Make pizza at home that tastes just like Pizza Hut!! This Cast Iron Pan Pizza Recipe is unbelievable, you guys. A super tall, ciabatta-like crust with gorgeous crispy edges and a pillowy soft interior. The key to homemade pan pizza is a slow rise time and a heavy cast iron pan. Top with sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni for pan pizza heaven!
My BFF Sarah and I have been friends since college. She and her husband live in Japan, and Eric and I went to visit them last fall. One day we talked about maybe getting some pizza. Sarah mentioned a quote I had told her years before: “Pizza is like sex. Even when it’s bad, it’s good!”
She said the quote as if I was the one who came up with it. I had to regrettably inform her that no, the pizza-sex analogy is not something I just randomly made up one day, it’s a famous quote from a movie star. Haha!! How did I get credit for this for so long?? Poet and I didn’t know it. Sorry Sarah, I’m way less cool than you thought I was!!
But don’t worry, there is nothing bad about today’s handmade pan pizza recipe. It is simply phenomenal. It’s basically the runway model of pizzas, if we’re going with the sex analogy.
This stuff LITERALLY tastes like it came from Pizza Hut. It is so good! Where are all my pan pizza people? I am a pizza hut pan pizza girl for life. It is the BEST. The crispy, fried edges. The fluffy interior with the perfect chewy texture. The cheese for days and days. It’s just the best!
Regular pizza crust has it’s place in life, especially for a last minute homemade pizza situation. But in my opinion, pan crust always wins. And anything that is so worth the calories is worth putting in the time to get it done right!
Ready, Set, Dough!
Today’s pan pizza recipe is from my friend Rebecca’s new cookbook! Rebecca blogs over at Foodie with Family. I have been following her blog for nearly 10 years! She is one of the bloggers who inspired me to start my own food blog! Her recipes are so fabulous.
She recently wrote her second cookbook, Ready, Set, Dough! It is a beginner’s guide to breads for all occasions. It is such a fun book! It is perfect for beginner bread makers, but also has tons of new ideas for those who are more experienced with yeast. It would be the perfect gift for Mother’s Day coming up! Click here to purchase! It’s even on sale right now.
I flipped through the book, landed almost immediately on this pan pizza recipe, and knew I had to try it out! It is even better than I thought it would be, no joke. Rebecca also has The Best Pan Pizza recipe up on her blog, click over to check out more pictures!
How to Make Pan Pizza
Making homemade pan pizza is super easy, you will be surprised. All you need is some time to plan ahead. Rebecca’s recipe calls for an initial rise time of 8-24 hours, with an additional 2 hour rise plus bake time.
I am one of those people who usually remembers about dinner when it’s already dinnertime, but when I’m really on my game, I remember to prep for dinner around lunchtime. But definitely not 24 hours in advance! I tested out a few ways to shorten the rise and have found a pretty easy hack to get it done. Today’s pan pizza recipe can be done in about 6 hours start to finish. Perfect for remembering to start around noon and eating by 6.
First up, make the dough. All you need is warm water and a little yeast, then bread flour and salt. You don’t need to knead it. Just mix it together until combined. You can use active dry yeast or instant yeast, just make sure you dissolve the yeast in warm water to get it started.
You need 14 ounces of bread flour for this recipe. Bread flour has more gluten than all-purpose, and makes for a chewier and holier crust. It’s best to use a scale if you have one. Too much flour will make your dough less tender. But if you don’t have a scale, it’s 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon.
Here is the dough before and after the rise. Cover it loosely so that the gas has room to escape. The trick to getting it to rise quickly is to preheat your oven, then turn it off so that it is very warm but not hot. At room temperature, this dough needs at least 8 hours to rise. But in a warm oven, you can get the job done in about 4 hours. If you have more time for this initial rise, great. The longer the better. If not, 4 hours works.
Split the dough in half with a well oiled spatula, and divide between two well-oiled cast iron pans.
Cast Iron Pans: The Only Way to Get Crispy Edges
You need two cast iron pans for this recipe, because the dough rises right in the pan. If you don’t have 2 pans, you can either half the recipe, or bake the other half in an 8 or 9 inch cake pan. The results won’t be quite the same but it will be pizza at the end of the day!
Once you have the dough in the pans, use well-oiled hands to lift one edge of the dough and tuck it into the center.
Do this several times until a loose ball has shaped itself. The dough is super sticky. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be that way!
Spread the dough out with your hand until it reaches the edges, or nearly reaches the edges.
Then let the dough rise in a warm oven for about an hour and a half, or up to two hours if you have time. The dough should have reached the edges of the pan by now. Top with sauce, but not too much; you don’t want to weigh down the dough.
Then cover with cheese. I love to add sliced mozzarella cheese in addition to shredded cheese. It gives your pizza this added element of cheesiness that you don’t get from just shredded cheese. I actually didn’t have any sliced mozzarella the day I made this, so I used my favorite hack of using my kids string cheese! Works like a charm.
Top with pepperoni and a little bit of parmesan. Again, don’t add too much or it will weigh down your dough.
Then bake your pizzas in a SCREAMING hot oven. Turn your oven up as high as it will go, 550 degrees F, if possible. A super hot oven makes your crust nice and crisp on the outside, and gives your dough that holey, chewy texture that makes pan pizza so amazing. Observe:
I like to slide my pizza out onto a cooling rack within a couple minutes of taking it out of the oven, to make sure the crust stays super crispy. Then after a few minutes, slice and serve! Technically these are not Personal Pan Pizzas like the ones at Pizza Hut, but I can pretty much eat an entire one of these pizzas single handedly. Don’t judge me. Join the dark side. It’s quarantine anyway, calories don’t count.
More pizza ideas you will love!
- Blackberry Ricotta Pizza with Basil << a really fun pizza for summer!
- Leftover Hot Dog Pizza with Caramelized Onions << This pizza is SO GOOD. Don’t you turn up your nose at me. ;)
- Easy No Cook Pizza Sauce << the easiest thing ever to throw together.
- Thai Pizza with Zucchini and Pickled Onions << I got this idea from a California Pizza Kitchen meal I had one time.
- Zucchini Pizza Bites << a really fun low carb pizza idea!
- French Bread Pizza, 3 Ways << if you have a loaf of French bread, dinner is so easy.
- BBQ Chicken Pizza from Tastes Better From Scratch
- How to Grill Pizza from Ambitious Kitchen
- Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza from Brown Eyed Baker
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Cast Iron Pan Pizza Recipe (Pizza Hut Copycat!)
For the dough
- 1 & 1/2 cups warm water
- 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 14 ounces bread flour, 3 cups + 1 tablespoon*
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
To assemble the pizza
- 4 tablespoons light olive oil, to coat cast iron pans**
- 14 ounce jar of pizza sauce, or homemade
- 4 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 3 ounces pepperoni
- 2 tablespoon parmesan cheese, shredded
- In a large bowl, add 1 and 1/2 cups warm water and 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast. (Instant yeast can also be used.) The water should be warm but not hot, about 105-110 degrees F. Stir in the yeast and let it sit for 5 minutes until it is dissolved. It will not be bubbly, but make sure to stir any lumps of yeast so that the mixture is uniform before moving on.
- Use a scale to add 14 ounces of bread flour* to the bowl. If you don't have a scale, carefully measure out 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon bread flour by spooning the flour into the measuring cup and leveling off the top. It is important to measure the flour precisely for this recipe. Don't be tempted to add more.
- Add in 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and stir the mixture together with a spoon. Do not knead it. Mix until it is all combined and no further.
- Use oil or nonstick spray to grease a large bowl or tupperware. Scrape the dough in and spread it out as much as possible. Cover loosely with a lid or with plastic wrap. Make sure the lid is not too tight, you need some of the gases to be able to escape.
- Turn your oven on to 350 degrees F for about 1 minute, then turn the oven off. Open the door and feel the rack. If it is too hot to touch with your fingers, then leave the door open and let the oven cool a bit. You want the oven nice and warm but not so hot that you can't touch the inside with bare hands.
- Place the rising dough in the oven and shut the door. Let rise for 4 hours. After 2 hours, remove the dough from the oven, turn the oven on again for a minute, and then return the dough to the oven when it has warmed up again. Make sure it is not too hot. After 4 hours, your dough should have at least doubled in size and should be airy and bubbly.
- Divide the 4 tablespoons oil** between two cast iron skillets and swirl to coat. You can use 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillets for this recipe.*** You need two skillets because the dough rises in the pan. If you only have one skillet, you can half the recipe, or see the recipe note about using round cake pans.
- Dip your hands and the end of a rubber spatula into the oiled pans to coat well. Use the oiled spatula to divide the risen dough into two. Scrape half the dough into each oiled pan.
- Use your oiled fingers to lift up an edge of the dough and bring it toward the center. Repeat this process a few times until the dough has formed a loose ball. (see photos) Flip the ball over so the smooth side is on top and everything is completely coated in oil. Press your hand down on top of the dough and gently spread it out as much as you can toward the edges of the pan. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Cover each pan loosely with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not touch the dough.
- Repeat the oven-warming process for the second rise. Turn the oven on for about a minute, turn it off, and put the cast iron into the oven when it is warm but not hot.
- Let the dough rise in the warm oven for about an hour and a half. It should have spread to the edges of the pan completely and look bubbly.
- Remove the pans from the oven and keep in a warm place. Preheat your oven as hot as it will go, 550 degrees F if possible. Let the oven preheat for at least 20 minutes to make sure it is seriously hot. Arrange the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the rack.
- Meanwhile, top the pizzas. Add about 3/4 cup pizza sauce (half of a 14 ounce jar) to the top of each pizza and spread on top, all the way to the edges.
- Add a few thin slices of mozzarella to the top of each pizza, only about 4 ounces all together. (Or use string cheese if you are weird like me). You don't want to weigh down the dough too much.
- Sprinkle about 1 and 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella on top of each pizza.
- Divide the pepperoni between the pizzas. Remember not to add too many so you don't weigh down the dough.
- Sprinkle each pizza with a tablespoon of shredded parmesan cheese.
- When the oven is super duper hot, put the pizzas into the hot oven, on the pizza stone if you have one. Bake the pizzas for about 9-12 minutes. The pizza is done when the edges are starting to look brown and the cheese on top is becoming golden. The surest way to test for doneness is by lifting the edge of the pizza with a metal spatula to make sure that the bottom of the crust is a deep golden brown.****
- Remove the pizzas from the oven and let set for 2 minutes. Then use a spatula to slide under the pizza and edge them out onto cooling racks. This helps ensure that the crust stays crispy. Let the pizzas cool on the racks for a few minutes, then slide onto cutting boards, slice and serve.
Since finding this recipe in April, I’ve been making these once a month! The dough is sooo perfect, and my wife and I each get our own creations: mine with mozza and spicy capicola, hers with cashew cheese, anchovies, and lemony kale. Thanks so much!
Love love love this recipe! Ive made it 3x now! I use vegan mozzarella as I don’t eat dairy, and it was truly reminiscent of Pizza Hut. Thank you so much for the recipe!
I have tried other “pizza hut copy cat” recipes, and each let me down. This one though, takes time, and I failed to read the notes about EVOO, so I couldn’t crank my oven to 550…but 425 got it cooked in 12 minutes, in cast iron, the crust needed a bit more, so onto a pizza pan it went!
I was amazed how when I let it sit a few minutes and sliced into it, the side view of crust/bread…airy, amazed to as the dough did its’ rises, and I saw lots of bubbles! Will definitely be making this again, and using a more appropriate oil for my pan!
I agree with another post… the taste of the 90s, what did they do to the pizza we buy today. Great recipe, and pretty close!
The taste of the 90s indeed! So glad you enjoyed the recipe, thanks for sharing all your notes!
The dough was way too sticky and elastic. When I tried pressing it down in the pan it would spring back. I’m not sure where I went wrong.
This bread is so good. It makes the best pizza. Thank you for posting the recipe! I froze half the dough after the first rise. Thawed overnight in the fridge. Came to room temp for an hour or two in a casserole dish, then did the cast iron rise about 3-4 hours. On the counter (room temp) rise. It was just a good as the first time. I used all purpose flour. I added powdered milk to the dough, and butter to the pan (with grapeseed oil instead of olive) because I heard they do that at pizza hut. Fried butter pizza. So good. Makes all those carbs worth it.
That is awesome Sara, I love that you can freeze this! I haven’t tried that yet. Thanks so much for sharing your notes I so appreciate it!
The recipe doesn’t state when, exactly, to remove the pizza from the cast iron pans. Presumably, this would be after the second rise, so the topped pizza cooks directly on pizza stone? Would that be right?
Hi Steven! No, don’t take them out of the pans! Put the cast iron pan on TOP of a pizza stone, if you have one. Pizza stone is not required. Cast iron pan is! Enjoy!
Oh, man! I moved to Maine and we don’t have Pizza Hut nearby! I need to make this! Looks amazing.
No Pizza Hut! Now that’s a tragedy. good thing you can make this at home now!! Enjoy April!
I’m so excited to try this! I’m halving the recipe, I hope I did it right. I halved the amount of water and yeast as well as the flour, I hope that was the correct thing to do! Guess I’ll see in a couple hours if it’s risen at all lol! Thanks so much for this! I loved the Pizza Hut pizza crust of the early 90s and nothing else compares!
seriously, what did they put in that early 90s pizza crust? 1 tablespoon of pure nostalgia I think. ;) Hope the recipe turns out great Kathy, thanks for chiming in!
Hello! Just came across your recipe for pan pizza, sounds amazing! Quick question, I have a 15” cast iron pan, would this work?
Hi Patty! You could certainly try it, but I worry that your pizza will not come out as thick. Maybe when you are spreading it out in the pan, don’t spread the dough all the way to the edges, just stick to about 12 inches. Let me know how it goes!
Can this dough be made ahead or frozen or does it have to be cooked right away?
Hi Marie! I’ve never tried freezing this dough. Let me know how it goes if you try it out!
Can you refrigerate dough for next day after it raises for 4 hours??
Hi Ann, if you have that much time just make the recipe as usual but do the first rise at ROOM TEMP for up to 24 hours. Make sure you’ve got it in a big bowl so it has room to rise, and loosely covered so the gas can escape.
We’re trying to make this now and we’re a bit confused. So, is it 3 rises all together?
Hi Bettiann! There is a 4 hour rise, then a 1 and 1/2 to 2 hour rise.
This is the best pan pizza our family has ever tasted. We missed the old Pizza Hut pan pizzas when they used to be good. I gave up trying to find a good one but then tried yours. The best, so glad you shortened the rise time – perfect!! It is going to be our new Saturday night pizza.
I’m so happy to hear you loved the pizza Jennifer! There is just nothing better than that crust, right? So glad you’ve found a winner :) Thanks for commenting with a review!
I’m excited to try this but have a question. I’ve read similar recipes to yours that either preheat the cast iron pan before putting the dough in or putting the cheese on the dough first, then the sauce. Both methods ensure a crispy crust and not soggy. Is your crust soggy at all?
Hi Courtney! No, the crust is not soggy, it’s perfectly crispy. Putting the cheese on first then sauce is called a Chicago pizza, and it’s a little different from a pan crust pizza. Preheating the cast iron pans in the oven wouldn’t work for this recipe since the dough rises in the pan. If you want a seriously crispy crust, then follow the recipe note instructions that explains about cooking the pan on a burner on the stove after baking. Enjoy the pizza!!
I’ve used this recipe for years for focaccia and it also works great for Chicago deep dish pizza. PLEASE no pepperoni, try Italian sausage next time.
Thanks, T.C. LaTorre
Hi T.C.! That is awesome, I can’t wait to try it out as focaccia! That’s genius! And no pepperoni, whaaaaat??? ;)
Sue, I’ve tasted some brands of cardboard that have more flavor than the thin chips of waste New Yorkers call pepperoni… By the way, your thoroughness and plan speak is exemplary in explaining the recipe, I just found your site and I’ll have to check more of them out.
Haha, was just looking over this recipe – maybe don’t need to publish this comment, but one of your sponsors just put a ‘working’ cat litter ad as I’m reading through the ingredients for the recipe. Maybe wanna swap that out for another one from Purina!
Hi Sue! My advertisements are provided by a third party; I’m not in charge of what ads are shown on my site (although they should all be family friendly). Every person who visits this website (or any website) is shown ads that are tailored to them based on their browsing history. So if you are seeing cat litter ads, it might be because you have a cat! :) I know the ads are very distracting sometimes. Thank you for putting up with them. My blog is a small business, and revenue from those advertisements is how I support my family. It’s also the way I’m able to keep the content I provide on the site completely free of charge. Thank you so much for reading Sue!!