The best temperature to cook homemade pizza

What is the best temperature to cook homemade pizza?

The simple answer is as hot as your oven will go!

People are often very surprised to hear this. However, in a traditional wood fired pizza oven, temperatures reach 500 degrees celcius (over 900 degrees farenheit)!

A pizza cooking in a wood fired oven
A pizza cooking in a wood fired oven

The average domestic oven will only get up to about 250 degrees celcius (about 500 degrees farenheit).

Of course, the cooking process will be a little different at these lower temperatures but if you want to get as close to possible to the real thing, you have to turn that oven up!

Therefore, the best temperature to cook homemade pizza in your domestic oven is about 250 degrees celcius (about 500 degrees farenheit). For gas mark ovens, this is about gas mark 9.

Also, if you have a fan assisted oven, make sure the fan is turned on. This will improve the airflow and increase the overall temperature inside the oven.

If you have a pizza oven at home then the best temperature will be a lot higher than 250 degrees, but I’ll discuss that in another post.

Won’t it damage my oven turning it up that high?

No, your oven won’t break when you turn it up as high as it will go.

All ovens, including domestic ovens, are designed and built with safety in mind. Even at its highest setting your oven will be well within its safe working temperature.

Turn up the heat! And turn on the fan if you have one
Turn up the heat! And turn on the fan if you have one

In fact, your oven may be limited by as much as 100 degrees! Oven manufacturers don’t want you hurting yourself or the oven breaking before its designed lifespan.

Why is pizza cooked at such a high temperature?

In short, cooking pizza at a high temperature makes the best pizza!

This is because:

  1. It ensures the pizza is crispy (especially the base and the crust)
  2. It gets the best rise out of the crust (and the softest interior)
  3. It improves the flavour of the dough
  4. The sauce will be cooked properly
  5. The cheese will be melted and evenly distributed
  6. The toppings will be cooked through

If you have ever had a traditional pizza cooked in a wood fired oven then you will know what I’m talking about. The crust is crispy yet soft, the dough has depth of flavour, and the cheese and toppings are perfectly cooked. It really is heaven, right?

To find out more about wood fired pizza, check out my article on wood fired pizza ovens and pizza here.

The perfect crust is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle!
The perfect crust is crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. This pizza was made in my normal home oven!

Fortunately, if you follow my advice you can still cook delicious pizza in a normal domestic oven.

Do I need to preheat my oven before cooking pizza?

Preheating your oven is an absolute must!

It is also important to preheat your oven with your baking tray or pizza stone inside. You should preheat your oven at maximum temperature for at least 30 minutes.

That’s right, 30 minutes!

I know this seems like a long time but it takes a while for your cooking surface to get up to temperature.

Whilst your oven may get up to temperature in about 10 minutes, your pizza stone or baking tray will take a lot longer.

What is a pizza stone and do I need one?

A pizza stone, or baking stone, is basically a thick cooking surface for pizzas and bread. They are typically made from ceramic or stone. You can even get pizza steels to cook pizzas on but these are typically more expensive and not necessary.

A good quality pizza stone can improve your homemade pizzas
A good quality pizza stone can improve your homemade pizzas

It is true that you don’t need a pizza stone to make nice pizzas.

However, a pizza stone can significantly improve the quality of your pizzas. With a pizza stone, you will be able to achieve a crispier base and crust.

The great thing about a pizza stone is that it holds its heat extremely well.

As soon as your pizza hits the cooking surface it will reduce the temperature of the surface. This is especially true of a normal baking tray.

Because a pizza stone is so thick and efficient, the drop in temperature will be much lower than a regular baking tray. This allows your pizza to cook much more evenly and enables you to achieve that all important crispiness.

It’s impossible to write a post about the best temperature to cook a homemade pizza without mentioning a pizza stone! I can highly recommend getting one, and if you intend on cooking loaves of bread anytime, it’ll come in handy for that too.

Can I use my baking tray instead?

If you don’t have a pizza stone, use the back of a baking tray. Turning the tray upside down will make it easy to get your pizza on and off it, and will work just as well, if not better.

Using an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of an upside-down baking tray, preheated for 30 minutes
Using an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of an upside-down baking tray, preheated for 30 minutes

Using a laser thermometer is particularly helpful when using a pizza oven, but it is also useful for a normal oven. 260 degrees Celsius (500 Fahrenheit) is the hottest that I can get my oven.

Don’t be tempted to put your homemade pizza straight on the grill rack. Shop bought pizzas that have been pre-cooked may cook OK like this but fresh dough pizzas will not.

Fresh pizza dough needs a flat, hot surface to cook properly. Also, your pizza won’t stick to the rack and you won’t get cheese dripping into the bottom of your oven.

When you use a baking tray for the first time, it is a good idea to lightly flour it. This will ensure that your pizza does not stick to the tray.

Whereabouts in the oven should I place the pizza stone/baking tray?

The best place to put your pizza stone or baking tray is typically where your oven is the hottest.

For the vast majority of domestic ovens, this is the top of the oven. However, your oven may be different.

I place my pizzas about 6 inches from the top of the oven
I place my pizzas about 6 inches from the top of the oven

To start with, I would go for about 6 inches from the top but feel free to experiment to see what works best for you. You may find that moving your pizza down a little will give you a more even cook.

How do I get my pizza inside the oven?

I’m going to assume that you have got the pizza shaped. This is an incredibly important stage and should be carried out with great care! But I’ll cover that in another post.

Once you have got your oven preheated and your pizza shaped, we can start thinking about getting it in the oven!

However, as soon as you open the oven door to put your pizza in, the temperature will start to drop.

It’s important to get the pizza inside the oven as quickly as possible, before it cools too much. Try to minimise the time the oven door is open by making sure you are prepared beforehand.

My best advice here, is to make sure your pizza is loaded on a pizza peel before you open the oven door.

What is a pizza peel and do I need one?

A pizza peel, or baker’s peel, is a wooden board or metal plate with a handle. They are used to load pizzas or loaves of bread into and out of the oven.

Peels make it easy to quickly transfer pizzas to the cooking surface, without effecting the shape of the pizza, or burning yourself!

My pizza prepared on the peel
My pizza prepared on the peel

A pizza peel is a great investment but you don’t need one.

Can I use anything instead of a pizza peel?

If you don’t have a peel, I recommend using a chopping board. Wooden or glass chopping boards are best for this. I wouldn’t advise using a plastic one as it may melt as it touches the hot surface.

Make sure you lightly flour your peel or chopping board to avoid the pizza sticking to it.

How long should I cook my homemade pizza for?

It is difficult to give the exact time it takes to cook your homemade pizza but as a rough guide, it usually takes about 6 – 10 minutes in a domestic oven.

The cooking time will depend on a number of factors, including:

  1. The maximum temperature of your oven
  2. Whether you have a fan assisted oven or not
  3. The thickness of your pizza
  4. Where the pizza is placed in the oven (top, middle, or bottom)
  5. Whether you have a pizza stone or not

Unfortunately, I do not have an exact answer and it mainly comes down to trial and error. You will need to figure out what your oven is capable of and how it cooks homemade pizza.

The best advice I can give you is to stay at the oven whilst your pizza is cooking and keep checking it. Try to avoid opening the door too much, however, as this will cause the temperature inside the oven to drop.

If your oven door has a window, then you can easily check the pizza through this.

Timing your pizza is helpful for future reference. I recommend leaving the oven door shut for at least 4 – 5 minutes initially. This will ensure that the base cooks properly.

Start your timer as soon as the pizza goes in and open the door to check it after 4 - 5 minutes
Start your timer as soon as the pizza goes in and open the door to check it after 4 – 5 minutes

After 4 – 5 minutes, the pizza should be mostly cooked but it will probably need turning 180 degrees to make sure it is cooked evenly.

Usually the pizza cooks more at the back of the oven but your oven may be different. You may find that the pizza cooks more on the left or the right.

It’s amazing how much you learn about your oven when cooking pizza!

You can turn the pizza as much as you want toward the end of the cooking to try get it as even as possible. Remember not to leave the oven door open though!

How do I know when my homemade pizza is cooked?

There are 2 ways to tell when your homemade pizza is cooked:

  1. The crust will be slightly browned and the cheese/toppings will be cooked
  2. The crust will be firm and crispy to the touch

The problem with checking the colour of the crust is that every oven will yield different results. Until you know how your oven cooks pizza, it’s impossible to know how your pizza looks when it’s cooked.

My favourite way of telling when the pizza in cooked is by feeling the crust. You can do this every time you turn the pizza, it only takes a second.

The cooked pizza crust should be very firm and crispy. Once the pizza is removed from the oven and it starts to cool, the crust will soften slightly so don’t worry about it being too crispy.

My finished pizza - notice the colour of the crust and the crispy texture
My finished pizza – notice the colour of the crust and the crispy texture

Of course, it is possible to cook a pizza too much, it will take some trial and error. It’s hard to say exactly how to tell when it’s right, but you get a feel for it the more you cook pizza.

Let it cool a little once it comes out so that that the crust can soften, and so that you don’t burn your mouth! Cool pizza is always better than red hot pizza, trust me!

How to cook a homemade pizza from start to finish

I’ve broken everything down in a list below for quick reference.

How to cook homemade pizza in a domestic oven:

  1. Preheat your oven at the maximum temperature for at least 30 minutes
  2. Don’t forget to preheat your pizza stone/baking tray
  3. Load your pizza onto a lightly floured pizza peel/chopping board
  4. Open your oven and quickly transfer the pizza from the peel
  5. Shut the oven door quickly
  6. Start your timer
  7. Check the pizza after 4 – 5 minutes and rotate 180 degrees
  8. Continually rotate the pizza every minute or so until cooked
  9. The cooked pizza should have a firm and crispy crust
  10. The pizza should be lightly browned and the cheese/toppings should be cooked
  11. Take a mental note of the timings for future reference
  12. Slice & enjoy your delicious homemade pizza!
Neapolitan pizza crumb and crust
Delicious homemade pizza I made with this easy no-knead dough recipe!

Remember, the best temperature to cook your homemade pizza and how long it will take is something you’ll have to figure out on your own. But hopefully I’ve got you on the right track, and saved you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

To get making great pizza, check out my easy no knead pizza dough recipe here.

If you fancy diving in at the deep end, check out my authentic Neapolitan pizza recipe here.

There’s no time like the present, for amazing pizza! Let’s get mixing!

Tom Rothwell from My Pizza Corner eating homemade pizza

About Me

I’m Tom Rothwell and I’m super passionate about all kinds of homemade pizza! In the last few years I've been on a quest to find the perfect pizza. Now I'm sharing what I've found out with the world!

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