Punching Up the Pizza with Cast Iron

| 2/29/2016 10:00:00 AM

Of Mice and Mountain MenMy wife and I enjoy having a homemade pizza on Saturday nights. This pizza ends up being at least two dinners, sometimes a lunch as well. So it's worth the effort we put into doing it up right.

Earlier this month my wife and I celebrated our birthdays — just 6 days apart. Part of our Birthday Week celebration was a trip to the Lodge Cast Iron factory outlet store in a nearby city where we bought several new pieces of cast iron cookware. One of these is a 16 inch cast iron pizza pan.

Cast Iron Pizza Pan

Around a hundred years ago (or it seems so) I worked my way through the management training program of a popular pizza chain store. On my way to management I learned a lot about making pizza by making and serving many thousands of them. One of the secrets of why a take-out pizza tastes better than most homemade is the oven. Pizza shops use slate bed ovens and cook the pizza on thin screens laying right on that 450 F slab of rock. This cooks the bottom crust evenly and browns it for a nice crunch. It's hard to get that on a steel pan in the oven at home. This cast iron pan has us making pizzas that are a lot like what I served up as a pro.

While making the sauce (using home-canned tomatoes and fresh herbs from our garden) I'm slicing and dicing the meats and veggies. These vary from week to week. When assembly time comes I want everything prepared so I can get it all on the pizza as quickly as possible.

About 40 minutes before I want to serve I rub a thin coat of cooking oil onto the pizza pan by making a small wadding pad out of paper towel (in another previous life I was a furniture maker). Then I put the pizza pan in the oven and preheat them to 425 F. While that's heating I make up the crust and knead it on the floured counter top, but I roll it out on a piece of parchment. NOTE: If you use Fleischmann's Pizza Yeast you mix the yeast right in with the flour, sugar, oil, and water; and the dough does not need to rise. Just mix it up, knead, roll it out. If the dough must rise allow an extra 30-60 minutes.