There are a few things better than homemade pizza, but unfortunately, nobody has time for that anymore! Just the process of making the actual dough from scratch can take hours!
But, what if we told you that there is a way you can have homemade pizza bases on hand? Par-baking is a method used to pre-make bases and freeze them for later use.
Even though you still have to take a day to make bases, the cooking time takes less than 20 minutes!
So, how do you par-bake pizza? Start by making the dough and shaping it to your desired size and thickness. Then, place it inside a hot oven and bake it for 7-12 minutes (the base should still be pale in color). Allow it to cool and freeze it for up to 3 months. Once ready to use, simply thaw it, add your sauce and toppings, and bake it again for roughly 10 minutes.
In today’s packed article, we will discuss par-baking to the fullest! We will look at how it works, why it works, and the many pros and cons of using this technique.
Then, we will also dive deep into exactly how to par-bake any pizza dough and finally, how to use it in a recipe!
What Is Par-Baking?
Today, our main focus lies around par-baking, a very handy cooking technique used in kitchens around the world, including professional ones!
Par-baking is an abbreviation used to describe “partially baking”, and means exactly what it says. This cooking technique is mainly used for dough products that make bread, especially flatbreads (like pizza).
The specific bread dough is made exactly like it usually should be—nothing changes in this department.
Then, it gets worked and rolled into whatever shape you want. For pizza, you will make a large disc that is about 1-inch in thickness, but this can also vary a lot depending on your personal preference.
Once the dough has been shaped, it is partially baked before being rapidly frozen for storage.
This entire technique exists to make meal prep much easier. By partially cooking your dough products, it allows you to freeze them for long-term storage.
When you are ready to essentially finish off your dish, you simply pop it back into the oven and continue the cooking time.
Par-baking allows you to prep (and even bulk prep) dough products to save you a ton of time during those busy weeknights or last-minute guests!
If you think about frozen ready-made meals, most of them have been par-baked in some way. If they weren’t, you would spend an hour cooking your beef lasagne instead of the 20 minutes it now takes, all thanks to par-baking.
What Happens During Par-Baking?
When items are partially baked, there are a few things that happen inside the dough that makes long-term storage possible.
The par-baking kills the yeast. Now, this is a good thing even if you have a yeast-based dough. Once you partially bake a product, you don’t want it to change in any way that defeats the purpose of “picking up where you left off”.
Once the yeast has been killed, the dough will no longer rise (or fall) and the proteins and starches help set the internal structure of the bread.
This internal structure is entirely dependent on the dough recipe—par-baking won’t change or affect this part. As an example; pizza dough will have an entirely different internal texture compared to a tortilla wrap.
Once the internal structure starts setting, you are left with a more stable product. However, only internal characteristics have started to develop.
None of the desired external characteristics are there. What this means is that the dough hasn’t been cooked for long enough to develop a crust, a golden-brown color, and for pizzas, a charred flavor.
These are characteristics that are difficult to preserve when the dough is frozen and stored.
What Happens Next?
We will cover this section in much more detail for pizza dough, but essentially, once your dough product has been partially baked, it is stored in an airtight container and usually frozen.
You can also keep par-baked dough products inside the fridge or even at room temperature, but this will shorten their shelf life considerably. The goal is long-term storage!
When you are ready to continue the baking process, the item is removed from the freezer and can then be either immediately baked or first thawed.
We recommend first thawing the dough product to prevent the structure of the dough from changing too much because of extreme temperature changes.
You can continue baking your dough product at the same temperature for between 10-20 minutes. The exact times will depend on your specific product and the characteristics you want to achieve.
For example, to char, a tortilla will not take as long as developing a crust on a sourdough loaf. For pizzas, there are also a ton of characteristics to choose from. These will take varying amounts of time.
Why Par-Bake Pizzas?
There are quite a few reasons why you would want to par-baked your pizza dough. We have made a list of pros and cons covering this so that you can better decide whether or not this technique is worth it for you!
In our opinion, the pros outweigh the cons!
Pros Of Par-Baking Pizza
- It saves you a lot of time! That is the whole point of the technique! By partially baking the dough on a day that you can, you are saving time later when you only have to add toppings and finish off the base. The cooking time (on the day you are finishing off the pizzas) is nearly cut in half!
- This technique also allows you to make bulk pizza bases that can be stored for months! This in and of itself also saves you time. You don’t have to go through the whole process of making dough from scratch every time. Simply take one day to make a large batch of dough, shape it, par-bake it and you can enjoy this family favorite for many nights to come.
- In general, regardless of whether you are par-baking your pizza dough or not, it is recommended to pre-bake your dough for 5-6 minutes before adding the toppings. This pre-baking technique is used to ensure that the pizza dough evenly and completely cooks (before the toppings burn). It also helps develop a crispy texture and ensures that the dough is stable enough to handle the weight of your sauce and toppings.
- Par baked pizzas tend to produce crispier pizza bases. While we aren’t entirely sure why or how a ton of pizza experts can attest to this! And, who doesn’t love crispy pizza?
- You can still finish off the pizza using a wide range of baking methods. For example, you can finish the pizza in a pizza oven, a wood fire oven, a convection oven, in a pizza pan, or on a pizza stone—whatever your pizza baking preference is, you still have that option available!
Cons Of Par-Baking Pizza Dough:
- Arguably the biggest con is that your pizza won’t be the same as compared to freshly baked pizza. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just depends on your personal preference.
- Consistency is vital but can be difficult. When making a few par-baked pizza bases, you need to ensure that you make everyone exactly the same. If you, for example, make the bases different thicknesses, it will affect how long you par-bake them, how long they take to freeze, and even how long they will take to finish off.
- You might need to adjust the recipe – emphasis on might! Some pizza dough contains a ton of yeast which creates bubbles when the base is being par-baked. So, to prevent this from happening, you can reduce the amount of yeast by half. It won’t eliminate pocketing, but it will help control it.
How To Par-Bake Pizza
Par-baking pizza is extremely easy and if you usually pre-bake your bases, you kind of already have the process down! There are, however, a few things to take into consideration that not many people tell you about. Let’s dive in!
Choosing A Dough
There are thousands of pizza dough recipes out there! But, when it comes to choosing one for par-baking, there are a few things to consider.
First, you can choose pre-made pizza dough or use pizza dough made from scratch.
There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong; however, we do feel that using pre-made dough is already a time-saving thing—it just feels unnecessary to then also par-bake it.
When choosing a recipe that is made from scratch, we would recommend either choosing one that has lower amounts of yeast or halving the yeast content if the recipe does contain a lot.
As we have mentioned before, the yeast creates a very bubbly texture when par-baking the dough (unless that is what you want).
Choosing A Cooking Method
The cooking method refers to how heat is applied to the pizza base. There are two times this applies: the first when par-baking the base and the second when finishing it off.
Now, many people simply bake their pizza bases on a baking sheet inside a regular convection oven.
This isn’t right or wrong, it is a personal preference. Then, when finishing off the base (with the toppings added), they will use a specific method like baking in wood fire ovens or electric pizza ovens, etc.
However, par-baking pizza dough using specific methods will produce different outcomes. For example, if you are par-baking a pizza in a wood fire oven, you will already inoculate the dough with a smoky flavor.
Then, when you finally finish off the base, again in a wood fire oven, you are adding even more smokiness.
You can play around with different techniques or combinations of techniques to see what you like best!
Choosing A Cooking Surface
The cooking method will to some extent determine which cooking surface you are using.
Different surfaces create different textures and even flavors for pizzas. For example, a pizza stone creates an incredibly crispy base that can even char on the hot stone.
You can of course choose a specific surface to par-bake the base and finish it off on.
But, you can also simply par-bake the dough on a regular baking sheet and finish it off with a specific technique. Again, it depends on your preference, but it will affect the final outcome.
You can have a look at this article to see how different surfaces affect the final outcome of your dough. And, there are even links to some of our favorite ones!
How To Make Par-Baked Pizza Bases
This method is what works the best for us. You can of course tweak it to your preferences, but don’t stray off too far!
Step 1: Make The Pizza Dough And Allow It To Rise
We have already covered what to look for in a pizza recipe, and once you have made the recipe, it is crucial that the dough is allowed enough time to rise before shaping and par-baking it.
The dough should be plump, aerated, and very soft. This will create a delicate fluffy texture that will hold well once the par-baking begins.
Step 2: Shape The Dough
Lightly dust your working surface with flour. Then, roll the dough ball on the surface to ensure it is lightly covered with flour all around. This will help prevent your hands from sticking to the dough.
Then, start stretching out the dough by first pinching the edges. Then, start pushing down the center to create a more even thickness. Finally, pick up the base and pull the dough outwards using your knuckles.
There are many techniques you can use, this is just one we like.
Once the dough has been stretched, you can set it on your baking surface. Some baking surfaces will need to be prepared in some way.
Pizza stones have to be preheated, baking sheets will have to be coated with non-stick spray, and pizza pans can be lined with baking paper.
Step 3: Par-Bake Your Pizza Base
Bake the raw pizza dough at 450°F for roughly 7-12 minutes. The exact time will depend on the size of your base and its thickness.
You can test the doneness by seeing if the base has set and slightly starts getting color (but it still has to be pale).
Step 4: Freeze Your Pizza Bases
If you want to use the par-baked pizza bases immediately (or soon), skip this step. But, if you want to store them for a long time, remove the par-baked base from the oven and allow it to cool at room temperature.
Once completely cooled, place the pizza base on a baking sheet and allow it to completely freeze inside the freezer.
Once frozen, wrap each base well using plastic or saran wrap. Then, cover it with foil and make sure to label the base properly.
How To Finish Off Par-Baked Pizzas
If you want to immediately finish off your par-baked pizzas (essentially pre-baked pizza) then simply add your pizza sauce and toppings on top of the base. Then, continue baking the pizza at 450°F for another 7-10 minutes.
To achieve different effects you may need to apply different techniques. For example, to get a more charred pizza, you can increase the oven temperature to 500°F.
If you are using non-electrical baking methods, the temperatures don’t really apply so just keep an eye on the bases.
You can either bake thawed or still frozen par-baked pizzas. We prefer thawing the base first. Simply leave the par-baked base to thaw for about 20-30 minutes.
Then, add your toppings and finish off the pizza as we mentioned above.
If you are baking the par-baked base directly from frozen, first bake it for another 5-7 minutes before adding the toppings. Only then should you follow the finishing off times. This way you don’t get a soggy base.
Par-Baked Pizza Vs Other Baking Methods
Par baking pizza isn’t a baking method used, but rather a technique that can be applied to any pizza baking method.
You can use electrical ovens, charcoal ovens, wood fire ovens, and even different baking surfaces—regardless, you can use any of these and par-bake pizza bases.
Par-baking does differ and create a different product compared to fresh baking (completely baking the pizza from raw).
These differences, however, in our opinion, come down to your personal preference, and neither is superior to the other.