Homemade pizza dough is finicky—crust with a crispy exterior but chewy inside unpredictable at best, and completely elusive for most home cooks. That’s why it was nothing short of a revelation when Christopher Kimball discovered the secret ingredient for reliably great homemade pizza dough, and nailed a surefire recipe in the process.
The secret ingredient, it turns out, isn’t an ingredient at all, but temperature—and not the oven temp. It’s about the dough, which must reach 75°F before baking.
That’s because the yeast is sufficiently active at this temperature, and the dough has less gluten formation, making it easier to shape and prime for that perfectly chewy texture when it comes out of the oven.
Our kitchen also favors a cold fermentation, which means that an hour before you’re ready to cook your pizza, you have to bring the dough up to temperature. Remove it from the refrigerator and set it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with 100°F water for 30 minutes, or until the dough reaches 75°F. Change the water as needed.
Of course, this 75°F revelation wasn’t the only step Chris and the Milk Street kitchen identified for perfect pizza dough.
Because of its higher protein content, which produces crusts with good flavor and crispy edges while maintaining a good chew, King Arthur Flour is best.
Also, using cold water to mix the dough prolongs the fermentation process, which leads to better flavor. And about that fermentation, 24 hours builds the best flavor. No short cuts. Finally, a baking steel is preferable to a baking stone. In our tests, the former reached 550°F, while the latter only hit 525°F. If you do use a pizza stone, increase your baking time by two to three minutes.