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10 Actually Legit Tricks For Making Restaurant-Quality Pizza At Home

Perfect homemade pizza, right this way.

My name is Hannah, and just like any true New Yorker, I live and die by a good slice of pizza. Whether it's Neapolitan-style, a doughy grandma slice, or crispy thin-crust, I love it all.

And while I love to cook, I always assumed that making good pizza was some secret technique reserved for seasoned pizza-making veterans — a skill inaccessible to us casual home cooks. But then, I went to pizza school.

This Lower East Side institution called Pizza School NYC offers hands on workshops that teach you exactly how to make restaurant-quality pizza from scratch. And to be honest, it was a transformative experience for me.

For some backstory: To celebrate becoming eligible for Medicare 🤣, my father decided to fulfill a lifelong dream: Buy a pizza oven. In order to hone our craft we took a family pizza-making class. Since then, I've pretty much become obsessed with making pizza at home.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Disclaimer: You do NOT need a pizza-oven in order to make great pizza at home!! All you need is an oven and a pizza stone.

Now, back to pizza school. Here are some of the best tips and tricks I learned in order to make actually delicious homemade pizza.

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1. Don't be lazy! Make the dough from scratch.

Crazy For Crust / Via

While it's easy to pick up store-bought pizza dough, you only need a few simple ingredients to make it from scratch: Unbleached flour, instant dry yeast, sugar, salt, water, and olive oil. You'll also want some semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting. THAT'S IT! Homemade dough is much easier to work with, and it's well worth the extra effort. Here's a simple recipe if you want one to follow.

2. Knead the dough by hand rather than with a stand mixer.

3. Save your take-out containers, then use them to freeze pizza dough for future use.

4. Let the dough rest and rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes.

5. Don't use a rolling pin!

When it comes time to stretch the dough, all you need are your hands are gravity. Remove the pizza from its container and softly pat around the edges (a technique pizza school calls "soft bongos"). Then, hold the pizza in the air, turning it slowly, and let gravity to the work for you.

6. Semolina flour is your saving grace.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

The first time I tried making pizza from scratch (before Pizza School, of course), I had a very hard time transferring my pizza into the oven. The dough got super sticky and it completely stuck to the counter top. There's a simple hack to solve this problem: First, dust semolina flour on top of a pizza peel. Once your pizza dough is stretched, place it on the floured peel and add your toppings. Thanks to the semolina flour, the dough should slide right off the peel and into your oven.

7. When it comes to toppings, less is more.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I like a saucy slice, but you'll want to use toppings sparingly, especially the tomato sauce. Too much sauce and your pizza dough will get soggy and it will be difficult to transfer into the over. Apply the sauce like you're Jackson Pollock painting an abstract painting with a few splotches here and a drizzle there. Avoid putting sauce (or any toppings for that matter) right at the edges of your crust.

8. Let your pizza oven or pizza stone get hot, hot, hot.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

The key to a nice, charred crust and evenly cooked pizza is a hot oven. Most people don't have a restaurant-style pizza oven, but that's OK. Just buy a pizza stone and let it preheat in a 500-500 conventional oven for about an hour. You'll want to remove anything else that might be in your oven (extra racks, cookie sheets, etc...) before heating the pizza stone.

9. Time your pizza toppings carefully.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Timing is important when it comes to pizza-making. Certain ingredients that cook quickly (like sun-dried tomato and fried egg, for example) should only be added when your pizza is almost out of the oven. Others like fresh herbs and condiments like extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, or hot honey should be added right after you remove the pizza from the oven.

10. Don't skimp on quality toppings.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed

Great pizza is made from great ingredients. For example, the olive oil you use to make the pizza dough doesn't have to be anything special, but you should choose a good finishing olive oil because it'll enhance the over all flavor. Opt for high quality cheeses, ripe farmer's market veggies, and fresh herbs. While at the beach, I made a Frank Pepe's copycat white clam pizza using fresh littlenecks we caught in the nearby bay that same morning, and it was truly incredible because everything tasted so fresh. Obviously, you don't have to spend a fortune on a ton of fancy ingredients — just settle on a few quality toppings even if it's just fresh mozzarella, basil, and a reputable brand of San Marzano tomatoes.

Obviously homemade pizza tastes amazing, but making it from scratch is half of the fun. It's a great way to spice up date night, a family get together, or an evening with friends. Now go forth and make pizza! If I can do it, you can too.

Hannah Loewentheil/BuzzFeed