9 Tricks for Making the Best Homemade Pizza—Straight from a Chef

Want to make restaurant-quality pizza in your home oven? It's easy: Just follow these tips and tricks!

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White Wood Fired Neapolitan Pizza Maker Close Up Holding Silver Tray with Fresh Pie
Shutterstock / Stanislav Makhalov

Some kids dream of becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Not me; all I wanted to be was a pizza maker so I could eat my favorite food every day! Many years later, I found myself running a pizza and pasta restaurant. We made our dough from scratch every day, spent hours cooking our marinara sauce, and made sure we selected the finest-quality cheeses to top off the best pizzas. But you don’t have to do any of that to make restaurant-quality pizza at home—just follow these tips and tricks.

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Cooking pizza in hot air oven
Shutterstock / Semmick Photo

Use a Pizza Stone

This is the number one, most important rule to homemade pizza. Commercial pizza ovens can get over 800ºF! That causes a rapid rise in your dough, which makes it fluffy, crispy and delicious. Mimic those conditions by cooking your pizza on a pizza stone: We like this one!

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Dough basis with ketchup and ingredients for pizza
Shutterstock / Africa Studio

Throw Away the Tomato Paste

There’s a time and a place for tomato paste, but it definitely doesn’t belong in pizza sauce. A good tomato sauce should only have a few simple ingredients (including tomatoes, onions, garlic and salt). Trust us: It’ll taste fresher and more robust when you don’t use that pasty stuff.

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Male chef preparing dough for pizza in restaurant kitchen
Shutterstock / Africa Studio

Skip the Rolling Pin

Whether you’re making your dough from scratch or using the store-bought kind, don’t use a rolling pin unless you want a cracker-y, super-thin crust. The rolling pin crushes all the gas out of the dough, so you won’t get a light, airy crumb. Try gently stretch the dough in your hands instead. (Hint: It’ll be easier if the dough is room temperature.)

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The cook puts pizza bread into wood-burning stove.
Shutterstock / Photografeus

Consider Investing in a Pizza Peel

The most frustrating part of homemade pizza is sliding it into the oven. Maximize your success by buying a pizza peel, coating it with semolina flour, and building your pizza right on its surface. It’ll make the whole experience a lot more fun!

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Grated cheese for cooking on a cutting board on a dark background.
Shutterstock / 13Smile

Use Full-Fat Cheeses

Celebrate full-flavored, fatty cheeses on pizza night. They provide better melting coverage as compared to low-moisture cheeses, which also end up having a rubbery texture. My favorite combination is mozzarella for meltability and provolone for flavor. Experiment and have some fun!

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pizza on the stone for baking pizza and ingredients of pizza on a wooden background top view
Shutterstock / Aleksandr Gogolin

Go Easy on the Toppings

I had a rule at my restaurant: After sauce and cheese, I tried to keep the toppings to a maximum of three. It allowed our guests to taste everything a whole lot better and kept the dough from getting too soggy as it cooked.

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Homemade pizza on baking tray and Ingredients for cooking.
Shutterstock / Zinaida Zaiko

Don’t Load up on Sauce or Cheese, Either

Too much sauce or cheese can add excess moisture to your pizza dough. That means your crust will be soft and soggy instead of crisp and delicious. You should still be able to see dough after spreading on your sauce, and I wouldn’t recommend using more than one cup of cheese.

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Cropped shot of a man holding a pot with vegetables in the kitchen
Shutterstock / bbernard

Cook Your Toppings

Whether you’re going Meatless Monday or loading up on the sausage and peppers, make sure everything’s cooked before it hits the pie. The oven won’t be hot enough to fully cook your raw meat, and most vegetables will end up too crunchy for your liking without a little par-cooking.

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Rustic homemade pizzas with eggpant, cheese, olives, arugula, prosciutto and figs over grunge backdrop.
Shutterstock / Foxys Forest Manufacture

Practice Makes Perfect

I know you don’t want to hear this, but you’re probably not going to make a perfectly shaped pizza on your first try. If at first you don’t succeed: Make more pizza! It’ll get easier every time, and it can only get more delicious.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.