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It's hard to believe I haven't tested every possible pizza cooking surface yet, but I'm still at it. This time, we're talking heavy metal. As in cast iron. Specifically, the Lodge cast-iron pizza pan.
This pan came highly recommended by several loyal Serious Eats readers, and right off the bat it's clear that it has got several things going for it. For one, it's not breakable. A reoccurring complaint with just about every other stone is that they can crack from thermal shock or from general clumsiness. It takes a lot of dedication to break a cast-iron pan.
In addition, this 9 pound, 14 ounce pan is so heavy-duty that it can be used on the stovetop, under a broiler, or on a grill. Heck, when not making pizza, it can be used as a griddle. In fact, that will help season it. The pan comes pre-seasoned, but as any owner of cast-iron cookware knows, it only gets better with more seasoning. However, it's not like it's going to be used to cook scrambled eggs. Pizza dough won't present a sticking problem, even on the first visit to the oven.
A slight downside to this pan is that it's not completely flat. Handle-to-handle the pan measures 18 1/2 inches, but the lipped baking surface measures 14 inches in diameter. Pizzas that exceed the 14 inches, or dough that lands off-center on the pan, will run into the lip instead of having a bit of dough drooping over the edge.
As usual, I preheated the oven at 550 degrees for 1 hour. At 45 minutes, the pan was at 539 degrees, and it was at the same temperature at 1 hour. The pizza baked for exactly 8 minutes and emerged fully cooked.
This was the first pizza that had burnt spots...er, I mean lovely char ... on several spots on the bottom. And crisp? Yes, it was. As I was cutting into it, there was a nice reassuring crunching sound. The crust was about as good as it gets.
The Lodge pizza pan sells for $35.
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