03/20/2014 09:37 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Make Perfect Pizza at Home

There are so many great conversations on the Food52 Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: The tricks to making the pizza of your dreams.

Some nights, our pizzas have bubbling crusts, fancy mozzarella, and daintily strewn toppings. Other times, pizza comes in a glorious cardboard box to join us on the couch. Some mornings, we even take our pizza cold, and we feel not a single ounce of shame. As they say in Wedding Crashers, "It's like pizza, baby! It's good no matter what."

And yet: Simple as it seems to transform a kitchen into a pizzeria, certain factors -- like temperamental dough, or the fact that we still don't have one of those darn wood-fired ovens -- keep that pizza just good, not flawlessNutcakes tried her hand at Jim Lahey's no-knead (and genius) pizza dough and hit a roadblock: "the topping baked and was getting brown spots [but] the dough wasn't ready and crisp." She turned to the community and got some wise tips, including (surprise!) one from Jim Lahey himself:

Troubleshoot Your Prep

  • No one knows Jim Lahey's pizza dough better than Jim Lahey: "Sounds like your dough is either too stiff (lacking water) and/or over-fermented, which decreases the overall elasticity of the dough." He adds that to ensure consistency, "always weigh your ingredients using grams."
  • Once the dough is stretched, get it in tip-top shape for the oven. Sam1148 fills a spray bottle with half water, half olive oil, and says: "Shake and spray on the pizza dough. The water and oil will help to give you a great, crispy brown crust."
  • "Remember to go lighter on the toppings than you think. Especially the sauce and the cheese," adds Dave on the grill -- this helps prevent sogginess.

Troubleshoot Your Cooking

  • A quick bake pre-topping can work wonders. Says Christine: "Cook the dough for 4 minutes first, then take out of the oven, add toppings, and put back in until done." AntoniaJames does something similar, "docking beforehand, and about 2 minutes in, knocking down any pita-like puffing."
  • The hotter your oven the better -- so, until you get a giant brick oven of your very own, Dave on the grill recommends a pizza stone, which "helps out immensely because the stone can get much hotter than a regular pizza pan." 
  • It helps to give your pizza a little traction so that once the crust is perfectly, beautifully cooked, it comes off with no coaxing. Dave on the grill and nutcakes both use cornmeal, which doesn't compromise the flavor.
  • Finally, finish strong by letting your pizza "rest on a wire rack to cool and crisp, to avoid soggy bottom crust," says Sam1148.

What are your strategies for a great homemade pizza? Tell us in the comments!

This article originally appeared on How to Make Perfect Pizza at Home

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