Stovetop pizza: making pizza without an oven


Hardly anyone owns a pizza oven, or even an oven hot enough to lớn cook pizza in, so what a joy it is that you can make a brilliant one in a pan


Out of the frying pan: Felicity Cloake’s perfect frying-pan pizza. Photograph: Dan Matthews/The Guardian. Food styling: Liam Baker
Out of the frying pan: Felicity Cloake’s perfect frying-pan pizza. Photograph: Dan Matthews/The Guardian. Food styling: Liam Baker

The first time I heard pizza described as a bread, my mind melted lượt thích mozzarella in a wood-fired oven – yet underneath the toppings it is, of course, part of the same global family of yeast-raised loaves as naan, pitta, và our own trắng bloomers. None of these relatives, however, arouse such strong feelings as pizza, something nearer khổng lồ a religion than a mere bread, with cults devoted to lớn the worship and defence of its various incarnations – woe betide the person who wanders into a temple of the Neapolitan pie và asks for a ham và pineapple, or indeed the fool who demands a thin & crispy base in old-school Chicago.

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The one thing most fanatics can agree on, however, is that it’s impossible lớn make a “proper pizza” at home – you can’t get a home oven up lớn the searing temperatures of a commercial appliance, whether wood-fired or not. Less obsessive disciples can, however, knock-up a pretty decent facsimile, either by heating their oven for hours and faffing around with baking stones, or by sticking a frying pan on the hob. The choice is yours.

The flour

The fact that this is a bread should give you a clue as lớn the best type of flour to lớn use. You can make pizza with plain flour, as J Kenji López-Alt’s recipe on the Serious Eats trang web recommends. (Though he himself prefers “fancy” Italian flour, he says the differences are marginal enough for it not lớn be a necessity.) But, because a good base is chewy and bubbly, rather than flat & crunchy, a higher protein flour is a better bet. This is because the higher the protein content, the more gluten will develop in the dough. This much-maligned matrix is the thing that gives dough its elasticity, allowing it khổng lồ stretch into beautiful big, blistered bubbles in the oven, rather than staying resolutely solid, lượt thích one of those boxed supermarket pizza bases that passed for authentic in the 1980s, but now resemble nothing more than a Bath Oliver biscuit.

Which is all lớn say that higher protein flours, like the strong bread flour used by Olivia Potts in her book A Half-Baked Idea, or the 00 flour often sold as pasta flour in British supermarkets are a better choice. The latter is particularly good because it’s so finely milled (00 refers to the grade), which makes for a particularly delicate, crisp crust.


Sainsbury’s magazine’s version uses a herby, 00 flour-based dough.Note that if you use bread flour, or indeed plain flour, you may want to địa chỉ cửa hàng a little more water: the very fine texture means that you need less – Lopez-Alt’s recipe comes in at 75% hydration (the weight of water being 75% that of the weight of flour) & Potts’ 70%, while the two I try using 00 flour, from Franco Manca founder Giuseppe Mascoli và that of the Pizza Pilgrims, gọi for 59% & 60% hydration respectively. (More water makes the dough harder lớn work with, but also makes the finished product lighter và bubblier; I think we’ve already established we’re all about the bubbles here).

The raising agents

Let’s be honest: we all dream of homemade pizza that’s quicker than a takeaway, so I decide khổng lồ try a recipe from Sainsbury’s magazine using baking powder, rather than the traditional yeast, leaving it to lớn rest for a mere 30 minutes before baking. The results, though not unpleasant, are more like a pitta than a pizza – great if you have a lot of hungry và fairly indiscriminate mouths lớn feed in a hurry, but not one for the pizza aficionado.

Leaving aside sourdough pizzas, which are a whole different kettle of anchovies, there’s no substitute for yeast, and yeast takes time to lớn work its magic; how much is an interesting matter. The recipes I try range from a 10-hour rise và proof as the minimum for López-Alt’s recipe, khổng lồ a five-day rise for Potts’ pizza, with the Pizza Pilgrims describing 24 hours as “optimal”. The difference is largely due to lớn the fact that Potts’ and Mascoli’s doughs both rise in the fridge, in a process known as cold fermentation. This slows the kích hoạt of the yeast, but gives the finished product a better flavour and texture (apparently cold fermentation results in stronger gluten networks). You’ll need to lớn bring it back to room temperature before shaping và cooking, but in this instance, patience is very much a virtue: if you want a truly complex flavour, you need to plan ahead.

Not too far ahead though; López-Alt has done some interesting research on this very subject, and concludes that a rise time of between three and five days is optimal: “Eventually, even at cold temperatures, the yeast will start khổng lồ produce a large amount of those sour milk aromas, throwing off the flavour of your bread. Và there’s an even bigger problem: as the alcohol nội dung and acidity of the dough rises, eventually it gets so high that the yeast simply ceases to lớn operate.”

I reckon three days is plenty, but that may be because I find it very hard to lớn wait any longer for my pizza.


Franco Manca founder Giuseppe Mascoli deep-fries his pizza – with delicious results.

The flavouring

Salt is a must in pizza dough and, though it’s frowned upon by purists, I’m not too snooty to địa chỉ cửa hàng a little sugar lớn help the yeast along and give a more complex flavour, though you can leave it out if you prefer. While olive oil gives a pleasing flavour, it also softens the texture, so I’m not going to lớn use it – và I’d prefer lớn save herbs for the top, rather than adding them khổng lồ the dough, as Sainsbury’s suggest.

The method

The most important thing I learn, very belatedly, is that a cast-iron pan is the best tool for cooking pizza on the hob: nonstick pans are out for safety reasons, và my stainless -steel pan turned out some great pizza, but at the expense of its shiny silver base. The cast-iron skillet recommended by Potts, however, produces perfect results: if you have one, use it.

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You don’t need to grease it, unless you’re actually deep-frying the pizzas, as in Mascoli’s recipe – and I’m sorry khổng lồ report these are excessively good). Just get it good and hot, though not so hot it burns the base before it cooks through – you might need lớn experiment a bit with the first batch khổng lồ find out what works for your pan.

López-Alt, in a quest lớn eliminate the need for an oven entirely, recommends cooking the dough on both sides with a lid on, và then browning the crust by turning it in a gas flame, or with a blowtorch. This works well if you don’t happen lớn have a grill, but it’s much easier, và I think better texture-wise, lớn char the bottom on the hob and then transfer it to lớn a hot grill to brown the top, và to melt any cheese. (Make sure your toppings are at room temperature as Lopez-Alt cautions, or they will take too long to lớn warm up).


A 24-hour prove is sufficient to get Pizza Pilgrims’ dough ready for cooking.

The toppings

On which point, I’m happy for you to đứng đầu your pizza with whatever you like, even chicken (the horror), but all the recipes I try call for a classic mozzarella & tomato combo, often with a few leaves of basil, or “if you’re feeling truly nostalgic”, as Potts puts it, a sprinkling of dried oregano. She also makes a buttery, garlicky, oniony sauce, a “bastardisation” of a Marcella Hazan recipe so delicious, I eat it with a spoon, but it feels like gilding the lily here: Mascoli’s simple simmered tomatoes, with a pinch of salt and sugar, give a purer tomato hit. He explains his topping is oil-free because the pizzette will be deep-fried, but in fact I prefer it even for dry-fried pizzas; you can always drizzle some oil on top before serving.

Cheese-wise, you can’t beat buffalo mozzarella (note: if you want to use firmer pizza mozzarella, you may need to lớn deploy a blowtorch lớn help it melt, because it will take longer than the wetter stuff). Sainsbury’s also địa chỉ cửa hàng parmesan, roasted peppers & cherry tomatoes, but, a few herbs aside, I don’t think it needs anything else for perfection. Eat immediately, and certainly fast enough to burn your tongue: it’s worth it.

Perfect frying-pan pizza

Rise 3-5 daysPrep 5 minCook 35 minMakes 4

500g Italian 00 flour, plus extra to dust1½ tsp dried active yeast1 tsp fine salt1 tsp sugar (optional)

To vị trí cao nhất 1 400g tin chopped plum tomatoes1 ball buffalo mozzarella1 bunch basil, or a sprinkle of dried oreganoExtra-virgin olive oil, lớn drizzle

Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar then stir in 325ml water to a smooth dough. Cover & put in the fridge for three to lớn five days.

Tip on khổng lồ a lightly floured surface. Divide into four roughly equal portions, shape into balls, cover và leave for two hours. Get the cheese out of the fridge.

Mix 00-grade flour, yeast, salt, sugar and 325ml water, & knead to a dough. Cover and refrigerate for three days.Put the tomatoes in a saucepan over a medium heat và simmer for about 30 minutes, until you have a thick sauce. Season to lớn taste with salt & a pinch of sugar, if necessary.

Form into four equal balls, leave khổng lồ prove for two hours while you get your toppings ready, then flatten into thin discs.Heat a frying pan or skillet (preferably cast-iron) over a medium-high flame until an experimental drop of water dances across the surface. Heat the grill to medium-high.

Stretch the dough with lightly floured hands into a rough round, keeping the edges thicker. Cook on the skillet until the base has begun lớn char, adding a spoonful of tomato sauce & some torn mozzarella once the đứng đầu starts lớn dry out.

Fry the dough on a hot skillet, adding tomato, mozzarella and other toppings when the đứng đầu side begins to lớn dry out.Once the bottom looks done, grill until the cheese is bubbling và the edges are brown. Finish with a few leaves of basil or a sprinkle of dried oregano, & a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Pizza: is it ever possible to make a decent one at home, & if so, what’s your preferred method? do you prefer them deep-pan or thin và crisp, and do you go for the classic margherita topping or a heretical ham và pineapple (or even chips, as I saw once in Bergamo)… or does all pizza leave you cold?

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