11/04/2011 12:15 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make Pizza

Want to make the perfect pie at home? Chef Scott Swartz of The Culinary Institute of America shows you how. First, he takes his ball of pizza dough and begins pressing it out on a work surface that's been dusted with flour. He pushes and stretches the dough in a circular motion until he gets it to the size he's looking for. (You can also use a rolling pin for this step if you don't feel comfortable using your hands.) When making pizza, it's really all about your personal preference. Like a thicker crust? Thinner crust? Press out the dough to your desired thickness -- it's all your choice. Once he gets the pizza dough onto a pizza pan, he ladles on some sauce and then sprinkles the pizza with mozzarella cheese. Of course, toppings are another personal decision: Use whatever you like. The pizza gets baked in a preheated 500F oven. Sound too hot? Professional pizza makers bake their pizzas in ovens set to 700-900F! When the pizza is ready, anywhere from 6-11 minutes depending on size, the crust will be golden and the cheese will have completely melted.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Scott Swartz from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm here to show you this kitchen basic: how to make pizza.

We're going to make a very simple cheese pizza today. All I need at first is some workspace: a clean counter. What's important is that I have a little bit of flour, and all I'm going to do is dust my table lightly, just to keep my pizza dough from sticking. And I want a little flour to dust my hands, so the pizza dough doesn't stick to my hands.

I'm going to take my dough, and I'll push it out into a circle. You want to start with it as round as possible, because that's what it is going to keep doing. Now I turn and stretch the dough. This hand is just holding; this hand is stretching. (At this point it's too small to work with two hands; I'm just using the one hand.) I'm stretching it out and working it. As it gets a little bit bigger, I'll get the second hand in there and go around and around. This is how I do the beginning part of my stretching.

This is what I'm looking for: I'm looking for that elasticity in the dough. Now you can stretch it and let gravity help you. So I pull it a little bit, and I let gravity help it, and you can start to see my dough getting a little bit thinner. You can also use a rolling pin for this, so if you're not comfortable with the stretching you can just take a rolling pin to it. We'll make a little - small, like an eight-inch - pizza here. At this point it's all personal preference; do you like a thin dough, do you like a thick dough - that's the nice thing about making your own pizza. We're going to make ours on a pan, but if you have a pizza stone in the oven, we have a pizza peel here, and you just put your dough onto the peel and slide it onto the stone.

We'll take our dough and lay it out on our pan; again, now we're at the point where it's personal preference. Do you like a lot of sauce, do you like a little bit of sauce - this is a very simple pomodoro sauce. What the Italian restaurants do is put the sauce in the middle, and use the ladle to spread the sauce. If you like more sauce, less sauce, that's really up to you. We're going to use some shredded mozzarella; you can use a mixture of cheeses, you can use fresh mozzarella versus a store-bought, whatever you like.

Once your pizza is sauced and cheesed the way you like it, your pizza is going to go into a preheated 500 degree oven. That sounds really hot, but actually professional pizza ovens run between seven hundred and nine hundred degrees. So you want it really hot! That's how they get that crust so nice. With a small pizza like this, more like an individual pizza, wait at least six minutes before you open the oven door. If you're making a large pizza the size of this whole pan, I would wait at least nine minutes until I opened the door. So we'll just put it in the oven.

Now our pizza's been in the oven about six or eight minutes. We're going to take a look at it. The cheese is nicely melted; the crust is set; it's even turned a little bit golden brown on the bottom, which is what we're looking for. If you like your crust to be darker, if you want your cheese to brown - the nice thing about making your own pizza is, you can decide what you like. Do it your way. We didn't even talk about toppings that you could put on this!

We're going to take a pizza wheel and cut our pizza up. You can see that it cuts nicely. I like doing it in sixths. This one we did is not too thin; it's got a nice crust. You can see our cheese is nicely melted, it's nice and stiff. It's not limp, which means we didn't put too much sauce. Our pizza is ready to eat.