Did you know that with the right temperature setting on your oven, you can make pies that rival your neighborhood pizzeria?
In Naples, Italy, they bake their pizzas in wood-fired pizza ovens that reach temperatures of 800-900°F (430-480°C). The pies cook in as little as 60 to 90 seconds, coming out with a lightly charred crust and steaming-hot toppings.
Unless you own a portable pizza oven—say, the Gozney Roccbox or the Ooni Koda—it’s impossible to replicate this at home. The only time your home oven is this hot is during the self-cleaning cycle, when the door is locked and you can’t (and really shouldn’t) try to cook in it.
But here’s the thing: You don’t necessarily need a fancy portable pizza oven to make great pizzas. You just need to turn the oven up as high as it goes and preheat it long enough, preferably with a pizza stone or baking steel inside.
The best temperature for baking pizza in your oven, whether you made it yourself from scratch or bought it from the frozen foods aisle at the grocery store, is 500°F (260°C).
Although some pizza recipes and the cooking instructions on many frozen pizza boxes recommend otherwise, this is the temperature at which pizzas turn out the airiest and crispiest.
To bake a good pizza, however, you need to do more than turn the knob to the right setting; you need to preheat your oven so that it’s hot enough to draw out as much moisture from the dough as possible.
Pizzas bake best when the room-temperature dough suddenly comes into contact with a scorching hot baking surface.
Materials with a porous surface, like unglazed stone, cast iron, or carbon steel, draw more moisture from the dough than those with a slick surface, like gazed stone and stainless steel.
For pizza shop-like results, much like the one in the photo at the beginning of the article, preheat the oven for 1½ hours with a pizza stone, baking steel, pizza crisper, cast iron skillet, or heavy-duty baking sheet inside, then slide the pie on it.
The position of the rack is also important. If your oven has a pizza setting, like contributing editor Jim Stonos’ Bosch oven, set the rack to the lowest setting. If your oven is a regular oven, like mine is, cook the pizza on the middle rack.