Real Pan Pizza

cast iron skillet pizza

Sur la Table and the Food Network want you to believe that you need a $200 KitchenAid stand mixer or Le Crueset pan to be a serious cook. In reality, you only need $10 to buy one of the most durable and versatile pieces of cookware: the cast iron skillet. It is nonstick (no need to worry about Teflon poisoning), browns evenly and can go from the stove to the oven. I’ve had great success using it for pancakes, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic (you get an amazing crust and sweet, creamy garlic), tarte tatin and BREAD.

The secret to crusty artisan-style bread is baking on a pizza stone. Of course, it’s a huge investment. You can get around it by buying a ceramic tile from a hardware store, but what else are you going to use that tile for? Because of cast iron’s ability to hold in heat, it makes beautiful brown crusts. Plus, you can use it as a griddle, casserole dish, frying pan and bakeware.

Before Sullivan Street Bakery revealed its wildly popular no-knead bread recipe (it’s baked in a cast iron pot) and Mario Batali sold cast iron pizza pans, I made cast iron skillet-pizza, two years ago. Honest, look at the file information in the photos!

charred pizza crust

By baking in cast iron, you get charred crusts that’s the stuff of New York legends. You don’t need a pizza stone. You don’t need a coal-fired oven. Just start with your favorite pizza crust recipe and preheat the oven with the pan inside. Then, generously dust a pizza peel or cutting board with cornmeal or rice flour. Shape your crust on the board and add the toppings. When ready, slide the crust into the smoking hot pan and bake as directed.

To reheat leftover pizza, cover it any pan (cast iron or not) over low heat for 5-10 minutes, or until the crust comes back to life and the cheese is melted. Even Domino’s tastes divine this way.


How to care for a cast iron skillet
Note that you’re not supposed to wash it, which may be good or bad, depending on how much you like clean up. Also, you can’t cook acidic foods like tomatoes in it. They are very heavy too, but that means that they practically last forever.

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  1. Aran said,

    I first tried the no-knead bread recipe a couple weeks ago and immediately thought the idea could work for pizza too. On Monday, I gave it my first shot, but my crust was too big. But the results were very promising.

    It is cool to see someone else having this idea too. You’ve given me the incentive to try it again.

    March 15, 2007 at 1:15 pm

  2. janetek said,

    There is a diference between browned, charred and burned. That pizza just looks burned to me.

    March 15, 2007 at 4:19 pm

  3. Denise said,

    It reminds me of pizza I used to get in Rome…in a woodfire oven the edges get wonderfully charred. My favorite part. Never thought I could reduplicate that effect at home–I’ll have to give this a try. Thanks!

    March 16, 2007 at 9:06 am

  4. Jessica said,

    Aran and Denise, thanks, cast iron bread seems to be a trend now. Chef Heston Blumenthal also wrote about it, so I’m sure it’s been thought of before.

    Janetek, maybe the crust is burned, but I like it. To each his own. I guess you could take the pizza out sooner if that’s your concern.

    March 16, 2007 at 10:12 pm

  5. Tom said,

    Excellent technique! I have never thought to try it before.

    I thumbed through Last months’ Bon App├ętit and found Giada DeLaurentiis’ recipe for pizza dough and threw that together. Then when ready, I cranked my oven up to 500F (which got me to about 400F – 425F) with my skillet inside, cut the dough in half, rolled it out, pressed it in, put to the on, and popped it in the oven for 10 minutes. I then took 4 tbsp butter, two minced garlic cloves, and some Italian seasoning blend, and microwaved it for about 10 seconds. After the 10 minutes, I spread half the butter mixture onto the crust, sprinkled on some kosher salt, ground pepper, and Parmesan cheese and threw it bak in the oven for another 5 minutes. Came out great! I then repeated the procedure with the other half of the dough.

    Thanks for the tip!

    April 2, 2007 at 1:36 pm

  6. Jessica said,

    Tom, wow that sounds delicious. Kind of like real garlic bread sticks.

    April 2, 2007 at 8:22 pm

  7. Mary said,

    I’ve been making the no-knead bread but find that preheating the cast iron dutch oven causes a lot of smoke in the oven, and thus the house. Anyone know how to eliminate this?

    January 13, 2008 at 1:57 pm

  8. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Mary, your pan is smoking because there’s residual oil in there. Cast iron pans are tricky to clean, since you’re not supposed to use soap and water. I heard you can scrub it with coarse salt.

    January 19, 2008 at 4:53 pm

  9. pinacle said,

    Mary throw that pan on a gas grill outside and burn off the residual…..mind ya to keep an eye on it..cast iron will crack if over heated too long..some throw them in fire pits..WRONG…crack it..sooo..happy times..ROCK ON

    April 3, 2009 at 5:36 am

  10. Michaelc said,

    I have been seeing these recipes that call for heating the pan/griddle on the stovetop (which would be a lot faster than preheating an oven with pizza stones) then sliding your pizza with toppings right on the pan with a peel and putting the pan under the broiler in your over to cook the top. It sounds very promising.

    I wonder if you could do it without the oven entirely, by heating 2 pans on the stovetop, one flat one to slide the pizza on to, and the other a frying pan which you would flip over as a domed lid onto the other pan. It takes only a couple of minutes with the broiler method, so I think this might work, especially if you had an insulating cover for the frying pan after you flipped it over to hold the heat better..

    June 1, 2009 at 8:35 pm

  11. Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said,

    Michael, I never thought about baking pizza on the stove. In the oven, heat comes from the top and bottom, no? Your method uses insulation, but heat only comes from the bottom. It’s worth a try though. Let me know how it goes.

    June 2, 2009 at 12:55 pm

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