I am a grilled pizza nut, and during the summer if we are anywhere near a grill my family clamors for it. Clamors, I tell you. But sometimes we are not near a grill, or sometimes it’s cold, or rainy, or hailing, and there is no amount of clamoring that will get me to grill a pizza in hail.
But there is something so magical and gratifying about a homemade pizza that tastes as good as one you might get at a great pizzeria that I had to find a way to take my pizza-making show indoors. Cast iron pan pizza—it was time.
How to Make Cast Iron Pizza
It took a bit of trial and error to get to this cast iron skillet pizza, but worth it, it was. I landed on this kind of cool approach where the pizza dough is partially baked in a super-hot pan before the toppings get added, which gives the bottom crust an amazing texture and ensures that the top doesn’t get soggy. You heat the cast iron skillet in the oven before you add the dough, and then it goes back into the oven for a few minutes before you continue with the toppings. A regular cast iron skillet is all you need – you certainly could invest in a cast iron pizza pan, like this Lodge pizza pan, which might be a little easier to handle being flatter, but it’s really not necessary.
Yes, you can make amazing pizza in your oven, with a good old cast iron pan.Tweet This
Stretching the dough first over a light dusting of cornmeal also does wonders for the bottom of the crust in the texture department.
What Temperature to Bake Pizza
You are going to crank that oven high – to 450°F. You will also be heating the pan in the oven before putting the dough in, so make sure the oven gets to that high temp. The high heat is what makes the dough puff up and develop that lovely chewy crust.
Topping the Dough
After the dough gets that 3 minutes in the oven, you’ll take it out to top it with sauce and cheese and whatever else you like (see the Fork-in-the-Road for suggestions). The reason to give the dough a head start before topping it? So the top of the pizza dough firms up a bit, and you don’t get that wet, slightly uncooked layer of dough atop the pizza, covered with sauce and cheese. Some people definitely skip this step—I think it gives the whole shebang a lot more chewy texture.
Before you sauce it up, use the back of a spoon or spatula to gently press the puffed dough back down into the bottom of the pan. The un-topped dough will have puffed up either a little or a lot, depending on your dough.
Then add your sauce and cheese. Mozzarella is of course the traditional cheese, but you can mix others in if you like.
Pan Pizza Toppings
You can of course add whatever pizza topping you like at this point, such as:
- sautéed or roasted peppers
- thinly sliced onions
- halved olives
- tiny cooked broccoli florets
- cooked sausage
- salami (cut thin slices in quarters)
- sauteed mushrooms
- artichoke hearts
- ….or, if you are that kind of person, ham and pineapple (sorry I don’t get it).
Add the toppings when you add the cheese (also think about using different cheeses such as provolone or feta), whatever you like. Another nice thing to do is draped the cooked pizza with thin slices of prosciutto.
Jack (15 at the time of this writing, and, shall we say, expressive about his likes and dislikes) was effusive about this recipe. Okay, not effusive. He was 15. But I got more, “Mom, this is really good. Really, really good.” comments from him than I’ve received in recent memory. Warmed the cockles of my heart, I tell you.
Add fresh basil to a hot pizza not only looks and tastes wonderful, but the smell of the basil as it hits the warm cheese makes the house smell phenomenal. Not that the smell of pizza baking is anything to shrug off to begin with.
When you plunk down the pan, remind everyone that it is HOT, and to proceed with caution (and serve little kids). You also need to remind yourself that the pizza should sit for a few minutes before being sliced and served so the cheese doesn’t slide right off the crust.
What to Serve with Pan Pizza
Cast Iron Pan Pizza
- 1 tablespoon cornmeal optional
- 1 ball 12 ounces pizza dough (see Note)
- ½ cup Super Simple Tomato Sauce sauce or store-bought see Other Note
- ¾ cup slivered fresh mozzarella approximately
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon teaspoon dried oregano
- Red pepper flakes optional
- Kosher or coarse salt
- 8 to 10 fresh basil leaves optional
- Let the pizza dough come to room temperature. Sprinkle the cornmeal, if using, on a cutting board or clean surface and pat the dough into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Let it sit for another 20 to 30 minutes, then stretch it into a 12-inch circle.
- Meanwhile, place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F. Let the skillet get screaming hot.
- Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a heat-tolerant surface. Gently transfer the dough to the skillet, pressing it out carefully so that it covers the bottom of the pan (this is NOT something the kids can help with). Avoid touching the skillet—obviously. Place it back in the oven and bake until the dough is slightly puffy, 3 minutes.
- Remove the skillet again. Use a brush to brush the tomato sauce over the surface, deflating the dough somewhat, and leaving a ½-inch border around the edges. Brush that border with the olive oil. Distribute the cheese over the tomato portion (see Fork in the Road for other topping possibilities), and sprinkle with the oregano and the red pepper flakes, if using. Sprinkle salt, to taste, over the whole pizza, including the edges. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cheese is melty and the edges are golden-brown, another 8 to 10 minutes or so.
- Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with fresh basil, if desired, and serve hot. You can serve it out of the pan, warning everyone to steer clear of the hot pan, or slide it onto a cutting board.
NoteDo I make my own dough sometimes? Yes. And by sometimes I mean rarely. And by rarely I mean almost never. Here’s a recipe for the times I do make it. Mostly I buy it at the supermarket, or at a pizza joint.
Other NoteDo I make my own sauce? Most of the time. And sometimes I open a jar. If you’re in the mood, this recipe is easy and pizza-perfect.
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