How To Make The Perfect Pan Pizza Crust

Dough Should Rise For At Least 4 Hours To Get Airy, Crispy Crust

Rosemary potato pizza
Rosemary-Garlic Potato Pizza from “Perfect Pan Pizza.” Photo by Johnny Autry

Americans’ love for pizza is well documented. From New York style to Chicago deep dish, pizza comes in a lot of shapes and sizes.

And yet, making your own pizza at home with the perfect crust and toppings can feel too daunting compared to calling your favorite pizza place for delivery. But Peter Reinhart, author of “Perfect Pan Pizza,” says you can’t really screw it up.

“Pizza is low risk because there’s only two kinds of pizza around: There’s good and there’s very good,” he said.

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And the easiest version to make at home may be the most underutilized — pan pizza.

There are a couple of easy tricks that make the difference between good and great pizza, Reinhart said. One of those tricks is to make the dough at least a day in advance.

“Let it rise very, very slowly in the refrigerator,” he said. “It changes everything about the dough … brought about through enzyme development and yeast and bacterial fermentation.”

Reinhart lets the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight. He then takes it out of the refrigerator at least four hours before he wants to bake it.

“(It) takes about four hours for the dough to wake up, for the yeast to sort of come back to life and to start fermenting the dough and for you to get those beautiful airy pockets,” he said.

The first hour is about stretching the dough to fit the pan — doing it too quickly leaves the dough prone to ripping, he said.

“Spread by pressing it out with your fingertips and give it a 20 minute rest, every 20 minute resting period allows the dough to spread a little bit more the next time,” Reinhart said. “By the end of the hour — what I call the dimpling of the dough — it will eventually cover and fill the whole pan.”

Umberto’s-Style Grandma Pie from “Perfect Pan Pizza” by Peter Reinhart. Photo by Johnny Autry

Another trick to getting the perfect crust, which Reinhart calls game-changing, is to put half the cheese on the dough before you let it rise, and the other half right before you bake the pizza.

“As the dough rises, it embeds the cheese in the dough so that when you bite into this slice of pizza, I kid you not, it’s like eating the best grilled cheese sandwich with a pizza on top,” he said. “It will ruin you forever for pizza.”

Once you have the crust mastered, Reinhart said to get creative with your toppings. He often turns to a tried and true recipe, Susan’s Rosemary-Garlic Potatoes Pizza, which combines the potato, garlic, rosemary trio with balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, kale and cherry tomatoes.

Reinhart said much of his inspiration for toppings come from classic sandwich combos.

“A sandwich is like the kissing cousin of a pizza — a dough with something on it and a sandwich is dough with something in it,” he said.

His final piece of advice: Keep it simple at first. As you go you’ll get more confident and come up with your own ideas and variations.

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