As an avid home cook I always struggle a bit when it comes to making homemade pizza. I don’t have much of an issue actually cooking it, but rather deciding how to cook it.
Making things more difficult is that I live in New York City, a place with so many amazing food options and even better pizza options. Just take a look at any of these food bloggers and your mouth will start watering.
However, as a self proclaimed weekend chef I felt compelled to do it the right way, for every step in the process to be perfect.
If I truly want to make professional grade pizza, I would need to make the dough from scratch, right?
That was my mindset for years. I put in the time, painstakingly learned how to make dough, and eventually got the pizza to turn out excellent.
But I grew tired of the waiting game. Making dough from scratch is an incredibly time consuming process. At the very least I needed a 24 hour notice if I wanted to make home made pizza, and it got to the point where I just couldn’t keep planning my days around that.
Imagine this scenario with a room full of people:
Me: “Who wants pizza?!?”
Everyone: “We do! We do!”
Me: “Ok great, give me about a day…..”
Now don’t get me wrong; making pizza dough from scratch is fulfilling and comes out great if done right.
But I needed a more practical solution, or rather an easier option for homemade pizza.
Using store bought dough presented a timesaving solution. While I’ve tried using pre-made dough in the past, I just couldn’t seem to get it right. It didn’t taste awful, but I found the flavor to be somewhat bland, and the crust always came out dense and hard.
I had heard rave reviews about Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough, so I decided to give it a try. (Spoiler Alert: it’s really, really good! They even have a cauliflower crust for deliciously healthier recipes!)
I set out to perfect my recipe, and being such a huge fan of pan pizza I decided to try my hand at that style. The process of making a pan pizza with store bought dough takes a little over an hour and comes out so good that I guarantee family and guests will love it.
Here are all the ingredients you’ll need and the basic steps to perfecting this home made pan pizza.
Gather All Your Ingredients
I like to gather all of my ingredients in advance, just to make it easy for prepping. In this case I kept it simple. I decided to make both a classic margherita pie and a marinara pizza by splitting the dough in half.
It’s amazing how simple the whole process is, and how little ingredients are needed for a delicious pan pizza. You really only need canned tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, and a little extra flour.
Carefully Take Out The Dough and Place on Floured Surface
It is very important to be careful with this first step. Pizza dough is actually alive, and contains gas (even if you can’t see it). It’s crucial to contain as much of that inside as able, so remove the dough from the bag with as little friction as possible.
The dough be goopy and sticky, so generously flour both of your hands and the board it’s placed on. You may want to add a little flour on top as well.
Shape the Dough Into a Ball
The best way to shape the dough is to use the outer parts of your hands around the pinky finger. Press around the edges while rotating the dough and it will begin to take form. You’ll want to keep moving around here and to smooth the ball as much as possible.
Cover the Dough for at Least 1 Hour
Once you are pleased with the shape of the dough, cover and let it sit for an hour. Sprinkle a little more flour on top right before it gets covered, and use a form fitting a bowl or container. This will keep air out and allow the dough to settle.
An hour is a good benchmark, but allowing more time doesn’t hurt. Covering allows more gas inside and ensures that the dough rises more when baked.
After resting, the dough should look something like this. A bit wider in size and much softer in texture.
Stretch the Dough
This part of the process was challenging. From the looks of the picture, mine didn’t come out perfectly. But it was close enough.
The best way to stretch and shape your dough is to start off slowly. Press along the edges into a circle, and then get more and more tough by stretching the dough with your hands. You’ll want a general shape and diameter of the pan that will be used, which was about 8″ for me.
Pre Heat a Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron skillets are essential since you’re trying to char the bottom of the crust as much as possible. While a pizza stone or steel pan will also work well, most casual chef’s usually don’t have one to use. Cast iron works just fine.
Allow the skillet to heat for around 20 minutes or so. Once it gets up to around 500 degrees, it’s ready to start cookin’.
Slide Dough onto Cast Iron and Add Toppings
Immediately when the dough hits the pan, it will start cooking so it’s important to work quickly here.
For the first pizza I decided to make a simple marinara. No cheese, just garlic, oregano, olive oil, and sauce.
After a few minutes the the bottom will begin to brown. This is the color to look for before it’s ready for the oven.
Place in the Oven on Broil
Now is the time perfect time to cook the top. But it’s imperative to act fast.
Place the pan pizza in the oven and set it to broil to finish cooking. This step in the process sears the top of the pizza beautifully. Leave in the oven for only about a minute or two. I moved it around to achieve even more coloring.
This is the look to aim for when the pizza comes out. Charred, crispy crust with seared pizza toppings. The smell was smell delicious.
Top with olive oil
As a final step, make sure to drizzle a little olive oil on the top to give it a professional looking shine, and to add bit of flavor.
Looking for a delicious new olive oil to try out? Be sure to check out Frankie’s Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
After finishing the first pan pizza, I had to make at least one classic margherita pie as well. I was missing that cheesy goodness on the first go around.
I repeated the process, this time adding some fresh mozzarella.
This pan pizza was easily my favorite of the 2. While I’ll need a little more practice in perfecting the shape of my dough, both of the pizzas came out tasting delicious. They were way better than any I had ever attempted to make before, even with using store bought dough.
I was really happy with how the dough rose as well. For this all to be achieved in an hour was also amazing.
The crust came out extremely soft and airy, but with a nice crisp. Exactly how I like it!
The quality of these pies was honestly shocking. The process was easy, stress free, and in the end…completely delicious!
That’s not to say that making dough from scratch can’t achieve similar results. But if you are like me and need to balance taste with convenience, store bought pizza dough is definitely the way to go.