Cooking pizza in a home oven is always slightly more complicated than cooking a pizza in a real wood-fired oven. The heating is different and uneven, which can lead to uncooked dough.
You don’t get the true authentic Italian pizza experience with a regular oven.
Plus, home ovens come with racks that can be adjusted in height, whereas pizza only needs to be placed on a pizza slate or stone in a wood-fired oven.
One of life’s great unanswered questions amongst pizza lovers is “can you cook pizza directly on the oven rack?”.
For those who love pizza but are new to the art of cooking pizza in a home oven, it might seem like cooking the pizza directly on the oven rack is your only option. However, this isn’t always the case.
Here is everything you need to know about how to cook the perfect pizza in an oven!
Can You Cook Pizza Directly On The Oven Rack?
Here’s the short answer: You can cook pizza directly on the oven rack if it is a frozen pizza, a cooked pizza that needs reheating, or a pizza with a pre-made crust.
However, you can’t cook pizza directly on the oven rack if you have made the dough from scratch. This is because the raw dough will simply fall through grates on the oven rack.
Cooking Frozen Pizza On The Oven Rack
Frozen pizza has a rigid form as the pizza itself has already been par-cooked, which is why frozen pizza generally only needs around 10-15 minutes in a regular oven to cook.
When you put a frozen pizza on the oven rack, the dough won’t fall between the gaps of the rack due to its rigid structure.
Instead, the gaps in the rack will provide more heat exposure to the bottom of the dough, allowing for an even crisp overall.
The best part about cooking frozen pizza on the oven rack is that it involves little to no washing up and cleaning.
You won’t need to scrub away at a baking tray, nor will you have to ferociously clean sticky dough from the rack or the oven itself.
However, there are some downfalls to cooking frozen pizza on the oven rack.
While frozen pizza offers a fairly solid structure, once it starts to thaw out in the oven, the edges of the pizza can easily fall between the gaps.
This can lead to cheese and toppings falling off the sides of the pizza and can make it harder to take the pizza off the rack. Still, far less messy than cooking raw dough on the rack.
Secondly, not all frozen pizzas can be cooked directly on the oven rack.
Some frozen pizzas will have been made with raw dough, which means that once it thaws out in the oven, you’re dealing with raw dough falling through the gaps in the rack.
To prevent this, it’s best that you read the cooking guidelines before you assume that you can cook a frozen pizza on the rack.
Regardless of how you choose to cook your frozen pizza in the oven, it’s vital that you allow time to preheat the oven properly before you put the pizza in.
Without preheating the oven you have no control over the cooking speed of the pizza, meaning that it will thaw and cook unevenly, resulting in burnt parts and raw parts. Plus, it’ll take far longer to cook.
Cooking Raw Pizza Dough On The Oven Rack
So, you’ve just spent the last few hours slaving over your homemade pizza dough, allowing enough time for it to proof properly, and decorating the top with your favorite toppings and sauce.
You’ve just put it on the oven rack inside a preheated oven, but little do you know about the mess that is to come.
Once the raw dough warms up in the oven, it won’t cook straight away. Instead, it’s going to melt if there are gaps beneath the surface it is residing on.
This means that the raw dough will droop between the grates of the oven rack, bringing your toppings with it and ruining all of your hard work.
It won’t be salvageable. Instead, you’ll be left with the remains of a once-perfect raw homemade pizza dough, melted and burned into your oven grate and the bottom of your oven.
Cleaning such a mess is nothing short of a nightmare.
Remember what we said about the rigid structure of frozen pizza? Yeah, raw dough is the complete opposite of that.
To make pizza dough into your desired shape, you must stretch it out, because when it cooks it will shrink.
As a result of this stretching, the dough becomes thin and filled with air, which is possibly the least stable surface.
As well as the thin dough surface, you’ve also got to think about the weight of the toppings.
It’s always recommended using less sauce and toppings than you might think to prevent uneven cooking, but this is also to prevent the dough from collapsing underneath the weight of everything on top of it.
Instead of cooking raw pizza dough on an oven rack, it’s best to cook the dough on a pizza stone or slate.
Either is fine, but pizza slates are best for conducting heat, which is what you want to ensure the dough is cooked throughout the pizza.
The slate or stone needs to be preheated for around an hour to ensure the hottest surface for the dough to cook on.
Not only does the slate or stone conduct heat better than a regular oven grate, but the pizza won’t fall through any gaps!
How To Cook The Perfect Pizza In The Oven
It’s no secret that real wood-fired pizza ovens are the best oven type to cook a pizza.
However, not everyone has the space or funds to justify investing in a wood-fired pizza oven, which is why most people can only cook a pizza in their home oven.
Fortunately, there are ways to mimic the environment inside a wood-fired oven in your home oven to cook the perfect pizza!
When a pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven, it is placed at the bottom of the oven where the heat is most extreme.
Heat from a home oven comes from the top, and it can be quite tricky trying to get the heat to the bottom of the oven.
This is why people will often make the rookie mistake of cooking their homemade pizza dough in the oven like they would with a frozen pizza – raw dough needs enough heat from the bottom of the oven to cook thoroughly.
As we mentioned before, we highly recommend buying a pizza stone or pizza slate.
These are designed to cook homemade pizza thoroughly by conducting heat to evenly cook the dough, whilst allowing the surrounding warmth to slowly cook the toppings.
If you’ve ever tried to cook homemade pizza on a baking tray in your oven, odds are you’ve encountered uncooked dough and burnt toppings.
This is because you’ve not provided enough heat to the bottom of the dough!
If you don’t have a pizza stone or pizza slate, the best temporary option would be to cook the homemade pizza on a thick baking sheet over a baking tray.
Alternatively, you can also use a clean piece of ceramic tile. As long as you preheat the oven and the surface properly before you put the pizza dough on it, this should work fine!
The reason you have to preheat the slate/stone/baking sheet is that cold dough doesn’t cook well on a cold surface.
Ideally, you should allow your dough to rest for 1-2 hours at room temperature after proofing to ensure that it’s not cold because this can lead to an uncooked base.
Pizza slates and stones need at least an hour to preheat (the longer, the better) because when the dough touches the surface, it will immediately cool down the slate or stone if it’s not hot enough.
Not only will this extend the cooking time, but it will also result in uncooked dough.
The final way to properly cook homemade pizza is by pre-cooking it in a frying pan or skillet.
While this might sound a bit unconventional, this will provide enough heat to cook the bottom of the dough before it goes into the oven, which perfectly cooks the toppings and makes everything golden brown.
To do this, make sure you preheat the pan or skillet before you apply the stretched-out dough. Once the base begins to brown, you can then apply the toppings.
Give it a few more minutes, and then transfer the pizza to the preheated oven, and then wait until it’s done! Make sure to not put it on the racks, however, because the dough is still partially raw.
So, there you have it! You can cook pizza directly on the oven rack as long as the pizza has a rigid and firm structure – for example, frozen pizzas, pre-made crust pizzas, and cooked pizzas that need reheating can all be cooked directly on the oven rack.
Pizzas that have a flimsy and malleable surface – such as raw dough or frozen pizzas made of raw dough – will require a more solid surface.
This is because raw dough will melt between the gaps in the oven rack, resulting in an unsalvageable mess.
If you cook pizza often or if you think you might want to perfect your homemade pizza skills, it’s best to buy a pizza stone or slate to ensure an even cook throughout the dough.