How to Make a Good Pizza
Chris Bianco, of Bianco Pizzeria in Phoenix (our winner of the Best Pizzeria in America), shares his tips for making the perfect pie.
Ditch the metal pizza pans and buy a baking stone, which concentrates heat and helps wick away moisture from the crust. You'll also need a wooden pizza peel to transfer pies to and from the stone. Buy an all-purpose regular or organic flour (King Arthur makes good ones) and buy in small quantities, because freshness matters. Use granular yeast -- it's more consistent. Don't overhandle the dough and don't use a rolling pin. Stretch the dough with your hands until it's as thin as you can get it.
A good sauce doesn't require hours of simmering on the stove. Start with the best quality canned san marzano tomatoes you can find. (I like La Bella brand.) Canned tomatoes are an artisanal product: They're blanched and skinned, so they've already been par-cooked and they'll roast in the oven. There is no need to heat or warm them beforehand. Empty the can, drain the tomatoes and crush them with your hands or pulse them in a food processor a few times. I add sea salt, black pepper and a little extra-virgin olive oil.
When you want a creamy cheese that melts in gooey pools across your pizza, nothing beats fresh mozzarella. I use cheese made in-house, but you can find fresh mozzarella in most grocery stores. Buy the best quality unsalted fior di latte (fresh cow's milk mozzarella). Take it out of the water, blot it, tear or slice it and use it while it's still cold. I tend to use cheese sparingly on my pizzas, but it's a matter of personal preference.
Preheat your oven (or toaster oven) to 450°F and, for the crispiest crust, arrange the pizza directly on the oven rack. (Place a baking sheet below the rack to catch any oil.) Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble. Watch closely so the pizza doesn't burn.
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