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The Genius Secrets to the Very Best Hawaiian Pizza (Haters, Welcome!)

A full pizza with ham, cheese and pineapple on top.
Rocky Luten

This one goes out to all you lovers out there. Haters, too.

Because if you have a deep affection for Hawaiian pizza, this recipe will make the best and most thoughtfully balanced you’ve ever tasted. And if, instead, Hawaiian pizza makes you inexplicably angry—well, if any pie is going to change your mind, this is it.

This people pleaser comes from master dough-smith Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Pizza and Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland, Oregon and, regardless of which side of the salty-sweet chasm you find yourself on, any homemade pizza can benefit from Forkish’s technique—and one sneaky-genius trick in particular.

Pineapple in a pan, ham on a wooden cutting board, wooden spoon, and dough in a bowl.
Rocky Luten

Beneath the layers of sauce, cheese, ham, pineapple, and more cheese, Forkish smears a very thin layer of bacon grease. You won’t taste bacon, you will just taste good. We tried a blind side-by-side taste test at Food52 HQ and confirmed this. And while the clever trick is very much at home on this rumaki-era pizza, pretty much any other pizza—with its just-under-salted strands of mozzarella, its sharp, tangy sauce that welcomes a little more roundness like a good vinaigrette—will get notably, yet untraceably better.

Forkish’s smart oven choreography, too, is a boon for home cooks who don’t have raging 900-degree pizza ovens (aka every home cook who isn’t risking life and limb like Jeffrey Steingarten). He preheats, then broils the stone (2), then switches briefly back to bake, then broils one last time, to make sure the full pizza-cooking area is as hot as can be, but especially at the most critical fronts.

Uncooked Hawaiian pizza with pineapple, ham, cheese, and tomato sauce
Rocky Luten

And for this particular Hawaiian-ish gem of a recipe, every standard component is outsmarted—instead of pineapple chunks that skew sweet, acidic, and one-note (a note that I will reiterate some of us are very fond of), Forkish first roasts the fruit with onion, red chile flakes, olive oil, and salt till its jangly juices have softened, concentrated, and singed at the edges.

Instead of a thick ceiling of mild, gooey cheese to have to overcome with flavor, there’s a subtle base layer of pecorino for some salty funk, plus a thinner-than-usual layer of mozzarella on top. The other toppings don’t have to fight to shimmer through and the ham slices can curl and poke up through the top cheese layer and get a little char, too.

In case you’re thinking this sounds fussy, the tomato sauce is … just straight tomato sauce. No need to spike and simmer with herbs and garlic—everything it needs is already there. As for the dough, use your favorite—we went for Forkish’s Saturday Pizza Dough, but his cookbook The Elements of Pizza has 13 recipes that fit into your life in different moments—from wild yeast levain to “I Slept in But I Want Pizza Tonight.”

A little something for everyone.

Ken Forkish’s Hawaiian Pizza

• 1 pizza dough ball (see note below)
• 1 whole pineapple
• 1/4 to 1/2 sweet onion, preferably torpedo or Maui, or substitute Vidalia or Walla Walla
• 1 tablespoon (15g) extra-virgin olive oil
• Fine sea salt
• Chile flakes
• 1 tablespoon (15g) or less rendered bacon fat (optional, but not really)
• 1/3 cup (90g) tomato sauce
• 1/4 cup (15g) Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
• 2 ounces (50g) cooked (deli counter) ham, sliced medium-thick in 2-inch-long, 1/2-inch-wide pieces
• 1 1/2 ounces (40g) low-moisture, whole-milk mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

See full recipe on Food52.

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