Getting leopard spots/the right amount of charring on a pizza crust renders a lot of flavor to a Neapolitan pizza and requires it to be cooked on high temperatures.
I will share my tips on how to get leopard spots on pizza since I love the smoky flavor that comes with the slight charring of the pizza crust and I’m sure all Neapolitan pizza lovers are going to agree with me on this.
Leopard spotting is usually desired in an authentic Neapolitan pizza because it cooks at a temperature with good quality pizza flour with higher protein content.
So knowing how to get leopard spots on pizza is a little bit more difficult in a way, it sure was for me as a beginner.
Pizza usually needs to be cooked with a crispy crust.
That is achieved by cooking the pizza in a hot oven or a very hot surface so the moisture inside the crust escapes or evaporates instantly.
That is why it is best to use a pizza stone or pizza steel when cooking pizzas.
They create a hot surface that absorbs and releases the moisture from the pizza crust.
Making pizzas in a home oven requires pizza steel or pizza stone to create the best possible environment inside the oven and quickly cook the pizzas perfectly.
Leopard skin on a pizza is a bit more tedious because it needs a lot of heat. It is almost impossible to cook pizzas with leopard spots on them when using convection ovens at home.
So with this post and guide, I will teach you how to cook leopard spots on your pizzas even if you only have a home oven to use. Make sure to follow it and get all the things you need.
What Causes Leopard Skin On Pizzas?
Leopard pizza is the same as a Neapolitan pizza cooked until the crust or the edge of the crust resembles the spotting on a leopard’s skin.
You cannot usually achieve this with other types of pizza because of many other factors involved in making them.
The main thing about it is that you have to make sure that the edges of the crust are a bit uneven. That way, some parts or spots will cook first while the main crust is still cooking.
The concept is to make air bubbles on the edges so some crust parts are thinner than the others.
That way, the thinner parts will be cooked quickly and create darker spots on the edges.
While the spots blacken from the scorching heat, the rest of the crust should be cooking just like a regular pizza crust and create the golden brown finish you are looking for.
You also need to cook the edges of the crust as close to the source of heat as possible.
That way, the parts that are lifted or with bubbles will cook faster than the other parts of the crust.
So the result will be a golden brown base color on the crust and the dark spots are evenly scattered to make the edges of the pizza crust look like the skin of a leopard and hence called leopard spots on Pizza.
How To Make Leopard Pizza?
I recommend using a pizza oven to make the best leopard pizza. Since that is not possible with everyone, I have shared my experience on how I use the broiler of my pizza oven to get the desired results.
This will reduce the cooking time and moisture on the pizza crust to give you the best look and texture.
However, I also understand that not all of us can afford a pizza oven.
Not to worry as this guide or technique that I will teach you will have you cooking leopard pizzas on a regular oven.
The main concept of making the leopard spots on your pizza is to use high temperatures.
That way, the pizza cooks quickly as the thinner parts of the crust burn and create dark spots.
Leopard Pizza In A Home Oven
Your main challenge with convection ovens or home ovens is that they do not usually reach a temperature over 550 degrees Fahrenheit.
Leopard pizza cooks at 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
So what you need to do is increase the pizza’s temperature as much as possible to create those dark spots on the crust and cook the other ingredients properly.
So first, set your home oven at the highest temperature and then preheat the pizza stone properly.
Always remember to use a pizza stone or pizza steel and preheat it inside the oven as well.
A pizza stone does not necessarily increase the temperature inside the home oven, but it will help make a very hot surface for the bottom of the pizza to be cooked on and create dark spots.
The pizza’s crust has to be crispy and hence having an extremely hot surface that would cook the bottom crust of the pizza will be extremely helpful.
Set To Broil
Use the broiler of the home oven to cook the pizza better. There are times when the broiler will turn off periodically once the pizza oven has reached the set temperature and is ready to cook.
You can use the grill setting in some ovens as that works very similar to the broiler setting.
You will need the broilers in the oven to stay on to make the crust crispy.
So once you place the pizza in the oven, trick it by turning the temperature lower and then back to the highest.
This way you do not burn the cheese and any other toppings that you have on the pizza.
I once started cooking at the highest temperature and burned the cheese, which we are looking for.
So go with a lower temperature initially to cook everything and turn it on to a high temperature finally to get the perfect leopard spotting.
That way, the broilers will stay on for longer while you cook the pizza inside.
The main thing about this is that you need to ensure that the pizza cooks both from the bottom and top.
The bottom part of the pizza cooks by the hot pizza stone that you are using.
You need the pizza to be close to the broiler to cook the top and edges of the pizza.
By doing this, the crust of the pizza will start to develop dark spots on the edges. The radiating heat from above will give the pizza the leopard spots that you want to achieve.
The bubbles on the edges of the crust should distribute evenly when you make or shape the dough. By doing this, the spots on the pizza crust will be balanced and have enough dark spots.
I tried cooking my pizza multiple times to understand how the broiler of my pizza oven worked and it was a little tricky.
Do not be disheartened if you do not get that spotting, even if your pizza crust is red and the crust is super crisp as it can be, you are doing a great job.
Leopard Pizza In A Pizza Oven
As I have mentioned above, you need high temperatures to get the leopard skin on your pizzas.
It is a lot easier to do that if you use a pizza oven to cook one.
Pizza ovens can reach temperatures of up to 800-900°F 0r 450-485°C, which helps the pizzas to cook faster and the intense heat creates better chars and the leopard spots that you want.
Set the temperature to 850 degrees Fahrenheit and then cook the pizza inside the pizza oven for 90 seconds.
The heat from the top of the pizza oven will create leopard spots on pizza.
This happens almost always even if you do not intend to make leopard spots pizza in the pizza oven.
The heat that travels to the ceiling of the pizza oven is radiated back down to the pizza.
In just 60 seconds, you should start to see the spots on the pizza. By the 90th second, you will have chars on the bubbles and, therefore, make leopard pizza in the pizza oven quickly.
Since most pizza ovens already have pizza stones in them, you can be sure that the heat inside is perfect for leopard pizza. It helps cook the bottom of the crust and make spots on the edges.
By turning around the pizza in the oven you will also be able to create the spots. Only do this with a pizza peel, and when you think the leopard spots are dark enough take it out.
The bottom of the crust will cook faster than the edges so turn or manage the pizza while it cooks inside the pizza oven to get a even finish on both crust and the edges.
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