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Fast Route to Parlor-Worthy Pizza Crust

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2013

The best restaurant pizzas are baked in ultrahot ovens (some reaching temperatures as high as 1,000 degrees), guaranteeing a beautifully browned crust before the toppings overcook. However, even the best home ovens max out at about 550 degrees, meaning that getting a crisp, bronzed edge before the interior of the crust overcooks is difficult.

We’ve devised techniques to maximize the heat output in the oven for our own pizza recipes—preheating the baking stone and positioning it close to the top of the oven to capture reflected heat—but we wondered if we might modify our dough recipes, too.

Since the browning temperatures of sugars are as much as 75 degrees lower than those of the starches and proteins in flours, we tried adding increasing amounts of sugar to the dough for our Thin-Crust Pizza (see related content). As expected, the more sugar we added the faster and more evenly the crust browned. In the end, we found that 4 percent sugar, or 2 teaspoons per cup of flour, was an ideal amount: It guaranteed quick browning in the time it took the crust to cook through without adding any noticeable sweetness or affecting the rising time. It’s an easy addition and one that we’ll be keeping in our pizza repertoire from now on.