Help Me, Kenji — Can I Make Tasty Neapolitan-Style Pizza at Home?
Q: Can I make tasty Neapolitan-style pizza at home?
A: If you ask any pizzaiolo what the most important element for great Neapolitan pizza is, it's the 900° wood-fired oven that transforms simple ingredients into the poofy, blistered, charred, light, and crisp pizza that has taken over the world. Because of the high heat of a pizza oven, areas in the crust that protrude even a little above or areas that are just a bit thinner than their surroundings will brown much faster. This creates the pattern of dark and light spots you see on a good Neapolitan pizza crust. The intense heat cooks pizzas in just a minute or two, giving you that great contrast between crisp crust and moist, airy center.
A regular home oven simply doesn't have the power to cook a crust this fast. But there are a few ways we can jack up the heat. The first is to swap out a standard baking stone for a baking steel. Steel can hold more heat energy than stone and, more important, can transfer that energy to a baking crust much faster. Baking on a preheated baking steel, as opposed to a baking stone, significantly improves the height and color of a crust.
For an even poofier, airier crust, ditch the baking mode on your oven and use its broiler function instead; it produces tons of radiant heat energy to rapidly char the top of a pizza.
Preheat the steel at 550° for at least 45 minutes. Then carefully transfer it to a rack just inches below the broiler. Switch the broiler to high; then stretch out and top the pizza dough (store-bought dough works great for this). Carefully slide the pizza onto the hot steel. With the metal below and the broiler above, a blistered, poofy, crisp pizza takes just a few minutes, so keep an eye on it.
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