The toppings tend to insulate the crust so to avoid soggy crusts, get plenty of heat on the bottom. A hot pizza stone ensures that the crust will be baked properly. Preheat the stone in the oven and then, using a peel, slide the pizza onto the hot stone without removing the stone from the oven.
We prefer a larger, square stone. Trying to align a round pizza onto a round stone in the face of a hot oven is not what we choose to do.
A pizza peel or paddle is used to transfer the pizza from the counter to the oven. It has a tapered edge. Sprinkle the top of the paddle with semolina flour or cornmeal so that the pizza will slide off easily onto the pizza stone.
Maybe you’re very good at tossing and twirling pizza dough. For the rest of us, we need a pizza roller. It acts like a miniature rolling pin. It’s important to press the dough to a uniform thickness. You can shape and press your crust with a pizza roller.
Is there a need for pizza pans? Not really. Baking directly on a hot stone works well. Still, some of us grew up with pizza pans and it’s hard to give them up. And a pan makes a great template for a round pizza.
If you are going to use a pan, make sure that it’s dark metal so that it will absorb, not reflect, heat and place the pan directly on the hot stone.
A pizza wheel is the safest, easiest way to slice a pizza. It needs to be made of good quality steel that will hold an edge, have a comfortable handle, and have a guard so that your hand does not slip down against the wheel creating a nasty cut. Of course, you can use a butcher knife with a straight blade or even your kitchen shears.
And a Word about Pizza Crusts
The toppings get the glory but they shouldn’t. A really good pizza crust is as important to us as the toppings. But one type of pizza crust doesn’t please all. We prefer a chewy pizza crust while others want a soft crust.
The amount of gluten in the dough makes the difference. If you want a soft crust, use unbleached all-purpose flour. Most of the traditional European flours have a lower protein content and higher ash content than our bread flours. (The higher ash content makes the dough more extensible.) So traditional European pizzas are usually more tender than those made with our bread flours.
Our favorite flour for pizza is a mid-protein bread flour mixed with a bit of rye flour, either dark or white. The rye flour makes dough a little softer and easier to form without losing the chewiness that we love. If this seems like your kind of pizza crust, try our Italian Pizza and Bread Mixes.