reach out to the experts for guidance.
Enter Ann Kim, the chef behind Minneapolis institution Young Joni—home to inventive wood-fired pizzas like the broccolini pie with Calabrian chiles, Castelvetrano olives, and almonds—as well as Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza. Kim recently took home the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest, and also partners with Wüsthof, which makes a mean cook’s knife. We caught up with her and covered some basic knife skills, and she told us how to optimize pizza cutting for the best results. Check out some of her key tips below:
Use a super-sharp pizza cutter (or sharpen the one you have)
Remember that a pizza cutter is a knife.
“When I first started out, I was like oh, it’s just a pizza cutter. You really do want a nice, sharp cutter. Just because it’s round, it’s still a knife,” Kim says. “At the restaurant, we get them professionally sharpened once a week. We want to make sure we get a clean slice.”
Wüsthof 3-stage PEtec Electric Knife Sharpener, $200 (list price $250) at amazon.com
Cut the pizza the second it's out of the oven...
“This is based on our experience at the restaurant, we cut immediately as it comes out of the oven,” she says. “Once you let it settle, it starts to toughen up and it’s actually more challenging. I would highly recommend waiting a few minutes before you actually pick up the slice and eat it, for fear of burning the roof of your mouth. Because we’ve all done that before. But once it’s out of the oven, let it sit a few seconds and then cut right through it.”
... Unless you’re using a chef’s knife (which you can totally do)
If you don’t have a pizza cutter on hand, Kim recommends a larger chef’s knife that’s big enough to fit the circumference of your pizza. To cut, you can rock the knife back and forth; however, unlike the pizza cutter, Kim recommends waiting before you start to slice.
“When you use a wheel, because of the motion of it going around, there’s less likelihood for the cheese to stick,” Kim explains. “But if you were to use, say, a chef’s knife to cut through it, I can see how the cheese might stick. What I would suggest is just to have either a clean dish towel or a paper towel at your disposal. And just carefully, lightly, swipe through and then go for that second cut. That’s what I would recommend. I also think, if you are using a chef’s knife, wait for it to cool down because that will prevent the cheese from sticking to a room temperature knife.”
Wüsthof Classic 8 Inch Chef’s Knife, $150 (list price $165) at amazon.com