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A Master Pizza Chef Tells Us How We’ve Been Making Homemade Pizza Wrong

If you’ve ever tried to recreate your favorite pizza at home, but were disappointed with the final product, you’re not alone. When it comes to homemade pizza, there are a few tricks of the trade that go unnoticed, but will go a long way.

We recently visited California Pizza Kitchen’s Innovation Kitchen in Redondo Beach Calif., and had the opportunity to speak with Senior Vice President of Culinary Innovation, executive chef Brian Sullivan. As a member of the CPK family for nearly 30 years, Chef Sullivan knows his way around the kitchen. In fact, the chef’s first menu item, The Sicilian Pizza, remains a CPK top seller to this day.

So, in order to get the skinny on how to make the perfect pizza at home, we asked the pizza master what we were missing and what steps we could improve on to make our homemade pizza just as memorable as our favorite pizzeria’s.

Photo by Ben Rose

First, Chef Sullivan said, people need to respect the dough more. In that sense, he encouraged home cooks to let their dough rest as long as possible — in order for the yeast to activate and for the dough to reach the ideal temperature.

“I think it’s the proofing of the dough, that’s the thing that I see done incorrectly the most. You have to start off with a dough product that’s typically room temperature, so you can stretch it.”

We all know how important a stretchy cheese pull is, so why not make that translate to your dough? Chef Sullivan advised that in order for pizza dough to become consistent enough to form a crust, it must be room temperature.

“A lot of times, it’s cold, so they go to stretch it and it really doesn’t become the proper thickness it should be. Give it 30 minutes or even longer, depending on room temperature. It really needs to be in the 70-80 [degree] range before we go to stretch it. That’s key.”

To an expert like Chef Sullivan, making the perfect dough is the most critical part of the entire recipe. To ensure that, home cooks should incorporate a good flour. He also revealed some insider secrets on what makes CPK’s pizza dough so consistently delicious.

“I think for us, we like to add maybe a touch of honey, just a little bit of sweetness. I think using a nice olive oil is something that can help.”

In terms of flavor profiles, Chef Sullivan also warned against overtopping pizzas. Not all ingredients will add flavors to your homemade creation, he explained.

The main thing, Chef Sullivan explained, is to have patience. If you’re in a rush, can’t find good ingredients and aren’t using anything to make your dough standout — maybe pizza isn’t the best dish to prepare.

Don’t rush. Also, use a good cheese — I mean a great cheese. I think that’s another thing. You don’t want to skimp on the ingredients. I use a really good mozzarella.”

Chef Sullivan wants everyone to make a delicious pizza at anytime, but now you know, delicious pizza takes time. From the ingredients to the preparation process, each step should reflect your attention to detail. Also, always remember — respect the dough!

By Evan Lancaster

A journalist focusing on news and anything that's trending. Insists that cherry flavoring makes any soft drink better. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @ThatsThatFuego.

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