Guide To Making American Pan Pizza

Preparation Time: 4 hoursCooking Time: 8 minutes

Making pizza in a pan is one of the simplest ways to make pizza at home. A sheet pan is what you need – essentially a baking tray with a rim. It’s a fool-proof way of stretching, topping and deploying dough into your oven with minimal chances of error at each stage.

This guide has some background on the style of pizza, some tips and a recipe at the bottom.

Two Main Styles

There are different types of pan pizza. In this article I am talking about the rectangular shaped pan pizzas, rather than the Chicago deep-dish style. There are 2 main rectangular pan pizza styles:

Sicilian style is a thicker, rectangle pan pizza. Its roots come from a focaccia-like bread called sfincione found in Sicily, which is topped with tomatoes, herbs and grated cheese. In America, it’s evolved to have mozzarella and more toppings. It has a longer rise and a parbake to ensure its cooked through before adding the toppings and baking again.

Grandma pizza, also known as the “square slice”, is a thinner style of pan pizza from New York. It’s typically topped with tomato sauce, cheese and meat and baked straight away. This creates a thinner, crispier crust than he Sicilian.

Here is a square slice from the Prince Street Pizza in New York which is often seen in cook books and on the internet. The benchmark pan pizza you might say!

What’s The Difference Between Regular And Pan Pizza?

The difference between pan pizza and regular round pizza is the way it is prepared and cooked. A pan pizza is usually cooked in a rectangular pan. It’s placed in this when the pan is cold and it is stretched to the edges. It’s then topped and baked. This makes for a more bread like pizza – a bit like focaccia. It is thicker because the dough isn’t stretched as thin and it has had time in the pan to rise.

Regular round pizzas are stretched or rolled by hand. They are topped and baked straight away with no rising. This means they are usually thinner and have a crust. They are baked on a pizza stone in a home oven or a specialist gas or wood fired pizza oven. Because the raw dough goes straight on a very hot surface, this creates amazing flavor and texture. This is probably why it’s the most popular.

How To Make Pan Pizza

Which Dough To Use?

The best dough to use for pan pizza is a slightly wetter dough. This is because it will allow it to be stretched to the corners of the pan easily, and will also rise well because it’s more fluid. Wet dough is harder to handle but this isn’t a problem because we don’t need to pick it up and stretch it into a circular pizza base for this type of pizza. Making a circular pizza with a wet dough can be much trickier.

If you know your bakers ratios then I recommend using a dough with a hydration of 70%+ (take the flour weight in grams and multiply by 0.7 for the ml of water). You can use my Crust Kingdom Pizza Dough but increase the water in the recipe to 230ml for a slightly wetter dough.

How To Stretch Pizza Dough Into A Rectangle

Now getting it to fill the pan is the next hurdle. Here are my tips for stretching the dough into a rectangle:

  • After you’ve kneaded your dough, rest it 4-6 hours for the gluten to relax (or over night in the fridge).
  • Stretch it lengthways and drop in a well oiled pan.
  • Push it to the corners – there will be a slight gap at the corners.
  • Let it rest for 10 minutes which will allow it to relax more, allowing you to push it right into the corners.
  • Use your fingertips to pinch the dough up around the rim.
  • Top and bake for a thinner pizza, or let it rise for a thicker pizza.

Stretching dough into a rectangle can be a difficult and frustrating task. You will find that the dough will be able to be stretched to a certain distance but will then likely snapback. The key to overcoming this is to allow the dough to rest enough so that the gluten is less tight.

When you move about the dough it strengthens the gluten. This makes it tight and “snappy” and almost impossible to do what you want. Over time, this gluten relaxes and the dough becomes more pliable. So if you’re dough won’t stretch right to the corners then let it rest a little longer until it will let you.

Cold dough is also “tighter”. Let it come up to room temperature before you shape it in the pan. You can leave it in the middle of the pan as it warms up. Just make sure it’s covered in a towel or some oil.

How To Bake It

You need to get your oven as hot as possible. This makes the dough rise fast and become light and airy. A cooler oven might not cook the dough through, leaving raw bits in the middle. Preheat on the highest setting for at least 30 minutes, an hour is preferable.

A pizza stone or steel helps things get hotter as it mimics a pizza oven floor. I have mine on the middle rack of my oven and this lets you watch the pizza cooking easily. Heat this up with your oven.

Once the oven is hot enough and you’ve topped your pizza, put the pan directly on the pizza stone. Depending on the oven, it might take around 8 minutes to bake. If the back edge is browning fast then open the door and spin it around 180 degrees. Bake until the crust is dark brown – make sure you give it long enough otherwise it will be undercooked.

Use a spatula or a pizza peel to loosen the pizza. If you want an extra crispy crust then you should remove the pizza from the pan and put it back in the oven on your pizza stone. Allow it to cook for 1-2 minutes more and the base will crisp right up. Remove with a pizza peel or tongs.

Best Pizza Sauce For Pan Pizza

I like to make a fairly thick, cooked sauce for this type of pizza. I think it’s better because it’s a thick pizza and usually has lots of toppings and grease so a solid sauce is needed to stand up to it.

I use a can of plum tomatoes that I crush in a saucepan with a potato masher – you can also blend if you like. I then add extra virgin olive oil, a large pinch of granulated garlic and oregano and a small pinch of salt. Try to match your toppings – if you have lots of salty meat then go easy on the salt in the sauce.

I then simmer this for 15 minutes or so until thickened. Like most sauces, it gets better when it’s had time for the flavors to combine. So making it a day ahead is good. Also remember to not drench your pizza in sauce otherwise it might be soggy.

Best Toppings For Pan Pizza (and how to order them)

A classic is low moisture mozzarella, pepperoni and pecorino. You should cut the pepperoni thinly so that you can little cups of meat when it cooks. If you cut it thinly then you can throw a large amount over the pizza too, like the Prince Street square slice does.

The way some New York pizzerias make this is to add the cheese first, then the sauce, then the toppings and then some grated hard cheese like pecorino. This style works quite well as the cheese makes a barrier to the dough from the sauce so it doesn’t get soggy – give it a try.

Pan Pizza Recipe – “Grandma Pie”

I made this “Grandma Pie” in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan (a quarter sheet pan) -this will serve 2-3 people. You can make it in a half sheet pan with the same amount of dough for a thin crust pizza, or use 900g of dough for a thicker pizza.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Prepare your dough in advance and allow it to rest for at least 4 hours at room temperature so the gluten relaxes.
  2. Preheat the oven at the highest setting for about 45 minutes, preferably with a pizza stone/steel inside.
  3. Make the sauce by crushing or blending the plum tomatoes and adding to a saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil, large pinches of granulated garlic and oregano and a small pinch of salt. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Use olive oil to grease the bottom and sides of pan.
  5. Grab your dough ball and pull it apart with your hands lengthways. Drop it in the pan.
  6. Use your fingers to push the air out of the dough and flatten it out to the sides. Get as far to the corners as you can, but there will probably be a gap at the corners where the dough pulls back. Let it rest and relax for 5-10 minutes and try again.
  7. Use your fingertips to pinch the dough up the sides of the pan, to hold it in place.
  8. Lay the cheese slices on the dough, its OK if you have gaps around the cheese slices.
  9. Add a ladle of sauce on top and spread around with the back of the spoon. Leave a half inch gap for the crust.
  10. Add the pepperoni slices to the top, and then sprinkle with the hard cheese.
  11. Put the pan on the pizza stone/steel and bake until the crust is dark brown. Depending on your oven, this will take around 8 minutes and might need a turn half way to prevent the far side burning. The key here is to watch the pizza while it is cooking.
  12. For an extra crispy base, remove the pizza from the pan with a spatula or pizza peel. Bake it directly on the pizza stone for 1-2 minutes.

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