5@5 - Five secrets to the perfect pizza
June 20th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

If the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, it could be amore - but it's more plausible that you're craving a slice so fiercely, you're starting to hallucinate your sweetheart as a dashing deep-dish.

Instead of taking the frozen route or having the delivery person pay a visit, why not bring the pizza-making pizzaz home?

Tony Liu, the executive chef of Morandi and Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria in New York City, is here to deliver a few saucy secrets - in 30 minutes or less.

Five Secrets to the Perfect Pizza: Tony Liu

1. Durum flour
"When first stretching out your dough, use this flour for its similarities to flour but without the added gluten of flour and excessive grit of semolina. It also adds a nice toasty flavor to the cooked dough."

2. Skip the dried oregano
"Look for the oregano that is sold on the branch. It is a little more work destemming it, but definitely well worth it. It's very pungent and fragrant.

Sprinkle the oregano on the pizza for pizza bianca, or add the oregano to the tomato sauce to add another layer of flavor."

3. Local tomato purée
"[For me, that means] grown and canned in the beautiful Garden State. Look for the 'Jersey Fresh' label for an intensely fresh, sun-ripened flavor as part of your base for red-based pies.

Jersey tomatoes are good because they're fresh and local, but you can substitute any other tomato that's local to you for that fresh feeling."

4. Crème fraiche infused with minced garlic
"For your white pies, spread a light layer of the French-style fresh cheese for a little tang and to loosen up the mozzarella. That tang brightens up the fattier, cheesier pies."

5. High heat
"This is very important when cooking your pies. You need the heat to make the dough jump, and to cook the dough before the toppings overcook.

For the home oven, those terracotta tiles (pizza stones) really work - or preheat an inverted sheet pan before cooking."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Best in Life • Bite • Dishes • Pizza • Think


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soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Agreed that vine picked Jersey tomatoes are ridiculously good! And they're just coming into season. Yumm!!!

    July 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  2. Peter

    These tips are silly. Durham flour? Waste of money. Canned tomatos? No, fresh tomatos. I bet his canned Jersy tomatos are better than reconstituted tomato paste, which is what the main line tomato sauce is now. High heat is good, pizza stone is good. The others are just personal opinion.

    Amazed he doesn't point out the importance of cheese quality.

    Go read the book, "The Bread Maker's Apprentice" for quality tips.

    June 23, 2011 at 10:37 am | Reply
  3. Breaking News!

    Japanese Scientists just figured a way to extract pizza dough from human excrement.

    And now back to your regularly scheduled Eatocracy...

    June 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  4. Sy2502

    They should have changed the title to "Five secrets to an American pizza", because the perfect pizza is Italian and has nothing to do with the pale imitation you find in this country.

    June 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • Patrickk@Sy2502

      Yes I concur. American bastardized pizza is nothing compared to a wholesome, organic, environmentally sustainable Italian pizza. Especially when served with a fine red wine.

      June 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Reply
      • Johnn

        But you need to sniff the cork to make sure the wine was stored properly. And make sure the wine is either French or Italian. Anything American is swill and no better than drinking dishwater.

        June 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Reply
    • I want da gold!

      When you get off your high horse try a slice of American Pizza. You may enjoy it. If not, I know where you can put the leftovers.

      June 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  5. I want da gold!

    Totino's Combination Party Pizza! Wooooo!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 10:05 am | Reply
    • Leprechaunn@I want da gold!

      You just can never set that bar too low, can you? ;)

      June 21, 2011 at 10:17 am | Reply
      • I got dat gold!

        I got all da Totino's!

        June 21, 2011 at 10:20 am | Reply
  6. Jim J

    For a really great pizza, mix your seasonings into the dough along with some minced garlic. Its fantastic. It gives the dough that extra kick along with the savoring of the sauce and toppings.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:01 am | Reply
  7. GutBuster

    My go-to dough recipe is actually Wolfgang Puck's whole wheat pizza dough, except i substitute agave for the honey. It's a little tougher to work with than regular pizza dough (all whole wheat flour), but the nutty taste after an overnighter in the fridge is to die for. I may try the semolina or duram substitute for 1/4 of it next time. Next on the list: Deep Dish. Anyone have good deep dish dough secrets?

    June 21, 2011 at 9:53 am | Reply
  8. Conrad Shull

    Buy a large, square pizza/baking stone. Do NOT buy the idiotically designed round pizza stone with handles. You do NOT want to be removing a 500 degree pizza stone from the oven! You need a pizza peel (paddle ) to remove the pizza and you can cut and serve it right from the peel. For indoor use in a regular oven the wooden ones are better than the metal ones, for just this reason. Also, these days many supermarkets have pizza dough available – the same as their delis use. It's really very tasty and cooks up very nicely.

    June 21, 2011 at 9:16 am | Reply
  9. RichardHead

    Poop Burger Pizza from Japan--It's Poopalicious!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 9:06 am | Reply
  10. Donatello

    Turtle Power!

    June 21, 2011 at 8:59 am | Reply
    • I want da gold!

      To me it look like a turtle to me...

      June 21, 2011 at 10:06 am | Reply
    • I got dat gold!

      "To me it look like a lepechaun to me"

      June 21, 2011 at 10:13 am | Reply
  11. WTF

    WHO CARES!!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 8:42 am | Reply
  12. Maria Rowena Rillen- Rizzi

    I think the base for a good pizza is a good bread flour, water (natural spring) no chlorine please, olive oil, tomatoes fresh as possible (you can make your own paste), fresh mozzarella. One has to know the technique of course and a wood fire oven!!!

    June 21, 2011 at 6:28 am | Reply
  13. ashupasu

    honey in your dough... and u can forget about the souce and toppings coz all you will eat is the srust..

    June 21, 2011 at 3:08 am | Reply
  14. Meaty Portion

    If you want to add some interesting flavor and depth to your pizza crust try using spent barley grains. For you homebrewers out there, you know what I'm talking about; for those who are not, find someone who homebrews.

    June 21, 2011 at 2:37 am | Reply
    • Huh?

      You're kidding right? I've from too many bakers who think using spent grains in any sort of bread is crazy and just stupid. If there is ANY flavor left in your spent grains, then you're doing it wrong. There's a reason most breweries ship off all their spent grains farms for animal feed.

      June 21, 2011 at 5:46 am | Reply
      • Stick to what you know

        Spent grains from brewing work great in breads. You have no idea what you are talking about.

        June 21, 2011 at 6:47 am | Reply
  15. A

    It's bad to do during cooking, but I always turn the pizza a 1/4 turn four times during the cooking process. I want to make sure that the pizza cooks evenly.

    June 21, 2011 at 1:55 am | Reply
  16. Chris Z

    Anise or Fennel Seed (just a pinch) makes pizza sauce pop.

    June 21, 2011 at 1:53 am | Reply
  17. Randy Marsh

    CREME FRAICHE! WHERE'S MY CREME FRAICHE?

    June 21, 2011 at 12:54 am | Reply
  18. Ted Miller

    I use Caputo "00" flour for perfect Napoletana-style pie! Curious about Durum flour though.

    June 21, 2011 at 12:54 am | Reply
  19. Chris

    LOL @ Crème fraiche ... its almost as funny as the pizza cookbook I bought that had a recipe for seafood pizza including shelled clams, but the photo showed a slice with a large helping of clams still in their shells.

    June 21, 2011 at 12:52 am | Reply
  20. Andrea M

    If you want pizza in 30 minutes, call Dominoes. If you want a GOOD pizza, you need to have all day. The recipe from when my dad owned a restaurant in Steamboat Springs, CO is my favorite. Perfect for a good chewy crust that you can load with as much or as little as you want. But like I said, it's a whole day affair, so mostly when I want a respectable slice here in Denver, I call up Benny Blanco's. Crust as thin as a junkie and made by a bunch of stoners, but there's just something tasty about it. Doesn't hurt that they take delivery calls till 2am too, now that's New York style, lol!

    June 21, 2011 at 12:31 am | Reply
  21. jg

    I started making Imo's Pizza (St. Louis style). It's a bit of a cheat since it doesn't use a yeast dough, but it's a fantastic pepperoni pizza and it's fast to make. I eventually moved on to yeast dough, though.

    My family loves my pizza. I make it every Friday and it's as good as almost anything I can buy. I take it as a great compliment that nobody ever asks for take-out pizza anymore. The fact that I can make a large pepperoni pizza for about $6 is just a bonus.

    June 21, 2011 at 12:07 am | Reply
  22. Kaz

    I was excited to read this article as I am always looking for ways to improve pizza – unfortunately this came up short.

    2/5 tips: Fresh/Better ingredients make better food – really?

    A hot oven? Any pizza site says this – non commercial ovens don't get hot enough so use a pizza stone at the hottest setting....

    At least there were some worthy comments here about pizza. Thanks for the semolina idea.

    June 20, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Reply
  23. Nathan

    The best pizza? FREE PIZZA!

    June 20, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Reply
  24. Thin crust

    I was hoping for a fabulous crust recipe. I am still looking for a great one.

    June 20, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Reply
    • jg

      The best crust recipe I've found is in a book called Secrets of a Jewish Baker. It uses regular old bread flour and active dry yeast. Easy to follow and versatile.

      June 20, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Reply
  25. WaitWhat?

    Get yourself a Big Green Egg and a pizza stone. You'll never have homemade pizza like that – ever!

    June 20, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Reply
  26. Sitnalta

    Crème fraiche? Sun-ripened tomatoes? Come on. That's the secret to charging $5 a slice, not good home-made pizza.

    June 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Reply
  27. JERSEYTOMATO

    Lovin the Jersey fresh!

    June 20, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  28. CurtX

    High heat definitely helps my pizza. I bake mine in my conventional oven on the lowest rack at the highest heat without broiling, which is 500 degrees. And I bake them in cast iron which bake hotter than most ordinary pans and it always makes an excellent crust. And provolone is my choice for cheese.

    June 20, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Reply
  29. Pizza addict

    I agree with the previous poster that said you need proper equipment and ingredients for great pizza! I guess
    that goes for anything that you want to cook/bake well!
    Here is a site I use for my pizza equipment

    http://astore.amazon.com/pizzalove-20

    June 20, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Reply
  30. ed

    If you've never eaten jersey tomatoes, then SHADDUP!! where you from, anyway, Texas?

    June 20, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Reply
    • WaitWhat?

      yes

      June 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Reply
  31. Smarterst Human

    Crème fraiche infused with minced garlic is hardly a must have pizza secret...silly article!

    June 20, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Reply
    • WaitWhat?

      You're silly and certainly not the Smartest Human.

      June 20, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  32. Dave Chemtrail

    What a lame article...Jersey tomatoes????? give me a break!
    This was written by someone that doesnt have a clue what they are talking about...
    Google best pizza recipe for how its really done....this is just a bad ad! Dave

    June 20, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Reply
    • Andy Anderson

      If you're claiming that Tony Liu doesn't know what he's talking about, you ought to figure out who that dude is. He's probably forgotten more about cooking than you'll know in your lifetime.

      June 20, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Reply
    • JDevil1735

      Actually, if you are making negative comments about Jersey Tomatoes, then you don't what you are talking about There is a reason why New Jersey is called the Garden State and New Jersey produces some of the best tomatoes around.

      June 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Reply
      • Jay

        Victor Melling: Why is New Jersey called "The Garden State"?
        Gracie Hart: Because it's too hard to fit "Oil and Petrochemical Refinery State" on a license plate?

        June 21, 2011 at 3:05 am | Reply
      • PtG

        Hate to tell you, there are good tomatoes everywhere there is water, dirt and sun. There are no magic in Jersy tomatoes, beyond the author's tie to promoting them.

        June 23, 2011 at 10:43 am | Reply
      • The Witty One@Pig

        There is indeed magic in Jersey...haven't you seen Jersey Shore? It's magical that these people actually exist.

        June 23, 2011 at 10:47 am | Reply
    • splishkid

      JDevil is correct. Jersey Beefsteaks (July/August/early Sept.) are the best tasting sandwich, salad tomato in the world. This is a fact. Major chefs will use only these in the summer. There is a chef in NYC (forget his name) that invents new dishes in the summer as an excuse to use these. Why do you think Campbell soups got there start and still headquartered in NJ-yep-source of best tasting tomatos for Campbells Tomato Soup. You should taste before you comment......

      June 21, 2011 at 8:18 am | Reply
      • Boss

        Two things I've learned: 1) Mozzarella doesn't have much flavor use Romano (or a mix of the two). 2) add the cheese first and the sauce on top (makes the crust crisper/less saugy).

        June 21, 2011 at 10:01 am | Reply
  33. job2010

    how many mistakes!!!
    If you use basil you do not want garlic in your tomato sauce. When you prepare your own sauce add just a little bit of onion in the oil before adding the canned sauce, then put basil.
    ONLY if you want to make a "marinara" pizza you use garlic and oregano and anchovies, of course. All the other pizza(s) do not want oregano. It is too strong flavored and kill any other ingredient flavor.
    Mozzarella? A good trick is smoked mozzarella it is drier and tastier.
    Many toppings can be added only a few mins before taking the pizza out of the oven (like prosciutto, arugula, ricotta) because you do not want to overcook everything and find your pizza dough soaked.

    June 20, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Reply
    • WaitWhat?

      Geez. What a food snob you are. It's a frickin' pizza. You add whatever you like for your own taste.

      June 20, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Reply
      • job2010

        Let me guess you just do not have any taste for food. Like the average American.

        June 21, 2011 at 9:17 am | Reply
  34. John Trovato

    So much to say. The flour should be 50/50 semolina, (red durham) and white bread flour. After all they call it flat bread now.
    Oregano, is used with a light touch. What you need and failed to include is basel, as in Pizza Margerita
    The mother for mixing the douigh. San Marzino tomatos from Italy, Not N.J.
    N.J. has always had a different slant on Italian cooking Come to East Boston for the Neopolitans and the best of the Sicilans. I could write a book. Thank you Tony Liu.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Reply
    • Ira Shlamazel

      You could write a book, but learn to spell basil first.

      June 21, 2011 at 12:17 am | Reply
      • J3sus@Ira

        Back off Ira – nobody's perfect. Not even you.

        I am .....

        June 21, 2011 at 7:30 am | Reply
  35. Scott

    The articles list is mediocre at best. I have made an amazing quantity of pizza over the last few years, recording my results in a spreadsheet. I can't buy a better pizza than I can make today in my home oven. Here is my list to start the quest for a perfect pizza, in order of importance.

    1. You need a thick heavy baking stone AND high heat (550F minimum). FibraMent makes an unbeatable product.
    2. Properly fermented dough. This means at least 1 night in the fridge for a slow rise.
    3. About 25% of the total flour should be semolina (by weight). This makes the crust taste like pizza dough rather than regular bread. Their point about rolling in semolina is good though. However, it is because regular flour will leave an unappetizing raw sawdust-like coating.
    4. Use an appropriate cheese for your cooking temp. Sure fresh mozzarella is great, but only if you can cook it hot enough to evaporate the water before the dough is burned. For home ovens this (unfortunately) means low moisture cheeses are a must.
    5. Go easy on the toppings. An overloaded pizza doesn't cook before the crust is done. Also too many ingredients will drown out flavors.

    June 20, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Reply
    • bennett

      GREAT TIPS AND ADVICE! Much more helpful then the actual article! Thank you

      June 21, 2011 at 12:07 am | Reply
    • jg

      I'll second that night-in-the-fridge advice. It really adds flavor to the crust.

      June 21, 2011 at 12:20 am | Reply
    • Charlotte

      your #5 is most crucial. This is why I hate almost all pizza that is found in the U.S. (especially horrors like Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, etc.). They load way, way, way too much junk on the pizza. Give it a rest! It isn't supposed to be a gut bomb. And that awful horrible trend of a gazillion kinds of cheese including inside the crust – yeccchhh. Actually the best pizzas in the world have NO cheese. And they're even good for you and they don't leave you feeling like you just swallowed a boulder.

      June 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Reply
      • You take that back!

        A Hawaiian barbeque chicken pizza from Papa John's is the shyte and you know it!

        June 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Reply
    • Schmaltzy4You

      Thick stone & high heat yes. But a stone or material that is very conductive is also important. FibraMent makes a mediocre quality product who's conductivity is surpassed by several products. Although the FM stone It is still better than many of the thinner stones more commonly seen.

      Properly fermented dough can mean a lot of things. Flavor does take time to develop though. Great dough can be made with a cold refrigerated period or by fermenting the entire dough at ambient temperatures (like they do in Naples)

      The semolina addition is a subjective addition reflecting the tastes of an individual. Semolina can add an interesting and nice flavor touch. But pizza dough tasting like "pizza dough" has more to do with your step #2...properly fermented dough. Can't think of too many pizzerias that add any semolina to their dough, much less 25% of the formula flour.

      Home oven user here. Fresh mozzarella (fior-di-latte) is all I ever use. Melts perfect every time. Different mozzarellas have different moisture contents and you can cut or tear it in thinner or thicker sized pieces to best suit your particular oven. Low moisture cheese is not a "must"

      Right on with #5. High quality ingredients used in restraint equals a good balance without drowning out the flavors just like you said.

      Keep up the quest for the perfect pizza! –s4u

      June 22, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  36. Ray

    I make my own pizza.

    When preparing the tomato sauce I use basil instead of oregano (lighter taste). As for garlic, I remove it from the cooked oil before putting in the tomatoes (easier to digest).

    June 20, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  37. mary

    pizza is a nice comfort food that can be altered very easily to a individuals specifications

    June 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Reply
  38. Liam B

    BTW... Durum wheat is NOT gluten-free. See wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durum "Its high protein and gluten content, as well as its strength, make durum good for special uses.[4]"

    June 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Reply
    • Allen

      really? wikipedia?

      June 20, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Reply
    • Me

      He said durum flour not durum wheat

      June 20, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Reply
      • Mike

        durum flour is wheat flour. Calling it durum flour for pasta making is actually incorrect – durum wheat is milled into semolina. durum wheat flour, like all wheat flours, have gluten.

        June 21, 2011 at 2:54 am | Reply
    • GlutenWarrior

      The sooner you celiacs die off, the sooner the human race can carry on with strength and vigor.

      June 21, 2011 at 12:07 am | Reply
      • skillet

        I think I found my new sig! Thanks!

        June 21, 2011 at 10:13 am | Reply
    • MalaDee@Liam B

      Not all of us have to think (or write) in terms of gluten-free all the time. Hard as it is to grasp, sometimes the world doesn't revolve around you.

      June 21, 2011 at 7:27 am | Reply
  39. fob

    We have a pizza stone it's the greatest for making pizza at home. Nice crispy crust everytime.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Reply
  40. Evil Grin

    Huh. I like the idea of seeing your sweetheart as a slice of pizza.

    I think when you are making all of the components of the pizza yourself, you pretty much always get an excellent pie. Since you can spice it to your exact tastes and coat it with the toppings of your choice. I like the advice about the cooking temperatures, though. Slower cooking at a lower temp probably makes for soggy dough and burnt toppings.

    June 20, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Reply

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