The Best Way to Cook a Pizza: How to Make the Most of What You’ve Got
Whether you make it by hand or wipe the frost off a frozen pizza, your journey to a delicious meal isn’t complete until the pie gets cooked. For most of us, that means popping it into the oven at 425°F and letting it cook for 20 minutes. But this is far from the only way to cook a pizza—and many would argue there are much better ways to prepare this classic entrée.
You’ve got options beyond a traditional oven (gas or electric). If you’re a cash poor college student, a circular heater (the famed Pizza Pizzaz) might be how you cook everything from frozen pizzas to grilled cheese sandwiches. Conversely, if you’ve got access to one, a brick oven offers you the chance to cook your pizza like they did in the Old World. There’s even grilling to consider.
The question is, what’s the best way to cook a pizza? Is there a right answer? It all depends on who you ask.
The everyday convenience of a conventional oven
A conventional oven is likely the simplest and most convenient way to cook a pizza for most home chefs. Nearly everyone has a conventional oven in their kitchen, and everyone should know how to use one.
It’s not only about convenience, though. Getting a reliable bake couldn’t be easier from a conventional oven. You can set a precise temperature and maintain it consistently as you cook your pizza, for absolute perfection. Modern ovens even give you the option between using top and bottom heating elements, to get the best in both melted toppings and a crisp, browned crust.
Looking for a conventional oven pro tip? Turn on the broiler for the last few minutes of your bake to crisp the ends of the pizza’s crust and to put the finishing touches on the toppings.
Traditionalists swear by the brick oven
For a traditional pizza making experience, you can cook your pizza in a classic brick oven. In a brick oven’s high heat environment, your pizza will cook in a matter of minutes—and should come out with a crisp crust and perfectly melted cheese and sauce.
Because you heat a brick oven by burning wood, using different types of wood can change the subtlety of the smokey flavors imbued in a wood-fired pizza. Try maple or ash for a classic brick oven taste, or experiment with something like Alder for a noticeably sweet and smokey flavor.
A brick oven has all the components to make a perfect pizza, but it might not be the best option for home chefs. Not only are brick ovens expensive and large, it takes quite a bit of time to prepare the oven before cooking begins. The results are deliciously amazing, but require an investment of time and money.
Grill masters recommend pizza over an open flame
On the off chance that you don’t have a brick pizza oven in your backyard, grilling your pizza is the way to go. It’s an affordable option if you want to recreate the experience of eating a wood-fired pizza. A grill’s intense flame will give you a similarly crispy crust, but managing the temperature and getting a consistent bake can be difficult. The biggest challenge will be keeping enough heat inside the lid to cook the top of the pizza.
If what you desire are those subtle smokey flavors, a charcoal grill is a quick, accessible way to cook a delicious pizza at home. Just make sure you’re tending the grill or you could end up with a charred crust and half-baked toppings. Luckily, there are more than a few ways to master your pizza-grilling skills.
Do circular heaters belong in the conversation?
Is a circular heater a viable option for cooking a pizza? Should you rush out and buy a Pizza Pizzaz? If you’re a frozen pizza kind of person, it’s definitely an option. If you make your own pies… not so much. This is the “quick and dirty” way to cook a pizza, and all you need is an electric outlet.
The main benefit of using something like a Pizza Pizzaz is that you don’t need to wait for your oven to preheat. With a circular heater, you don’t even need to set the temperature; you just plug it in and pop it on. You won’t get a great bake from a circular heater, but if you’re living in a dorm room with no oven cooking a Red Baron for dinner, then sure, it’ll cook a pizza.
What’s the best way to cook a pizza?
The best way to cook a pizza is the one that’s most accessible to you! Most people have a conventional oven or a grill, but might not be able to warm up a brick oven to toast their pizza to perfection. Work with what you’ve got—even if that means enjoying it hot and fresh from a pizza delivery bag.
The real answer here isn’t the medium, but the method. A well-cooked pizza will have a crunchy, browned crust that’s rigid, with perfectly melted cheese that complements the profile of the sauce and any toppings. Everything should be cooked through consistently and you should get a mouth full of flavor with every bite. It’s possible to achieve this level of delicious doneness from any of these cooking options… well, most of them.