Making the perfect pan pizza

To the home cook, making good pizza is a tad intimidating. The pros use massive ovens made of hundreds of pounds of bricks, which hold a lot of heat and reach upwards of 900 F. Your oven has two wire metal racks and starts to smoke when it hits 500 F. Clearly, this is not a fair fight.

There have, historically, been a couple home solutions.

One is to invest in a pizza stone — a heavy stone disc that will run you about $30. Now in my experience the stones take an hour to heat up and don’t produce particularly impressive results.

For the more adventurous, there exists some Internet how-tos on rigging your oven so it can be opened during the cleaning cycle (where temperatures can hit 900 F range). The prospect of that scares me a bit though, as I prefer to keep my relationship with the fire department distant.

Faced with these options, I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be making respectable pizza in my apartment. That was until the Internet suggested I try my cast-iron skillet.

When my apartment catches on fire, and I’m scrambling to grab my possessions, my cast-iron will probably be the first on my list. It is easily the most versatile and useful tool in the kitchen. If you care about cooking, want to get started or love someone who loves to cook, get them a cast-iron — and then make pizza.

To start, make or buy some dough. I usually make it, because it’s really just throwing some flour, yeast, water and oil in a bowl, but store bought works. You should also be able to go to any place that makes pizza and ask them for some dough (if they won’t sell you any, don’t eat there — they must be hiding something). Put the cast-iron on the stove, turn the heat on high until the pan starts to smoke a little bit, and pour some olive oil in. Stretch the dough out fairly thin, so it’s the size of the pan, and throw it in.

After about a minute or so, take some tongs and flip it; the cooked side should be spotted and brown (think Indian naan). Now top your pizza: sauce, shredded cheese and whatever else you desire. Lower the heat a bit, put a lid or a sheet of foil over the pan, and remove after fiveish minutes. Cut. Enjoy.

I can’t say it’s the best pizza I’ve ever eaten (that would be Berkeley’s Cheeseboard, hands down), although it is way better than the $15 I shelled out at Mario Batali’s famed Mozza. If nothing, it’s an easy party food, a good way to impress a date and the closet I’ll ever get to professional pizza in my apartment.