Cast iron pizza pan – what you need to know
For anyone wanting to make great pizza at home the traditional approach has been to use a pizza stone. Pizza stones are inexpensive and with a bit of practice you can create some fantastic results. However, pizza stones are also large and cumbersome, they aren't suited to be easily moved when hot, and can be prone to cracking, seemingly at random.
What’s more, whilst there are a variety of other foods that benefit from being baked on a pizza stone (breads for example), a pizza stone is primarily suited to doing what it was designed to do - making pizza.
The alternative is a cast iron pizza pan, which can be used for a range of other uses other than simply making pizza.
But first and foremost, does a cast iron pizza pan actually make good pizza?
Does a cast iron pizza pan actually make good pizza?
In one word - yes. Cast iron is an excellent conductor and retainer of heat which makes it ideal for making pizza. These properties, and the slight lip that most pans of this sort have, make cast iron pizza pans especially suited to making Neapolitan- style pizza that require a serious amount of heat.
Having said that, a more traditional style pizza with a thinner crust can also be easily made in this style of pizza pan – and the high heat conductivity and heat retention of the cast iron pan ensures a crispy base. Some believe that a cast iron pizza pan will in fact deliver a crispier base than a pizza stone.
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Other uses for a cast iron pizza pan
For any home pizza chef who is looking for something that is not only suited to make great pizza, but many other meals, a cast iron pizza pan is an excellent option.
A cast iron pizza pan can essentially double as both a pizza pan and a griddle, and as they often incorporate handles they are comparatively easy to move from oven to stove top to table. This means that you can not only use it to make great crispy-based pizza, but also to cook, roast or sear other foods.
Used in an oven a pizza pan can be used to cook many other foods, including:
- French fries
- roast chicken
- stuffed mushrooms
- potato skins
On the stove top you can use your pizza pan to make:
- Flat breads
- Sear steak or seafood
- Pre-cook pizza toppings
What about cast iron pizza pans with an enamel coating?
Some cast iron pizza pans, such as the Mario Batali range, have a ceramic enamel coating which delivers a number of benefits. Firstly, an enamel coating on the exterior of the pan means you are less likely to scratch your bench top or ceramic stove surface than you would with a plain cast iron exterior.
An interior ceramic coating can develop a non stick properties which often gets better and better over time. Unlike other cast iron pans, ceramic enamel pizza pans require no ‘seasoning’ prior to use. Used in conjunction with a pizza peel, using an enamel pizza pan can be a very user-friendly experience.
Using your cast iron pizza pan
What else should I know about cast iron pizza pans?
- Whilst a cast iron pizza pan isn't as prone to random cracking like some pizza stones, cast iron is a brittle metal and care should be taken when moving and storing your pizza pan. Enamel and cast iron surfaces should also only be cut on with a cast iron friendly cutter – never with a stainless steel cutter. Mario Batali pizza pans have vibrant enamel exteriors which make the pan presentable enough to serve from on your table.
- Unlike a pizza stone, a cast iron pizza pan can’t really be used to bake bread – the metal surface burns the base of the bread before the rest has a chance to cook
- With any cast iron cookware you should be careful to avoid ‘temperature shock’. Temperature shock is when your cast iron pizza pan is heated or cooled very quickly. Such an example could be pouring cold water onto a very hot pan. When this happens, the pan undergoes fast thermal expansion or contraction and this can cause it to crack. Fortunately this is most prevalent in low quality pans so if you buy quality cast iron items and take care to heat or cool them gradually, your pan can last for decades.
- Cast iron pizza pans are generally more expensive than pizza stone.
- Whilst a cast iron pizza pan is more portable and easier to handle than a pizza stone, bear in mind that cast iron cookware is also very heavy – especially with a large pizza on top.
- Pizza pans are often smaller than a pizza stone which makes them ideal for anyone who has a small oven. The popular Mario Batali pizza pan measures 14 inches in diameter which means it can easily accommodate a ‘family’ size pizza (or should this be 'Mario Batali size'?).
So should I buy a pizza stone or a cast iron pizza pan?
This really depends on a couple of things:
- the style of pizza you prefer
- whether you value the ability to cook other foods
- your budget
All in all, a cast iron pizza pan is a reliable alternative to the traditional pizza stone and a pan with a ceramic coating can be used in a multitude of ways in addition to being used to make pizza. Whilst generally more expensive than a pizza stone, a cast iron pizza pan can be used to serve from and is more portable than a pizza stone.
The best place to read reviews and compare the best pizza pans is on Amazon.com where you will be able to read impartial reviews from users who have actually bought the items. What’s more, Amazon often has much better prices and a better range of products than other stores.
Make your next pizza your best ever with a cast iron pizza pan. Visit amazon.com and get yours today!