The Best Tips from the Pizza Nerds of Reddit

updated Jun 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Lauren Naefe/Stocksy)

From bread to burgers, if there’s a dish over which people can obsess, there’s likely a thriving community for it on Reddit.

The subreddit r/Pizza isn’t just about people who love pizza — r/Pizza is a place for pizza disciples. In this community, over 100,000 subscribers converge to compare notes on dough fermentation, swap photos of their successful pies with in-depth recipe notes, trade tips on the best store-bought cheese or flour brands, and generally unite over a shared obsession with all things pizza.

As with any successful community, there are rules: Don’t come in here trying to pass your prepackaged frozen crust off as homemade, no talk of pizza-adjacent items like stromboli or calzones, and no pizzas made with “weird breads,” like bagels or naan (read: my signature work-from-home lunch, “slab of melted cheese on a microwaved tortilla,” probably wouldn’t be welcome).

Dipping a toe into the discussions over the nuances of flour protein content can be intimidating for someone who’s never strayed from store-bought Boboli, but r/Pizza, particularly its Biweekly Questions Thread archive, is in fact an enormously helpful treasure trove of intel for anyone looking to step up their homemade pizza game (even if you aren’t quite at the level of DIYing your own oven or importing your water from Napoli).

The members of r/Pizza are on a shared quest for pizza nirvana — yeasty dough with that just-right amount of chewiness, the perfectly crisp crust, the rich and deep yet acidic and bright sauce, the highest-quality toppings in just the right amount placed with architectural precision without adding sogginess or toppling the whole structure. And anyone pie-curious is invited to join the journey. Here are a few tips and tricks we picked up after some respectful lurking.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Get a pizza steel.

If you think you’re going to make pizza a regular part of your home-cooking repertoire and you’re ready to upgrade from cast iron, skip the pizza stone and go for a steel plate. It’s the undisputed winner according to r/Pizza sage dopnyc, namely because it quickly reaches a higher temperature than what ceramic is capable of, which results in a faster pie and crispier crust (and eliminates chances of dropping and shattering it).

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Start with the right flour.

These pizza acolytes don’t just swap intel on brands of flour — they debate which exact percentage content of protein is best suited for pies (14% can result in an ever-so-slightly chewier crust than 13%, if you’re paying very close attention). Among store-bought varieties, King Arthur Bread Flour is a popular choice.

As for what to avoid? Even though 00 (“dopio”) flour is known for being the gold standard among Italian kitchens, home pizza-makers are probably better off saving the time and money of tracking it down. The finely milled flour doesn’t brown as well in most conventional home ovens as it does in much hotter (800+-degree) wood-burning ovens.

(Image credit: Trader Joe’s)

Or, for beginners, skip the dough entirely.

As a pizza novice who’s easily overwhelmed by talk of hydrating flour, yeast content, and cold-fermentation, I appreciate a shortcut. While r/Pizza frowns on frozen crust, they do have high praise for the store-bought dough at Trader Joe’s.

And, as one user recommends, there just might be restaurant-quality pizza dough in your neighborhood already: “I would highly recommend calling/going to a couple of local pizzerias first and seeing if they will sell you a ball of dough,” writes user ryanstlaurent, who frequently scored dough this way for a few bucks a pop. “It will almost always be fresher and of better quality than store-bought.”

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Avoid a soggy pie.

Tomatoes have a ton of liquid, which can make for a runny sauce. One Redditor recommends draining whole tomatoes from the can for at least 15 minutes, with a light sprinkle of salt to aid in drawing out moisture.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Choose your cheese wisely.

A tip you’ll frequently see in r/Pizza threads? Always grate your cheese fresh to ensure more even melting, as pre-shredded cheese is often coated with starch to keep it from clumping, resulting in a messier melt.

In general, one user writes, you should be looking for the firmest, yellowest brick of low-moisture, aged, whole milk cheese at your grocery store. (The soft mozzarella you’ll find on traditional Neapolitan pizzas, like bufala mozzarella, should be thoroughly drained and, in a conventional home oven, runs the risk of becoming rubbery or soggy.)

Wal-Mart, surprisingly, is said to have a pretty decent store-brand mozzarella, as does Boars Head. Beyond that, Calabro’s pizza cheese seems to be the gold standard, albeit a bit harder to find. And always skip the skim — it packs way less flavor and melts unevenly.

(Image credit: Milles Studio/Stocksy)

Finally, you’re never too far from great pizza.

The members of r/Pizza have compiled an encyclopedic Google map with hundreds of their favorite places around the world to grab a slice, from New York to Florence to Shanghai. Don’t travel anywhere without it.