Tools to Make Great Pizza at Home

If you want to make great pizza at home, you need the right tools for the job.

Fortunately, the list isn’t long or super expensive.  In fact, you can buy the basics for less than the cost of take out from your local hipster pizza joint.

Here’s what you need:

BASICS

1. Scale 

Water, flour, leavening and salt.  These are the building blocks for making great pizza.  Because we are working with so few ingredients, we need to be precise with the quantity of each ingredient in our dough formula.  This is especially true when you’re making pizza at home.   The smaller the batch, the smaller the margin of error.  So, to ensure accuracy we need to weigh out our ingredients.

I don’t care how good you are measuring ingredients with a cup or spoon.  It you want to make awesome pizza you need a scale.

Screw volume.  Focus on weight.  It’s what professional bakers and pizzaiolos do.  You can do it too.

A small digital scale, preferably one that measures in .01 gram units, costs $15.  Buy one.

2. Cast iron pan

I know you own a pizza stone.  If you absolutely have to use it, go for it.

But here’s the truth about pizza stones:  They are a great trivet.   Or for roasting a chicken.  For making great pizza at home use a cast iron pan instead.

Cast iron has two clear advantages.

First, the heavy steel absorbs and distributes heat better than the stone.  A pizza stone, depending on the thickness, requires a least a one hour preheat for it to achieve the desired heat.  Cast iron pan? 20-30 minutes.

If you’re only making one pizza, this difference may not be a big deal.  But if you plan on making multiple pizzas, this is where cast iron really shines.

Not only is the recovery time on cast iron quicker, but you can “cheat” and heat it on the stove top over a hot flame.  I do this all the time and it works great.

The second advantage of a cast iron pan is the shape.  The flared sides reflect heat directly on your crust (a.k.a cornicione).  Your flat pizza stone doesn’t.

Added bonus to the flared sides: You can squirt water against them to instantly create steam and achieve an extra crispy crust.

3. Bench scraper

This is an indispensable tool for anyone who works with dough.  It’s also great for cleaning up.  I like these so much, I have two at home.  And I give them as Christmas presents.

4. Thermometer

Time and temperature are the “secret” ingredients for great pizza.

Unless you are spending time around hard core pizza geeks you won’t read much about temperature in the average home pizza dough recipe.

If you’re just starting out I recommend taking the temperature of your core ingredients.  It only takes 30 seconds and can help you avoid making overblown down.   Or dough that takes forever to rise.   More on this later.

5. Large Wooden Cutting board

Whether its for stretching dough or letting my pizza dough balls rest before baking them, I like using a wooden cutting board.  Wood absorbs moisture which can be helpful.  I also like the feel of stretching dough on wood.

PRO

1. Good oven. 

There’s no way around this one.  If you have a shitty oven it will be nearly impossible to bake a great pizza.

Don’t despair.  You don’t need a 10K Wolf convection oven.

A decent oven that can achieve at least 550 degrees and can maintain that temperature is fine.

If access to a good oven is not an option, but a grill is, go with the grill.

2. Temperature gun

Ok, this item isn’t crucial, but it’s helpful.

Prices have also come way down.  Ten years ago a decent “temp gun” cost a few hundred dollars.  Today you can buy one for $50-$70.

Taking the temperature of your oven and surface of your cast iron pan helps you figure out the “perfect” temperature range for baking pizzas.   Once you know the temperature your baking surface needs to achieve, it’s much easier to consistently bake multiple pies just right.

3. Proofing box

If you live in a cold climate as I do, having a proofing box is very helpful.  Especially if you’re working with sourdough starter.  A decent proofing box will cost $170, so not cheap.  But if you’re baking every week, be it pizza or bread, then the investment is worth it.

For McGyver wannabes or those on a tight budget, good news.  There are many DIY options on the internet.

4. Grain Mill

Go down the rabbit hole far enough and it won’t be long before you want to mill your own flour.  This will be a pricey habit.  Counter top grain mills start at $300 and can cost as much as a plane ticket to Europe.  You’ve been warned.

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Ok, that’s it.

Questions? Having trouble sourcing one of the items above? Think I’m missing something?

Feel free to send me an email –  ian.gurfield@ianspizza.com

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