Topping and Baking Pizza Article -
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How to Top and Bake Pizza

There's almost no limit to the toppings that can be placed on a pizza crust.

1. Generally, the hotter the oven, the better the pizza will be.

Place a pizza stone on a lower oven rack. Preheat the oven between 450 and 500 degrees F (250 to 260 degrees C)--the stone needs heat up while the oven heats. Large thick-crusted pizzas might need the oven's temperature to be closer to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) in order to cook completely before the toppings burn.

A great way to create a crunchy crust is to preheat a baking sheet or cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven. Once you load the pizza, toss ice cubes into the hot pan to create a burst of steam.

2. Once the pizza dough has been formed and placed on a dusted peel, lightly brush the crust with olive oil. This helps ensure a golden brown, crispy crust rather than a dry, dusty outer crust. However, oil is not required; for a lower-fat pizza, skip the oil altogether.

3. We topped our crust with tomatoes and fresh basil, followed with a thin layer of cheese.

There is an infinite amount of creativity that can go into this fun process. Pizza can be made with exotic topping like apples and walnuts or fresh figs and prosciutto just as easily as traditional tomato sauce and pepperoni. In Europe and Japan, common pizza toppings include sweet corn and peas.

    4. The order in which the ingredients are layered is important: the same ingredients layered in a different order will yield a completely different product. If we had put the cheese down first, the tomatoes, then the basil, the basil would burn and the cheese would not brown.

    We chose Mozzarella, Fontina and Parmesan cheeses to top our pizza. These cheeses are all very low in moisture and will brown fairly quickly. The tomatoes, however, have a high moisture content and will not caramelize, but will dehydrate slightly for a more concentrated tomato flavor. With the cheese on the top, the basil will not burn, and the tomatoes will retain most of their moisture.

      5. Once the oven is hot and the pizza is topped and ready to go, it is time to place the pizza on the hot pizza stone. Before placing the pizza in the oven, jiggle the peel. Make sure the pizza slides around easily and does not stick to the peel. If it is stuck at all, gently lift the sticky dough and dust with more flour or cornmeal.

        6. Place the tip of the peel on the edge of the stone at the back of the oven. With one swift motion, jerk the peel back out from under the pizza. If the pizza sticks to the peel, all of the toppings will slide off the pizza onto the stone. If the pizza slides freely on the peel, it should land perfectly in the middle of the pizza stone. Close the oven door and let the pizza bake.

          7. Depending on your oven and the size of the pizza, it might need to be turned to ensure even baking. Check the pizza after the first five minutes in the oven. If some areas are browning more than others, slip the peel underneath the pizza like a giant spatula. Rotate the pizza on the peel and return it to the baking stone using the same swift motion described above.

            8. If you like, remove the pizza from the oven halfway during baking to brush more oil on the crust. This added oil will help the crust darken and make it even tastier. To add a garlic flavor, infuse the oil with minced garlic before brushing it onto the crust.

              9. The pizza is done when the cheese is melted and medium to dark brown in color--color is flavor. Carefully remove the pizza with the peel and let it cool slightly.

                10. It can be topped with additional fresh basil if desired. Slice with a pizza wheel or chef's knife, and serve.

                Practice your pizza-baking prowess with these recipes:

                Aug. 19, 2009 3:41 pm
                Really great help..
                Sep. 24, 2009 1:45 pm
                Putting ice cubes into a piping hot cast iron pan is a very bad idea. You will more than likely end up with a cracked or completely broken pan.
                Oct. 8, 2009 7:06 pm
                these are some good tips overall. I took a pizza crust that I made a few years ago (with so so results) used these articles and BOOM, turned that recipie into something that make carry out places seem like child's play. I used the old "sold" sign from in front of my new house as the peel. It worked and oh yeah, make sure you use a LIBERAL amount of cornmeal on the pizza peel so it comes off with ease.
                Oct. 21, 2009 8:33 pm
                This is a great help. Thanks
                Dec. 4, 2009 5:23 pm
                YAY! So helpful~ Thanks so much!
                Jan. 22, 2010 11:57 am
                i just buy my all ready made pizza dough from a local pizza place, then shape dough and add my sauce, toppings and cheese, yum
                Jan. 22, 2010 5:28 pm
                moon:- in that case why would you be commenting on how to make a better crust
                Mar. 25, 2010 10:37 am
                I hve ruined more than my share of pizza dough. My pizzas come out burned on the bottom and doughy to raw in the middle. I even tried pre-baking a naked crust before adding toppings, but to no avail. I wonder if the problem was not pre-heating my pizza stone! I'll try that next time!
                Apr. 11, 2010 11:46 am
                I just buy Italian bread dough from my grocery bakery and press it out for Pizza weel inexpensive and fast!!
                May 10, 2010 2:29 pm
                Hi, I'm from Italy and I know pizza well. Please, do not add Parmesan or Fontina on to your pizza. The only cheeses for pizza are Mozzarella (or the quite similar Fiordilatte). You might add some Parmesan (a little bit) making your dough if you like, but it's not usual. However, never use Parmesan on the top of your pizza. And never Fontina. Better no cheese pizza, then.
                May 30, 2010 12:17 pm
                I'd be careful with creating steam in an electric oven because that can ruin your oven. And I always have problems with crust browning. Sometimes I cheat and brush sugar water onto the crust to make it brown. Can someone help me? P.S. cheddar also tastes great on pizza.
                Jun. 9, 2010 7:25 am
                Pizza stones are a mess and a nightmare to clean. We get great results using a perforated pizza pan set on the lowest rack of the oven at well preheated 450 degrees. After experimenting with many pizza dough recipes - some good some bad - we now only use Trader Joes Pizza Dough. A portion large enough to make a 16" round pie is only 99 cents and always comes out great. Very workable and pliable with good gluten content for that chewy yet crunchy NY style crust.
                Jun. 9, 2010 7:44 am
                Oh and also the key to the real "pizza parlor" experience, where the crust is crisp on the bottom yet chewy at the same time, is in the reheating. That's what happens when you order a slice at the pizzeria after all - they reheat a slice that's been sitting there all day,...but its always sooo much better than a gloppy slice right out of the box, right? Let your pizza rest out of the oven and cool for at least a half hour to an hour before reheating as individual slices in a hot toaster oven (or regular oven.)
                Jun. 25, 2010 8:42 am
                Whether I use home made, store bought (i.e, Trader Joe's or Pillsbury), the dough is never cooked in the middle - why is that. I don't overdo the topping??
                Jul. 22, 2010 6:10 pm
                my cheese (mozzarella)always slides off the pizza when I cut it. It turns into pizza crust and sauce and a gloop mess of toppings on the plate next to it. Any suggestions?
                Jul. 23, 2010 4:57 pm
                Shaynie - let your pizza cool for a couple minutes before slicing.
                Sep. 13, 2010 11:54 pm
                good food
                Sep. 14, 2010 9:13 am
                well,im fond of it...
                Sep. 14, 2010 7:26 pm
                Great article. There is truly something to be said for making your own dough, applying the toppings, and getting it just right in the oven. If it doesn't work the first time, do it again. Food is food -enjoy it.
                Oct. 27, 2010 5:31 pm
                shaynie30 try starting your oven at 500 prebake crust 10 minutes then (turn oven to 450 to bake) take it out and brush garlic and olive oil on the crust and then use tomatoe paste as the base ingedient and build from there.(this seats the toppings) I pre cook my Italian Sausage and onions together then add a few mushrooms,add these to the hot crust then top with Italian spiced tomatoes in a can as well as sliced black olives. Smother it with your choice of cheese I like colby and monterey jack and some mozzarella. I don't follow many rules here I follow my heart and the pies always win. good luck
                Oct. 29, 2010 1:19 pm
                i found a pizza recipe in a mag,probably early 90s. just like the pizza we had at school in early 70s. ihave lost it. it had a crust rec. with it. it called for hamburger & maybe sausage,mushrooms & cheese. when done it was about 1 and 1/2 inch thick. i would love to make this again. i have looked everywhere to no avail. if anyone could help with this i would be forever grateful. thank you all.
                Nov. 4, 2010 6:28 am
                To create a steam, I put a stainless small steel bowl of water in the oven while its heating. This creates a nice crunchy crust when baking a pizza or bread.
                Nov. 6, 2010 6:57 am
                don't know why most recipes call for olive in dough. i have found not using olive oil...crust is crispi. only use olive oil to coat dough wherisng.
                Nov. 12, 2010 7:53 pm
                I was so disapointed tonight with my pizza, I remember doing it about 2 years ago and it turned out great. Maybe I just did not let the oven heat up right. It was kinda hard doughy look, and to top it all, I did not do the suggested things above, like put my ingredients on the bottom of the cheese so it burned, Dang it!!!
                mihaela ishtar 
                Dec. 3, 2010 5:12 pm
                Won't all those tomatoes turn the crust soggy? Especially if you top them with cheese? With that cheese on top they can't dehydrate properly and all the moisture will go into the crust. That's what happens to me all the time. Is there a way to prevent that?
                Dec. 4, 2010 1:22 pm
                Dec. 10, 2010 12:20 pm
                thank's a great help for me to bake pizza for my children....
                mad recipes 
                Dec. 15, 2010 6:11 pm
                This is what my family and I are thinking about doing for new years eve.
                Dec. 23, 2010 12:16 pm
                Good ideas.. ty.. I only use mozz and use the holy pan... but hav a stone so will try that next time... never heard of steam before.. think I'll do one for xmas eve... maybe just square it.. ty
                Jan. 12, 2011 12:16 am
                My pizza crusts are always doughy in the middle and crispy around the edges. At what temperature should I pre cook the crust at..?? I am using a commercial bakers oven.
                Mar. 6, 2011 6:35 pm
                My pizza stone lives below the racks on the bottom of my oven (Not broiler drawer)full time. I never have to do more than a quick scrape with a block scraper if anything, to clean it.. oh, and dust off the excess corn meal. Your pizza stone needs a good long heating period to work correctly. I start my oven at around 300 while my dough is rising. When I punch down the dough I turn the oven to 400. I work my dough with my hands only from a flattened ball to crust always maintaining an outer rim, gently pulling and stretching until it's the right size. Dust a large cutting board with corn meal, set the crust atop it. Cover with a slightly damp towel and let rise a few minutes. Push the oven temp to 500 and finish putting together your pizza. Slide the pizza from cutting board to the pizza stone. The cornmeal makes the sliding go much easier. Turn oven down to 450 and check after 9 minutes. A 12"-14" pizza is most always done between 11 and 13 minutes. You will have a pefectly cooked pizz
                Jul. 15, 2011 9:07 am
                Our pizza stone lives in our oven. I take it out periodically to scrape the crud off of it but that is it. It truly is the key to great pizza. The crust is just better- homemade or store bought, if you cook it on a stone it will turn out crispier. We buy pre-made dough or make it ourselves. One key I have learned is not to oversauce pizza. It can make it soggy. Also, the hotter the oven, the better. Let that stone become screaming hot, then slide your pizza on there with a peel. It really is fabulous.
                Aug. 9, 2011 1:11 am
                I want to know what the BEST cheese is to use. Grocery store cheese just doesn't cut it for me. I want Cheese that Chicago Pizza places use. There's is always flavorful, juicy, and string. Anyone know where to buy?
                Sep. 2, 2011 1:19 pm
                I make pizzas all the time and only once have I preheated the pizza stone. It burned the bottom of the pizza, so I never did that again. I oil the stone like crazy and pound out the dough right on there. No cornmeal or anything. POKE HOLES IN YOUR DOUGH WITH A FORK!!! Anywhere you plan on putting toppings, poke it all over with a fork. I don't understand science, but that makes the pizza cook all the way through somehow. Also, as others suggested, wait a bit before you cut it if you don't want your toppings sliding around. Give it all a chance to settle. Also, my crust usually comes out looking a little dry, so I just run a cold stick of butter around the edge after I take it out of the oven. That fixes it right up and makes a really satisfying sizzling sound as the butter drips onto the stone. Oh yeah one more thing, I go sauce then cheese then toppings. Putting the cheese on last will brown it up. I know some people might like it that way, but I like my cheese ooey gooey,
                Sep. 3, 2011 3:59 pm
                A good way to keep the crust from getting soggy is to add sliced mozzarella directly to the crust BEFORE applying any other toppings. The slices are in addition to the grated cheese topping, not a replacement. This works especially well on deep dish pizza. It forms a barrier and prevents the moisture from soaking into the crust.
                Sep. 4, 2011 3:04 pm
                What is a "peel"?
                Sep. 11, 2011 8:15 pm
                carlo- why no parmesan on top of mozzarella? I think it adds a better flavor than mozzarella alone.
                Oct. 11, 2011 10:14 pm
                I make mine on a cookie, which I oil liberally with a vegetable oil. I turn my oven on 550 or broil while I press the dough into the pan. I use dough from the deli of my supermarket, sometimes from the bakery. Then I sauce it with homemade sauce or right from the jar. Top it with cheese and some toppings. When ready to bake I turn the oven down to 450 and bake for about 15 minutes and it comes out perfect 99% of the time.
                epic mealtime 
                Oct. 16, 2011 4:04 pm
                i know
                epic mealtime 
                Oct. 16, 2011 4:04 pm
                who doesnt
                Nov. 5, 2011 11:34 am
                this is one of the best thin crust pizza dough recipes ever 3.75 cups flour 2 Tbsp yeast 1tsp salt 1 Tbsp honey 1-2 Tble olive oil 1 1/2 cups water dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup water 100degrees dissolve honey in other cup of water mix salt with flour pour yeast rest of water with honey into centre of flour mix to dough knead 15min divide into 2 rounds place on baking sheat floured top & bottom & cover for 1.5 hours ( ajusting honey will determine crispness) roll out as thin as you like I use cornmeal on a peal or baking sheat with flour inbetween cornmeal. I pre heat high temperature baking stone to 600f on big steal keg grill cook for 5 minutes crust turns out perfect and toppings are hot and cooked cheese is brown on top PS have added spices to dough like garlic, oregano, tarragon, morjaram, parcley, preferd temperature is between 500f & 600f -5 to 10min cook time -usually make up my own sauce using tommato past or sauce, chili sauce, ketchup, basil, garlic or some combination of ingred
                jera ruelo 
                Sep. 12, 2012 5:38 pm
                great help...
                Dec. 21, 2013 8:48 pm
                absolutely the recommendations i was looking for. used the betty crocker pizza dough mix (it came out perfect), sliced cherry tomatoes (sprinkled just a tad of kosher salt to pull out the moister), fresh basil, fresh mozza (sliced not shredded), pepperoni on top. 500 degrees 9 minutes. me and my 11 year old daughter are in pizza heaven. thanks again.
                May 11, 2015 8:02 am
                great recipe am very happy to see your website after long time.i really appreciate your posts.your best recipe forever was zarda recipe i make this recipe many times.its very easy to making and taste are very tasty keep it up.
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