The Key Tip To Remember When Adding Fresh Herbs To Your Pizza

The margherita pizza is defined by its balance and simplicity. No doubt, pizza lovers could go round and round debating which of its basic elements — the dough, the cheese, or the sauce — plays the most crucial role in its greatness. But no matter their answer, few would dispute how sorely lacking it would be if the requisite handful of fresh, vibrant basil leaves (used whole or chiffonade) was not present to bring color, variety, and that signature little bit of peppery, minty sweetness to your perfect pie. Those fresh herbs need to be there, but when they get added determines how well they do the job.

When it comes to adding fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, chives, and parsley to a pizza as a topping, there's a key timing tip that must be adhered to if you want to ensure the best results. After all, the last thing you want is burnt or dried-out strips of who knows what ruining an otherwise delicious pizza. The trick is simple — add your fresh herbs at the end of the pizza-making process.

How to top your pizza with fresh herbs

Think of it this way, herbs are delicate, and as such, they should be treated gently. The scorching hot 400-degree Fahrenheit heat of an oven is not gentle as it bears down on their sensitive cell walls. And though you may be tempted to toss your fresh herbs on immediately after the pizza comes out, that would be a huge disservice to both the herbs and your tastebuds. Piping hot pizza has plenty of residual heat still circulating through its sauce and cheesy molten magma to wilt your tender herbs in an instant, removing all their flavor and aromatics. 

Instead, allow your pizza some time to rest and set, congealing the cheese for easier slicing (and so it doesn't slide off the crust taking the toppings with it). Then, right before serving, add your fresh herbs either just before or after slicing and serving. Consider it that little extra flourish — like plating or garnishing in a fancy restaurant — only, you're the chef here.

Not only is this a great time for adding an herbal flourish, but it's also a wonderful time to add other fresh ingredients that might wilt or lose their vibrant flavor in the oven — a handful of arugula; some sliced fresh tomato; a final drizzle of olive oil, balsamic, or hot honey; and a grating of fresh parmesan. These things can take pizza night from casual Friday fun to something extra special.