Newbie pizza maker needs advice! What are favorite surfaces for baking the pizza on (grill not an option) as I've seen so many in different recipes on this site. Thanks.



Sadassa_Ulna October 5, 2010
Thank you for posting this question, I look forward to trying other people's suggestions!
We make pizza at home a lot. I have a conventional electric oven that doesn't get pizza-oven hot, so I do a couple of things to try to get the crust right because I like it thin and crispy. I use the Trader Joe's white dough (99 cents a bag) and one bag makes four medium pies, two on a sheet:
I get the toppings out and ready to go, and I heat up the sauce in a saucepan.
I turn cookie sheets upside-down for easily "slide-ability." Heat those up in the oven at 450 degrees while I stretch out the dough as thin as possible and place on the peel (with cornmeal on the peel). I put two 9" crusts on each sheet, or sometimes I make one big oval crust. I keep telling myself I should buy (4) round pizza pans so I can make them bigger, but until I do the small pies sized to fit cookie sheets are my M.O.
Slide those onto the baking sheets - no toppings yet - and let them cook for 3-4 minutes until "dry" looking. I pull out the sheets, quickly ladle on the warm sauce and add the toppings. Place the sheets back in the oven and cook another 4 minutes or so,
then I pull out each sheet, turn it 180 degrees so that they get golden-brown evenly, then I slide the pies off of the sheets right onto the oven racks. This way the crust gets crisp.
I can turn out a lot of pizzas because I can work on the next two while the first two are baking, etc. I pull them out with the peel by pulling the edge of each pie onto the peel with my [asbestos] fingers.
My first stone was thin and it cracked in two one day, so I bought another, but I usually want to make a lot of pies and my one stone doesn't fit the bill. So it sits in a drawer. I love my peel though!
Good luck with your experimenting, please post your results!
healthierkitchen October 4, 2010
Thanks AntoniaJames - will try using the parchment!
AntoniaJames October 4, 2010
I own a peel but never use it anymore. I roll my pizza crust out on parchment, slide the parchment onto a large cookie sheet (one with an open side), then put the ingredients on. Then I wipe up any spills onto the paper and then slide the pizza/paper directly onto my stones. (I'm in the process of running down some large unglazed terra cotta quarry tiles now.) The advantage is that you don't have to worry about immediate, annoying incineration within your very hot oven of the cornmeal/flour or whatever other powdery substances are on the pizza dough. Also, I find it much, much easier to slide onto the stone the pizza-on-paper from the cookie sheet, whose thin edge I actually stabilize on the edge of the stone, than sliding from the peel. Plus, it's easier to remove the pizza and paper from the stone when you're done. You just hold the cookie sheet underneath, and pull the paper onto it. This is particularly helpful when you're making multiple pizzas, and you want to keep the stone hot, in the oven, between uses. It's easier to avoid burning yourself too. (Do I sound like I've done this a lot? Ask my sons. We made pizza all summer, lots of it, sometimes more than once a week. We have this down to a science . . . . except for lining our oven racks with quarry tiles. But, as noted above, I'm working on that.) ;o)
anyone October 4, 2010
HK- I guess that I should also say that while the cast Iron gets good and hot and turning the broiler on that the crust sort cooks on both sides at once but I wanted cripsy crust so I turned it. Play with it and I'm sure you'll figure out something that works.
healthierkitchen October 4, 2010
thanks for the advice everyone - I think I will give Mrs. Larkins parchment paper method a try and also the cast iron skillet as I have both of those. And probably also buy a stone and peel eventually.
pierino October 4, 2010
Buy a stone certainly, but also be sure that you have a peel that is roughly the same width (or less) than your stone because you are going to heat up the stone first and then do the hand off. And you can use the peel for transfering bread as well. Make sure the loaf fits your peel and blah, blah.
anyone October 4, 2010
I didn't realized it but I guess I was. Funny! LIke Pierino says it takes alot of heat to cook a pizza with all the sauce and toppings and get a good crust. So through trial and error in my oh so younger days that's how the crust would be like a pizzaria not like a steamy soggy delivery pizza crust. But that was long before I ever saw anybody do grilled pizza. I was always shooting for thin crust though. I hope this helps and good luck.
healthierkitchen October 4, 2010
and I don't yet have a pizza stone - trying to decide wether to buy one! Thanks
healthierkitchen October 4, 2010
guess I should have been clearer - I own a grill and that's the only way I actually know how to make a crust(the couple of times I've done it before). We've had torrential rain in DC lately and I need an indoor option. donnyg - it sounds like you're saying to use the cast iron pan to "grill" the crust and then put the pizza back in with the toppings under the broiler. That's basically the methodI know from the grill.
anyone October 4, 2010
I assumed that when I gave you the cast Iron skillet idea that you didn't have a grill or a pizza stone. When I started making pizza I was away at college and had very few kitchen tools, pans, plates and or money. But what I did have was an 18 in cast Iron pan and a cookie sheet. I would say sheet pan but it didn't have any sides just a funny lip on one side. I would put the cast Iron skillet in the oven on the bottom rack about 500F and get it smoking hot (45min at least) then I would shape my dough as best of a round shape as I could atop of a dusting of cormeal on the cookie sheet. Then I would switch the oven to broil and give the cast iron a dusting of corn meal and slide my dough from the cookie sheet to the cast iron and watch it bubble for a minute and then flip it. I flipped it a few times to avoid charring and bubbling. I would then remove, build the pizza, and stick it back in the oven the same way and let the broiler do it's magic on the pizza toppings until they were looking good. I would switch the oven back to 500F and let it cook for about 15 min or so then it was ready. Not bad pizza if I recall and my friends all loved it. But if you have don't have a cast iron skillet already It might cost about the same as a pizza stone. Not Sure. At the restaurant supply store pizza peels are fairly inexpensive last I looked. But I would use a flat cookie sheet if you already have one.
pierino October 4, 2010
The real key to making pizza is extremely high heat and kitchen ovens won't exceed 500 degrees by much and you want it hotter than that if possible. There is a "piastra" stone sold under the Mario Batali lable that fits perfectly over my outdoor grill. I cook pizza or piadina on that over a real lump charcoal wood fire which I can crank up to well over 600 degrees. Another key, use high gluten flour and allow the wrapped dough to rest overnight.
mrslarkin October 4, 2010
My favorite method is using a heavy-duty quarter-sheet pan lined with parchment paper, baked at 500 degrees on the bottom-most rack. Really heat your oven good and hot, for about a half hour. The parchment will turn dark brown, but won't burn. I'm liking the cast iron skillet idea a lot, too! More details, please! Don't rule grilling out, though. It's pretty easy and was our favorite summertime meal.
healthierkitchen October 4, 2010
Thanks for the input everyone. I don't yet have a pizza stone and I think that might be the way to go for me. I used half sheet pans this time and though I don't mind the shape, the crust didn't get crispy enough. Curious about the upside down cast iron skillet - guessing you still need a peel to get the dough in and out of oven? Also size? Thanks.
emilyv October 3, 2010
Upside down cast iron skillet gets my vote! It heats up well and will get you a nice crisp crust. Throw it in the oven when you turn it on so it can heat up before putting the pizza on to.
anyone October 3, 2010
Before pizza stones I used a cast Iron skillet turned upside down on 500F. But anything you can find in your kitchen thats oven proof and has a flat surface. I'm assuming you mean instead of a pizza stone or clay tile.
Sarasita October 3, 2010
When I was in college and without any fancy baking surfaces, we just used an old school baking sheet. If you don't mind a squareish pizza and you have decent dough, just slather it down with some good olive oil, and it can turn out quite tasty.
JTLChefNagai October 3, 2010
I find that cast iron Sizzler or comal work well. Cast iron holds the heat plus I can heat it up on the stove top to get it hot enough to get that crust that you get at a pizzaria then off to the broiler to get the top right.
marniekwatson October 3, 2010
I've got a pizza stone and peel, and they do work really well - but I've been temporarily displaced from the majority of my kitchen equipment, and I've found that a simple round old school pizza pan works great, too. I make sure I oil the pan and heat my oven nice and hot, and it turns out golden and crispy and puffy all at the same time.
drbabs October 3, 2010
I bought a pizza stone and peel--they work great! AntoniaJames also posted something about using untreated quarry tiles in foodpickle--you could check that out.
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