Tips for Throwing a Homemade Pizza Party

Pizza party! It's like Chuck-E-Cheese for adults! Only better! And without skee ball! Ok, it's completely different. But still a great idea for a party, especially when you make your own pizza dough. Cooking one pie at a time, however, is hard when you're feeding a crowd. We held a pizza party for eight a couple of weeks ago, and we learned some lessons...

Most homemade pizzas fall in the 10- to 14-inch range, which should feed two people. So figure on one pizza per couple. We made four pies for eight people and everyone was full. We used the recipe that ran in The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago and are now big, big fans. (Dana tried it for her stovetop/broiler pizza, too.)

Get the recipe: Pizza Dough, from The New York Times

Also? If that photo above gets your mouth watering, go find that recipe at The Bitten Word:
Caramelized-Onion and Gorgonzola Grilled Pizza

More tips:

Make the dough at least a day before. Have it finished and ready to go. That means your only pre-party prep is getting the toppings ready and making a salad.

Have all ingredients chopped and divided. You're going to be making these babies fast and furious, one after the other. So have everything chopped, measured, even mixed together (cooked bacon, dried figs, and gorgonzola crumbles, for example—one recipe in the Times article).

Use a quick-cooking recipe. The pizzas in the article above cook in 7 minutes. That meant that by the time we got one pizza sliced and served on the table, the next was almost ready. Most homemade pizzas don't take that long, but even 5 minutes can make a big difference.

Plan for a few different flavors. We did one fig, bacon, and gorgonzola pizza, one barbecue chicken, and two plain margheritas. If you want to do something exotic that you're not sure everyone will like, send it out first, like an amuse bouche. Then follow up with a crowd pleaser.

Put a Post-it on the wall with each pizza's toppings. Sound crazy? Trust us. When you have 12 bowls of ingredients, you may forget if the caramelized onions go with pizza #1 or #2. Jot down each pie's ingredients so you make sure you don't forget any.

Open your windows (or buy a fan). Or turn your AC on high. Pizzas typically cook at 550 degrees, and you heat up the oven for a while to make sure the pizza stone is hot when you start. Let's just say that our guests were shedding clothes halfway through dinner.

Have two rimless sheet pans ready. Unless you have a peel, that is. We don't, so we used flat cookie sheets to slide our pizzas in and out of the oven. We wanted to get a head start on assembling the next pizza while the first was in the oven, but since that happens on a cookie sheet, we needed two—one for the new pizza, one to pull the finished one out of the oven.

If you're buying a pizza stone, get a big rectangle. This is an overall pizza tip, and our own opinion, of course, but if you're trying to be fast, it's sometimes hard to get a pie positioned just right on a round stone. We dropped a few hunks of mozzarella trying to position one of our pizzas on a round stone, and in a 550-degree oven, that creates a lot of smoke. If the pizza stone is the size of the oven rack, there's less room for error. Read more advice about buying a good pizza stone.

This won't be the most relaxing dinner party you've ever thrown, since you will be back and forth from the kitchen. But it's fun, everyone loves pizza (right?), and all you need in addition is a simple salad and some beer.

Anyone else have good tips for a pizza party?

Related: Cooking by Instinct Pizza Formula (with Morels and Ramps)

(Image: Flickr member TheBittenWord.com, licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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