Great homemade pizza is not difficult to make. It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. The simple approach would be to work with prepackaged ingredients versus the more time-consuming approach of starting with fresh and scratch ingredients. Either way, three basic factors apply for good pizza:
Yeast dough - the first major secret of great homemade pizza
Correct construction - crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings
High temperature - bake at 500+°F
Pizza Stone - the second major secret of great homemade pizza, the pizza stone provides a uniformly heated surface which absorbs moisture from the pizza and makes a crisp crust. Place on bottom oven rack and pre-heat one hour before baking pizza directly on stone. (If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.)
Oven Thermometer - check your oven temperature
Pizza Screen - second choice and alternative to pizza stone, also does not trap moisture in pizza crust. Use on middle oven rack.
Wooden Pizza Peel - essential for placing pizza directly on stone. Use coarse cornmeal or flour spread on peel under dough to aid sliding pizza off onto stone.
Pizza Cutter Wheel - larger the better (mine is 3 3/4" dia.)
Pizza Pans - all sizes available at local restaurant supply (6" to 16"+)
Wood-fired Oven (for the serious home pizzaiolo!) - link to Forno Bravo
Use artisan flour - Gold Medal harvest King is best.
Use all-purpose flour for deep-dish pizza and calzones
Proof yeast in a dough sponge
Buy active dry yeast in bulk 1 lb. package and store in freezer in sealed container for up to 1 year
Moist dough makes a tender crust
Use 1 oz. dough portion or less per 1" pizza diameter (for example, 7 oz. dough = 8" pizza)
Store individual raw dough portions dusted with flour in ziploc bags in refrigerator up to a week
Store individual raw dough portions dusted with flour in ziploc bags in freezer up to a month, defrost in refrigerator
For a thicker crust, let dough crust rise covered for 30 minutes before adding sauce, cheese, and toppings or use Focaccia recipe
Bake on pizza stone or pizza screen for crisper crust
No time to make crust - use Boboli prepared crust
Use canned San Marzano crushed tomatoes for most authentic sauce
Add oregano, garlic, crushed peppercorn to sauce for added flavor
Intensity of tomato sauce may be adjusted by amount of garlic and crushed peppercorn used
"Bite" of sauce may be increased by adding Balsamic vinegar
Create oil sauces using extra virgin olive oil, herbs/spices, and fresh garlic
Use whole milk mozzarella - smoother melting and richer tasting
Use cheese mixtures - for example, 2 parts mozzarella, 2 parts monterey jack, and 1 part provolone
Try different herbs
Thoroughly drain any topping that would add moisture to prevent sogginess
Grow your own basil (use fresh off plant or dried) and oregano (use dried) - 1 Tbsp. fresh chopped herbs = 1 tsp. dry herbs
Rub dried herbs between fingers to release flavor oils
Use extra virgin olive oil (more expensive than virgin, but there is a difference)
Cool baked pizza on a wire rack for 2-3 minutes before cutting to allow cooked cheese to set up and to preserve crisp crust (steam from baked pizza would be trapped between hot pizza and pan).
If assembling pizza ahead, seal pre-baked crust (5 minutes at 500°F) after cooling by lightly brushing with Crisco to avoid moisture absorption in crust.
For homemade frozen pizza, seal pre-baked crust (5 minutes at 500°F) after cooling by lightly brushing with Crisco. Add sauce, cheese, and toppings and freeze in ziploc bag. To bake, place frozen pizza on a pizza screen on the middle rack in a cold oven and set oven at 400°F. Check at 22-24 minutes and remove when crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack for 2-3 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.
Last Resort Commercial Frozen Pizza
If you are really desperate, don't have time to make your own pizza, and have run out of your own homemade frozen pizza (see above), then resort to commercial frozen pizza. Three of the best frozen pizzas are: