Maybe Pizza?
Gus's experiments in making pizza with very hot ovens.
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April 9, 2012

I've been asked a couple of times what I think is needed to get started with making pizza at home. So I've compiled a short list of what I consider the essentials below.

This is kind of obvious, but you need flour to make pizza. I like to use specialty flours when I make my dough (I'll save that for a future post) but your standard run of the mill flour bought from any grocery store will do. "Bob's Red Mill" unbleached white flour served me well in the past. If your grocery store has "00" (that's zero zero) style flour, you might pick that up (Whole Foods sells it in small bags, but it's crazy expensive there for some reason. Look around a bit if possible).

I use SAF Red Instant Yeast which you can find online in a bunch of different outlets. I'm not a fan of the packets which are commonly found in the grocery store- if you're going to be making a bunch of pizza it might be wise to just the little jars of yeast instead. Red Star is a pretty common brand I've used with success.

Wooden pizza peel
You'll need one of these as well. Once you've shaped your dough it goes onto the peel for toppings, and from there it slides off into the oven. I've not tried a metal peel for preparing pizza, but if you've got one it's worth a shot I suppose.

Semolina flour
"Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat used in making pasta" (thank you Wikipedia!). Sprinkling a little semolina on your peel before you put your dough on will keep it from sticking as you slide it into the oven. I'm partial to Bob's Red Mill semolina. It's cheap, and it'll last you a long long time. Do not substitute cornmeal for this job, it'll burn and make your pizza taste bad (semolina will burn as well, but at a much higher temp than cornmeal).

Pizza stone
If you like the types of pizza that I do, then you absolutely need a pizza stone (also known as a baking stone). The thicker the stone, the better (the stone acts as a heat sink and will cook your pizza from below using conduction). And the hotter you can get it, the better (I get mine up to 750° over the course of about 40 minutes- heat up too fast and you'll break the stone).

If you don't already have a stone, I'd recommend the Dough-Joe stones. I've gone through 4 or 5 pizza stones over the years (I really push a lot of heat through them, and sometimes too quickly) and the Dough-Joes are far and away my favorite yet (I've bought two sets in fact). They look a lot like "quarry stones" that you'll find mentioned on pizza blogs and forums, but they are much thicker and work better. If you already have a stone that's at least 1/4" thick, it'll work fine.

Something to raise your dough in
Tupperware, a big ceramic bowl with saran-wrap, whatever. And a little olive oil to grease the sides comes in handy as well.

Pastry mat
While not necessary, it comes in handy when shaping your dough. I've got a silicone mat that I've had for years, and it's been great.

Metal pizza pan
Not absolutely necessary either, but it's pretty nice to cut your pizza on. Oh yea, don't forget a pizza cutter of some sort as well. The Dexter Russell 4" is my weapon of choice.

Water, salt, and sugar
I'm going to just assume you already have these. Honey works as well.

If you've got a restaurant supply store near close by you'll most likely find pans, peels, and good cutters there.