A crispy pizza crust is the hallmark of a great pizza. When you bite into a slice and get that audible crunch, you know you’re in for a delicious treat. But achieving pizza perfection at home can be tricky. Between chewy, soft, or burnt crusts, it’s not always easy to get the texture just right.
Luckily, with a few tips and tricks, you can unlock the secret to making a crispy pizza crust in your own oven. From ingredient selection to kneading techniques, temperature control to strategic bake times, creating the ultimate crispy crust is within your reach.
What makes a pizza crust crispy?
To understand how to make a crispy pizza crust, it helps to first look at the science behind crunchy textures.
A crispy crust gets its signature crackle from dehydration. As a pizza bakes, the heat from the oven evaporates the moisture in the dough. This causes the dough to dry out and stiffen up. The drier the crust, the crisper it becomes.
To maximize crispiness, you’ll want your pizza crust to dry out as much as possible in the oven. That means using ingredients and techniques that limit moisture while encouraging evaporation.
Choose the right flour
Your choice of flour is one of the most important factors for crispy crust. The protein content of the flour impacts the structure and texture of the baked dough.
All-purpose flour is a common choice, with a protein content around 10-12%. Bread flour has more protein at 12-14%, while cake or pastry flour has less at 8-10%. The higher protein content in bread flour gives more structure and crispiness.
For the crispiest results, look for a high-protein pizza flour. These specialty flours have protein contents of around 12-14% and are specifically formulated for optimal pizza crust textures.
High protein = crispy crust
The proteins in flour, called gluten, provide structure and chew. During kneading, the proteins link together in a web-like network that gives support as dough bakes. Higher protein flours form more gluten, resulting in a sturdier, crisper crust.
Bread flour alternatives
If you can’t find pizza flour, use bread flour. For extra crisping power, you can boost the protein by blending in a small amount of vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten is a powdered gluten product that can be added to increase the protein content of regular flour.
Use the right yeast
Yeast produces carbon dioxide gas that causes the dough to rise. For crispy crusts, instant dry yeast is preferable over active dry yeast. Instant yeast hydrates and activates more readily for better oven spring and lighter texture.
Too much yeast can also create excess moisture in the dough. Use the recommended amount, usually 1 packet or 2 1⁄4 teaspoons for one pizza crust recipe.
Don’t overdo the water
Hydration level impacts the moisture content of the baked crust. Too much water makes for a soft, puffy crust. Use only as much water as needed to bring the dough together.
Aim for about 60% hydration for a crispy crust. That means 60g of water per 100g of flour. You can reduce or increase the water slightly as needed based on the exact flours used.
Add sugar and oil in moderation
While sugar and oil enrich the flavor and texture of pizza dough, too much will soften your crust. Limit sugar to 1-2 teaspoons and oil to 1-2 tablespoons per crust.
Kneading develops the gluten structure for a crisper crust. Spend at least 10 minutes kneading the dough by hand or 5-7 minutes using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.
Look for a smooth, elastic dough. The longer you knead, the more gluten develops and the crisper the crust becomes.
The first rise, or proofing, lets the yeast produce air bubbles to give pizza dough its signature holey appearance. But over-proofing leads to excessive air pockets that make crusts soft and bubbly.
For a crispy crust, proof the dough just until slightly puffy and doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. Resist letting it rise longer even if it seems under-proofed. You can give it a final quick proof after shaping and before topping.
Use bread flour for extra crispiness
While all-purpose flour is commonly used, bread flour is ideal for extra crispy pizza crusts. With a higher protein content than all-purpose, bread flour gives more structure and chew to the baked dough.
The increased gluten levels provided by bread flour mean the crust can get nice and crispy in the high heat of the oven. If you can’t find bread flour, add a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to boost the protein content of regular all-purpose flour.
Limit wet toppings
What you put on your pizza will affect the underlying crust. Wet sauces and toppings like raw tomatoes, watery cheeses, and fresh basil will add moisture.
While delicious, these wet toppings make it harder for the crust to dry out and crisp up. Blot or drain excess liquid from ingredients before topping the pizza. Go light on the sauce, or stick to pre-cooked meats for a crispier crust.
Use a pizza stone or steel
Using a pizza stone or steel is one of the best ways to make a crispy crust at home. These heat reservoir materials crisp up the bottom of the crust by mimicking the effects of a professional pizza oven.
Place the stone or steel on the lowest rack while preheating your oven as high as it will go, at least 500°F. The high heat from the super hot surface will cook the bottom of the pizza quickly for that charred crispiness.
Brush crust with oil
Oiling the shaped crust before baking also promotes crisping. Brush on a light coating of olive oil over the stretched out dough, edge to edge.
As the oil heats up in the oven, it essentially fries the outside of the crust for added crunch. Extra virgin olive oil offers the most flavor, but any neutral oil will work.
Why oil helps achieve a crispy crust
Using oil on pizza crust makes perfect sense when you understand the science at work. Oil has a different heat capacity compared to water. Oil gets hotter faster in the oven, essentially jumpstarting the crisping process.
Oil also repels moisture. With an oil barrier between the crust and any wet toppings, the crust is protected from getting soggy. This keeps it nice and dry so it can crisp up completely.
Dock the dough
Docking involves poking holes all over the stretched out crust before topping and baking. This prevents large air pockets from forming.
Use a fork or a docking tool to poke continuously spaced holes across the surface. Docking allows moisture to escape for a thin, crispy crust.
Partially bake the crust first
Par-baking is a technique where the crust is partially baked before adding toppings and finishing. This extra time in the oven dries out the crust, setting it up for maximum crispness.
Stretch out and mound up the edges of the dough on a pizza peel or baking sheet. Par-bake for 5-7 minutes until lightly browned. Then add toppings and bake until done.
Finish pizza on the highest rack
For the last 2-3 minutes of baking, move the pizza to the highest oven rack. The intense top heat from the broiler or overhead heating element helps drive moisture from the crust surface.
Keep a close eye to avoid burning. But this quick blast above the pizza will ensure a crispy, browned crust.
Let pizza rest before cutting
After removing your crispy pizza from the oven, let it sit for 2-5 minutes before slicing. This rest allows moisture to redistribute through the pizza layers.
Cutting immediately can soften and make the crust soggy as steam escapes. Letting it set gives you the best chance for that satisfying crispy bite.
Troubleshooting soggy pizza crust
Sometimes despite your best efforts, pizza crust can still turn out disappointing and soggy. Here are some common causes and solutions for limp crusts:
Too much sauce
Lots of watery tomato sauce will steam the crust instead of baking. Use a light hand with ladling on sauce.
Overloaded with cheese and toppings
Too many wet ingredients prevent the crust from crisping. Stick to moderate amounts of cheese and minimal toppings.
Be patient and bake the full recommended time, even if the cheese and crust brown before then. This ensures the crust has enough time to fully dehydrate.
Stored in air-tight packaging
For crispy leftover pizza, let it cool completely before wrapping loosely in foil or paper. Storing in plastic traps steam and softens the crust.
Baked on pans vs. stones
A pizza stone or steel is the best way to make crust crispy. The stored heat crisps the bottom fast and evaporates moisture.
Not preheated enough
Get your oven and pizza stone piping hot before baking. 500°F for 30-60 mins preheat guarantees a crispy base.
Tips for reheating pizza to keep crust crispy
Leftover pizza is great, but the crust often ends up limp. Here are some reheating methods to revive crispy pizza crusts:
- Reheat in a hot skillet over medium-high heat. The hot metal helps recrisp the crust.
- Bake in a hot oven at 425°F for 4-6 minutes to crisp the base without overcooking.
- Use a toaster oven. The smaller space and heating coils brown the crust edges.
- Pop it in an air fryer. The hot circulated air crisps and dehydrates the crust.
- Microwave briefly to warm, then transfer to a preheated skillet or oven.
Crispy pizza crust recipe
Once you understand the secrets for crisp crust, it’s easy to make at home. Try this simple recipe and tips for crunchy pizza perfection:
- 300g bread flour or 00 pizza flour
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 180ml warm water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- In a bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Whisk to distribute evenly.
- Add the warm water and olive oil. Mix and then knead by hand for 10 mins until smooth and elastic.
- Let the dough rise for 1 hour covered in an oiled bowl until puffed up.
- Punch down dough and divide into 2 portions. Shape and stretch each on an oiled baking sheet.
- Brush crusts lightly with oil. Top as desired, but go easy on wet ingredients.
- Bake at 500°F on a preheated pizza stone for 12-15 mins until crisped.
- Let pizzas rest 1-2 mins before cutting to serve.
Make it crispy
- Use bread flour or 00 pizza flour
- Limit water to 60% hydration
- Knead thoroughly
- Proof just until puffed
- Use a pizza stone
- Brush crust with oil
- Bake at a high temp
Achieving the perfect crispy pizza crust at home is simple when you follow the right steps. Starting with a sturdy flour base, careful hydration, minimal proofing and brushing the crust with oil prepares the dough for ultimate crispiness. Cooking on blistering hot stones or steels gives the signature char and crunch pizza lovers crave. Pay attention to limiting excess moisture in toppings so the crust can crisp fully. Follow these fundamental techniques, and you’ll be biting into deliciously crispy homemade pizza crusts in no time.