Pizza is an extremely popular food in the United States. An astounding 85% of pizza is consumed at home as families enjoy “pizza nights” an average of 30 times per year.
Amazingly, there are 70,000 pizza restaurants in the United States, and 57% are independent shops instead of chains. It is said that there are 34 million ways to order a pizza, but pan pizza is one of the most beloved types of all.
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What Is Pan Pizza?
Pan pizza is made in a pan and has a thicker, bready dough compared to other pizzas. Pan pizza is often confused with deep dish pizza. Learn how to identify pan pizza compared to other pizza types!
Pan Pizza vs. Hand Tossed
Pan pizza differs from hand tossed pizza in a few ways. The most notable difference is in the texture and thickness of the pizza dough; hand tossed pizza usually has thinner dough, as tossing the pizza releases air bubbles so that the pizza does not rise as much in the oven.
Pan pizza, on the other hand, has a thicker crust that is bready and fried to golden perfection in the pan. Hand tossed pizza has a drier, more blistered crust.
Pan Pizza vs. Deep-Dish
Although the two terms are often confused, there is a difference between pan and deep-dish pizza, even if only those raised in Chicago will really argue with you over that difference.
Chicagoans will tell you that deep-dish pizza does not actually have a very thick crust, but instead has a slightly thick crust that is topped with cheese, then toppings, then sauce, in that specific order.
On the other hand, pan pizza is a thick crust that becomes crispy in the pan’s oil and is topped with sauce, cheese, and toppings, in that order. The amount of toppings on this type of pizza is about the same as what you’ll find on thin crust pizza.
What you’re getting with the pan style is more crust with your toppings instead of more toppings to fill the gap between the crust and the top of the pan, as with deep-dish.
The thicker the crust, the more likely it was baked in a pan. Thin crust pizzas are baked on a metal sheet, a stone, or a rack.
The consistency of a deep dish crust is typically crunchy on the outside but fluffy on the inside, and it often has a buttery flavor. Essentially, when you order a deep-dish pizza, you are combining your breadsticks with your pizza, because the thick crust is more like a breadstick than what you’ll get on a thin crust pizza.
Sometimes, the actual crust of a deep dish is not too thick but is instead piled high with toppings and cheese.
Origin of Pan Pizza
Of course, as with anything as tasty as pizza, everyone wants to claim to be the inventor. Another version of how pan pizza eventually came to be says that Mama Giordano was famous for her Italian Easter Pie in her home town near Torino, Italy.
In the mid-1970s, her sons Efren and Joseph Giordano immigrated to the U.S. and brought their mother’s recipe with them to the South Side of Chicago, where it took off like wild fire!
The history of pan pizza is often tied to the history of deep dish, Chicago style pizza. Detroit style pizza is also often cooked in a pan. These styles influenced the origin of pan pizza, although others argue that pan pizza was discovered by the founders of Pizza Hut, Dan and Frank Carney, in Wichita, Kansas.
Pizza Hut’s Signature Pan Pizza
Until 1959, there wasn’t an official “pan pizza,” even though deep-dish pizza has always been baked in a pan. In that year, Dan and Frank Carney would open a pizza restaurant in Wichita, Kansas that would eventually become Pizza Hut, the major U.S. pizza chain with nearly 19,000 locations across the country.
Initially, the brothers only offered thin crust pizza, but eventually, they branched out with their signature product: thicker crusted pizza made in a pan.
Other pizza chains would follow Pizza Hut’s lead and create their own pizzas with thick crusts, as their research suggested that 40% of pizza consumers preferred thicker crusts.
For 40 years, Pizza Hut used the same style of pan in which to bake its famous thick-crust pizza, but in 2019, the original product got a makeover to include a better balance of crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings and a re-engineered pan to enhance the crust’s texture.
Best Homemade Pan Pizza Recipes
Pan pizza is easy to make at home, making it a popular choice for families and friends to enjoy at home. To make pan pizza, you’ll need a pan to cook your pizza in – you can use anything from a deep sheet pan to a cast iron skillet.
You’ll also need dough – either a homemade pizza dough recipe or store bought – pizza sauce, cheese, and your favorite toppings! Some of our favorite recipes include a recipe for homemade dough, but you can substitute with store bought dough if you want to cut down on prep time.
This pan pizza recipe from Tasty Ever After is a popular choice that includes a homemade dough recipe, plus an overnight method so that you can meal prep! King Arthur Baking Company has another great recipe for a crispy pan pizza, and you can buy the right flour on their website.
If you want to make pan pizza for a crowd, this sheet pan pizza from Sweet Phi is another favorite!
For those who love Pizza Hut’s pan pizza, you can even use this copycat recipe from CD Kitchen to recreate your favorite takeout pizza at home!
Reasons for Pan Pizza’s Popularity
As soon as deep-dish pizza was introduced, it became one of the most popular types of pizza in the U.S. Of course, New Yorkers say that their thin-crust pizza is superior, but the sales of deep dish pizza throughout the country tell a different story.
Approximately 3 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. each year, 15% of which are pan-style pizzas, representing a significant segment of the pizza industry. What is it about a pan pizza that people love?
The most obvious reason why people love deep dish pizza is its incredible taste. When prepared with the correct balance of crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings, you get a complete flavor profile in every bite.
You don’t have to combine foods to get this perfect bite, either, because it’s already prepared for you. No matter what your favorite toppings are, you’ll get more than enough with a deep-dish pizza; but with a thin crust, you might be left wanting more.
Even though you can order a deep dish pizza all for yourself, and Pizza Hut even offers a personal version of its famous pan-style pizza, deep dish pizza is designed to be shared.
There is so much food on a single deep dish pizza that you’re likely to have plenty to split with friends or family members, creating a memorable experience, and even establishing a tradition, as many families have with their frequent “pizza nights.”
No matter if you share your deep-dish pizza or decide to keep it all to yourself, you’re going to be full when you’re done eating. Sometimes, thin-crust pizza can seem more like a snack than a meal, but that is definitely not a problem with deep dish. You’re getting dairy, grains, vegetables, and meats (if those are the toppings you choose) in every bite, and the thicker crust will fill you up regardless of your topping choices.
It’s Less Greasy
Thin-crusted pizza tends to be greasy, and it’s usually not stiff enough to prevent your pizza slice from drooping and dripping the grease all over the place.
Deep dish, however, is a drier pizza, with very little grease because the slower cooking process only allows the cheese to melt from the top. Conveyer-type ovens that often bake thin-crust pizza heat the pies from above, releasing the butterfat from the cheese, resulting in a greasier pizza.
It’s Less Expensive to Feed a Crowd
Since you get more pizza and toppings with a deep-dish pie, you don’t have to order as many pizzas to feed a group of people as you have to with thin-crust pizzas. As mentioned above, deep dish and pan-style pizzas are more filling, so fewer slices will fill up a hungry crowd, saving you money.
The next time you’re planning a pizza party, order a deep dish to keep the price down and the satisfaction up.
Just as bread is considered a comfort food (carbs anyone?), a deep-dish pizza is considered a comforting type of pizza. It’s an indulgence that people associate with the delicious foods they grew up with.
Not only that, but the best deep dish pizzas are also very visually aesthetic, making the experience of eating one a multi-sensory food encounter. You can see the proof of this by just looking at all the gorgeous deep dish pizza photos on social media!
Is Pan Pizza Your Favorite?
Pan-style pizza is a truly American cuisine development, and it can satisfy just about any pizza lover who enjoys a thick crust and lots of toppings. So, order up a deep dish pie today, top it with your favorite meats, vegetables, and cheeses, and dive into a culinary experience you won’t soon forget!