Pizza is a delicious food that is enjoyed worldwide. Originating in Italy in the city of Naples. Italian pizza is traditionally thin-crusted, whereas many from American styles have a thicker crust.
You can get the crust stuffed with cheese, you can get almost any topping available on your pizza and now you can have your crust with any range of thickness. Pizza has grown into a very diverse food type that you can get in a whole manner of shapes and sizes.
Some places will let you fully customize your pizza and now you can even get vegan pizzas that come fully equipped with vegan cheese.
But, what if you have tried all the restaurants and the takeout options and you fancy giving it a go yourself. Perhaps the pizzas you’ve tried just aren’t hitting the spot and you want to have a go at creating your dream pizza.
This might leave you wondering, how hot should you cook it, do you need any special utensils, pans, ovenware. And of course, how hot should your oven be?
Hot as hell.
If you are fairly experienced in the kitchen you will know that everything you cook has its own variation in what temperature it should be cooked at. Meat for example should not be cooked at a temperature as high as you would bake bread or boil vegetables at. Pizza is the same, but a little more dramatic.
In fact, it may surprise many to hear, but in a traditional pizza baking wood-fired oven, pizza is often cooked at temperatures that can reach up to 500 degrees celsius, or 900+ degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, your household oven is not going to do that. Most domestic ovens only go up to about 250, sometimes 260 degrees celsius, or 500 degrees Fahrenheit. So, you won’t get the exact same result as you’d get from a traditional wood-burning pizza oven. But, not dismay, you can still get close.
While the results may be a bit different, as will the cooking process, as these temperatures of around half that of a wood-burning oven. You can still get fantastic pizza results from jacking that oven up. Turn it up all the way to 250 if you are feeling confident and give it a go. It will be worth it!
We are aware there are some very different ovens out there, so let’s have a little look at how each of these will differ when you are cooking a pizza.
Traditional Domestic Oven- Turn it up to your maximum temperature, usually 250 degrees.
Gas Mark Ovens- The equivalent of 250 degrees is usually around gas mark 9.
Fan Assisted Ovens- Make sure that if you have a fan-assisted oven, that you turn the fan on. Having the fan on helps to improve the airflow in your oven and increases the overall temperature inside the oven. (A bit like a pizza sauna.)
Pizza Ovens- If you have a home pizza oven then your temperature is going to be a lot, a lot higher than 250 degrees and you need not worry about how your oven will react. You will likely be looking at a temperature close to double of what a traditional domestic oven can output.
Won’t it damage my oven if it turn it up that high?
While it may sound a bit risky to jack up the heat to the maximum with your domestic oven, it is not. Rest Assured, your oven will not break or malfunction when you turn it up as high as it can go.
All ovens, especially modern ovens, are all designed with built-in safety measures, manufacturers focus on safety when constructing ovens.
And most ovens are likely to be able to take this kind of cooking just fine unless perhaps you are cooking a pizza every night for a month, then it might not be so happy.
But when you are domestic cooking, it is very unlikely this will be the case and your oven won’t be unhappy, and it will be completely safe for you to use in this way.
Some ovens may be limited in temperature, some as low as 100 degrees celsius or just over. Some oven manufacturers express caution, so do this. Due to not wanting you to hurt yourself or having the oven break before its desired lifespan.
100 degrees, as a maximum is quite a low temperature for an oven and so your food may traditionally take longer than usual. This does not mean that you cannot cook a pizza in there, but it may take a lot longer.
Remember to make use of your fan if you have one!
Should you pre-heat the oven?
If you are used to baking you will likely already know that yes, you should definitely pre-heat your oven. Making cakes or bread you will always pre-heat the oven and so it is the same for pizza. Pre-heating is a bit like boiling up some water before putting it on the burners.
Pre-heating your oven is very important when you bake, as you will usually use yeast, baking soda, baking powder, etc, as leavenings that react to heat, not only this but pre-heating the oven also saves a lot of time mulling around, it cuts down the cooking time like pre-boiling water does and your pizza will start cooking from the minute you put it in the oven, rather than having to wait for it to heat up.
With pizza, you should pre-heat your oven with your baking tray or pizza stone inside so it is already hot and ready for your pizza to cook on it. You should also pre-heat your oven at maximum temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Though it may sound like an excruciatingly long time it is worth it as it allows for your cooking surface (baking tray/pizza stone) to rise in temperature.
Your oven might reach the optimum temperature a lot faster than your cooking surface so it is best to pre-heat for 30 minutes to ensure both have reached temperature before putting your pizza in.
What about pizza stones?
What exactly is a pizza stone? Should you get one? They are not essential for home backing but they can be very useful if you are enthusiastic about making home-cooked pizzas. They are also called baking stones.
These are a thick cooking surface used for pizzas and bread which are made from ceramic or stones, hence the name. There are also options such as pizza steels, which you can cook pizza on, but these tend to be extremely expensive and aren’t necessary.
You do not necessarily need a pizza stone or pizza steel to cook your pizza on, they aren’t a hard and fast requirement of baking a pizza. However, having one of these is worth it if you may be baking them often. It can improve the quality of your pizza, it means you can achieve a crispier base and crust than otherwise.
This is because, compared to the metal of a baking sheet or baking tray, the ceramic material of these stones heat more evenly. The porous surface of the pizza stone ceramic will draw water out of the damper areas of the dough as it is cooking. Adding your pizza to a hot pizza stone in the oven will give it an initial blast of heat that will puff up the crust right away.
So, they aren’t vital, but they can be very beneficial to the quality of your pizza, it also gets rid of problems you may have experienced where a pizza may have a moist base or may get a bit soggy. Providing you with puffy, crispy crusts is an investment to consider.
Why is pizza cooked at such high temperatures?
Cooking pizza at high temperatures is vital to a good pizza experience. Have you ever been to a pizza restaurant and just been left disappointed with the results, perhaps the dough was bland, the base was a bit flimsy, the cheese wasn’t evenly distributed or fully melted?
If this is the case then it’s likely it wasn’t cooked at optimum temperatures. Anything below 200 degrees Celcius might result in a sad pizza, not to say that making a great one at this temperature isn’t possible. It is simply recommended that you turn up the heat to make the best pizza, easier.
Cooking pizza at a high temperature will ensure that the base and crust of the pizzas are crispy, it will also get the best rise from the crust and the softest interior, giving you the crunchy, crispy outside and that spongy inside.
It also improves the flavor of the dough and ensures that the sauce is adequately cooked, the cheese will also be evenly melted and distributed and the toppings will be cooked through.
If you have been to a pizza place that makes its pizzas in a wood-fired oven, then you will recognize these factors. The indicators of a perfectly cooked, well-heated pizza, done just right.
Can I use a baking tray?
We talked about pizzas stones, but what are the alternatives? Sometimes you can’t afford a pizza stone, or maybe you just don’t feel confident enough to make that purchase yet, wanting some practice before you go out and buy one in a decision to make pizza baking a more regular thing.
That is okay, and pizza stones are not the only option, you can easily use plenty of other cookware to bake your pizza.
Just don’t put it on something plastic, at 250 degrees Celcius/ 500 degrees Fahrenheit you will end up with a very messy oven very quickly and, will probably end up with some melted plastic on your pizza.
Let’s talk through some suitable alternatives to a pizza stone.
One of the options available for you to use in your home-based pizza cooking is a baking tray, but not traditionally. You can use the back rather than the front of the tray. By turning it upside down you give yourself more ease when it comes to getting your pizza off it and on it. Making for a makeshift pizza stone.
Remember that if you do use a baking tray you will have to leave it in the oven to heat up with the oven as you would with a pizza stone so that you get the crispy crust you are seeking from your home-baked pizza.
If you want to be extra specific with your temperatures then you can use a laser thermometer, easy to buy, and use.
Most will have a trigger, so to check the temperature of your baking tray before you put the pizza in on top of it, just point the thermometer, press the trigger and it will let you how to it is. Remember that if you have a regular oven you are aiming for around 250 degrees celsius, 260/ 500 degrees Fahrenheit if you can push it far enough.
Note: Do not simply pop your homemade pizza straight onto a grill rack. While store-bought or frozen pizzas will be ok like this, fresh dough pizzas are not, they need to be flat and cooked on a hot surface.
If you place it on the rack your pizza will likely stick to it and you’ll be finding cheese at the bottom of your oven. You may want to very lightly flour your tray as well to prevent your pizza from sticking to it, but only flour lightly or you may find some burning will occur.
Where do you put a pizza in the oven and how?
You should always cook your pizza in the part of your oven where it is hottest, for the most part, this will usually be the top of the oven, as heat rises, though this may differ, every oven will heat differently, so check with your thermometer which part is hottest, or use previous cooking experiences as a guide.
Check on your pizza as it cooks to get a sense of how your oven is working, you may need to move it up or down to get the best results, so don’t leave it alone for too long, especially on your first try.
When you open your oven the temperature will instantly start to drop, so you do not want to leave your oven open for too long, or you will lose all that pre-heating effort you put in.
So when you are about to put your pizza in the oven, ensure that you do not open it until you are ready to put it in. We would suggest investing in a pizza peel to make this easier for you.
Do I need to buy a pizza peel?
Now that we have mentioned it, a pizza peel is a wooden or metal board with a handle, much like a shovel that has been flattened.
They are used to scoop or pick up the pizza from your worktop and transfer it easily into the oven and then vice versa. It makes it much quicker to do this and it prevents you from burning yourself from the heat of your oven.
We love pizza peels but they are not 100% necessary if you are cooking in a domestic oven, they are however definitely recommended if you are using a wood-burning oven, due to the much higher heats and more open flames.
If you do not have one we could recommend using a chopping board, much like how you would use this to transfer chopped vegetables and meats into a pan for stir fry, you can do the same thing when transferring your pizza into your oven.
We do not recommend plastic for this, due to the high temperatures you will have your oven at for your pizza baking, the plastic may very well melt upon impact with the hot surface, and you don’t want to have plastic undertones in your pizza.
If you use a chopping board, use a glass or wooden one, (wood is the preference.) You may be able to use a spatula if you are only making a small one but you must be sure that the pizza fully fits onto the utensil you use to transfer it into the oven.
If using a chopping board ensure you flour it very lightly as well to prevent the pizza from sticking to the chopping board and you losing heat from your oven as you try to peel it off of the board and into your oven.
This is the reason for the intention of the pizza peel. If you do not feel comfortable using a chopping board or another item to transfer your pizza into the oven, it is recommended that you invest in a pizza peel as it will make it much easier for you.
How long does pizza take to cook in a domestic oven that hot?
In a wood-burner pizza oven at the right temperature, a pizza can cook in three minutes as long as the flame is kept going and the temperatures are just right.
In a domestic oven, it is a little different, due to the lower temperatures and the differences of each oven and the resources of each individual cooking a pizza in a traditionally domestic oven varies.
There are a few factors you may wish to take into consideration how fast your pizza will cook in your oven at home.
- Is your oven fan assisted or not? Fan assisted ovens generally cook a bit quicker than non-fan assisted ovens do. This is due to the air circulating the heat more, which often results in browning faster. If you have a fan assisted oven then check your pizza regularly, especially if you are using a recipe as it may quick faster than the expected cooking time.
- Pizza Thickness. If your dough is thicker it will take longer to cook than if it is thin.
- Where you place your pizza in the oven. If you place your pizza at the top, your pizza is likely going to cook quite quickly, we would anticipate within six to ten minutes. However, if you place it at the bottom, it will take longer to cook. Also, be aware of putting other things in the oven with your pizza, if you put something above it then some heat may be blocked in some types of the oven so it may cook even slower, Though this is not true for all ovens.
- The maximum temperature. If your oven reaches 250 degrees Celcius/ 500 degrees Fahrenheit, then you will find your pizza will cook within ten minutes or so. If your oven is at a lower temperature for safety reasons, such as stated before, you are looking at a much slower cooking time.
- Pizza Stone. If you use a pizza stone your pizza will generally cook faster. Though an upside-down baking tray or even a circular pizza tray may simulate some of the features of a pizza stone, they do not have the same speedy cooking effect that ceramic pizza stones do. Therefore a Ceramic pizza stone will soak up the heat better and cook your pizza a lot faster than it would otherwise.