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Pizza experts gathered last week at the International Pizza Expo and shared with readers the five factors that go into making a great slice. The most surprising finding is the trick some brands use to hide bad pizza.
“If the cheese is piled on, they are typically trying to hide the sauce or the dough,” says Patrick Farley, founder and CEO of Flippin’ Pizza. “However, if you make the perfect pie, you don’t want to hide anything.”
Scot Cosentino says, “You’ve got to make sure the cheeses, the sauces, the toppings, they all work together.” He warns that one ingredient shouldn’t overwhelm the others.
Cosentino is founder of Goodfella’s and the Pizza School of New York, and recently took home the expo’s top prize of World’s Best Pizza for the third time.
When exchanging tips about a superior pizza, the experts are straightforward with the methodology.
“There is no such thing as a terrific pizza,” Farley says. “A terrific pizza starts and ends with the crust, and we call it a pie.”
Step 1: The Dough
Chef Walter Pisano of Tulio Ristorante in Seattle agrees the dough is the key to the whole pie. The dough needs to be proofed before baking and then sit out for a few hours.
At his restaurant, Pisano says the maker the pizza must always be the one with the dough, and he needs a gentle touch while stretching the delicate pizza batter.
Step 2: The Sauce
Strong sauce is born from vigorous tasting. Cosentino says Goodfella’s makes its own sauce from scratch, and the chefs taste the liquid tomato throughout its cooking process to ensure it is on point.
Sauce is also a good stage in the pizza process to experiment with.
“I think people have to use their creativity,” Cosentino says. “Sometimes we make a fantastic sauce and we really can’t come up with some kind of toppings that fit, due to its color or nature. You have to combine those different ingredients one by one and make sure they work together well.”
Step 3: The Cheese
While there are many different types of sauces, “when it comes to cheese, it is important to use high-quality, 100 percent whole milk mozzarella,” Farley says. “The spread on the cheese is important, as you do not want too much cheese on your pie.”
Step 4: The Toppings
Experts agree that toppings must be fresh, seasonal, and high quality.
“Don’t put too many toppings on the pizza,” Pisano says, warning of overwhelming the palate. “My rule is no more than four or five, [and] this should also include the sauce or olive oil base.”
Step 5: The Oven
Cosentino, Farley, and Walter swear their pies ultimately depend on the quality of the oven. A brick oven connoisseur, Cosentino even constructs and sells his own ovens out of Goodfella’s.
“A great, thin crust pie was meant to be placed directly on the stone at a high heat,” Farley says. “This allows the crust to set up right away, which will help your sauce and cheese melt perfectly.”
“A live fire oven always helps separate the world-class pizza, from the good to the great,” Pisano says. “Finish the pizza with a drizzle of good olive oil.”
Experts live by these pizza steps, saying an inferior pie is immediately evident.
“If you are chewing on cheese or an excessive amount of dough, this is a good sign that you are eating the average pizza and not a terrific pie,” Farley says.
By Sonya Chudgar