Why Is My Pizza Burnt? How to Fix It in 5 Easy Steps
Pizza lovers will tell you how they like their pizza. Doughy and chewy or thin and crusty with a balanced sauce and toppings flavor combination that creates an awesome culinary experience. A burnt pizza is nowhere near the list. It is not a pleasing sight and can mar family dinners or get-togethers with your friends.
If you’ve been to a classic pizzeria, you may have noticed that your pizza, which almost always comes from a wood-fired pizza oven, has some small dark spots on its crust. Does this mean your favorite pizza restaurant has been serving you burnt pizza? No, not really.
The small charred spots on the pizza are called “leoparding” and they can be seen mostly on a traditional Neapolitan pizza crust. Charring occurs due to the direct high heat on the pizza that comes from the top of the oven ceiling and its base.
At this high heat, sugar in the flour begins to caramelize and the charring process begins. This char gives the pizza a nice, smoky flavor and texture. If it is not taken out of the oven at the right time, a combustion process begins. If the spots become too dark and they taste bitter, then we can say you have a burnt pizza on your plate.
Why Causes Pizza to Burn?
Pizza burns for various reasons. From high temperature to having too much oil or sugar in the dough. Let’s investigate the main reasons for this culinary mishap.
If the temperature of your pizza oven is too high, you will experience the disappointment that a burnt pizza brings. As expected, pizza bakes faster at a high temperature and slower at a low temperature. When the temperature is too high, the outer part of the crust can get crispy faster than its insides and can eventually burn if left unattended.
Too Close to Heat Source
The heat source of most home ovens is located at the bottom. If your baking rack is too close to the bottom of the oven, it can lead to a burnt pizza base.
Too Much Sugar In The Dough
Sugar improves the browning of the dough but when its quantity in the dough is more than it should be, a burnt pizza may be inevitable. When baking, the heat from the oven makes the sugar in the flour caramelize. If you’ve simmered sugar on a frying pan, you’ll notice how it changes to a dark brown color. This chemical process is called caramelization and it starts at 160°C (360°F). If your sugar content is high, the sugar will burn out and hasten the burning of the pizza crust as well.
Too Much Oil In The Dough
Oil is an essential part of the dough mixture. It helps to make the dough softer, improves its capacity to stretch, and circulates heat through the dough but when it is too much, it can speed up the burning process, especially if you are using a pizza stone or steel.
Excess Flour On The Bottom Of The Pizza
Flour is the most important part of the pizza dough. It can be sprinkled on the oven floor or rack to prevent the pizza from sticking to it. The sugar content of some flours, for example, is very high. The American flour is one example. This can cause your flour to burn especially in high temperatures. Your pizza crust can burn faster just by adding too much flour between the pizza base and the oven.
This is another reason why you might end up with a burnt pizza. When you just take out the uncooked dough from the fridge and place it in the oven, the exterior will heat up faster than its interior, especially if the dough is thick. If the temperature is not even and appropriate, the dough will end up burning without cooking properly on the inside.
How to Avoid Burning Your Pizza
If you’re using a wood-fired oven, it is important to understand how pizza cooks in it, how to regulate the heat, and stop your pizza from burning. The pizza doesn’t cook with direct heat from the wood. The walls of the oven are heated to high temperatures and the layers of insulation in the oven trap this heat. Cold air from the bottom part of the oven keeps this hot air in motion around the oven. It takes a long while for the oven to heat up so you don’t have to worry about the temperature dropping quickly. The oven can stay very hot for many hours so you can comfortably cook pizza and even bake your bread and desserts as well.
With this in mind, also remember that it requires practice to control the temperature. It is advisable to start the fire in the middle of the oven and then move the wood to the back and the sides of the oven before you start baking. Heat will circulate evenly in a shorter amount of time this way. A dome-shaped oven will allow the heat to circulate and radiate from the dome to bake the top of the pizza as the bottom, which is closer to the heat source bakes as well.
Since the part of the oven closest to the heat source is the hottest, you can use a turning peel to move the pizza from one spot to another. Take note that a new spot might be hotter, so don’t leave your pizza on that spot for too long. If your pizza bottom cooks before the top, you can use your turning peel to lift it closer to the heat source so the top can finish cooking.
A burnt pizza is easy to avoid when using a home oven. You just need to regulate the temperature properly and be conscious of the time. Don’t leave your baking pizza unattended. Instead of sprinkling flour on the baking rack or pan, you can use a baking sheet instead. A baking sheet helps to spread heat evenly, from above and underneath the pizza. If your oven has uneven heat distribution, check the bottom to see if it’s cooked then turn it over so the top can cook properly as well.
Another great way to bake pizza at home and have fewer burnt pizza incidents is by using a pizza stone or steel. You can make the classic Neapolitan-style pizza at home this way. This method will bake the bottom of your pizza faster so make sure you’re always checking. When you preheat the stone or steel, your pizza will bake faster. If you want to know more about proper baking in a home oven check out these step-by-step guides to baking on a pizza stone or a pizza steel.
How To Prevent Burnt Pizza In Five Easy Steps
- Understand Your Baking Method
Your baking method will determine the amount of attention and care you take to prevent a burnt pizza. While wood-fired ovens take time to heat up, they can get really hot, and understanding how to use that high temperature to your advantage is the thin line between an awesome family dinner and a burnt pizza disaster.
- Control Time and Temperature:
As stated earlier, ovens differ in how quickly and evenly they heat up. If the bottom of the pizza is baking faster than the top, use a turning peel to lift the pizza closer to the oven dome so that baking can happen evenly. Even when using a baking sheet in your home oven, if you leave your pizza for too long, it will certainly burn. Check your pizza from time to time so it doesn’t burn away.
- Avoid Using A Cold Pizza Dough:
If your dough is cold, the starch will burn easily. If your pizza dough is fresh out of the refrigerator, it is advisable to leave it sitting on a clean surface at room temperature for about 2-3 hours before you begin to prepare your pizza.
- Avoid Excess Flour:
To avoid burnt pizza, use a perforated peel to get rid of excess flour from your dough. It is also important to note that in powder form, wheat flour burns quickly. Semolina handles heat better so you can use this on your pizza dough in place of wheat flour or cornmeal.
- Use The Right Amount Of Sugar and Oil:
While these two ingredients are essential in your pizza-making process, having too much in your dough can lead to a burnt pizza. You really do not need too much sugar and oil in your pizza. A little is more than enough.
Honestly, a burnt pizza is disheartening, not a pleasing sight, and can even be dangerous to eat. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner seeking to make mouth-watering pizzas at home, following these simple steps listed above can help you avoid having a burnt pizza accident.