Cut out the takeout: Everything you need to know about making pizza at home
As the price of store-bought pizza increases along with just about everything else, enjoying your favorite pie is easier than you think.
Have you seen the price of pizza lately? It’s rising faster than the dough of one of America’s favorite foods.
An average large pizza, which typically feeds three people, currently costs about $18 a pie, according to the annual Slice of the Union report, which crunches data from 19,000 independent pizzerias across the United States. In some states, the average exceeds $20, as reported in Illinois ($22.52), Washington State ($23.34), and Oregon (a whopping $26.94).
While you can always find deals at mass market chains, they’re not as good as they used to be. Remember those days of the $7.99 large cheese pizzas? They’re as rare as Beyoncé singing off-key.
That said, there is a way you can still enjoy a pizza without breaking the bank: Make it yourself.
It’s not hard and it’s an activity the whole family can enjoy.
You can top a pizza with anything you want, so let the veggie lovers chop away while the carnivores prepare bacon, pepperoni, or meatballs.
A must-have for making great pizza at home: A high-quality pizza stone and peel.
Those $19.99 stones at the discount store won’t do your cooking justice. They don’t absorb heat well and tend to crack after repeated use. Instead, buy a granite or cordierite stone that holds up under high heat and provides that chewy, crispy crust. Expect to spend $60 and up for granite and $40 or more for cordierite, and before you buy, check out reviews for the best products. A 14-inch stone works best because it gives you enough space to make several sizes.
You’ll also need a pizza peel, which you’ll need to slide the pizza on the hot stone. Peels come in wood and aluminum; which one you buy depends on personal preference. A good peel will set you back about $30.
- Buy Double-zero flour
It’s called 00 flour (or double-zero) and is a pizza maker’s go-to. The finely milled flour contains less gluten and has a light, powdery texture that results in that chewy crust. Double-zero flour is more expensive than all-purpose varieties, costing about $7 for a three-pound bag (you can buy a five-pound bag of regular flour for $3 or so). But that $7 investment makes about ten 12-inch pizzas, which means a dough cost of $0.70 each. It’s worth it.
- Use the cold rise method.
After you’ve made your dough, immediately shape it, place it on a baking sheet, and put it in the refrigerator. This way, the dough rises slower, and the yeast produces a more robust flavor. The dough also becomes more malleable, making it far easier to stretch into a nice crust that won’t break.
- Don’t use a rolling pin to shape your dough.
Yes, using the pin to roll out the dough into a perfect circle is the easy way — but no. Just NO. Rolling out the dough pushes out the gases that develop during the cold rise, leaving you with a pizza crust as tough as a dog’s chew toy. Take it slow, and enjoy the process of shaping the dough with your hands.
- Don’t rush the dough — or the pizza.
Good things come to those who wait. Making pizza is not fast food and therefore requires planning. The dough should rise for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours. After the dough comes out of the refrigerator, it must rest for at least another hour until it reaches room temperature. While the dough rests, turn your oven to its highest temperature with the pizza stone inside. For a double oven, use the bottom rack; single ovens should use the middle to distribute heat better.
What is all this going to cost me?
Not that much! Your approximate upfront costs include:
- Pizza stone: $60
- Pizza peel: $30
That’s it. You can buy less expensive materials if you like and cut those costs in half, but if you consider cost per use, it’s best to go for quality. So what’s the investment? Roughly the price of a takeout or delivery pizza party for the family and a few friends.
As for the pie itself, let’s break it down:
- Pizza dough for one 12-inch pizza: $0.70
- Pizza sauce: $0.66 (based on a $2 jar of sauce, using four ounces per serving)
- Shredded Mozzarella cheese: $0.75 (based on a $3, two-cup bag of cheese, four ounces per serving)
The total? Just over $2 per basic cheese pie ($2.11, to be exact); the optional toppings are up to your tastes and budget.
So you can make eight(!) cheese pizzas at home for the cost of one. Even if you add veggies and meat, it won’t drive up the cost much. Talk about bringing down the price per slice.
How comforting is comfort food?
What recipe should I use?
The double-zero flour will come with recipes on the back of the package, but here’s a standard one.
Basic pizza dough (Makes two 12-inch pizzas)
- Baking sheet
- Flour for dusting
- Plastic wrap
- Kitchen towel
- Mixer with a dough hook
- Cutting board
2 cups of double-zero/00 flour
1/8 teaspoon of yeast
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of lukewarm water, about 105 degrees
1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Take out a baking sheet and dust it with a tablespoon of flour. Set aside.
- Dust the cutting board with a tablespoon of flour
- Place the flour, yeast, and salt into the mixing bowl. Add the lukewarm water and olive oil, and mix for about 5 minutes, letting the dough gather into a ball while it stretches. The dough should be tacky.
- Place the dough on the cutting board that’s dusted with flour. This prevents the dough from sticking. Cut the dough in half and form into two tight balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet, dust the tops with another tablespoon of flour, and completely cover it with plastic wrap and then the kitchen towel. Let rise in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
Ray Marcano is a veteran journalist who loves to cook and write about food. He’s the former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, a two-time Pulitzer juror, and a Fulbright Fellow.
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