I was in the grocery store last night and the lady behind me was unloading several DiGiorno frozen pizzas onto the conveyor at the check out. Of course those silly commercials went through my mind, a member of the household thinking that the DiGiorno Pizza was delivery pizza and the situation it caused. I remember that one guy getting slapped in the face by his girlfriend after he fed her a bite of pizza blindfolded because she thought the boyfriend had invited the pizza delivery guy in their household during an intimate moment… Yea, I know, kinda cheesy (no pun) but it stuck in my head.
At that moment I thought of a cooking tip someone gave me years ago. While it is true, the DiGiorno Pizza is a great quality, rising crust pizza, there is a method of cooking that makes the pizza even better.
Remember that cast iron skillet I talked about in previous posts?
Well, ends up the cast iron skillet cooks a GREAT pizza. The standard size of a large household cast iron skillet has an interior cooking surface of 12 inches, perfect for the 12 inch frozen pizza! Years ago we kept a couple of pizza stones in our oven for cooking pizzas. Those things are pretty much uni-taskers as Alton Brown of Good Eats would say. They are good for one task and that is about it. The stones are always in the way if you leave them in your oven, and have to be stored somewhere if you don’t. That is why our pizza stones got “misplaced” when we moved five years ago and we never got new ones, I hate those things…
How do you cook your pizza on a cast iron skillet?, its simple. Put the skillet in the oven to preheat. Look at the temperature instructions on the box. If memory serves me, we go about 350. Our oven has a beep signal when the oven is up to temperature. If your oven does not, wait until the thermostat kicks off. Now, since you are using a heavy skillet, I give it just a few more minutes preheat.
While waiting for preheat, unwrap your pizza and get it ready. We almost always put extra toppings on the pizza. Katie always puts on extra pepperoni and crisp bacon; I like everything and anything. Go ahead and put those extra ingredients on the pizza now, just hold back any extra cheese, we will add that later.
After the pizza is ready and the oven is preheated, it is time to start cooking. Using two hot pads pull the rack out of the oven holding the skillet. The skillet is heavy and going to be very hot so, BE CAREFUL !!! This is probably why the pizza companies don’t tell you about using a cast iron skillet; LIABILITY. Put a generous amount of olive oil in the bottom of the skillet. I use enough to completely cover the cooking surface. The olive oil keeps the pizza from sticking and I think the oil enhances the flavor of the pizza crust. Carefully place the pizza in the skillet and slide it back in the oven. (A note: We usually put the olive oil in the skillet when we put the skillet in the oven for preheat. Your oven might be running hot and the olive oil will start to smoke if gets hot enough. If you keep a close eye and experiment, you can add the olive oil before the preheat.)
We are notorious for ignoring cooking instructions on a pizza box. We read them and consider them cooking suggestions to be considered or ignored. Lets face it, ovens don’t all cook the same. Your oven is different than mine and using the skillet changes things anyway. We take a note of the time when the pizza went in and keep track of it. After about 15 minutes, or when the pizza looks that it may be a little over half way done, we slide the pizza out and add extra cheese. Get creative with the cheese. I usually use good old mozzarella, put Katie will sometimes mix in a Mexican blend.
Put the pizza back in the oven and wait for the cheese to melt and the pizza to finish cooking. I like the crust to brown on the edges and everything looking bubbly and hot. Katie and I are in disagreement on the cheese, however. I like my cheese melted and gooey, Katie likes her cheese to start to brown. This works out fine because we are cooking “His” and “Hers” pizzas anyway. You see, Katie does not want anything on her pizza that is not meat. (Meat lovers, meat lovers, meat lovers, pizza: how many time have I heard that?) I like all the veggies AND meat on my pizza. You name it, it can go on my pizza; onions, olives, peppers, … yes even anchovies if the mood strikes.
When you have achieved the desired doneness, then pull the skillet out of the oven and set on top of the stove to rest for a moment. You will need a flat cutting surface to let the pizza rest and then cut before serving. We are blessed with granite counter tops so we cut directly on the counter. We have one of those pizza spatulas that is great for pulling the pizza out of the skillet. (what do they call those things, anyway?) If you are carefull, you should be able to easily get the pizza out by tipping the skillet and using a large spatula. It usually takes two people for this operation.
Once the pizza is on the cutting surface, let the pizza rest for a few minutes. I have found the cheese starts to set up and the pizza cuts and serves so much better if you give it a short rest.
Cut the pizza and enjoy!
We have been using cast iron skillets for cooking home pizzas for years now, we never do them any other way!!!
Good Luck !!!
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