When it comes to baking pizza dough, there's no such thing as "close enough." If it isn't cooked all the way through, it won't just be soft and floppy -- it could make you sick. Baking your dough completely isn't just a question of timing or temperature, but of thoughtful prep work, too. By preparing your pizza properly, you make it easier to get a crisp and evenly baked crust before you ever even preheat the oven.
Mix your dough using no more than 50 percent wheat flour. Wheat crusts naturally resist the crispiness you get from white flour crusts, so while 100 percent white flour is ideal for avoiding doughiness, you can make a half-and-half crust if you want it to be healthier.
Parbake your crust before adding toppings. The more toppings you add to your crust, the harder it is for it to cook all the way through. Bake your dough on a pizza stone or a lightly-oiled baking sheet about halfway through the time listed in the recipe, giving it a head start before you top it.
Slice your toppings thinly, because the thicker they are, the harder it is to cook them through. If you're topping your pizza with vegetables, lightly saute them in a skillet first to pull out some of their natural moisture, using only enough oil to keep them from burning in the pan. This prevents them from sweating that moisture into your pizza dough.
Add your toppings with the understanding that the more you use, the longer it takes to bake your pizza. Your layer of sauce should be just thin enough that you can still see the dough -- thicker than that, and it will make your pizza soggy.
Return your pizza to the oven and finish baking it for the remainder of the time called for in your recipe. You will know that it is finished when the bottom of the crust is brown all the way to the center of the pizza, the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
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