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In 2020, I took up pizza making as a hobby during the pandemic. Along the way, I tested several different recipes many, many times (read:100+ times) across the Internet before creating my own. My cold fermented pizza dough uses the magic (or science!) of a slower rise in the fridge for better flavor and texture, yielding a bubbly, crispy crust and a soft and chewy interior. It’s my go-to recipe and versatile enough for both my indoor home oven and my outdoor oven (Ooni).
The journey to a better home pizza
A few crucial factors can transform your homemade pizza from good to great. Proper technique is critical, from kneading to stretching to baking. The dough is equally important, including the ingredients used and the ratio of ingredients. Finally, there’s a lot of science and experimentation in making great pizza dough.
But don’t worry. I’ve done all this research for you and laid it out throughout the post below. The ultimate goal of this cold fermented pizza dough recipe is to provide you with the tips, techniques, and fundamentals you need to make an awesome pizza at home. There’s a lot of valuable information here, but I’ve tried to make it as exciting and digestible as possible; definitely feel free to bookmark this page and come back to it as a reference.
Alright, ready to get going? Grab a cup of coffee, and your favorite blanket, and let’s get started!
What makes this recipe different?
It’s all about the slow and cold fermentation here. Allowing the dough to sit in the fridge for a minimum of 24 hours allows a better flavor to develop over time. That additional time also enables more bubbly goodness. This recipe is flexible — it works with different flours and times in the fridge. Use it to your advantage to play around and experiment and see what you like best. The end result is a cross between a Neopolitan and a NY-style pizza — slightly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Note: This pizza dough recipe is for intermediate pizza bakers (that is, you’ve made pizza in your home oven at least a few times and are familiar with kneading, balling, and hand-stretching your dough). For beginner pizza bakers, please consult my Pizza Guide or sign up for one of my workshops!
What is cold fermented pizza dough?
Let’s start at the beginning. Fermentation is a metabolic process that chemically breaks down a substance through the use of bacteria, yeast, or other microorganisms. For example, in pizza dough, yeast breaks down the sugars from the flour, which facilitates the dough’s rise in the oven. Additionally, when feeding on the sugars, yeast produces carbon dioxide that develops air bubbles and helps maintain structure.
The role of temperature
Temperature is hugely significant throughout the whole life cycle of the pizza dough.
Prior to baking
All yeast-based pizza dough undergoes some level of fermentation. In the case of cold fermentation, the fermentation occurs in, well, colder temperatures (usually the fridge). At a cooler temperature, this happens much more slowly. From research and analysis from other pizza professionals and myself, I’ve determined that fermentation at cooler temperatures yields better structure, texture, and flavor. Interestingly, I read in a pizza forum once that the most optimal temperature for the dough is actually around 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (16°C), so some avid home cooks will ferment their dough in a wine cooler. But, rest assured, since most of you likely don’t have a wine cooler at home (myself included), a fridge is wonderful, too and will still yield a delicious result.
Temperature also plays an important role in the baking phase.
Generally speaking: At a higher temperature, pizza takes less time to cook through. For example, my Ooni portable pizza oven cooks a pizza in 90 seconds at 932°F (500°C), while my home oven takes 3 to 4 minutes at 550°F (288°C).
Higher temperatures result in more exterior charring with smaller charred spots, especially leopard spotting. As an extreme example, you would never see charred spots on a pizza cooked at 200°F (93°C), while a 932°F oven is hot enough to cause charring within a minute.
The longer a pizza takes to cook, the more it “dries out.” Because pizza takes less time to cook at a higher temperature, the pizza dries out less, yielding a softer crust with a doughier inside.
Below, I’ve compiled a few pizzas from over the years. The left-hand side shows pizzas baked in a standard oven, while the right-hand side demonstrates pizzas cooked at a higher temperature in my Ooni pizza oven.
With the help of my broiler, the pizzas on the left-hand side show some nice charring, but they are nowhere near as soft as the pizzas cooked in the Ooni. As I said above, the Ooni pizzas take significantly less time to cook, so they’re softer but still have a considerable amount of charring because of the higher temperature. Neither of these is worse or better, just different, as we will see below.
Let’s put this all together.
Pizza cooked in a pizza oven / wood-fired oven usually has plenty of charring, often with smaller charred spots and a softer, doughier interior. If you’ve ever had Neopolitan pizza, you might know it’s usually eaten with a fork and knife because the interior is quite soft and wet. If you put a boatload of toppings on your dough and baked it Neopolitan-style, they would weigh it down, maybe even enough to tear the crust. And at a shorter baking time, the interior toppings don’t cook as much. As a result, the sauce stays saucy, the mozzarella melts without crisping up, and the basil won’t char.
On the other hand, pizza baked at a lower temperature, say 500°F (260°C) to 600°F (316°C), requires a longer time to cook through and achieve browning. A NY-style pizza is an example of this; it has a sturdier crust, does not require a fork and knife, and can hold plenty more toppings.
Conclusion: Temperature, both in fermenting the dough and baking the dough, plays a huge role in the resulting crust.
The importance of time
You’ve heard me say this several times now. Colder temperatures = slower fermentation = more complex flavors and better structure. But how much slower is this fermentation? How long are you supposed to keep the dough in the fridge? And what exactly is the relationship between temperature and time when it comes to bread?
This is where yeast comes back into the picture. The more yeast you put into your dough, the faster the fermentation process occurs (more yeast leads to more carbon dioxide leading to more air bubbles).
Why wouldn’t I want to speed up the fermentation process?
It’s a great question. I’ve told you that a slower fermentation at a colder temperature yields a better pizza…but what does that really mean? Why wouldn’t you just speed things up? It would be a lot easier.
I don’t disagree with you. Unfortunately, a speedier process doesn’t mean a better result. For example, you could put in more yeast and let your dough rise at room temperature for a couple of hours until it doubles in size. Then it would be very quickly ready to ball and bake. Let’s review the potential differences:
|Dough Type||Speedier fermentation at room temperature||Slower, cold fermentation|
|Total Time||1 1/2 hours to 24 hours||24 hours to 72 hours|
|Fermentation Temp||72°F (22°C)||40°F (4°C)|
|Yeast||Recipes typically call for more yeast||Recipes typically call for less yeast given a longer period of fermentation|
|Structure||Paler, tougher crusts and less bubbling||Typically better browning, improved structure, more bubbling and softer, chewier crusts|
|Flavor||Less complex, sometimes unpleasantly "yeastier" flavor||More complex, "aged" flavor|
Keep in mind that different recipes might yield different outcomes, but these are the results I’ve seen, from research online and my own experimentation.
What are the benefits of overnight cold fermentation?
Let’s summarize what we’ve learned so far. Slow, cold fermentation leads to better browning, improved structure, and bubblier, softer, and chewier crusts with a more complex flavor.
On top of that, cold fermentation, when done properly, makes the dough easier to work with and stretch…meaning more circular pizzas and minimal tearing.
Finally, there is much more flexibility in timing. 24 hours is the minimum I like to keep my dough in the fridge, but the crust gets better and better up to 72 hours. That leaves a 2 day window in which you can use the dough at any point. With a faster, room temperature dough, there is less room for error. If a recipe has you proof the dough for 2 hours, it might be over-proofed if you accidentally leave it out for an extra hour.
What factors affect the texture and flavor of the pizza?
In addition to the style of fermentation, there are a few other factors that affect your resulting pizza.
The right ingredients (and the right ratios of those ingredients) can dramatically change your pizza. Here are the key ingredients in pizza dough:
Flour: The two best flours to use for pizza are either 00 flour/pizza flour (Antimo Caputo makes a high quality product) or regular bread flour. Both have high protein content (12%+) which is ideal for gluten formation. The “00” annotation refers to the fineness of the flour when it’s milled — 00 is the most finely milled flour in Italy. 1
FYI, if using Antimo Caputo flour, make sure you buy the right kind for the oven you’re using.
- For standard home ovens: Buy the “Chef’s Flour” (usually in a red bag), such as this one.
- For high-temperature pizza ovens (900°F or 482°C): Buy the “Pizzeria Flour” (usually in a blue bag), such as this one.
Water: Water is necessary for gluten formation. Different ratios of water to flour (the percentage of a non-flour ingredient compared to the weight of the flour in baking known as a baker’s percentage) can absolutely change the final crust. Neopolitan pizzas typically have a lower percentage of water to flour compared to say, a thicker Sicilian pizza. But keep in mind these two styles bake at completely different temperatures and different times.
The ratio of water to flour matters
The higher ratio of water to flour, the more difficult (and stickier) the dough will be to handle. In the case of a Sicilian style thick-crust pizza, it’s more similar to a focaccia-like process where you’re not really hand stretching and tossing the dough so it matters less that it’s sticky. A Neopolitan dough, however, requires a lot of technique to stretch properly, so a stickier product will be a big pain. And as you might expect, there is a balance here. You want enough water to create steam in the oven so that the pizza puffs up nicely and the crust doesn’t dry out too much without it being too sticky. There’s also a peak absorption rate for each type of flour brand. Bakerpedia defines peak water absorption as
“the water taken up by flour to achieve the desired consistency and create a quality end-product. It is the optimal amount of water you can add to a dough before it becomes too sticky to process.”Bakerpedia
King Arthur bread flour, for example, has an estimated 62% absorption rate while Caputo 00 flours have a lower rate at 55% to 57%. In my recipe, I use a 62% ratio of water to flour to accommodate both types of flours, and I haven’t noticed too much stickiness with the Caputo flours at that level.
Salt: Salt is another critical ingredient in pizzamaking. It plays many roles, from strengthening gluten to creating better elasticity and lowering stickiness. And there’s the obvious one: providing flavor! Salt also slows down fermentation, which is super important as we mentioned in helping develop flavor. Typically, salt % in doughs range from 2% to 3%; I lean towards 2.5% to 3%, but if you prefer less salt, you could definitely get away with just 2.5%. Keep in mind, that decrease in salt might speed up fermentation slightly.
Yeast: Both active dry yeast and instant yeast are commonly used in pizza making, though I prefer instant yeast. Unlike active dry yeast, instant yeast can be added directly to dry ingredients; active dry yeast traditionally needs to be “activated” in water to dissolve (in the last few years, commercially available active yeast allegedly does not need activation, but I recommend doing it to confirm the yeast is actually still alive).
Note: Do not purchase ‘RapidRise’ style Instant Yeast; this form of yeast does not do well for longer rises and will not fare well in the fridge. I don’t recommend using this for pizza dough. I love SAF Instant Yeast.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: This is typically not used in true Neopolitan dough, but it’s commonly found in many home oven pizza recipes as it slightly increases moisture levels without creating stickiness and can improve browning.
1 A thorough review of pizza flours can be found here on Serious Eats. There aren’t significant differences between 00 and regular bread flour, but you’ll likely find that pizza made with 00 comes out slightly airier than bread flour which is chewier. As a result, bread flour is more often used for NY style doughs and 00 for Neopolitan style.
What’s the best equipment?
For the best homemade pizza, a little bit of equipment can go a long way.
- Kitchen scale: Kitchen scales are incredibly useful and important in baking. Measuring cups just don’t cut it when it comes to accuracy and ease. Plus, kitchen scales can be super cheap! You can easily find one on Amazon for $10.
- Baking steel: As Cook’s Illustrated points out, a baking steel cooks 30% faster than a stone. They even recommend the stone + steel combination as optimal, where you put the baking steel on top of the stone to retain heat longer. One other note about stones to keep in mind is that it’s more prevalent to cracking and as a result, doesn’t last as long as the steel. Don’t have a baking steel? See my FAQ below on how to adapt this recipe using the equipment you already have at home.
- Bench scraper: This is really great for getting any sticky bits of the dough off a cutting board or workspace.
- Pizza peel: A pizza peel is very helpful for launching the dough into the oven. It takes a bit of practice, but once you’ve gotten used to it, it’s hard to use anything else. Don’t have a pizza peel? See my FAQ below on how to adapt this recipe using the equipment you already have at home.
How to make cold fermented pizza dough (step-by-step guide)
Let’s walk through the process of making this pizza dough, step-by-step.
Mix all dry ingredients
- Stir all dry ingredients together until combined.
Add the wet ingredients
- Make a well in the center of the bowl and slowly add in the water and olive oil. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with your hands or a wooden spoon and knead for 2 to 3 minutes until no dry bits remain; the dough will have a shaggier texture and won’t be a smooth ball yet. That is perfectly okay.
- Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes at room temperature. This step is called autolyse — it helps hydrate the dough, kickstarts gluten formation, and makes kneading much easier.
- Knead the dough for 5 minutes to begin building strength in your crust. It should look smoother than before, but it’s okay if it’s not completely smooth yet.
Perform 3 sets of stretch and folds to strengthen the dough.
- Perform 3 sets of stretch and folds to strengthen the dough, each spaced apart by a 30 minute rest period. Timeline below:
- Stretch and Fold #1: perform 30 minutes after kneading, then let rest for 30 minutes covered
- Stretch and Fold #2: perform 30 minutes after stretch and fold #1, then let rest for 30 minutes covered
- Stretch and Fold #3: perform 30 minutes after stretch and fold #2, then let rest for 30 minutes covered. At this point the dough should be quite strong (when you stretch it, it should resist quite a bit) and show visible gas bubbling. If you’re not seeing this gas bubbling, let sit out for another hour or so until you observe this.
- After the first stretch and fold, the dough will still be somewhat shaggy.
- After the last stretch and fold, dough is bubblier and smooth.
Cold ferment the dough
- Cover dough and let sit in the fridge for 24 hours to 72 hours.
Ball the pizza dough
- After 24 to 72 hours, take the dough out of the fridge. If your dough feels very cold to touch, let sit out for an hour to warm up slightly (it should still feel cold — i.e. 45F/7C degrees is fine — but not frigid).
- Divide the dough into 5 equal sections. Form each piece of dough into a ball, then place each ball in a large pizza container; generously dust the container and the dough balls with flour if using an outdoor pizza oven or oil if using an indoor pizza oven. Alternatively, you can place each ball into an individual container.
- The more tension you create in forming the pizza dough ball (i.e. the tighter the ball), the more gas you’ll trap leading to a bubblier, more circular pizza. When you loosely ball the pizza, you’ll lose that shape and the trapped gas.
- Video below for details on how to properly ball pizza dough:
Proof the dough at room temperature.
- On the day you’d like to make the pizza, take the dough out at least 3 to 5 hours in advance until it is fully proofed and reaches room temperature. If your kitchen runs warm, it may only take 3 hours; otherwise, it will likely take 5. Your dough is ready when it doesn’t feel cool to the touch and has spread out from a spherical ball into a flatter circle but still has some structure to it. If your dough sits out too long, it can overproof, making it more difficult to handle — you will likely see that it’s extremely bubbly and flattened.
Preheat your oven (standard home oven method)
- There are two main methods of baking your pizza in a home oven. I recommend trying both and seeing which method produces the best pizza for you. Regardless of which method you choose, preheat your oven with your baking tool of choice inside at least 45 minutes before baking at the hottest temperature it goes (mine goes to 550°F/288°C). This step is critical as it ensures the oven stays as hot as possible so that the pizza cooks faster and doesn’t dry out.
- Top rack method: For this method, put your baking steel on the top rack of your oven. The top rack should be about 5-6 inches from the broiler. If your broiler is weak, you can move the top rack to be 2-3 inches from the broiler. Once you’re ready to form your pizza, switch the oven to the broil setting to preheat the broiler. When you’re ready to launch your pizza, you’ll broil it for 2 minutes, then turn off the broiler but keep the oven on at the hottest temperature until the pizza is finished cooking (an additional 1-2 minutes).
- Switching racks method: Put your baking steel in the middle rack of your oven, and arrange your top rack so that it is 5-6 inches from the broiler. When you’re ready to launch your pizza, it’ll cook on the middle rack at the oven’s hottest temperature for 3-4 minutes until the bottom is browned. Then, you’ll turn the broiler on and transfer the pizza to the top rack to finish cooking the top for ~1-2 minutes.
Preheat your oven (portable pizza oven method)
- Have an Ooni, Roccbox, or other outdoor portable pizza oven? Refer to your instruction manual and make sure to preheat the oven at least 30 minutes before the pizza is fully proofed.
- For my gas-powered Ooni Koda 16, I typically preheat until the center stone reaches 900°F/482°C.
Flour the pizza dough
- Once your dough has come to room temperature, you’re ready to form the pizza.
- I like to use a 50/50 mix of semolina flour (or cornmeal) and 00 flour to flour the dough and peel.
- Flour your pizza peel. Carefully pick up the dough from its container and place onto the pizza peel (avoid degassing the dough as much as possible). You can use your hands or a bench scraper to carefully transfer the dough. The gentler you are with picking up the dough, the less likely you will have uneven spots creating tears when stretching, so try your best not to squish the dough in any way.
- Flour the top and bottom of the dough. You don’t want the dough to stick to the peel. You can check that it’s not sticking by sliding the dough around the peel. If it is sticking, add a bit more flour to the bottom. I like to do this every minute or so to ensure my dough is not sticking, especially once I start adding the sauce and toppings. The faster you’re able to form and top the dough, the less sticking that will occur (and the less flour you’ll need to add).
Stretch the dough
- Form a rim for the crust by gently pressing your index finger around the perimeter of the dough, about 2/3” from the edge.
- Once the rim has been formed, be careful not to deflate the outer edges, as this helps create the characteristic risen crust in the oven.
- To stretch the dough, there are two methods I recommend.
- Lift and stretch. Lift the dough and place your knuckles on the inside rim of the dough. Let the dough gently stretch by rotating your knuckles in a circle until it reaches the desired diameter.
- Triangle stretch. With the dough on the peel or parchment, make a triangle with both your index fingers and your thumbs and gently push outwards. Keep turning the dough and pushing outwards until you’ve stretched the whole dough.
Add your base sauce (tomato sauce, olive oil, cream) using a ladle or spoon.
Top the pizza with desired toppings
- See the video below for a full demonstration on stretching and topping the pizza.
Launch and bake the pizza
- If using a pizza peel, make sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel before launching. If it is, add a bit more flour, then hold the handle of the peel and gently and carefully slide the dough around to ensure it’s not sticking at all.
- To launch, hold the peel parallel to your baking sheet/stone/steel and firmly slide the pizza onto it. There’s no need to rush it; you can do this slowly to get the hang of it.
- Immediately close the oven and bake according to your desired method.
- Remove the cooked pizza from the oven, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to prevent the bottom of the crust from getting soggy. Allow pizza to cool for about 30 seconds to a minute, then cut into slices and serve.
See below for an example timeline of how you can make this pizza dough and bake it during the weekend.
Friday, 9:00am – 9:15am: Mix dough ingredients
Friday, 9:15am – 9:45am: Let rest in autolyse
Friday, 9:45am – 10:20am: Knead dough for 5 minutes, then let rest for 30 minutes
Friday, 10:20am – 10:50am: Perform the first stretch and fold and rest 30 minutes
Friday, 10:50am – 11:20am: Perform second stretch and fold and rest 30 minutes
Friday, 11:20am – 11:50am: Perform last stretch and fold and rest 30 minutes
Friday, 11:50am: Cover and place dough in fridge for 24 to 72 hours
Sunday, 7:40am: Remove dough from fridge and form into dough balls. Let sit for 5 to 6 hours until they reach room temp
Sunday, 12:00pm: Preheat oven
Sunday, 12:45pm: Stretch, top, and bake pizzas
- Pizza dough can be stored in the refrigerator for cold fermentation for up to 72 hours. After 72 hours, the dough may begin to over ferment/overproof, though I typically haven’t had issues within the first 96 hours in the fridge.
- If I accidentally leave the dough in the fridge for too long (i.e. 5 to 6 days), I will turn it into a quick focaccia bread instead. I’ll place the dough in a rectangular sheet pan or tray coated with lots of olive oil and let it proof at room temperature for a couple of hours, gently stretching until it reaches the sides of the pan. I’ll then bake it according to my focaccia recipe here, adjusting the baking time depending on how much dough there is and what pan I’m using.
Yes, it can. While cold fermented pizza doughs are more forgiving, a dough that’s sat in the fridge for over a week is going to have a sour smell, and likely be overproofed while losing some of its structure. I typically start seeing issues after 4 days (96 hours) in the fridge, so the 24-72 hours is really the sweet spot.
Pizza dough straight from the fridge will be nearly impossible to stretch. It will also need to sit at room temperature for its second rise, so that it can proof and rise.
Instead of using a pizza peel, you can build your pizza on a sheet of parchment paper set on top of a thin cutting board or a baking sheet (placed upside down). Carefully slide the parchment paper off the board/baking sheet onto your pizza stone/baking steel in the oven. Keep in mind that parchment paper can and will burn under the broiler (and it will definitely burn in an Ooni or other outdoor pizza oven), so it’s definitely not an ideal option in all cases.
Instead of a baking steel or pizza stone, you can preheat a rimmed baking sheet or large cast-iron pan set upside down in the oven. Transfer the pizza dough from your peel to the baking sheet/cast-iron pan. Make sure your baking sheet is super clean; any residual oil or food particles can create smoke in the oven while preheating.
Pizza stones make great pizza, but are susceptible to cracking. A full list of notes on taking care of your stone are listed here. The most important takeaways are:
1) Pizza stones cannot handle quick changes in temperature, meaning, you should never add a cold pizza stone to a hot oven. Preheat the oven with the stone in it. After making your pizza and turning your oven off, let the pizza stone come back to room temperature in the oven as the oven cools (do not take it out of a hot oven). Finally, I’ve heard anecdotal experiences of people whose pizza stones crack because they use the broiler. For some stones, a higher heat (via the broiler) can also cause it to crack. I typically prefer using the broiler in baking pizza as I think it helps give a nice crust, but if you have a pizza stone I would proceed with caution.
2) Moisture can also crack a pizza stone. Do not wash your pizza stone. Do not put anything wet on the pizza stone. Keep it in the oven and scrape off any food bits with a knife or bench scraper. The heat of the oven will naturally self-clean the stone.
For any troubleshooting questions, make sure to check out my Pizza Guide which includes a number of FAQ or leave a comment below.
Note: I updated this blog post with a lot of additional information on 8/28/22. I also streamlined the method for more clarity. If you have any questions about the changes, please leave a comment below.
Did you try this recipe? I would love to hear your feedback! Be sure to rate the recipe and leave a comment below.
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Cold Fermented Pizza Dough Recipe
- 686 g 00 High-Protein Flour, like Antimo Caputo (5 cups) | 100%
- 20 g Diamond crystal kosher salt, 3 1/2 teaspoons | if using any other brand of salt, use 20g in weight or 1 3/4 teaspoon in volume | 2.9%
- 0.8 g Instant yeast, 1/4 teaspoon | avoid rapid-rise | 0.12%
- 425 g Lukewarm water, 1 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon | make sure to use lukewarm but not hot water as it will kill the yeast | 62% |
- 8 g Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons | 1.2%
- Semolina or 00 Flour, for dusting
Preparing the dough
- In a large mixing bowl, stir flour, salt, and yeast until combined with a wooden spoon.
- In the center of the bowl, form a shallow well with your hands and slowly pour in the water and olive oil. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with your hands or the spoon until just combined. No dry bits should remain, but it will still look quite shaggy.
- Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Knead the dough for 5 minutes. It will look smoother and feel less sticky at this point.
- Perform 3 sets of stretch and fold, each spaced apart by a 30 minute rest period. So the timeline will look like this:Stretch and Fold #1: perform 30 minutes after kneading, then let rest for 30 minutes coveredStretch and Fold #2: perform 30 minutes after stretch and fold #1, then let rest for 30 minutes coveredStretch and Fold #3: perform 30 minutes after stretch and fold #2, then let rest for 30 minutes covered. Dough should feel quite strong (it will resist stretching slightly) and show visible gas bubbling. If you’re not seeing this gas bubbling, let sit out for another hour or so until you observe this.
- Cover dough and let sit in the fridge for 24 to 72 hours.
- After 24 to 72 hours, and on the day you'd like to make the pizza, take dough out of fridge. Divide dough into 5 equal sections. Form each piece of dough into a ball, then place each ball in a large pizza container generously dusted with flour or oil. Alternatively, you can place each ball into an individual container (sometimes I use deli containers or a plate). Take the dough out at least 3 to 5 hours in advance until it is proofed and has reached room temperature. Dough will have expanded in the process, appear bubbly, and feel soft.
Prepping the oven (standard home oven method)
- 45 minutes before pizza dough is at room temperature, arrange oven racks to prepare for baking and preheat your oven to the highest temperature. There are two main methods of cooking your pizza in the oven. I recommend trying both and seeing which method produces the best pizza for you. ° Top rack method: For this method, put your baking tool of choice (steel, stone, baking sheet, cast iron) on the top rack of your oven. The top rack should be about 5-6 inches from the broiler. If your broiler is weak, you can move the top rack to be 2-3 inches from the broiler. Once you’re ready to form your pizza, switch the oven to the broil setting to preheat the broiler. When ready to launch the pizza, broil it for 2 minutes, then turn off the broiler but keep the oven on at the hottest temperature until the pizza is finished cooking (an additional 1-2 minutes).° Switching racks method: Put your baking tool of choice on the middle rack of your oven, and arrange your top rack so that it is 5-6 inches from the broiler. When ready to launch the pizza, bake for 3-4 minutes until the bottom is browned on the middle rack. Then, turn the broiler on and transfer the pizza to the top rack to finish cooking for ~1-2 minutes. Repeat the process, switching between the broiler and the oven to cook the pizza.
Prepping the oven (portable outdoor oven method)
- For a portable outdoor pizza oven (Ooni or Roccbox), preheat the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking the pizzas. I typically preheat my oven until the center is 900 °F (482 °C).
Stretching and topping
- Once dough has come to room temperature, you’re ready to make the pizza.Flour your pizza peel with semolina flour or 00 flour. Carefully and gently pick up the dough from the container and transfer to the peel. Dust the dough with flour as needed to prevent sticking. You can check that it’s not sticking by sliding the dough around the peel. If it is sticking, add a bit more flour to the bottom. I like to do this every minute or so to ensure my dough is not sticking, especially once I start adding the sauce and toppings.
- Form a rim for the crust by gently pressing your index finger all around the perimeter of the dough, about 2/3” from the edge.
- Stretch the dough as desired. Pizza should stretch to at least a 10-inch diameter.
- Ladle or spoon the sauce on top of the dough. You will likely need less sauce than you think (and too much sauce can weigh down the pizza), about 3 to 4 tablespoons of tomato sauce max.
- Top the pizza with desired toppings.
- Make sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel before launching. If it is, add a bit more flour, then hold the handle of the peel and slide the dough around to ensure it’s not sticking at all.
Launching and baking
- Standard home oven: Launch the pizza in the oven by holding the peel parallel to your baking sheet/stone/steel and gently sliding the pizza onto it. There’s no need to rush it; you can do this slowly to get the hang of it. Immediately close the oven and bake according to your desired method.Repeat the process with the next pizzas.
- Portable pizza oven: For my Ooni Koda 16, I typically launch the pizza at the highest temperature setting, then turn the knob down to 2/3 right after launching for the rest of the baking. I'll cook the pizza 30 seconds, then rotate every 15 seconds until cooked through (about 2 minutes). If I find I want a crispier bottom crust, I will turn the heat down fully to low and cook for an additional 30 seconds or so. I'll then crank the oven temperature back to the max in preparation for the next pizza. Repeat the process with the next pizzas.
- For standard home ovens: Buy the “Chef’s Flour” (usually in a red bag), such as this one.
- For high-temperature pizza ovens (900°F or 482°C): Buy the “Pizzeria Flour” (usually in a blue bag), such as this one.