If you’re cooking pizza from scratch with raw dough, you’ll be wondering if you need to cook the base first before you add your toppings. Some recipes will tell you to do it, and some will say don’t – it’s pretty confusing. I’ll properly answer that question for you here. So should you cook pizza dough before adding toppings?
No, you don’t need to cook the pizza dough first in most cases. With a correct recipe, correct oven temperature and by not overloading the pizza, the dough will cook perfectly fine without having to cook it first.
There can be cases where it might be suitable to cook the base first and these are outlined below. Lets take a look at why some sources will tell you to cook the dough first and how you can do things right so you won’t fail.
Why You Don’t Need To Bake Pizza Dough First
Generally speaking, a precooked base won’t be as good as a traditional pizza recipe which is cooked all at once. With the right know-how, you can make a proper pizza at home.
If you’re cooking in a conventional home oven, then you should be able to get the oven temperatures to around 480F/250C. This temperature is hot enough to cook the base and the toppings together with no doughy bits.
The hot temperature is important for raw dough, as it will allow it to puff quickly, cook quickly and not dry out. If you lower the temperature you will need to cook for 10 minutes or so and you risk drying out the crust like a cracker, and leaving the inside of the dough wet and doughy.
Make sure you cook your pizza on a pizza stone, or pizza steel. I use this steel as it conducts heat more efficiently for that crispy base (check it out on Amazon) – it makes great pizzas and I can recommend it.
The slower cooking method is bad practice, and is usually why some recipes will tell you to bake the base first. You simply won’t get as good pizzas with that method. There are a list of other mistakes you could make which could cause your base to be doughy if you don’t do them right. Check them out below to ensure you make the best home pizzas:
Avoid These Mistakes When Cooking The Dough
If you follow these tips then you won’t have to cook your pizza twice to ensure the base is fully cooked through.
Ensure Your Dough Isn’t Too Dry
Yep that’s right. Your dough will actually cook better if it is wetter. This is because the heat of the oven will turn the water to steam, and allow it to rise better. This makes the crust crisper because it’s less dense. You would think a dry dough would make the pizza crisper – but it’s not true. The dough won’t cook as well, and you might get under cooked bits in the center.
As a basic rule, make the dough as wet as you can handle. If it feels dry and floury, then add some water – a tablespoonful or so at a time. It becomes stickier and harder to shape as it gets wetter, but always makes better pizza. If you’re into percentages then try 65% water to total flour. See my post on hydration and percentages to learn more, and there is also a comparison of different recipes in there too.
Don’t Add Too Many Toppings
If you add too many toppings then the pizza gets swamped. This can cause the middle of the dough to not cook, and can be a reason why a recipe would recommend you cook the base first. Keep it minimal And let the freshly cooked dough do the talking with a handful of toppings thrown on top. Trust me, a well made freshly cooked dough will be delicious and doesn’t need too much on top.
Don’t Add Wet Toppings
Wet toppings can cause an under cooked base. Any foods which expel moisture when cooking in the frying pan will do the same on the pizza when cooked in the oven. Think of mushrooms, other wet vegetables, wet mozzarella, to name a few. Should you cook toppings first? Yes. You should saute these before topping on the pizza to suck out the water. Then they will be fine to go on top of the pizza without wetting the base.
Get Your Oven To The Hottest Temperature
Why so many recipes recommend putting the oven temperature low I do not understand. Pizza should be cooked fast, to keep the crust tender and light. If you end up cooking the dough low and slow then you won’t get a good rise on the crust, it will be dense and cardboard like, and the middle probably won’t cook through. Turn up the heat high and cook the whole pizza at once – no messing around with pre cooking the base needed here.
Use A Pizza Steel
The pizza steel is an improvement of a pizza stone because it’s made of metal so conducts heat better to the pizza base. This gives you a better cooking surface to zap the dough and make it rise fast, and cook through thoroughly. You definitely have no reason to par bake your dough base if you are using a pizza steel. You would potentially burn the bottom if you cooked it twice! Check out this steel on Amazon, which I have myself and use for all my pizzas. Great price, great pizzas and it will never shatter like a pizza stone.
How To Assemble A Pizza Properly
Make sure you have everything ready to go; your tomato sauce is ready to be spooned on top and your cheese is grated. Your oven should be preheated for 30 minutes or so.
Next stretch or roll out your dough with some flour. Stretching is better as it doesn’t push out all the air bubbles and make it dense. But use a pin if you really must. Keep a thicker mound in the center of the dough so it doesn’t tear as you stretch it outwards.
Transfer the dough to a pizza peel or board with some flour and semolina, ready to transfer to the oven. If you don’t have a peel then check out my 7 things to use as a pizza peel in your kitchen.
Working quickly so the dough doesn’t stick, spoon sauce into the middle and push up to a 1/4 inch gap where the crust will be. Then add your cheese and other toppings.
Open the oven and slide on to you stone, steel or heavy based baking sheet. I have more tips on using the peel here.
Types Of Pizza Bases You Should Cook First
There are a few scenarios when it might be better to cook the base first. If these apply to you then it might be worth cooking the base first, but for most cases it isn’t necessary.
Cracker Crust Pizza
Cracker crust is a super thin pizza base which has the texture of, yep, a cracker. This is very crisp with little to no rise in the dough. Usually you would “dock” the dough by making small holes throughout the dough. This can be done with a pizza docker or a fork. This basically stops the pizza dough rising up when cooked.
You give the base an initial cooking with zero toppings or just tomato sauce before giving it a second cooking with toppings. This ensures you get a base that is so cooked through that it turns cracker like. Not the most popular of pizza styles, but it is another style which can work well. For most home cooks, the regular way of cooking a pizza will produce the results you would expect from a home cooked pizza.
When You Want To Freeze Your Base
Cooking the dough to allow you to freeze a base is another viable reason. Here, you can keep the structure of the round base while it freezes and then have it ready to top when you thaw it later. It’s convenient but is never going to be as good as freshly cooked dough. So go for the fresh stuff if you can.
Remember that you can freeze dough balls themselves. These can be thawed in the refrigerator when you need to use them. Once fully thawed, you allow them to rise on the bench and return to room temperature before shaping and baking.
If you had some doubt over whether you should bake your pizza dough before topping then hopefully this has been answered now. Get yourself some of the right equipment, follow some of my recipes and get cooking!