Please take the suck out of my homemade pizza

Lord knows I try, but my homemade pizza bites like a pack of bulimic barracuda. I know I’m not going to blow you away, but here’s my standard ingredients:

1 store bought, preshaped pizza crust (wrapped in Cellophane)
1 can pizza sauce
deli pepperoni
sliced mushrooms
grated mozzarella cheese
sprinkle of Italian herbs
dash of salt

Bake at 400 till done. (yawn)
The result is a pizza so mediocre, so lacking in any appeal that if were a restaurant that made it, the owner would be run out of town. (Note: My pizzas usually have lots of oil/grease that I have to blot off.)

Save me from my pathetic self.

I like to use a garlic flavored olive oil on top of my pizza, different cheeses together, and Rosemary. I have always felt the key was in the sauce. Try a different brand of pizza sauce if that one is not to your liking.

I’m sure everyone will be right along with their fancy pizza recipes.

My advice: crank the heat to 500 and try it without the mushrooms. They might be ruining it with too much moisture. The pepperoni are causing the extra oil, but it tastes good, so there you go.

Instead of garlic olive oil, try old fashioned Wishbone Italian on the crust. Also Contadina makes a decent canned sauce. Hormel also makes a good turkey pepperoni, which I use to try to cut down on the grease.

Some random ideas:

I think adding some parmesan to the cheese should give it some bite.

Try a different herb mixture. Maybe even just plain oregano. If you cook them in with the sauce before applying it it should bring out their flavour more.

Your herbs might be stale, also. Try buying a new batch OR use chopped fresh herbs.

You could try a different brand of pizza sauce, or make your own.

I agree with with SmackFu. I don’t cook much myself but I watch a lot of Food Network. HEAT is your friend. 400, 500 if you can, or the self clean setting. The harder and faster you cook it the better.

Self-taught pizza maker here (not an expert by any means).

  • Parmesan cheese is a good idea, but leave the stuff in the green can on the shelf. Buy a lump, and a cheese grater if you don’t already have one. I prefer the four-sided model that has the different-sized holes.

Trust me on this, because the difference in the intensity of taste is eye-opening.

If you don’t want to do that, careful scraping of the cheese with a knife will work. Scrape upward with the knife blade turned away from you (in other words, in the opposite direction from what you’d normally expect). You want thin slivers.

  • Pizza stone is your friend, even with store-bought dough. Put the stone in, heat it up (500 is fine, but check the directions that come with your stone), then drop the pizza onto it. You want the dough to rise fast, and acquire a nice crust on the bottom. When the timer goes off, remove the pizza and leave the stone in the oven to cool off. You do NOT want to touch it until it cools down.

  • Try to find pepperoni that comes in a stick. I buy mine at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter (see how pedestrian I am?). I strip the outer casing off and slice quarter-size disks. I quarter those disks again, because I hate to bite through a pepperoni and pull cheese off onto my chin. Ouch!

That’s a start. I’d also suggest making your own tomato sauce, or learn how to make pizza dough. It is not hard at all. I use a standard recipe and either bake on the stone, or when I don’t feel like taking the trouble, baking it on a cookie sheet. It’ll be softer, but that doesn’t bother me. If I’m really lazy, I let it rise only about 20 minutes in the oven (turn it on for a minute, then turn it off; that gives you just enough heat to encourage rising).

The problem is that you’re buying crappy premade ingredients loaded with chemicals preservatives and whatnot that have been sitting on shelves for God knows how long.

To make your own pizza you will need a cow and a plow. Hook cow to plow. Till field. Plant wheat. Harvest wheat. Make flour. Milk Cow. Make mozzarella from milk. Kill and butcher cow. make peperoni from cow.

Make dough from flour. Did I forget the tomatos? Oh yeah grow tomatos and spices. Make sauce from tomatos and spice. Make dough flat and round. Add sauce and cheese.

Now build a stone oven, and place cooked pizza on it.
Or you could just buy a fropi which will be technically equivalent to your homemade style.

The pizza stone is a great idea, but don’t buy one at a kitchen store–go to Lowe’s and buy some unglazed tile. Four of them are perfect for a pizza–just put them together on the oven rack. The seams between them won’t matter, as long as they’re good and hot before you put the pizza on. The cost is about $3. I have them on the top rack of my oven as well, so I have an extra well of heat cooking the toppings on the pizza.

Ideally, this will also require the use of a peel rather than a pan for the pizza, so that it cooks right on the stones. This takes some practice to get right.

Rather than the premade crust, try one of the ones from a box or a pouch. Jiffy and Martha White both make fine ones. I lived on these in med school before I had a good stand mixer and started making my own. I still use them when I want pizza and don’t want to go whole-hog.

The garlic oil helps. I use Wolfgang Puck’s chili-garlic oil–separate and clean a whole head of garlic, add it to a pan with a cup of extra-virgin olive oil (no need to use the expensive stuff here), and put it on medium-low heat until the garlic just starts to turn brown. (Don’t let it get too dark.) Remove it from the heat, add a generous tablespoon of red pepper flakes, and let it steep for a couple of hours, then strain it. It’ll keep for a long time in the fridge.

I hate to ask, but…you are using real mozzarella, right? Some of the stuff in the bagged cheese section is actually imitation cheese food product, or some such crime against humanity. This can take a pizza from edible to suck in and of itself. Just check the bag. I also like to get provolone from the deli and use that–I have 'em slice it thin and just lay it on there.

I’ve never had pasta sauce I liked from a can, nor anything good that was labeled as “pizza sauce”. Step up to the jar, at least–I like Prego, personally. This is something that is definitely worthwhile to learn to make–make a huge batch and freeze it in small portions.

Dr. J (who takes his pizza seriously)

Make a few without the pepperoni and mushrooms for a while; focus on quality dough (Forget those Boli crusts! They taste like cardboard and take a lot more out than they add) and on finding the right combo for the sauce and cheese. Get the basics down before you get sidetracked by toppings, which are just window dressing. A combination of cheeses–mozzarella and romano in the right balance, plus your own individual flourishes–can make a world of difference. Salty = bad, creamy = good. Unless you like salty. For the sauce, look at the labels of the sauce you’ve been using. Hunt’s? Contadina? Ragu? Some add flour, some add garlic powder. Which one did you like the best? Duplicate and tinker.

There are some pizzerias in Old Forge, PA that are widely reknowned as the best. They’ll put standard toppings on if you ask, but that’ll mark you as a tourist (although one of the places makes a wonderful tomato sauce with chopped onions in it).

Definitely get a pizza stone. Unless you want to spring for a brick pizza oven, this is the (surprisingly inexpensive) way to compensate for temperature differences within your oven.

This is going to involve a lot of trial and error, but will be worth it.

[ul][li] Well preheated oven[/li]
[li] Higher heat[/li]
[li] Dry salami (only use great pepperoni)[/li]
[li] Sauteed mushrooms & garlic[/li]
[li] Herbed & preheated sauce[/li]
[li] Thin crust[/li]
Follow previous (excellent) advice[/ul]

The sauce is vital. My family usually stretches the definition of “pizza,” often heading into lasagna territory, but I can tell you that a proper pasta sauce base with added onion (for sweetness) makes or breaks the dish.

If you don’t want to go through all the trouble of making your own dough, try a frozen bread dough such as “Rhodes”. Stretch or roll it out thin. Bake directly on a stone at high heat (500 degrees). Rub the top of the pie with with extra virgin olive oil before applying the sauce. As for sauce, keep it simple. Drain a can or imported plum (San Marsano) tomatos . Crush the tomatos in your hand over the pizza. salt and pepper to taste Top the tomatos with torn fresh basil. Feeling crazy? At this point you can add some red pepper flake or parm or romano cheese. You can also skip the salt and mix 3 or 4 mashed anchovy fillets with the tomatos, this will give you salt plus richness.(don’t worry! Your pizza will not taste like day old fish) Top the pie with good mozzarella cheese. Don’t use a ton. If like a little bite to your cheese use a asiago mozzarella mix. use quality FRESH toppings sparingly. Bake 9 to 12 minutes on the preheated stone.
I think this will be vast improvement over any prefab pie.

I think you’ll find your biggest problem is those prefab crusts. Even the Poppinfresh pizza crust is better than those Boboli abominations.

Personally, I use my bread machine to mix up pizza crust. I use the machine to mix it, and knead it, then let it rise once and roll it out. I have one of those pizza stone deals (bought at a kitchen store, mine was, but they sell them at Walmart nowadays) and I roll it right out on that. My recipe (from Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg & Lois Conway, which I bought at the same time I bought my machine and which has many, many great bread machine recipes in it):

3/4 cup water
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 TBLS olive oil
2 teasppon sugar
2 teaspoon dry yeast

Sometimes, for a change, I make whole wheat crust. I use the same recipe, but substitute honey for the sugar and use whole wheat flour for half the flour. Makes a good veggie pizza, or a great ham and pineapple. If you don’t have a bread machine, you could knead the dough by hand or with a food processor or stand mixer with dough hooks and let it rise 30 - 45 minutes before rolling. Or you could buy frozen bread dough as someone recommended above. Frozen bread dough is quite good, and although I’ve never used it for pizza, I’m sure it would beat the Boboli crust all to shit.

My “secret” for homemade pizza is Chef Paul’s “Magic Pizza & Pasta Seasoning (herbal variety).” Mix some into the sauce and sprinkle some more on top of the cheese.

I also second the freshly-grated parmesan - it’s really not any more expensive, because the flavor’s so much more intense you use a lot less.

Be daring! Make your own crust! It’s really not that hard, and so worth it! The recipe I use makes four “dough balls,” which freeze well, so I just pull one out of the freezer when I want a pizza.

And, lastly, be sure to saute the mushrooms first, to cook off the excess water, or they’ll make everything soggy.

I cannot think of anything that’s been missed in this thread but I had to chime in. I’d been a professional pizza cook for 11 years from mom and pop parlors in Ohio to fancy Beverly Hills bistros.

The advice so far has been excellent.

Crust, crust, crust. Can’t stress this enough, it’s so dang easy there is no excuse to not learn to make it. Flour, yeast, water, oil, salt and sugar. Takes 5-10 minutes to mix with a fork and then hand knead. Let rise and roll out.

bake on stone with peel, if not that ambitious, bake on metal pan. Do not use cornstarch like some awful pizza shops do, adds nothing to the flavor and doesn’t help, (it’s only used by trogladytes in a pathetic attempt to keep the pizza from sticking to the oven stones).

Also try to stick with good ingredients, such as:

Fresh basil from the produce section. chopped.

saute’d onions and garlic.

sun-dried tomatoes.

Olive oil.


thanks for all those great ideas!

I think part of the suckiness of my pizzas is due to the sauce and cheese. I’m sure the cheese is real mozzarella, but mozzarella is mighty bland. As for the sauce, it comes right out of the can. (Peppino’s brand?)

I want a pizza with some wow factor. I’ve seen some simple restaurant-style pizza that kicks butt, so I know you don’t need 34 ingredients.

Does romano cheese give it more oomph?

For variety, I sometimes make cornmeal crust. Yummy and extra-crunchy! I don’t have the recipe in front of me but I think it’s just a matter of replacing 1/2 the four with stone-ground cornmeal.

Your sauce is the problem, most canned sauces seem to be very little more than tomato sauce and sugar. Buy a can of tomato sauce and add the herbs yourself. Try Basil, garlic,and onion to start with and experiment with whatever you like. I add olive oil, worcestershire sauce, oregano, and parmesan cheese to mine. It only takes a few minutes more and makes a huge difference.
Adding a little asiago and parmesan to the cheese could add some punch to your cheese.

If you have a local pizza place that you like, wander on down there and ask to buy a lump of their dough. Saves a lot of time, even if they do sometimes ask you if you’re an industrial spy. LOL.

If you want to improve your yum factor, you have to improve the ingredients you’re using. Spend a little more on higher-quality sauce and better dough and I think you’ll be be really happy at the improvement. Mozzarella is pretty bland, try chunks of garlic or marinated artichicokes for tasty toppings.