Genius Recipes

The Genius Secrets to the Very Best Hawaiian Pizza (Haters, Welcome!)

With a sneaky trick to make all pizzas better.

January  9, 2019

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

Photo by Rocky Luten

This one goes out to all you lovers out there. Haters, too.

Because if you have a deep affection for Hawaiian pizza, this recipe will make the best and most thoughtfully balanced you’ve ever tasted. And if, instead, Hawaiian pizza makes you inexplicably angry—well, if any pie is going to change your mind, this is it.

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This people pleaser comes from master dough-smith Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Pizza and Ken's Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon and, regardless of which side of the salty-sweet chasm you find yourself on, any homemade pizza can benefit from Forkish’s technique—and one sneaky-genius (1) trick in particular.

Photo by Rocky Luten

Beneath the layers of sauce, cheese, ham, pineapple, and more cheese, Forkish smears a very thin layer of bacon grease. You won’t taste bacon, you will just taste good. We tried a blind side-by-side taste test at Food52 HQ and confirmed this. And while the clever trick is very much at home on this rumaki-era pizza, pretty much any other pizza—with its just-under-salted strands of mozzarella, its sharp, tangy sauce that welcomes a little more roundness like a good vinaigrette—will get notably, yet untraceably better.

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Top Comment:
“Not really a Hawaiian pizza girl, but I’ve been know to swipe a slice or two if someone has one. I’m already thinking about cooking up some extra pineapple on the grill this summer. Thanks for sharing!”
— dc

Forkish’s smart oven choreography, too, is a boon for home cooks who don’t have raging 900-degree pizza ovens (aka every home cook who isn’t risking life and limb like Jeffrey Steingarten). He preheats, then broils the stone (2), then switches briefly back to bake, then broils one last time, to make sure the full pizza-cooking area is as hot as can be, but especially at the most critical fronts.

Photo by Rocky Luten

And for this particular Hawaiian-ish gem of a recipe, every standard component is outsmarted—instead of pineapple chunks that skew sweet, acidic, and one-note (a note that I will reiterate some of us are very fond of), Forkish first roasts the fruit with onion, red chile flakes, olive oil, and salt till its jangly juices have softened, concentrated, and singed at the edges.

Instead of a thick ceiling of mild, gooey cheese to have to overcome with flavor, there’s a subtle base layer of pecorino for some salty funk, plus a thinner-than-usual layer of mozzarella on top. The other toppings don’t have to fight to shimmer through and the ham slices can curl and poke up through the top cheese layer and get a little char, too.

In case you’re thinking this sounds fussy, the tomato sauce is … just straight tomato sauce. No need to spike and simmer with herbs and garlic—everything it needs is already there. As for the dough, use your favorite—we went for Forkish's Saturday Pizza Dough, but his cookbook The Elements of Pizza has 13 recipes that fit into your life in different moments—from wild yeast levain to “I Slept in But I Want Pizza Tonight.”

A little something for everyone.

(1) As always, don’t hide an ingredient from your guests if you’re not sure of their feelings on the matter—they might be allergic or otherwise averse, and that’s just mean. But it’s still pretty sneaky to put a layer of bacon fat under your pizza sauce when there isn’t even bacon on the pizza. Sneaky genius.

(2) Or stone-derivative. As you can see in the video above, an upside-down baking sheet will do the trick, and works just as well. Kind of.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to Food52er hardlikearmour on this goldmine of a Hotline thread for this one!

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From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lyrajayne
  • K2
  • Frank
  • Stan-Lease LLC
    Stan-Lease LLC
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Lyrajayne January 16, 2019
Made this over the weekend - I definitely consider the roasted pineapple an improvement over a typical version, but still not a convert. Neatly solved, however, by making a bunch of baby pizzas and letting the rest of the hordes consume the pineapple.

The bacon grease worked brilliantly as an extra savory note in the non-tomato sauce pizzas, but no one was able to distinguish any difference in them once tomato sauce was applied. I'm definitely stealing the trick though for when we make pizza with arugula and bacon.
K2 January 10, 2019
I've converted several folks by not using raw pineapple. Often I'll saute it a bit in butter with a bit of brown sugar. And the correct meat for a culturally appropriate Hawaiian pie is... SPAM. Another tip for the peel challenged is to use parchment paper to roll out your dough on and slide right into the oven. This even works great on a very hot pizza steel like I use.
Hollis R. January 16, 2019
i use SPAM with bacon, canned pineapple that i saute in butter, and -- most important -- chopped fresh unseeded jalapenos. i also make it in my 12" cast-iron skillet (no peel). LOVE the bacon grease tip; will use forever after.
Frank January 10, 2019
I find it hilarious that people go nuts over pineapple on pizza. They say "I would never put fruit on a pizza" but they are forgetting tomatoes are fruit. I say put whatever you want on top, enjoy it, and call it pizza. This is my wife's favorite pizza and she adds jalapenos to it to balance the sweetness. By the way, her favorite hamburger has peanut butter and an egg on it, and yes, it's still called a hamburger.
Stan-Lease L. January 9, 2019
Yuck My pineapple on pizza ban still stands . NYC born We don’t do that here
Eric K. January 9, 2019
I'm going to go home and order a pineapple, bacon, and onion pizza b/c of this ... and then make it from scratch over the weekend! Truly one of the most delicious Geniuses I've tasted.
Diana S. January 9, 2019
If you think we eat this in Hawai'i, we do not. I have always assumed it was for tourists but the next time I have a fresh pineapple I will try this. Roasting the pineapple sounds like the key. I use prosciutto, whole slices laid out but why not use the bacon, crumbled on this?
BakerBren January 9, 2019
Here's a pro tip with the bacon grease, and it's a bit easier: Cut the bacon into bits and render it in a medium saucepan. Use a spider or slotted spoon to pull out the bacon bits, drain on blotting towels then microwave to fully crisp them (optional). Add your sauce directly into the dutch oven and stir it around to mix in the grease and deglaze any bits. The bacony sauce makes a wicked cheese pizza with a little garlic oil on top. When I do (infrequently) make Hawaiian pies in my wood oven, I like to first griddle slabs of fresh pineapple. It caramelizes the sugars on the surface nicely, but I'll try roasting some time and compare.
Diane L. January 9, 2019
Pineapple on "pizza" - no way, no how, not under any circumstances. My Italian grandmother would not only turn over in her grave (along with my mother, aunt, etc.) but she'd probably come back to haunt me too!

Call it something else - it will never be real pizza.
Emma L. January 9, 2019
Bacon grease?! I did not see this trick coming. Can't wait to try at home!
boulangere January 9, 2019
Grilling the pineapple gets it "there" much faster.
Jessica January 9, 2019
Nobody puts Pizza in a corner! At least, not in a world I want to live in. :)
ameliapoest January 9, 2019
Forkish's pizza dough and bread recipes are the only ones I use now because they're the best! His book is a great read and the recipes are definitely worth having! I'm definitely going to try this recipe.
hardlikearmour January 9, 2019
Yay! I love this pizza. 😘
Michael C. January 9, 2019
Eat what you want, but I think I will draw the line when I see the pine apple in tomato sauce over pasta.
Hollis R. January 16, 2019
NEWS FLASH -- both tomato and pineapple are fruits.
Bevi January 9, 2019
I make a Hawaiian pizza that everyone who tries it loves! no hater here!
Pami January 9, 2019
Click on recipe link to get dough recipe. Why do so many whine about a recipe without even making it first?
Lisa H. January 9, 2019
I absolutely agree, my biggest pet peeve is commenting without making it.
Frank January 10, 2019
I'm with you. Every recipe site should ban the "What a delicious recipe! I'm going to make this soon." comment. You don't know anything about prep, cooking and certainly not taste, until you make it.
Hollis R. January 16, 2019
not true in my case, at least. i can tell immediately, upon reading a recipe carefully, whether i'll love, like, dislike, or hate it. it's a blessing, not a curse.
Scott J. January 9, 2019
I don't see any notes or recipe for the pizza dough?
les C. January 9, 2019
Same here, probably store bought.
Ian J. January 9, 2019
Click on the pizza recipe, then scroll down for the link. Or, here you go.
Lynn January 9, 2019
add some sliced almonds to the top just before baking--YUM!
shelagh January 9, 2019
I don't see the point of the ham. Skip the ham, and don't waste that bacon! Render some fat from the bacon, spread it on the crust. Add the sauce and toppings with partially rendered bacon. Bacon will be crisp, and lots of bacon flavour throughout pizza.
dc January 9, 2019
The bacon fat is genius (sorry)! And I love the idea of a pre-char on the pineapple with a little added heat. I might pre-crisp the ham slightly as well. Not really a Hawaiian pizza girl, but I’ve been know to swipe a slice or two if someone has one. I’m already thinking about cooking up some extra pineapple on the grill this summer. Thanks for sharing!