It is utter nonsense that it is difficult to make great pizza without years of practice. Like anything you cook, great ingredients are mandatory for great results.
For me, the only pizza worth eating is thin crust cooked in a very hot oven (preferable wood burning or with woodchips). I had Tap Plastics make me a pizza rolling pin that is 22 inches long made out of delrin. I use pastry elastic spacer rings to set the height to 3/32”. That is the initial height of each “blank” rolled out on parchment paper. I simply stack the blanks until their needed.
Using Your Five Burner Outdoor Grill as a Pizza Oven
Go down to the building supply and buy an 18 x 18 ceramic floor tile ($2). Your pizza will cook on top of this. If you want the real Italian wood burning oven effect, also buy a steel BBQ Wood Chip Smoking Box, which is an eight or 9-inch steel box suitable for adding smoke flavor to your grill. The manufacturers Brinkmann or Outset makes such a box. Use applewood or pecan wood chips that have been soaked in water for an hour or two. Make sure your propane tank is full or have a spare on hand. Turn the grill on high and allow it to burn off any residues for 20 minutes. Place the ceramic floor tile in the center of the grill. Turn on the outer burners not immediately under the tile on high. These burners will stay on high. Turn the others to medium or medium low. Put the lid down. Allow the grill to stabilize. If it goes past, 600 F turn down the middle burners to low. (It may be unwise to push you grill any hotter that 600 F unless it is made of heavy gauge metal.) If too low, turn up the middle burners some. Put the smoke box on one of the grill ends that have the burners on high 15 minutes before your ready to cook pizza. If making a lot of pizza, leave the lid off on the smoke box in case you want to add more wood chips.
The pizza is rolled out and cooked on parchment paper. After the pizza is prepared, I cut the excess paper away to just leave a border 1 inch larger than the pizza.
Pizza should be constructed thin in order to get a crisp crust. Don’t over load the toppings - less is more. Thin crust and thin topping means everything is done at the same time. The character achieved at high temperature is never present in a pizza cooked low and slow. A pizza should take 4 to 8 minutes. It is fine if the top and bottom have char spots.
1 1/2 Cup of sourdough yeast sponge
1 Tablespoons SAF Red Instant yeast
Optionally, 2 tablespoons King Arthur Pizza Dough Flavor
1 Cup of King Arthur’s Italian-Style Flour (“00” milled) (8.5% protein level) more as required
3 Cup of King Arthur Artisanal Organic Bread Flour (gives chew to the crust)
1 + 1 Teaspoons salt added at two times
Bottled drinking water
Great flavor olive oil (Whole Foods 365 Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an excellent value)
Combine flours and mix well. Early in the morning, pour the sponge (1 ½ cups of it) into your work bowl. Add yeast, half the salt, 1 cup of flour and bottled drinking water until the mix is loose. Let this stand covered with a wet cloth for an hour.
Now stir in 3 cups of flour with the other half of the salt with a paddle or by hand until the dough is still a little sticky. This is moisture dependent. Adding more liquid allows more flour. The flour should be added a little at a time. Add a little more "00" flour if needed
Now hand-knead the dough or mix it with a dough hook setting the speed to low for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is somewhat smooth and elastic. If doing this with a mixer, do not add too much flour. The dough should be somewhat sticky else, it will be too dry. If necessary, add back gradually a little water until the consistency is just right.
Coat the insides of a clean stainless steel or glass bowl with a film of great olive oil. Now turn the dough in it to coat it all over. Now cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a wet towel and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it doubles in volume. You may place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight (or several days) which helps develop better flavor and nutrition. The cold retards the whole operation but an extra day develops further character and nutrition. You pickup where you left off the previous day, once the dough has come back to room temperature.
When double in volume, punch down and knead until the dough is glossy and fully elastic. Cover and let rise again to twice volume. Punch down the dough and divide it with a knife or scissors into balls, depending on the size pizzas you are making. Dust dough ball in flour, shake of excess. Roll out dough ball very thin trying to keep the thickness uniform on parchment paper larger than the pizza. You may stack the “blanks” on their parchment paper, one of top of another until ready to make pizza. Assemble pizza per recipe and trim parchment paper to just larger than the pizza. Place pizza and its parchment paper on cooking stone using a batten. Don’t have a batten you say? A double walled cookie sheet is very stiff and will work fine as a batten. You also use the batten to retrieve the cooked pizza by sliding the parchment paper onto it.
I cut the cooked pizza into slices using a Chinese meat cleaver while it is on its batten.
Testing the salt content of your dough. Make a small test pizza to taste the dough. If not salty enough, add salt to the topping.
Toppings I most commonly use
Fresh Buffalo mozzarella and parmesan
Tomato sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes from Naples (DOP markings) using garlic, onions, oregano, salted pork or pancetta, red pepper, fresh basil
Sliced spicy Sopressata
Sliced cremini mushrooms
Fresh ground pepper
Drizzle tasty extra virgin olive oil
If I do not have great smelling garden fresh homegrown tomatoes I use canned San Marzano tomatoes from Naples (see marking on can) as they make perfect pizza. My word of advice is do not start making substitutions by going cheap or skimping on ingredient quality. A can of these tomatoes in the US is around $5. Fresh Buffalo mozzarella is about $25/pound. Sopressata is about $19/pound.
For more reading, go to King Arthur web site to read about pizza dough, sour dough starters, and their flour. I have this video I made for my students.