Ah, the smell of fresh oven pizza made in a mere 90 seconds – just the idea of that gets me going, but along the way, we need to be careful to address each item or issue that stands between you and that perfect, other-worldly crispy, delectable circle of loveliness! The biggest, obvious issue as you start is what pizza flour to use.
Flour? I Guess You Expect Me to Make This From Scratch huh?
Let me back up for a second. I think it should go without saying, but because I feel in a small way as though it’s my calling, I’ll say it! PLEASE don’t even entertain the idea of buying a frozen store pizza (resist the urge to give in to the sales pitch telling you it’s gourmet, stone-baked, old world, authentic Italian, etc.).
If it’s been baked and was at one time a fresh, steaming gourmet delight, but is now a pale, frozen disk with the consistency of a brick, it won’t be the same, even in your pizza oven. In fact, if you have an authentic outdoor brick oven, it won’t even work since a raw dough crust is done in 2 minutes or less in a hot pizza oven. How would an already baked crust fare in such a baking environment? So yes, this is definitely a “from scratch” kind of thing.
First off, let me make it clear that my purpose here is no more than to introduce you to the best pizza flour for making pizza dough fresh, from scratch and baked in a pizza oven at a relatively high temperature (500-800 degrees Fahrenheit).
This article is not long, detailed or boring enough to explain all the details and intricacies of flour like the specific detailed differences between various degrees of whole wheat flour as compared to refined white flour, types of yeast to use, how much time, water or kneading is involved, etc. It is not a treatise on flour! I am not a flour expert, though given the research I’ve done, I feel like I’m becoming one!
I hope I’ll be able to help you in your research, and in fact, I’m confident that I can! I’ll try to put everything in terms of a regular “Joe Pizza” and not an agricultural research scientist.
First Things First
Given the larger picture of flours, it might be good to start off with a basic understanding of one of the biggest factors of any baking flour and what it does. It’s GLUTEN! There’s a whole gluten-free craze (in case you’ve been living under a proverbial rock for the past 10 years), but that’s a whole other issue! For now, it’s important you know what gluten is, or at least what it does.
Gluten is the stuff that makes a dough-based product chewy. In a nutshell, you want some chewiness (like in bread) in order to keep things together so you can spread butter without crumbling. Typical bread flour will have 14% gluten. I don’t know anyone who loves chewy cake, so cake dough has relatively low gluten content coming in around 9%.
There is a happy medium between those two flours and it’s the good old “all-purpose flour” we’re all familiar with. It has a gluten content about halfway between the other two I mentioned, and it works well with lots of different things, including pizza (especially deep dish). It is not, however, the best dough for a pizza oven, authentic tasting pizza.
What is the Absolute Best Recommendation for Pizza Flour?
Here is comes! This is the moment. Get a pen ready, or get ready to click, because I’ll tell you what to use if you want to plunge into total authenticity and just skip the baby steps to get there. It’s called Antimo Caputo “00” Pizzeria Flour (Antimo Caputo is the guy’s name in Italy). Honestly, you can use any “00” rated flour.
This is basically the gold standard of pizza flour and in fact, various flour mills have tried over the years to offer a “00 substitute” but the general consensus is that they have been largely unsuccessful. Italian flour mills have a system of using zeros and “1” to rate their flour, and the rating of 1 is the least fine (coarsest) while 0 is a bit finer. 00 is the finest flour with around 12 or 12.5% gluten, and it offers the best combination of crispy vs. chewy and it allows for those bubbly, charred, puffy spots around the edges of the crust when baked in a pizza oven.
You can order it on Amazon and it even comes with free shipping (conditions apply). By the way, you’ll see the term “Rinforzato” on some flour bags, and that just means “reinforced” which is what you’ll want for pizza making. The price per pound dramatically decreases (and I mean dramatically!) as you order a larger quantity, so I’d suggest a 55 lb bag instead of a 5 lb bag for that purpose alone.
If you’re an occasional pizza-lover only, then feel free to grab the smaller size as the price point is lower overall and storage won’t be as much of an issue if space is limited.
Any Other Good Options for Pizza Flour?
There are certainly other options out there and you won’t go hungry if you exercise some of them. However, they all seem to have more prominent compromises if you’re looking for old-world Italian authenticity. For example, all-purpose flour is a jack of all trades but truly a master of none! If there is only one flour you can have on hand (due to space or budget restrictions), this would be the one.
However, as it relates to pizza, it will not give you the authentic, super crispy oven-baked pizza crust. Its bubble structure is smaller and more regular, so you won’t get those irregular, charred bubble structures so distinctive in authentic pizza oven pies. Other flours that have been used include bread flours, which also work fairly well, but can be tough to stretch because of high protein/gluten content and often bounces back during a stretch, which is annoying if you’re trying to create a specifically sized pizza on a pan or your peel. It’s really not a pizza flour.
It’s even been suggested by some to use some cake or pastry flour in your pizza dough to help with tenderness, but that produces an even bigger problem of a weak structure (pastry dough is very weak in structure which is perfect for tender cakes, but not for pizza which gets a big slop of wet sauces in the middle along with wet vegetables and heavy meat.
The heavyweight on a tender pastry dough results in a gooey, pasty guck between the toppings and the bottom of the crust with no airy, crispness or the sturdy structure necessary for a good pizza.
Too Much Information!
I haven’t even scratched the surface (okay, maybe a bit of the surface) of pizza flour stuff, but it should be enough to get you started. I may re-visit this topic in the future since it is WAY bigger and more extensive than what I’ve unpacked here.
Just stick with the double 0
Practice and experiment with the amount of water you use, the type of yeast and kneading techniques. At least we’ll get you started the right way with Caputo 00 pizza flour and then let you work out the details, or check out our RECIPE page.
Remember that you can always use the less expensive all-purpose flour which is okay, but if you invest the time and money for an actual pizza oven, we’d recommend using the dough that upholds the authenticity. We’re all about that on this site and we hope to offer you a lot more information on how to truly “experience” the merits of a real pizza oven for years to come!
Oh, and by the way, if, after reading this article on flour, you’d rather just skip the time and hassle, well, have I got an answer for you! Check out our favorite pizza dough balls which make your life WAY easier! Happy baking!