Baking pizza is all about timing: You need to ensure the bottom, edges, and top of the pizza all bake at an even rate, so that by the time your cheese has melted to perfection, the crust is crispy. But balancing these three elements can be challenging. Typically, the top of your pizza — the cheese and any toppings — bubbles and browns at a faster rate than the bottom of the crust, which may remain pale and flabby. If you’re having trouble getting a crispy crust on the bottom of your pizza, try these tips.
Pizza crust not getting crisp and brown? Bake on the right surface.
Getting your pizza to brown on the bottom comes down to the surface that you bake it on. As Andrew Janjigian explains in his post on how to transform your home oven into a pizza oven, this is all about conduction: the direct transfer of energy from one object to another. To maximize conduction, you want to bake your pie on a material with sufficient thermal mass, which refers to the heat-storing (and delivering) capacity of a material. The more thermal mass, the more heat can be delivered to the underside of your pizza; the more heat delivered, the more it will brown, allowing it to bake at the same rate as the top and sides of the pizza.
Andrew notes that “thermal mass is directly related to the density and weight of the surface material in question — denser and heavier is better, provided it has been preheated.” There are three options we recommend for home ovens, ranging from the most effective to the simplest.
The recommended option is a baking steel, which most home pizza bakers prefer. A baking steel has significant thermal mass, plus it excels in an extra category: thermal conductivity. In other words, it can store a lot of heat and then transfer that heat to the bottom of the pizza quickly because it’s made of metal, which is an excellent conductor. Make sure to preheat the steel for an hour before baking your pizza so that it’s most effective.
The second option is a baking stone (also called a bread and pizza stone), which has the thermal mass of a baking steel but is made from cordierite, not steel, and thus does not have the same thermal conductivity. Preheat it thoroughly — at least an hour before baking — and it will still be able to deliver a significant blast of heat to the bottom of your crust, enabling it to brown at a nice rate.
If you don’t have a baking steel or stone, you can bake your pizza on a preheated metal half-sheet pan. By preheating, the pan absorbs heat, allowing it to deliver it to the bottom of your pizza when the dough is placed on top. But because the sheet pan is thin, it has a low amount of thermal mass and can only store a limited amount of heat, and once the raw pizza is placed on top, it will quickly cool.
Parbake your pizza crust
You can also give your crust a little head start: Instead of topping the raw dough and sliding into the oven, parbake your un-topped pizza crust for several minutes — just until it’s pale and matte, with some very slight browning at the edges. (Our Pizza Crust recipe includes this step, and recommends baking at 450°F for 8 minutes for thinner-crust pizza; about 10 to 12 minutes for medium thickness; and 12 to 14 minutes for thick-crust pizza.)
Once the crust looks and feels set on top, slide it out of the oven, add your sauce, cheese, and toppings, then place it back in the oven to finish baking, about 10 to 15 minutes on the upper oven rack. (You can also parbake crust for a minute or so when baking in a pizza oven like an Ooni.)
Load your pizza in the oven like a pro with these tips from King Arthur baker Martin Philip:
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.