How to Cook a Pizza

Chances are you’re one of the millions who love pizza. And who can blame you? Mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and pepperoni seem to go together naturally. What happens if you wake up in the middle of the night, say 3 a.m., and you’re hungry for pizza? You can’t call Domino’s because they’re closed, and that frozen pizza you buy at IGA just isn’t the same. What do you do? Simple. You make it yourself. You may argue, “But I’ve never made a pizza before!” Relax. After working at a major pizza chain for five years, I can assure you it does not take a rocket scientist to make a pizza. Sadly, it doesn’t even require an IQ.

The first thing you need, obviously, is the dough. In your major pizza chains, the dough is made one of two ways: it comes from a box in the freezer, or from a bag of flour mixed with a pitcher of water. The ingredients are poured into a mixing bowl roughly the size of a Golden Retriever and mixed with a hook big enough to pull in a shark. After that, it’s cut into pieces of equal weight, fed through a dough roller, placed in a greased pizza pan, and stored in the cooler.

Now that you have the dough ready, you need sauce. Pizza sauce is made with a bag of tomato paste and a pitcher of water. It is mixed in a five-gallon bucket using an electric drill with a mixer attachment. (Yes, a real drill.) The buckets are heavy, so be careful lifting. Take the lid off of the bucket and pour the sauce into the large pan. If you spill some, grab a spatula, scrape the sauce up, and deposit it in the pan. Find the sauce scoop for the size pizza you’re making, fill it level with sauce, and pour it onto the pizza dough. Spread it around evenly, leaving enough open crust around the edge to your liking.

There are several schools of thought about what the next step should be. Some people think a pizza is better if you put all the cheese on after your other toppings. Some like the pepperoni on top of everything else. Some say you should have the toppings between two layers of cheese. Still others like no cheese at all. For this example, we’ll start with a layer of bottom cheese. Pick up the cheese cup and fill it with cheese. Sprinkle it evenly all over the sauce. Don’t be afraid to get your hands messy. You can always wash them later or wipe them on your apron.

Next we’ll put the toppings on. I like meat on my pizza, so we’ll start with some pepperoni. It’ll probably be a little greasy, so you may have to pull the pieces apart from each other. Place them evenly over the cheese. It’s recommended to have the pieces just touching each other.

Let’s move on. Grab a handful of sausage and spread it evenly over the pepperoni. (Yes, you will get some of it under your fingernails.) Don’t put too much on, or the pizza won’t cook all the way through. Next, we want another layer of cheese over everything else. Do exactly as you did with the bottom cheese.

Now that everything is on the pizza, inspect it. Did you spread all the toppings evenly? If not, spread it out a little more, using your hand. Is there cheese or sauce along the edge of the pan? Wipe it off with your finger. The last test is this: would you pay ten dollars or more for this pizza? If the answer is yes, go ahead and put it in the oven. If not, fix what you did wrong before you proceed.

I’ll sum up the next step with a quote from Tom Petty: “The waiting is the hardest part.” It will take about ten minutes for this pizza to bake. You might want to grab a book and read for a while.

The pizza is done. It has come through the conveyor oven and is sitting at the end, waiting to be cut. Using a pair of pliers, grasp the edge of the pan and carefully move it to the cut table. Pick up the roller cutter and slide it between the crust and the edge of the pan, still holding the pan with the pliers. If the pizza sticks to the pan, very carefully scrape the crust away from the pan. Lift one edge of the pizza with the roller cutter and gently slide it out of the pan and onto the cutting board. Set the pan off to the side.

You’ll see a stainless steel pizza cutter with a long blade. It looks much like a rocker of a rocking chair, hence the name “rocker”. It’s handy for cutting large pizzas evenly. Determine where the center of the pizza is. Use the rocker to cut through the center. Cut the pizza into eight or twelve equal pieces. (Frustrated students, take note: even if you work at Pizza Hut for the rest of your life, you’ll be using geometry every day.)

Finally, it’s time to eat your creation. Does it taste as good as you imagined it would? If not, determine what you did wrong and remember it for next time.

“That’s great,” you may say, “but how do I make a pizza at home?” Sorry. I can’t help you with that.

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