Pizza Perfect: What you Need to Know to Serve a Memorable Slice

 

Pizza is one of the most consumed foods in the United States: on a given day, Americans eat an outstanding 100 acres worth.

Even during last year’s decline in restaurant profits,  pizza still was exceedingly popular and far less susceptible to customers looking to get food outside of sit down franchises.

And that popularity is only growing. The average amount of pizza consumed per month increased by almost 18 percent since 2014.

The good news for personal and private chefs is that both of these trends work in their favor. With more Americans demanding convenience, fresher ingredients, and juggling busy schedules, the demand for eating out is dropping while the demand for the beloved pizza slice is still on the upswing.

But in order to make quality pizza, there are three elements you have to make precisely.

.Here’s how to make the perfect crust, toppings, and finding the perfect cooking method. And how some chefs can go wrong.

 

The Perfect Crust

Crust is the foundation of any pizza. And while opinions and preferences vary, like any type of crust, there are a few basic elements that need to be spot on: quality of ingredients, level of salt, and texture.

How to: No matter what type of pizza crust you’re making, you’ll need a form of flour,  fat, salt, and yeast, as well as a pinch or more of sugar. With salt, use just enough to bring out the flavor in the dough: too much can retard yeasts ability to rise. You can also brush on salt as it bakes, or incorporate salt in the selected sauce to punch up the flavor.  And always make sure to add a little sugar. This is especially true for heartier flours, like whole wheat.

Olive oil works wonderfully on simple vegetable pizzas, but if you have a lot of flavor components (like meats, pineapple,  olives, etc) stick with a lighter tasting oil like canola.

Fast acting and regular yeast both work in pizza. Just know how much time you have to commit. For slow rise yeast, it’s especially important (but for all yeasts) to allow a second rise.

Varieties: Depending on taste preferences and nutritional needs, select from white, whole wheat, or gluten free. (Please note that gluten free takes special preparation methods. For more on gluten free cooking, click here.)

How thick do you want your pizza? Flatbread and thin crust styles are especially good paired with vegetarian and Florentine style pizzas. For heartier fare, classic, thick, or stuffed crust adds more emphasis on the crust itself . Thicker crusts also tend to be softer and less crisp than thin crusts.

When it Goes Wrong: If your dough is sticky, knead on a floured surface and gradually add flour but only until the dough is pliable. There are several reasons why pizza dough doesn’t rise. First make sure the yeast isn’t expired, the make sure you’ve allowed enough time and set the dough in a warm and covered place.

 

Go Beyond the Basics with Toppings and Sauces

While sticking with a classic cheese or pepperoni may suit some clients, you also want to showcase your ability to go above and beyond cheap takeout. Below are a list of suggested toppings, both traditional and less so. Mix and match toppings and sauces for a spin on a classic.

Vegetables and Fruit: mushrooms, bell/ banana/ hot peppers, purple, green, and white onions (caramelized or chopped), spinach, roma tomatoes, broccoli, artichokes, eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, olives (Greek, green, black, etc), pineapple, pears, apples, mango, nectarines

Meats: pepperoni, capicola, bacon(crumbled, candied, sliced), chicken, shrimp, sardines, sausage  (Italian, Chorizo), lamb (crumbled)

Cheeses: mozzarella  (fresh or shredded), colby jack, pepper jack, blue cheese, Gorgonzola, brie, muenster, white cheddar, Kerrygold, Havarti, chipotle, swiss, goat cheese or Feta

Herbs and Seasoning: basil, cilantro, sage, chives, garlic, turmeric, red pepper flakes, sea salt, white or black pepper, nutmeg, allspice, oregano

Sauces: marinara, garlic herb, Alfredo, white, pesto, sweet barbecue , Thai peanut

Nuts: Slithered almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, crush peanuts

In a Rut or Crunched? Try one of these specialty pizzas: Spinach, Feta and Pine nut; Thai Chicken, or Barbecue Chicken.

 

Bake it!

Unless you have access to a brick fire oven, chances are you have only a few options for cooking the pizza. But that doesn’t mean it can’t still taste spectacular.

Conventional Oven: Also allow enough time for the oven to preheat. Set the rack to the middle level and make sure to rotate the pizza at least once to ensure even cooking.

The thicker the crust, the longer the baking time:  a thin crust can take as little as seven or ten minutes, but a thick crust can run you over twenty.

A good idea is to set the timer for five minutes less than the expected cooking time, to avoid overdone crusts.

How to tell when it’s ready? Toppings, like vegetables, should be soft, cheese should be completely melted, and the bottom of the crust should be lightly golden to a. For a crispy crust, make sure it feels slightly crispy in the oven. Softer crusts should still be done and lightly golden.

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