TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL PIZZA NIGHT
Updated: Mar 24, 2018
The first time I stumbled across the idea of a homemade pizza night I thought it was the best idea ever - it would be so easy! I'd just plop everything out and everyone would make their OWN dinner! #homerun
Well, if you've ever had a pizza night of your own, you probably know the first time can be slightly anxiety producing (or maybe that's just me). I didn't do well with the cheese everywhere, the flour everywhere, the fact that the pizza did NOT slide effortlessly from the pan to the pizza stone, or that I could only cook one pizza at a time (each taking about 20 minutes - with 5 pizzas to cook you can imagine how long dinner took that night). It felt like a circus and I didn't think I'd ever try it again.
Thankfully, after my stress level was back to normal and I could think rationally about where things had gone wrong, I decided to give it another go. Each time since then things have gone smoother and smoother and now it really is fun for everyone (and we're not still waiting for a pizza to come out of the oven at 8:00pm). I hope these tips below will help you learn from my mistakes and make pizza night a tradition in your house too:
1. FIND YOUR PERFECT DOUGH
Dough should not stress you out. If it does, find a different one. I decided this after probably my 5th attempt using the frozen dough sold at my grocery store. Every time, it was a pain. I'd forget to defrost it in time, or it would get these weird mystery hard lumps, and no matter what, it was always impossible to roll out into a nice thin crust. It drove me nuts. Then I discovered this crazy easy dough recipe and it has never done me wrong. Even if I mess up and use water that's too cold or too hot, it doesn't seem to care and neither do I. It rolls out beautifully and has made pizza night so much easier! So the moral is this: whether you make it or buy it, just find a dough that isn't hard work.
2. START EARLIER THAN YOU THINK
It took me about three times before it finally sunk in that "sitting down to make your pizza at 6pm" does not equal "eating your pizza at 6pm". There's a good 30 minutes in between, so if you want to eat at 6pm, have everything prepped and set out for your kids to start making their pizzas at 5:30.
3. USE ALL YOUR OVEN RACKS (AT LEAST 3)
We got this great pizza stone for Christmas one year, which meant that EVERY pizza had to go on the stone from now on (naturally). Well, while the pizza stone is great and all, there's only one of them, and making only one pizza at a time for a family of 5 is no fun. It results in each person eating their pizza alone while the others stare at them drooling, hungrily awaiting their own pizza to be cooked. We quickly nixed that idea, and while we still use the stone for one pizza, the rest will have to just get over it and be happy on a regular old baking sheet.
4. USE PARCHMENT PAPER TO TRANSFER PIZZAS
The first time we made pizza the dough kept sticking to our counter, then when I finally transferred it to the pan to move it to the pizza stone, it stuck to the pan! Our stretched out, flopped over, disaster pizzas were so sad, but we were so hungry by 8pm we didn't even care (see tip #3). Now I know better. Some friends advised me to try semolina or cornmeal, but I just couldn't deal with having another ingredient to both purchase and clean up when this whole pizza making thing was over. Enter parchment paper. In a proper pizza oven it might not work, I don't know, but in a home oven, it's genius. After rolling out your dough, transfer it onto a big sheet of parchment and slide it in front of your kiddo. They top it however they want, then you slide that parchment paper with the pizza on top right onto your cookie sheet, then you slide that cookie sheet into the oven, and you will never worry about dough sticking again.
5. DON'T OVERDO IT ON THE TOPPINGS
The point of pizza night is that you hardly have to cook, so cooking a bunch of toppings kind of defeats the purpose. Generally, I'll brown some ground sausage, but the rest is raw or out of a jar: pizza sauce, cheese, mushrooms, baby spinach, garlic, etc. As you get the hang of it you can get fancier, but for now, find 2-3 faves + cheese and keep it simple.
Have you had pizza night with your family? What are your tips and tricks?