Why Is My Pizza Soggy In The Middle?

Soggy pizza is probably the most common problem that everyone get’s when starting to make pizza. Your pizza looks cooked, the crust is browned, but you bite into a slice to find it’s doughy and inedible in the middle. Luckily this is fairly straightforward to fix by following the steps below.

In the pizza industry this is called the “gum line”. It’s the line of lesser cooked dough between the tomato sauce and bottom of the pizza. You can see it when you look at a slice side on. The goal is to get this gum line as thin as possible for a great slice. It’s basically raw, wet dough that hasn’t crisped up, let’s take a look at why this happens.

Why is my pizza soggy?

  • It wasn’t cooked long enough – you took it out a few minutes too early.
  • It wasn’t cooked on a pizza stone or steel.
  • You used fresh, wet mozzarella.
  • You used a sauce is that was too watery.
  • It was over topped when cooked.
  • You used toppings that released water.
  • It wasn’t cooked in a hot enough oven.
  • The sauce was left to sit on the base for too long.
  • The base was too thick.

How To Rescue It

Put the pizza back in the oven and cook it for 2-3 more minutes. Chances are you have under cooked the pizza dough, so a few more minutes will finish the bake and crisp up any wetter toppings. If the toppings are looking on the verge of burning, turn down the oven slightly so it isn’t so fierce, and move the pizza to the bottom rack. You can cook pizza a little bit further than most people think, so don’t worry too much about burning it – you are actually just finishing the cooking.

Let’s take a deeper dive into what is causing it to be soggy, and how to stop that.

1. Cook The Pizza Long Enough

It can be quite deceiving to know when a pizza is actually “done”. As a general rule, when you think your pizza is cooked, it actually needs a few minutes more.

It’s tempting to take it out too early when the crust starts looking a little brown, but a few more minutes cooking will ensure the base is fully cooked through. The crust won’t actually get tough or overcooked like you think it would. You want to aim for the cheese to be golden brown, and the crust full of color, but not blackened.

A good tip is to lift the pizza base up and look underneath – is it completely white or does it have some browning patches? If it’s all white then you know its going to be doughy – put it back in for a few minutes.

2. Use A Pizza Steel Or Stone

The pizza steel is a newcomer cousin of the pizza stone. It is a quarter inch thick piece of metal that heats up faster than stone. It conducts heat better so it transfers more heat to the base of the pizza, making pizza bases cooked on a steel much less soggy. My steel can cook a pizza in a home oven in around 4-5 minutes and comes out perfect every time.

They are also easier to clean and can’t break, so the higher cost is offset by the fact it will last forever. I switched to the steel and haven’t looked back since, and soggy pizzas are a thing of the past.

There are some companies doing cheaper steels than the original baking steel. Check out the Pizzacraft Pizza Steel which you can buy online (I have this steel, and can recommend it).

3. Stop Using Fresh Mozzarella

Fresh mozzarella is the type which comes suspended in liquid, rather than dried and grated or sliced. It contains much more liquid which gets released when it is cooked. You will always get a pizza topping and base which is wet, and sort of mixes with the tomato sauce. This isn’t a bad thing – it is more of a traditional Neapolitan style pizza which you would eat with a knife and fork rather than pick up with slices.

For a more thin crust, crispy pizza, go for a dried mozzarella or other hard cheese such as cheddar. This won’t release much moisture, and the cheese and oils melt to almost ‘fry’ the rest of the base and toppings to make it extra crispy and avoid the sogginess.

4. Stop Using Watery Sauce

Water is the enemy in the quest for crisp pizza. With a wet pizza sauce caught between dough and cheese, you will create a layer of steam which is only going to make the base soggy.

I recommend you strain your canned tomatoes if they are watery – you don’t need to thicken them by cooking. Some tips on using the right tomatoes:

  • Get the best quality plum tomatoes. The ready chopped ones tend to have more liquid and less quality.
  • Strain the sauce in a sieve and a wooden spoon to leave just the good stuff.
  • Don’t use too much sauce – a thin layer where you can still see some dough through it is fine.

5. Stop Over Topping Your Pizza

If you over top your pizza, then the base gets swamped and the heat can’t get through it to quickly to cook. Under this mound of toppings, you can get doughy patches because the moisture from the dough can’t escape. This causes it to basically get steamed like the watery sauce, which is definitely going to give you a soggy crust. You want the dough under a fairly thin layer of sparsely dispersed toppings, which will allow it to dry out and crisp up from being in direct contact with the heat.

6. Stop Using Wet Toppings

Have you ever seen how much water comes out of mushrooms when you fry them? They shrink down to about half the size. This happens when you put raw vegetables on your pizza. You should saute vegetables such as mushrooms in some oil before you add them, and this will lessen the risk of excess water on your base.

Generally speaking, avoid any topping which produces liquid if you don’t want a soggy pizza. Vegetables are a usual culprit, and also tomato sauce which is too wet. Stick to cheese and meats which are more oily.

7. Cook The Pizza In A Hot Enough Oven

You want a really hot oven to fully cook your base and toppings. I think some recipes don’t advise going to full oven temperatures because they also advise to cook the pizza on a baking tray.

A baking tray doesn’t get hot like a pizza stone does, so the base of the pizza doesn’t get cooked through as fast as the top. So the recipe advises to turn the oven down so the toppings don’t burn and the base has time to cook.

What you really should aim for is cooking on a pizza stone or steel and getting your oven to the highest setting. This ensures the base gets crisp and the toppings are fully cooked at the same rate. If you don’t have a stone then the thickest baking tray is the next best thing.

Make sure that you preheat the oven for long enough. You want the dough to hit a hot oven so it puffs up quickly.

8. Don’t Let The Pizza Sit Around After Topping

If you let your sauce sit on the pizza dough before topping, then the moisture will seep into the dough. This extra water will cause a soggy base. You should aim to work quickly to avoid the amount of time that wet sauce is on dough – and then cook immediately after topping.

I understand some operations need to prepare pizzas ahead of time, and so top the pizzas ready to be cooked. In this case, you can try brushing a layer of oil to the base before you add the sauce. This creates a water proof layer which should help stop the dough getting soggy.

9. Stretch The Base Thin And Even

Stretching pizza thin and evenly is an important step to a good base and overall pizza. Beginner pizza makers can struggle getting a thin evenness by either being too cautious and leaving it thick and soggy. Or going too thin and breaking in places. This causes the pizza to cook unevenly, and some parts will be undercooked and doughy.

There is no substitute here in just practice and getting a feel for it. Once you get the techniques down, it becomes natural. Whether you are rolling it out or stretching by hand, practice makes perfect, but I do recommend doing it by hand for better control.

10. Consider Par Baking Before Topping

This isn’t a traditional step, and you should be able to get a nice crisp pizza with the tips above. But in some cases you might want to par bake your base. A tray baked pizza “Sicillian” style works well with this because you are working with a thick, wet piece of dough. Par bake it until it firms up and sets, let it cool slightly, then continue topping and cook a second time.

Conclusion

Soggy pizza is an annoying problem, but a bit of practice can easily yield some great results. Experiment with some of the tips above until you can identify what is the problem, and then get it right every time. Make sure to get your hands on the right equipment and ingredients and you can’t go wrong.

Happy pizza making!

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