How to make the best pizza at home.

One way to ensure a really great pizza crust is to use a wood-burning oven that reaches a temperature of at least 600°F, a feature most home kitchens lack. Fortunately, you can transform your regular oven into a pizza oven by baking directly on a hot pizza stone. The unglazed clay surface absorbs and distributes heat evenly, producing a crisp crust. Here are some tips for adapting the recipes.

Using a pizza stone

Place a pizza stone in a cold oven on the lowest rack. Allow at least 30 minutes for the stone to heat before baking the pizza.

Let dough come to room temperature before baking. If cold dough is placed directly on a heated pizza stone, the abrupt change in temperature may cause the stone to crack.

Because pizza stones are porous, they absorb odors. Avoid using soap to clean them. Wash with warm water and use baking soda to remove stubborn stains.

Using a pizza peel

The best way to transfer a pizza to a stone is to use a wooden paddle called a peel-and it is much easier to slide a small pizza from a peel than to slide a large one. To use a peel for recipes that call for 12 ounces of dough, divide the dough in half and roll one piece into a 10-inch circle. Transfer the crust to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel. Turn edges under to make a slight rim. Assemble the pizza, using half the topping. Make sure the dough slides easily on the peel; add more cornmeal if necessary.

Open the oven door and set the tip of the pizza peel near the back of the stone. Pull the pizza peel toward you, letting the pizza slide onto the stone. Quickly close the door. Baking time for a pizza baked directly on a stone is shorter than for pan pizza: allow 8 to 10 minutes. Assemble the second pizza on the peel with the remaining dough and toppings while the first one bakes.

To remove the pizza from the oven, use a wide metal spatula to slide the pizza onto a pizza peel or pizza pan.

Pizza for a crowd

When using a home oven, you will achieve the best results making one pizza at a time. You can make larger pizzas on a 17 1/2-by-12 1/2-inch baking sheet that has been coated with cooking spray and dusted with cornmeal. To help crisp the crust, set the baking sheet in the oven on a heated pizza stone or inverted baking sheet.