So you've purchased a Pizzeria Pronto (or PizzaQue) and after a bit of practice you've become a pizzaiolo. The neighbors ate your delicious pizza last week and told their neighbors... who told their neighbors... and somehow you’re now the candidate for a giant pizza party! Whether this pizza party was your idea all along, or your friends and relatives twisted your arm, we figured it was time for tips on making large amounts of pizza. We've assembled this guide with pizza industry tricks and techniques discovered in our test kitchen, all to help you out in the heat of the (pizza) moment.
Preparing for Your Pizza Party
Depending on the size of your party, it’s a good idea to plot logistics in the week or so before. An even better idea is to make a prep list – the checklist of items you need to have prepared to be ready for cooking. If you've read our blog on Pizzeria Pronto Cooking Tips, you’re a step ahead, but in case you haven’t let's cover a few items. First, if you’re making your own dough, remember that dough flavor and performance is best when it has been made one to three days before you use it. Some pizza pros argue for an even longer than three-day cold proof, but in my opinion after the third day the flavor won’t get any better – and at this point it’s probably starting to go bad. Second, prepare your toppings the night before if possible. Most pizza ingredients like meats, vegetables, cheeses, and sauce will be fine if prepared the night before and refrigerated properly. This way when it’s crunch time you’re all set.
Doing the Math
When feeding large groups of people it's smart to estimate how much food you think you’ll need. The best way to do this is to make a test pizza the day before and measure or weigh your pizza ingredients. You can do this with measuring cups or a scale, although the scale will be a little more accurate. It’s always best to buy a little extra, especially with the more affordable ingredients or anything you know you can use in the days after your party. If you plan ahead far enough, produce is much more affordable and fresh by shopping at your local farmers market.
It’s the day of the feast, your ingredients are prepared, your dough is proofing, and guests will be arriving in a few hours… so what’s next? Well, let’s think about a few more things. Where will you be making the pizza? Where are people eating? How will you serve the guests? It’s a good idea with large parties to serve people not too far from where you’re cooking. Why? Because pizza gets cold fairly quickly and you've got quite a few to make! Running back and forth can eat up precious time if you’re too far from the table. Plus, making pizza is quite the display for guests. If you haven’t purchased one yet, the Pizzeria Pronto and PizzaQue now have a leg kit so you can free up precious table space and position the oven wherever you’d like. See if anyone can help you take finished pizzas to the table, so that you can focus your attention on cooking!
More Tips and Tricks
I’ll leave you with a final few tips and tricks I've learned from years of making pizza...
- Keep it simple when selecting pizzas to cook for large groups. If your pizza has too many ingredients, or takes too long to prepare, your guests' experience may suffer.
- If you have picky eaters, try making half-and-half pizzas so you can please two different groups at once.
- Experiment with par-baking pizza crusts. This technique is good if you have a lot of people coming and think you’ll need pizzas cooked in less than five minutes. It works best with thin crust pizzas. Simply stretch out the dough and bake it without any toppings for 1-2 minutes. It’s a good idea to use a dough docker, in case the dough swells up with bubbles while cooking. Crusts can be par-baked 1-3 hours before serving. Cook your pizza “shells” and stack them no more than two high on a baking sheet. This can save you an extra 1-2 minutes per pizza.
- Grab helpers to make sure things run smoothly. Cooking for large groups can be tricky, and often times surprises can occur (extra guests show up, guests show up early/late, someone has a dietary restriction). It’s a good idea to have at least one or two people to help you get through the day and most people can be bribed with free pizza!
- When working with larger amounts of dough, it’s a very good idea to purchase some proofing boxes (rectangular boxes made from food-grade plastic). They hold pizza or bread dough as it sits at room temperature, proofing. The boxes are stackable to maximize space and usually have a lid available for purchase to keep the dough from drying out. Boxes range from $12 - $30 each.
- Consider extra accessories that will help with large amounts of guests:
- An extra pizza peel – I like to use a metal peel to remove pizzas and a wooden peel to insert pizzas. An extra peel will allow you to prepare another pizza while one is in the oven.
- Wire Pizza Stand – Holds pizzas on pizza pans up off of the dining table, giving you more room for plates, drinks, and condiments.
- Pizza Screen – The screen allows you to control the bottom of your pizza so it doesn't burn. You can run the oven hotter and faster when you have a screen because you have complete control over how fast the bottom of the pizza cooks.
- Extra Pans – You’ll need some extra pans to serve all that pizza!
- Pizza Pan Liners – A great way to keep your pizza pans clean and ready for the next pizza, with no stopping to wash dishes in the middle of cooking.
Hopefully I've given you enough tips to get your pizza party off to a successful start. Please let us know how yours turns out!