If you’ve ever made homemade pizza, you’ve likely dealt with some unwanted mishaps. One of the most common of these mishaps is a soggy crust, especially in the middle. But what causes it?
Your pizza crust is soggy because there’s too much moisture trapped in the crust. There are several reasons why moisture gets trapped like this including not cooking the pizza long enough, stretching the dough too thin and using too many toppings. Very often a soggy pizza crust is the result of making more than one of these mistakes at a time.
But these aren’t the only reasons why pizza crust becomes soggy. Let’s go over the top 12 reasons, ranked from first to last, of why your pizza crust isn’t coming out the way you want it to.
1. Cook Your Pizza Long Enough
This one sounds obvious but it’s not always easy to spot when you’re the one making the pizza. Pizza crust needs to be baked long enough for the crust to eliminate excess moisture and form that crispy outer layer we all like so much to avoid sogginess.
This usually happens because people are paying too much attention to the toppings and not enough to the crust. Most online recipes will tell you that the pizza is done when the cheese bubbles up and turns a deep brown color. This not only isn’t always true, it’s just bad advice to follow.
First of all, in my opinion, the cheese on your pizza should not be crusted over and brown at all, at least not outside of a couple of spots here and there. A pizza with the toppings cheese crusted over is a hallmark of bad pizzerias and cheap frozen pizza.
But In reality, getting back to the crust, your pizza is done when the bottom has formed a nice darkened layer with some brown spotting as well. This indicates that a slight layer of crispness has formed and also that the layers of crust above that have baked through and dried.
The worst thing you can see on a pizza is a pale undercarriage, which indicates that the dough hasn’t cooked through enough and still retains moisture.
2. Don’t Make Your Crust Too Thin
Everyone likes a nice thin crust pizza. In fact, thin crust pizza is a characteristic of the world’s most popular styles of pizza such as those found in NYC and Naples, Italy.
But that doesn’t mean you can just make your pizza the same way you would with a regular only thinner. There are some important adjustments that need to be made.
When making a thin crust pizza you need to reduce the amount of sauce and cheese you use to avoid sogginess. If you don’t, the toppings will saturate the thin layer of dough and prevent it from crisping.
This can happen even when you bake your pizza for an excessive amount of time. So instead of crisping, the bottom layer of crust just firms up a little bit. If you’ve ever had keto pizza using an egg or vegetable based crust that never quite crisps up no matter how long you cook it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Essentially you want to preserve the gluten structure in the pizza dough without drowning it out with moisture and grease if you want to have a nice crispy bottom.
3. Make Sure Your Pizza Stone Is Hot Enough
This is another major mistake would-be pizza makers commonly make, and I’ve discussed it at length in an earlier post about pizza stones.
A pizza stone needs to be pre-heated for at least 1 hour at your oven’s maximum temperature in order to avoid a soggy pizza crust. This is because the stone needs adequate time to absorb the heat of your oven to provide that super-hot surface we’re looking to bake on.
To make a long story short, your pizza stone is almost worthless if it isn’t pre-heated long enough. Imagine putting your hand in front of a hot radiator and feeling the warmth coming from it. Now imagine placing a cold stone between you and that heat – you won’t feel anything. But if you let that stone sit in front of the heat for an hour or so, you’ll start to feel heat radiating from the stone itself. This is exactly how a pizza stone works.
This same principle holds true for a pizza steel as well except steel takes less time to pre-heat to reach its maximum temperature than stone. Just be sure to follow the pre-heating instructions for whatever you’re using and you should be able to avoid soggy pizza crust.
4. Use A Pizza Stone
Using a pizza stone isn’t just helpful in making perfectly crispy homemade pizza, it’s essential. In fact, not using a pizza stone could be the reason for your soggy pizza crust to begin with.
If you’re not using a pizza stone, the surface of whatever pan you’re using instead is just not going to get hot enough to get that crispy bottom you’re looking for. Instead, you’ll probably wind up with a crust that’s undercooked and soggy or toppings that are burned.
A pizza stone is basically a wide and hot flat surface that’s perfect for baking pizza dough. The stone works by mimicking a lot of the features that make professional baking ovens work so well and can really help you avoid soggy pizza crust.
If you absolutely can’t afford or get access to a pizza stone, I recommend using a pizza pan with holes in it which will help to make sure the bottom crust gets cooked. You can also bake your pizza right on the rack using parchment paper as well.
Another alternative to a pizza stone is anything made out of cast iron since it works by retaining heat very similarly to a pizza stone or steel. Although cast iron is generally not less expensive than a pizza stone so there might not be any advantage there.
5. Let Your Pizza Cool On A Rack Before Serving
This is another topic I covered briefly before but it’s worth mentioning again because it’s such a simple fix for soggy pizza crust.
Sometimes you can do everything right and still wind up with a soggy pizza because you missed one small step at the very end. In this case, it’s not letting your pizza cool on a rack before serving.
Allowing your pizza to cool for 1-2 minutes on a cooling rack will let steam escape from the bottom of the crust and prevent your pizza from getting too soggy.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. When your pizza comes out of the oven it’s steaming hot, but the steam isn’t just coming off the top like it might appear.
Steam also comes out from the bottom of the pizza, so if you immediately place it on a countertop or a plate, that steam is just going to reabsorb back into the crust. That’s just extra moisture and water that is going to make your pizza crust soggy.
6. Don’t Add Too Many Toppings
There are lot’s of reasons why you shouldn’t add too many toppings to your pizza. For one, it turns pizza from a light meal into something that sits in your gut like a stone. Too many toppings also takes away from the delicious medley of crust cheese and sauce.
Using too many toppings is also a primary culprit when it comes to soggy pizza. Even if you prepare and bake your pizza perfectly, if there are too many toppings for the crust to bare, it’s going to become saturated with moisture and get soggy.
This can happen whether you’re dealing with thin crust or thick crust – if the ratio of toppings to crust is unbalanced, you’re going to wind up with a soggy crust.
So the best way to avoid a soggy pizza crust is to use your toppings sparingly. You might even want to consider pre-cooking some of your toppings in a frying pan or the oven to evaporate any extra liquids in them. This way the moisture won’t get trapped in the crust and potentially make it soggy.
7. Drain Out Your Fresh Mozzarella Before Topping The Pizza
Fresh mozzarella is one of my favorite pizza toppings. The creaminess of this kind of mozzarella really doesn’t compare to what you get out of regular low-moisture mozzarella that’s most common on American style pizza.
The drawback to all that freshness is a lot of excess liquids. Some people actually prefer to not use fresh mozzarella because it can cause puddles of liquid to form on the pizza and even seep into the crust causing it to become soggy.
But in most cases, these people are not using their fresh mozzarella properly. You really need to cut up your fresh mozzarella an hour or so putting it on a pizza to release the excess liquid and avoid a soggy pizza crust. You might even want to put the fresh mozzarella through a strainer and then storing the cut up pieces in the fridge overnight to help it dry out.
Using fresh mozzarella this way will really help to avoid puddles of water on your pizza and a soggy crust underneath.
8. Always Put Your Oven On The Highest Temperature When Cooking Pizza
This is another mistake that might seem obvious to everyone else but not the person actually making the pizza.
Different pizza styles are cooked at different temperatures. For example, in Naples, a Neapolitan style pizza is always cooked at 900F in a wood-fired oven. On the other hand, many NYC style pizzerias cook their pizzas in a lower range from 450F to 700F.
In a regular home oven, the maximum temperature setting is generally 550F, but don’t assume that your oven will actually reach this temperature in reality. I’ve done many tests, and seen some online as well, and generally speaking even expensive high-end home ovens rarely reach their stated temperatures, and sometimes miss them by 50F or more.
This means you should always set your oven to the maximum temperature to avoid a soggy pizza crust, even if your recipe only calls for 450F. And if you’re monitoring the pizza closely as it cooks, there’s little risk of burning it in any case.
This tip is especially useful when using a pizza stone, as we’ve already gone over.
9. Par-Bake Your Pizza Crust To Avoid Sogginess
Par-baking is something that is very underappreciated in American pizza making circles but is standard procedure in Italy.
Home ovens simply don’t get anywhere near the temperature of a professional pizza oven. And for this reason, it takes a lot longer to fully bake a raw pizza dough into a fully formed pizza crust, especially when it’s covered in sauce and toppings.
This is why I often par-bake my dough before topping it to avoid a soggy pizza crust. Par-baking will cook the crust on the top and bottom and form a dry layer to keep moisture from seeping in. This works exactly like toasting bread before making a sandwich to avoid sogginess.
I love using this method, particularly for Neapolitan style pizza which tends to be a bit on the soggy side, even in a wood-fired oven.
To do this, just slide your pizza crust raw and plain onto the baking stone and let it bake for 1-2 minutes. When the rim of the crust starts to puff up, you can remove the par-baked crust and top it as normal.
You’ll find your pizza crust is a lot airier and fluffier when you par-bake the dough like this.
10. Don’t Use Too Much Cheese
We all love extra cheese but pizza is all about balance. Having either too much sauce or too much cheese, or a combination of both, can really throw off that classic pizza taste and texture we all love.
Too much cheese can also make your pizza crust soggy in a couple of ways. First, the fats that are released when low-moisture mozzarella cooks can seep into the crust and make it soggy when there’s too much of it.
Also, the weight of the cheese can cause the crust to buckle under it’s own weight. So while not technically soggy, the crust can flop and ultimately lose its crisp with too much cheese.
So, don’t use too much cheese on your pizza to avoid a soggy crust.
11. Stretch Your Pizza Dough Evenly
When you top your pizza, everything should be evenly spread throughout. But this can only happen when the dough itself is stretched evenly and without any holes or weak spots.
Pizza dough that isn’t spread evenly will end up with weak spots where the sauce and cheese can collect and potentially seep into the crust, making it soggy.
So, to avoid soggy pizza, you should always stretch your dough carefully and by hand. This will ensure that your crust is strong and will help prevent grease and moisture from seeping through.
12. Follow The Recipe Carefully
Making pizza is serious business, and the same goes for any other kind of baking as well. It’s much more of a science than an art form and most recipes are carefully calculated in terms of the ratio of ingredients.
This is why it’s super important to always follow your recipe carefully, and if you’re changing it you should know what you’re doing and be familiar with things like baker’s percentages.
If you don’t follow a recipe carefully it can cause all kinds of problems. For example, if you add too much water to your dough it can prevent it from baking properly and cause your pizza to become soggy.
And there you have it – 12 easy mistakes to look out for that are making your pizza soggy.
So if you’re struggling to deal with soggy pizza just keep these tips in mind. But ultimately, if you’re making sure your oven is hot enough, your toppings are few enough and your pizza dough is strong enough – you should be fine.
Do you have any tips or stories about dealing with soggy pizza? Let me know in the comments below.