The best pan pizza: how & what to put on it

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For The Best Pan Pizza there’s no getting around it. Sometimes you have to plan ahead in the kitchen.

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If you want to make the very best pizza you’ve ever had, you’re going to need to start the process at least 10 hours but up to a day ahead of when you’d like to eat it. It doesn’t really require any skill-set beyond patience and the ability to follow four simple sets of directions.


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I loved those oil soaked, crispy bottomed, chewy little pieces of pizza heaven. The Best Pan Pizza is a little thicker than a thin-crust, but nowhere near the whole gloppy Deep-Dish pies of Chicago.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but they’re just not what we’re looking for in your every-weeknight-pizza.) They are -in short- chewy, fried-crust, pizza perfection.

What kind of flour to use for Pan Pizza

The recipe specifies high-gluten (or bread) flour. This is not the same thing as all-purpose flour.

It has a higher protein (read: gluten) percentage which yields a chewier/holier dough. You will not get the same results from all-purpose flour, so it is best to seek out the high-gluten flour if it is available to you. (King Arthur Bread Flour has an excellent protein percentage for this pizza dough.)

Can you use all-purpose flour? Yes. It just won’t be the same. That said, you can definitely make it and it’ll be tasty; just different.

Can you use gluten-free flour? I honestly do not know. I’m sorry.

Gluten-free baking is a whole different field than my specialty. There are some folks who have weighed in on it in the comments section. Scroll through and maybe you can find some help!

How much flour and water to use for pizza dough

Body temperature water (just under 100°F) is the temperature of water you want to use in your dough!

Because baking is art as well as science, KEEP EXTRA WATER ON HAND when mixing your dough.

If you live somewhere humid, you’ll use all the water in the recipe, still. If you live somewhere arid, like the desert, you may need as much as 1/4 cup more water!

For the best results, use the dough in the video on this post as a visual cue for how it should look when just right.

As for flour, definitely weigh it out! I mean it! Don’t be tempted to add more flour to the mixture.

The dough should come together easily even if it looks shaggy. A dough whisk is your best bet for mixing thoroughly. Believe me, you not only don’t have to knead this dough, but you SHOULDN’T knead it.

The long, slow rise with a small amount of yeast allows the dough to fully develop the gluten that provides that lovely, holey structure.

The best cheese for pan pizza

When selecting which cheese to use, keep in mind that the Best Pan Pizza is not a good candidate for fresh mozzarella. The delicate texture and flavour would be lost in the blast-furnace that your oven is going to become.

You’re far better off buying a block of whole or part-skim mozzarella and shredding it yourself. Less great than block cheese grated yourself, but still better for these pizzas than fresh mozzie, is pre-grated mozzarella cheese.

Homemade Pan Pizza

Don’t make a mistake and choose too small of a bowl to mix/rise the dough in. This is going to expand to about eight times its original size, so use a very large mixing bowl, dough rising bucket, or a big old, non-reactive (stainless steel for example) pasta pot.

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Store the rising dough, draft-free and at room temperature!

Pan choices count for your Best Pan Pizza. IDEALLY you will use two very heavy cast-iron, 10-inch skillets. If you don’t have two of those, you can use a 12-inch and an 8-inch or a 10-inch skillet and an 8 or 9-inch cake pan.

I used 12-inch and 10-inch enameled cast-iron Le Creuset skillets for both of my pizzas (and a bonnie wee 5-inch cast-iron skillet for another batch) and they were PERFECTION.

I used a cake pan for the second batch and while it did an admirable job, it didn’t get the crusty-bits I love so dearly up the side the way the Le Creuset skillets did.

Pan Pizza Recipe

Let’s talk oils. You want to choose one with a HIGH-smoke point because of the high-temperature of the oven.While extra virgin olive oil sounds like it would go with pizza, it’s a poor choice here because of its distressing tendency to billow smoke at any temperature above 375°F.

A better choice is regular old pure olive oil, but an even better choice is grapeseed or peanut oil. Canola oil or vegetable oil will do well if that’s all you have handy!

Speaking of oil, don’t skimp on the oil in the pan! It does triple duty here.

First, it allows the dough to spread itself easily, reducing or eliminating the friction it would experience against the pan. Second, it adds another layer of cooking to the exterior of the crust, essentially frying it as it cooks. Third, it’s just plain yummy.

Fire that oven up and don’t wimp out! Get your oven as hot as it can go for the cooking process.

That BURST of heat develops a bajillion little bubbles in the dough that helps lend to the chewy, hole-ridden texture so desired in a pan pizza. If you can get your oven up to 550°F (which is as high as my oven goes) DO IT.

If you can’t, just get it as hot as you possibly can shy of setting it on fire. Trust me.

Your oven goes no higher than 450°F you say? I’m sorry, that stinks. HOWEVER, we can work around it. This is where the ideal pan comes into play.

In this case, you take the pizza fresh from the oven when your toppings look just right, and set it directly on a hot burner to help crisp up the underside of the crust, lifting the edge carefully with a spatula or tongs from time to time to peek at the underbelly. When it looks deep brown and crisp, slide that pizza right onto a cutting board.

Let the pizza rest a bit before you cut it, if you value your skin. These things are HOT HOT HOT when they come out of the oven.

Let it rest at least 5 minutes, then slice it, then let it rest another 3 minutes before picking up your pizza to nosh on it. This will keep your precious mouth skin where it belongs: attached to you.