How to Identify Great Pizza: The Ultimate Guide

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There are few things in life better than a great piece of pizza. Whether you like a crispy and petite slice or something a bit heavier, the right slice hits differently. 

It’s no wonder that 21% of people consider pizza to be their favorite food.

However, as any pizza connoisseur can tell you, great pizza can be tricky to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. To help make the hunt easier, we’ve put together this guide.

By the time you finish reading, you’ll have the knowledge you need to help identify delicious pizza—as well as not-so palatable options. 

Read on to learn all about how to identify good pizza.

Examine the Crust

Good pizza starts with the crust. If that’s off, no matter how fresh the toppings are, the taste won’t be as good as it could be.

Take a look at the bottom of the pizza. It should be crisp but not burnt—enough that it crunches a bit when you bite it. The crust around the edges needs to be toasted on the outside, but light and fluffy on the inside.

When you find pizza that checks these boxes, it’s a good sign that a restaurant uses good dough and knows how to cook their pizzas.

Beware of Grease

Have you ever ordered pizza that comes with pools of orange grease? While you might think that’s normal, it shouldn’t be. It’s also a sign that the restaurant doesn’t know what they’re doing. 

Pools of grease form when tomato and mozzarella mix. While pizza is all about the relationship between these two ingredients, grease forms when that relationship turns toxic. Specifically, when there’s an ingredient imbalance. 

The mozzarella and sauce need to cover the pizza, but anything more is too much. If you’re making pizza at home, avoid pouring the entire bag of cheese or jar of sauce on your pie. If you enjoy eating pizza out, avoid eating at restaurants with this imbalance! 

Burnt Cheese Is a No-Go

Some people like their pizzas a bit more well-done. While personal preference is one thing, there’s a fine line between well-done and overcooked. 

The cheese on top of your pizza should never be burnt. Mozzarella isn’t supposed to be heavily browned or blackened, so watch out for that when you order out.

Look at the Color of the Tomatoes

If you can’t tell, color is everything when it comes to pizza. In addition to examing the color of the mozzarella, you’ll also want to inspect the color of the tomatoes on your pizza. 

The fresher tomato sauce is, the brighter it will be. Make sure the pizzas you order have vibrant, bright red sauce across their surfaces.

Darker sauces have already been cooked and will therefore have conflicting flavors. Authentic pizzerias never use cooked sauce. They make their own in the restaurant, then cook it while making the pizza. 

You can also go off of taste. Try ordering a cup of sauce on the side for dipping breadsticks. If it’s savory and enjoyable, it’ll probably taste good on your pizza!

See How Everything Looks Together

While inspecting all of the aforementioned individual elements is important, you’ll also want to take a step back when looking at the pizza. Look at how everything meshes together.

Is there one ingredient that the chef loaded on top? Can you see blank spots on the surface? Does the dough appear to be the right consistency to hold everything?

If one aspect of the pizza doesn’t appear to mesh well with the rest of the pie, it might not seem like a big deal. However, it can throw the taste and consistency of the entire pizza off.  

Make Sure It Doesn’t Come From a Hot Box

When you’re craving delicious pizza, it’s tempting to buy the closest and most convenient slice near you. For many people, that ends up being a hot box slice.

Hot boxes are the rotating displays in malls, convenience stores, and other fast-food-type places. Although the sign may read “freshly baked”, trust us when we say that’s probably not the case. 

One quick look at these slices will show that they don’t check any of the required boxes. There’s a good chance that they’re greasy, have ingredient imbalances, and that the colors are off.

Do yourself a favor and resist the temptation to buy hot box slices. 

Get It From the Right Location 

Besides avoiding hot box displays, you’ll also want to inspect the location in general. You can do this before even trying a bite of pizza.

Make sure that the establishment looks clean and that the employees practice proper sanitation practices. You don’t need to eat at a five-star restaurant, and some of the best slices may come from a secret hole in the wall. However, you do want to prioritize cleanliness.

If you want, you can also go to a pizzeria that allows you to see the chefs preparing your pie. This shows that they have nothing to hide!

Great Pizza Is Easy to Spot

While it’s true that even bad pizza still tastes pretty good, there’s no reason to deny yourself something better. Great pizza exists, and the truth is, it’s not that hard to find.

Use this guide to help you tell whether or not a slice is worth eating. If everything checks out, dig in! 

Are you now craving a delicious pizza? Before you go looking for one (or making your own!), make sure to check out the rest of our site for more great content.