What Is The Best Pizza Crust?
I am a dyed in the wool fan of pizza, and although you can top your pizza with almost anything under the sun, the truly critical aspect from the standpoint of the pizza connoisseur is the quality and preparation of that base of all pizzas, the crust! No matter whether you are discussing the best New York pizza, the best Chicago pizza, or the world's best pizza, it's always the crust that counts!
First rule of proper pizza crusting: Take any pizzaiolo who even has corn meal in his pantry, throw his butt out onto the street and leave him to line up at the unemployment office the next day. Corn meal is great for making polentas, tortillas and arepas, but it belongs on pizza crust about as much as gravel. I don't know if tossing corn meal everywhere is just the mark of a lazy butt wannabe pizzaiolo who is trying to make up for lack of skills in preparing the dough (the meal keeps it from sticking), or if there are some aberrant taste buds out there in the world who actually think that corn meal tastes good on a pizza, but it is nothing short of sacrilege! Shame on you!
Deep pan, deep dish, or Chicago pizza crusts are really not crusts at all: They are bread! I've had some deep dish pizzas where the crust could qualify as unsliced Wonder Bread, not even the barely acceptable focaccia style of dough. Now don't get me wrong, as I love a good Chicago pizza as much as the next guy, but in a recent episode of The Food Network's Food Detectives a pizza critic said it best: "Chicago pizza is not a pizza, it's a casserole!"
Now we get to the ridiculous, wimpy, pointless, and just outright stupid ultra thin cracker type crusts that are all the rage in starred restaurants where they serve you 50g of overcooked yufka lavash with a couple of stripes of grilled chicken and some arugula for $50. Crackers are for hors d'oeuvres, not pizza. Send these overpaid elite chefs to the same unemployment line as the ignoramuses who spread corn meal all over everything!
The so called medium crust is the type found in most North American pizzerias and chain outlets such as Domino's, Little Caesar, etc. Of all the "conventional modern" crusts this is by far the best one and when it is prepared and baked properly, it can be outright delicious. One of the keys to having a great medium crust is cooking it at a very high temperature in the electric or gas oven so that there is ample "scorching" of the crust. This carbonization adds significant amount of flavor and zest to the pizza. Unfortunately so many pizzaioli in North America are fearful of getting complaints from know-nothing customers that "my crust is #$%& burnt" that they way undercook the crust at home oven temperatures. If you're going to do that, why not just save money and buy a Di Giorno / Delissio frozen pizza? They're a lot better than most of the undercooked pizzeria pizzas!
Now let me straighten out all the pizza heretic readers on crust novelties: A pizza crust is dough which holds the toppings. It is not to be stuffed with cheese rings, meats, vegetables, or engine parts. If you want something inside your crust order a calzone!
Let's face it: All the pizza crusts I've discussed to date don't hold a candle to a true Neapolitan pizza crust which can only ever be baked in a true, wood fired oven at outrageously high temperature for a very short time. You can always judge a great wood fired oven pizza chef from a newbie tyro junior ankle biter by how clean they keep the part of the oven where they place the pizza. The proper technique is likely the opposite of what you would originally think: The pizza baking part of the floor of the oven should never be immaculately clean, but have plenty of tiny charcoal bits all over it. These little chunks of burnt wood embed themselves in the base of the pizza and add an absolutely amazing amount of flavor and a surprisingly pleasing and satisfying small bit of crunch! Don't think you want to eat burnt wood? Then you can't really appreciate true pizza! Try it once and you'll be a believer!
Neapolitan wood fired oven pizza is not just the best pizza crust, it's the only pizza crust to ever have! To have a crust that originates from inside an electric or gas oven is like settling for blade steak when you wanted filet mignon!