Want to know how to cook pizza at home? Many guides to making pizza at home will tell you it's incredibly complex. And some other ones go the other way and pretend it's overly simple. The truth, as is so often the case, lies somewhere in between.
Thankfully, T3's resident al fresco dining expert is here to supply the answers to your pizza-based questions. It's-a me! Derek-a Adams-a! I may be as authentically Italian as Wario from the Nintendo Switch games, but I do like a nice home-baked pizza. Just like momma didn't use to make.
Making pizza at home: the prep sequence
First you need one of the best pizza ovens, to place in your garden. Or perhaps you could place in your house, if your house is made of asbestos and ever so well ventilated. The reason for this is that pizza ovens go properly hot. Even the best oven for your kitchen is only going to hit 300ºC, unless you want to experiment with using the pyrolytic cleaning setting to cook pizzas.
I'm kidding: do not under ANY circumstances do that.
Before we divulge all the good things about home made pizza making, we should forewarn you that it’s quite an art and there’s a steep learning curve involved. Not with the actual baking – anyone can do that, with a decent oven – but the preparation.
Firstly, you’ll need the right type of flour – Italian-type 00 is the one to go for – and some spring water or, for real authenticity, salted water – preferably from the Mediterranean. Okay, perhaps you don't live near a spring, or the Med, but you can use bottled water. Or at the very least water that's been through the best water filter jug. Seriously, do not use tap water. This is an offer you can't refuse.
The next step is the kneading process (strictly no rolling pins here guys, so prepare to dig those knuckles in).
Once you’ve managed to create a soft, pliable dough, it’s time to start the stretching process and we can’t stress how important this stage is. Words alone cannot illustrate the process of stretching so please study the hands of the pros – Youtube has a massive number of pizza dough stretching guides, as you'd expect. This is the one that came up top of the search results.
What you’re looking for is an almost gossamer thin centre and about quarter to half an inch of crust that hasn’t been pinched into a peak. Indeed, the crust needs to be nicely rounded or the resulting pizza will just look rank and make everyone walk out, and go home disappointed.
If we were you, we’d cut out the dough making malarky and opt for pre-made frozen pizza dough from the likes of Northern Dough or Fresh Range Pizza Dough. Yes, you’ll still need to stretch it yourself but you’ll be saving a lot of extra hassle (and mess) by cutting out the prepping part.
Now you’ve sorted the dough, it’s time to think about toppings. Every pizza requires a thin film of tomato passata and one of our faves is Pizza Express tinned Passata, which includes basil and cracked black pepper. Mozzarella is not actually, strictly speaking, an essential ingredient but us Brits can't do without it – we’d recommend fresh buffalo mozzarella broken off into thumb sized chunks and sprinkled sparingly over the base.
What you bung on next is down to personal taste but capers, anchovies, jalapeño peppers, Italian sausage of various kinds are all fine ingredients that give pizzas real zing. However, you could just use tomato sauce and a few fresh basil leaves. A pizza can be anything from a very light snack to a full-on meal, depending on how high you pile your toppings. If you want to be authentic about it, keep them to a minimum. If you showed a stuffed crust pizza loaded with sausage, ham, 15 cheeses, mushrooms, olives and pineapple to a Neopolitan, he would probably attempt to strangle you with it.
Our final tip is to ensure that the pizza peel – the flat thing you use to 'stab' the pizza into the oven with – is coated in a dusting of flour or it will not slide off the peel properly and you will have a disaster on your hands. Seriously.
Get a proper pizza oven
Well, as proper as is practical in your garden and for your budget. It just so happens, as we mentioned before, that we have a guide to the best pizza ovens, so do check that out.
Wood-fired or gas, you ask? As with the best barbecue grills, purists will tell you to do it as nature intended and get wood, while those in a hurry will say, use gas as it's quicker and more controllable. And most people won't be able to tell the difference.
Keep your eye on the ball
The only caveat with baking pizzas using a dedicated oven is that you really need to keep a constant vigilance because with a properly heated pizza oven, it takes between 90 and 100 seconds to bake. Leave it for a few seconds longer and you’ll be pulling out a blackened mass that resembles a council drain cover.
What should an authentic pizza look like? This is dangerous territory but everyone from Napoli we've met likes it not only thin and with quite minimal toppings but also decidedly scorched around the edges.
Now you know the basic ins and outs of home pizza baking, why not dip in and take your pick from our lovingly curated list of top-quality domestic pizza ovens. Believe us, your friends will be round in a jiffy.