This Is How You Make Restaurant-Quality Pizza at Home
One of the quickest and least painful ways to save money is by cooking more meals at home. I'm pretty good with this practice during the workweek, but on weekends — those childhood memories of Friday night takeout pizza take over my mind and, well, empty out my wallet. A to-go pie, with average prices ranging from $9 to $16, isn't the worst culinary budget buster, that's for sure. Thing is, it's entirely possible to create restaurant-quality pizza at home for a fraction of that cost. (See also: Restaurant Dishes You Can Make at Home)
Now, I know what you might be thinking: It's never the same! Homemade pizza is too limp or too crunchy or too flavorless. Perfecting the craft can seem like an epic undertaking. Don't worry, though. I'm here to help. I may not have an Italian bone in my body, but after various failed attempts and many more successful ones, I've picked up a few tips that have transformed my pizza making skills.
If you need pizza immediately, you can mix together just about any dough recipe and roll it out after a modest "rise" a half hour later. The resulting crust won't be anything impressive, but it will work. An extra 18 to 24 hours can make a world of difference, however. Not only will extra time allow dough to rise fully, which creates all those delicious bubble pockets, but it will also allow a more complex flavor to develop. (See also: Homemade Bread for Beginners)
So, after mixing together a basic dough recipe (Jim Lahey's no-knead is my favorite), let it be. To avoid a hard skin from forming on the top of your round, be sure to keep dough in a warm place and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel. Set your timer, and relax.
Use High-Quality or Homemade Ingredients
I love making my own sauce from scratch in the summer months when my CSA is basically throwing fresh local tomatoes at me by the barrel. Even when I use store-bought tomatoes, I get creative. My favorite recipe is this simple-but-boozy blend flavored by Pinot Grigio. I also like making my own pesto from whatever is fresh and local, and I would love to make homemade cheeses.
That all requires time, so if you're short on that, it's simple: better ingredients equal a better tasting pizza. You're already saving by staying in and cooking, so sinking funds in a slightly pricier mozzarella or some fresh basil is still the savvier option. (See also: Flavorful Foods Worth Splurging On)
Invest in a Stone
If you crave pizza as often as I do, an inexpensive pizza stone might be a worthy investment. The stone absorbs and distributes heat more uniformly, creating a crisper crust. It's closer to the tricks and tools the pros use, therefore turning out a pie that's closer to what you'd order out versus take out of your own oven.
And if you want to try something wild, you can snag two pizza stones and attempt creating a brick oven without the construction costs! I've never tried this method, but it sure looks like it would work well. (See also: 5 Kitchen Luxuries That Are Worth It)
Set Your Oven on High
If you think about it, those ovens at the corner parlor are really hot. Over the years, I've cranked my oven temperature higher and higher to achieve better results. More recently, I stumbled across a somewhat radical home method of turning your oven up to its highest setting (usually around 500 degrees F), preheating your stone for an hour, and then baking the pizza using the broil setting for 5-7 minutes.
Verdict? Perfection. I don't, rather, I won't make my pizza any other way. The crust turns out crisp and lightly browned, yet just the right touch of doughy and delicious. The toppings bubble and sizzle — and it's all done in less than 10 minutes.
Don't Give Up
I've been making pizza at home for over 10 years. Many of my early attempts were failed, sometimes horribly. Now? I'm a seasoned pro and often prefer my own pizza creations to the options we get out at restaurants. If at first you don't succeed, try again and again. By experimenting with some of the methods above, you'll be on the right path and eventually reach your destination — pizza nirvana.
Do you bake pizza at home? What are your tricks?