You don't need a $10,000 brick oven to make great pizza at home. A regular oven and a few baking sheets will suffice. But if you really want to make great pizza, there are a few pieces of equipment that will make your pies better and the pizzamaking experience easier.
Bread Machines and Mixers
Some people love the tactile experience of mixing and kneading dough, punching it down and kneading it again before rolling it into a flat crust. For others it's a necessary evil.
If you love making pizza but hate making yeast-risen dough, invest in a bread machine. Bread machines with pizza dough cycles make short work of pizza crust. Just spoon or pour ingredients into the bread machine pan, set the cycle, and hit the start button. The machine will mix the ingredients, knead the dough, and hold it at the right temperature for rising, while you peruse the fridge for toppings. Within an hour or so, you'll be ready to stretch or roll your dough into a crust.
Even if you don't have a bread machine, you can use a mixer fitted with a dough hook to do a lot of the ingredient mixing and kneading. Then just throw a clean towel or plate over the bowl and set it in a draft-free place to rise.
Pizza Stones, Tiles, and Peels
Pizza stones are porous slabs — either circles or squares — that mimic the surface and floor of a brick or stone pizza oven. The stones absorb heat, then release it evenly, resulting in a crisp-bottomed pizza. Ovens equipped with pizza stones can produce crusts with an amazing hearth-baked taste and texture. Tiles work similarly, with small squares that can be lined up inside a baking sheet for convenience.
Stones should be allowed to heat up and cool down with the oven to keep from cracking. And both stones and tiles should be cleaned with a damp cloth or brush, never detergent. The porous surface can absorb soaps and cleansers, resulting in off-flavored crusts.
Pizza peels — giant wooden paddles — are the best way to transfer pizzas to and from hot stones or tiles. Just coat the peel with coarse corn meal to keep the dough from sticking, then build your pizza. Slide the uncooked pie onto the hot stone using the peel. Once the pizza is cooked, the pie can be removed using the peel as a giant spatula.
Pizza Screens and Pans
Every household should have a pizza screen. These perforated metal pans allow heat to get to the bottom of crusts, resulting in a crispy, chewy pizza. Whether you're baking a from-scratch Neapolitan or California-style pizza or just reheating a ready-made crust, a pizza screen can give a much better result than a solid pan.
Pizza wheels allow you to cut through cheesy pizzas without dragging toppings off the pie. Invest in a heavy, stable pizza wheel or use a long sharp knife with a rocking motion to cut slices.
That said, Chicago-style and generously topped Sicilian pizzas require a solid, deep-sided pan to keep oils and wet ingredients contained. The best deep-dish pizza pans are heavy metal pans with a nonstick surface. Just remember that dark pans hold more heat, so pizzas should be baked at a lower temperature or watched carefully while baking.
Keep a good supply of nonstick foil for baking dessert pizza crusts and small cocktail pizzas. Just line a baking sheet or flat round baking pan with foil and bake away.