Hand-tossed pizza and pan pizza are two popular takes on the Italian staple, but a few differences in preparation can completely alter the crust, which is often a pizza-lover's favorite part. While both versions begin with the same dough recipe, hand-tossed pizza is stretched and thinned, while pan pizza is baked with a thick crust in a cast iron skillet. Pan pizza also uses a higher oven temperature. Both versions often use the same toppings, but the variations in crust size could mean the difference between a satisfying snack and a heavy meal.
Both hand-tossed and pan pizza use a standard yeast dough. Ingredients typically include flour, granulated yeast, warm water, salt and olive oil.
As the name implies, hand-tossed pizza dough is tossed in the air and caught by hand, or more specifically, by the backs of the chef's fists to avoid tearing. The tossing is repeated until the dough is the correct size and thickness. This method takes practice but produces a thin crust that's strong enough to hold the toppings. When the dough is done, it's topped with a thin layer of sauce and left to rest and rise for two to three hours before adding the toppings.
Pan pizza dough takes much less finesse and athleticism than hand-tossed pizza. Slightly flattened dough balls are pressed into the bottom of cast iron skillets or heavy-duty cake pans. The pans are coated with a tablespoon or two of oil prevent sticking and help the dough develop a crisp crust. Pan pizza dough rises in the pan a second time before the chef adds sauce and toppings.
You can use the same toppings for both types of pizza. After the sauce is added, the crust is typically covered with slices or shreds of aged mozzarella cheese, plus meats, vegetables, seasonings and spices.
Hand-tossed pizza is usually baked on the bottom rack of an oven at around 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes. Pan pizza should be baked at the highest temperature, also on the lowest rack, for about the same amount of time.
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