As home cooks, we rely on our instincts, our knowledge, and our curiosities -- but we also have to rely on our tools. Which is why we're asking the experts about the essential tools we need to make our favorite foods attainable in our own kitchens.
Today: You might not be able to replicate the famously delicious pizza from Roberta’s at home, but head pizza honcho Anthony Falco is sharing the six tools that can help you get one step closer.
My name is Anthony Falco. I’m the Pizza Czar of Roberta’s in Brooklyn, NY, and today I'm going over the essential equipment you need to make pizza at home.
The good news is that anyone with basic cooking skills can be making great pizza in no time. The bad news is that most of the essential tools you'll need to make it are not going to be items you already have in your cooking kit. There are techniques for making great pizza without any specialized tools, but we will touch back on that later. For now let’s discuss the tools of a pizza specialist -- starting with what you need to make the dough. These tools are basically the same for a wood oven -- the kind we use at Roberta's -- and for the oven you'll be using at home.
1. A kitchen scale
This is the first and arguably the most important tool of all. I use a durable digital scale, like the OXO stainless steel food scale with a 5 kilogram capacity. I highly recommend using a scale when weighing out your ingredients for dough. Pizza dough is a living thing, and the fermentation that occurs from the symbiotic culture of yeast and lactic acid bacteria can be unpredictable. By carefully measuring and weighing out all of your ingredients, you can mitigate changes in a product that is guaranteed to vary between batches based on environmental factors. Weighing ingredients also allows you to easily and accurately scale your recipes up or down when making different quantities.
More: You don't have to save pizza making for special occasions. Here's how to make dough any night of week.
2. Mixer with dough hook attachment
If you don't have a mixer and you're just making a small batch of dough, mixing by hand is great. It allows you to have a tactile sense of how the dough changes throughout the mixing, resting, and dough formation stages. That being said, a good mixer will make life much easier. For pizza dough, you'll be using the dough hook attachment.
3. Dough scrapers
Once you’ve got your dough mixed and ready to portion out, you will need a dough scraper. There are two types of dough scrapers: flexible poly scrapers that have a rounded edge on one side, and metal dough scrapers with a wooden or plastic handle on top. The poly scraper makes the task of removing the sticky pizza dough from your mixing bowl short work. The rounded edge and flexible material allows you to scrape the contours of the bowl and get the dough out in one smooth motion. Once you’ve got the dough out, you can use the more substantial metal dough scraper with the handle to cut off pieces of dough to portion on your digital scale.
After your dough has spent the proper amount of time fermenting and is ready to be made into pizza, you will need another type of scraper. Known as a triangle spatula, it’s basically identical to a putty knife, like the kind you would find at a hardware store. This is used for gently removing the dough from the proofing box or sheet tray after it’s been proofing.
More: With Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough, a perfect margherita pizza is within reach.
5. Pizza stones or baking steels
Once the pizza is ready to go in the oven, the specialty tools come back into play. For the best results, I recommend either a pizza stone or a baking steel. For pizza stones, I like to use 6 x 6-inch unglazed quarry tiles. They are cheap, you can arrange them to fit into any oven, and if one breaks, you only have to replace a small part of your pizza cooking surface.
Pizza steels are the new kid on the block for producing a crispy and slightly charred undercarriage that emulates the crust from a brick oven. Baking Steel makes a variety of sizes, and I’ve achieved great results with them.
6. Pizza peels
To get the pizza from your workstation into the oven, you’ll need a pizza peel; I prefer the perforated metal ones. The perforation allows excess flour to fall from the bottom. Metal pizza peels are for picking up pizzas and putting them in the oven, whereas wooden peels are usually used as surfaces on which you can build your pizzas and then move them into oven. If you are making multiple pizzas at once, you only need one metal peel, but you’ll want multiple wooden ones. You'll build the pizzas on the wooden peels, then use the metal peel to transport them to the oven.
If you don’t want to go out and buy specialized pizza tools for cooking pizza, like a pizza peel or pizza stones, you can just take your dough and stretch it into an oiled cast iron or steel pan. Once the dough is stretched out in the pan, just top the pizza and throw it in your oven -- no special tools required. You will get more of a focaccia or pan pizza type of crust (as opposed to the crispy brick oven-style crust you get from pizza stones), but I still really like the style (and the ease).
What tools do you rely on when you're making pizza at home? Share with us in the comments below!