Howdy? Today, we’re going to tackle the age-old question: hand tossed vs pan pizza – which is better? Well, my friends, that’s a question that doesn’t have a simple answer.
Let’s start with the basics. Hand-tossed pizza is stretched and formed by hand. Au contraire, pan pizza is baked in a deep dish, resulting in a thicker, more doughy crust. Each style has its unique characteristics, and it’s up to you to decide which one floats your boat.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. We’ll explore the nuances of these two distinct variations of pizza. So, get your aprons on and fire up the oven because we’re about to embark on a delicious journey.
What Makes Hand-tossed Pizza So Special?
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this style of crust gets its name from. These pizzas are made by stretching and tossing the pizza dough in the air by hand.
The technique used to make hand-tossed pizza is one of the most iconic aspects of pizza making. The process of stretching and tossing the dough in the air creates a thin and even crust. There are many variations of the hand-tossing technique. And each pizzaiolo has their own unique style.
Characteristics of Hand-tossed Pizza
The key characteristics of hand-tossed pizza are its taste and texture. The crust is thin and crispy, with just the right amount of chewiness. The toppings are evenly distributed. And the sauce and cheese meld together to create a mouth-watering flavor profile.
What Makes Hand-tossed Crust Popular?
One of the reasons why hand-tossed pizza is preferred over pan pizza is its authenticity. It is the original pizza crust. So obviously, many people associate it with traditional Italian pizza.
Another advantage of hand-tossed pizza is that it can be customized to any size. It’s because the crust is not limited by the size of the pan. This makes it a great option for those wanting a pizza that’s larger/smaller than the standard sizes.
What Exactly Is a Pan Pizza?
Origin of Pan Pizza
Pan pizza is believed to be a classic Italian-American creation. It tends to be thicker and heartier than a hand-tossed crust.
The Pizza-hut style pan pizza originated in Wichita, Kansas in the United States in 1958. Dan and Frank Carne were the brains behind this creation. That said, according to this source, pan pizza, aka al Testo, has been a thing in Tuscany, Italy since the early 1900s. Sicilian-style pan pizza also came to being around the same time.
Apparently, Italian housewives and old bakers used rectangular baking trays to bake pizzas and other baked goods.
Chronologically, it was two Italian immigrants named Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo who first introduced the concept of pan pizza to the United States. Their creation was the prototype of the modern Chicago deep-dish pizza. That’s enough history lessons from me for the day!
Variations and Types of Pans Used
So, pan pizza has since been adapted to regional tastes. It resulted in variations such as Detroit-style pizza and Wisconsin-style pizza. Each of these varieties has its own unique style and flavor profile, making them all a must-try for pizza aficionados.
The pan used for making pan pizza is usually a deep-dish pizza pan, with a raised edge of about one to two inches. Or heavy-duty, rectangular metal pans.
Characteristics of Pan Pizza
The pan allows the crust to be baked to perfection, creating a caramelized exterior and a soft interior that can hold plenty of toppings. The use of a pan also ensures that the pizza stays in its shape and doesn’t spread out, making it easy to slice and serve.
What Makes Pan Pizza a Mass Favorite Today?
Pan pizza is a popular choice for those who prefer a thick yet soft and pillowy crust with a hearty texture. The crust is often brushed with oil or butter, which contributes to its crispy exterior. The dough is usually made with high-gluten flour, which gives it the necessary structure to hold up to the thick toppings.
Another perk of pan crust is its versatility and adaptability. The size of the pan can be varied to produce a pizza of any size, and the toppings can be customized to suit individual tastes.
Hand Tossed vs Pan Pizza – Key Differences
Not sure whether to order the good old hand-tossed or a buttery pan-crust pizza? I hope you will be able to make up your mind at the end of this segment. Here goes an in-depth explanation of the difference between hand-tossed and pan pizza:
Hand-tossed pizza dough and pan pizza dough are as different as night and day. Owing to my obsession with all things pizza, I have spent countless hours crafting and perfecting both types of dough.
Hand-tossed pizza dough is made using high-gluten 00 flour, water, salt, and yeast, and it is stretched and shaped by hand. This process produces a crust that is light and crispy, and full of air pockets. The best part is, you can customize it to any size because the crust is not limited by the size of the pan.
Pan pizza dough, on the other hand, is made using all-purpose flour, water, salt, and yeast, and it is baked in a pan. This process produces a thicker, fluffier crust that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The crust is also able to hold more toppings, making it a great option for those who like their pizza loaded with toppings.
Personally, I prefer the hand-tossed dough because it allows the flavors of the toppings to really shine through. It also gives the pizza a more authentic feel, as it is the traditional way of making pizza.
However, I do appreciate a good pan pizza from time to time, especially when I’m in the mood for something heartier.
A classic hand-tossed crust makes a perfect base for pizzas with minimal toppings and sauces. The crust acts as a canvas, allowing the toppings to shine without overwhelming them. The process of hand-tossing the dough also results in air pockets forming, which contribute to the crust’s texture and flavor.
A pan crust is typically thicker, fluffier, and more doughy. Hence, it’s perfect for holding up to rich sauces and toppings. The texture is also perfect for those who enjoy an overloaded, filling slice of pizza.
That said, the main highlight of pan pizza for me is the caramelized cheese crust. In Wisconsin-style pan pizza, the cheese goes all the way to the edges of the pan, serendipitously forming cheese crisps.
Tip: If you are thinking of using a pan for baking pizza at home, spread out the cheese to the edges. Put the pizza directly under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, and let the magic unfold!
Pizza toppings can be as wild as your imagination.
In this particular instance, pan pizza has a distinct advantage over hand-tossed pizza. Due to its thicker crust, pan pizza can hold up to heavier toppings like loads of cheese, minced meat, marinara sauce, and moisture-heavy veggies like mushroom, cherry tomato, eggplant (don’t scowl, it’s a thing), zucchini, etc.
The depth of the pan also helps to keep the toppings from sliding off during baking. On the other hand, hand-tossed pizzas are better suited for lighter toppings like fresh herbs or thinly sliced vegetables.
But let’s be real here – there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pizza toppings. It’s all about personal preference! Some people love a loaded pan pizza with every topping under the sun, while others prefer a simple Margherita on a thin, hand-tossed crust.
Baking Time and Temperature
Time and temperature are critical factors that can make or break the final product. The cooking time and temperature for hand-tossed vs pan pizza can vary. This is due to the different shapes and sizes of the crust.
Hand-tossed pizza is typically cooked at a higher temperature and for a shorter period than pan pizza. The reason for this is that the crust of a hand-tossed pizza is thin, and the toppings are usually minimal, allowing for a quick cooking time.
The ideal temperature for baking hand-tossed pizza is 500-550 degrees for 10-12 minutes. In a wood-fired oven, it’s usually 90 seconds at 950 degrees or higher.
At this temperature, the crust becomes crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Pan pizza is thicker and the toppings are often more plentiful. Therefore, it requires a lower temperature and longer cooking time. Pan pizza is typically baked at a temperature of 375-400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.
NB: Different types of ovens may require some slight adjustments.
How to Make a Bomb Hand-tossed Pizza – Actionable Tips
First things first, you’ll need to prepare the dough. Once the dough is proofed, you are ready for the next step. That is stretching and tossing. This part can take some practice, but with a little bit of patience, you’ll get the hang of it.
Step 1: Start by flouring your work surface and your hands to prevent sticking. Take one of the dough balls and press it down with your fingertips to create a circular shape. Leave the edges slightly thicker than the center.
Step 2: Next, lift the dough up and start stretching it gently from the center outwards. Use the backs of your hands and your knuckles to push the dough out.
Step 3: You want to avoid using your fingertips at this stage, as it can create holes in the dough. Keep stretching the dough until it’s the desired size and thickness, and then it’s time for the tossing!
Step 4: To toss the dough, lift it up with your knuckles on the bottom and your fingertips on the top. Gently rotate the dough in a circular motion, letting gravity stretch it outwards.
As the dough gets larger, you can start tossing it from one hand to the other to get an even stretch. Just be sure to catch it again on the back of your knuckles!
Now, you’re ready to assemble the pizza!
How to Make a Pan Pizza in Just a Few Easy Steps
You don’t need to be a pro to make a pan pizza. Pan pizza is a classic favorite that’s easy to make and always satisfying.
- Just take a dough ball. Then, press the dough into a greased pan, making sure to cover the bottom and the sides evenly.
- Next, add your favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings. Be sure to use plenty of sauce and toppings, as the thicker crust of pan pizza can handle it. Bake the pizza in a preheated oven at 375-400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Or until the crust is golden brown and crispy.
Additional tip: I like to brush garlic and herb butter onto the crust before baking. It makes the crust shiny and really elevates the flavor.
So what’s the difference between hand-tossed and pan pizza – which one is better? It all depends on personal preference and the type of pizza you’re in the mood for. If you want a pizza with minimal toppings and sauces, a hand-tossed crust is a way to go.
But, if you’re in the mood for a pizza with lots of toppings and sauces, then pan crust is the perfect base. As a passionate amateur, I love experimenting with different crust textures and toppings. And I encourage you to do the same!
Tim Anderson is the founder of pizzapeopleaz® and has been in the pizza industry since 1998. Since then, his mission has been to make a pizza lover’s guy into a personal pizzaiolo. And each year, he continues to help more people with Pizza chemistry, pizza Crust, pizza oven, and oven troubleshooting.