When you’re thinking about all of the options that might be available to you in the world of pizza, you’re bound to come up with two options at the crux of it all: thin and crispy hand-tossed pizza, or thick, spongy pan pizza.
Today, we’re going to run through some of the main differences between these two types of pizza. Without further ado, let’s talk about pizza!
Related article Best Pizza Pans of 2023: Our Top Picks
Hand Tossed Vs Pan Pizza: Differences
Generally speaking, the dough is functionally the same in both pizzas - it’s made from the same basic ingredients, such as flour, yeast, salt, and water.
The difference, in a dough sense, is that the gluten is more developed in hand-tossed pizza than it is in pan pizza.
The reason for this is that hand-tossed dough has to be stronger, so that it can resist the intense forces of being kneaded and tossed. By the time you come to actually shape the pizza, the dough is soft and yielding, but still strong and resistant to being torn.
With pan pizza, however, the dough is typically thicker and stiffer. This means that when the dough sits within the pan in the oven, it’s inclined to rise vertically and become thick and spongy, rather than thin and crispy.
The preparation process of the pan and thin pizzas are also a little different.
A hand-tossed pizza is typically kneaded, tossed, and shaped into a rough circle. Sauce, cheese, and toppings are then added before a pizza peel is used to scoop up the pizza itself and put it into the exceptionally hot oven. The thin nature of the pizza means that it’s cooked through very, very quickly and that it really doesn’t need to be cooked for very long.
The dough of a pan pizza is treated differently, a little more like a traditional focaccia dough. That dough is placed into a greased pan, before being pressed down and topped. Then, the pan is lifted, wholesale, into the oven, where the pizza rises and cooks over a longer period of time.
This difference in preparation results in an obvious difference - pan pizza is thicker and chewier, with hand-tossed pizza is thinner and crispier.
The physical crust of the pizza, which is to say, the outer edge, is noticeably different between hand-tossed and pan pizza. The reason for this is the formation and preparation of the dough.
The way that dough is created for hand-tossed pizza leads to a pizza that spreads as it bakes a little more than it rises. This means that the actual crust itself is typically thinner than the dough at the center of the pizza, so it is crispy and delicious. This is often considered to be a great thing - a balance between crispiness and inner lightness is tricky to achieve, but considered masterful!
The way that the dough is made in pan pizza is a little different. It’s typically a richer dough with a little more fat, and it’s then baked at a lower temperature for a little longer, in a pan that’s typically coated with olive oil. This results in a pan pizza that will rise really easily, leading to a light, tall, crust. The outer crust will be light and crispy on the outside, but typically very, very soft and fluffy on the inside.
Knowing what toppings are often best to use on different types of pizza can be a tricky thing. The reason for this really is quite simple - thinner pizzas can support a little less weight.
This means that, when putting together a Neapolitan-style pizza, you have to do a little math and consideration on how much weight the pizza dough will support. For example, can you afford to make the slices of mushroom on your pizza very thick? Probably not - mushrooms are mostly water, and as such are quite dense. Therefore, to ensure the pizza won’t flop in front of you, you need to make sure that the mushroom slices are thin, and that will make the pizza easier and tastier to eat.
With a thicker, pan pizza, however, you don’t have to worry about the strength of the crust. Typically, the base of a pan pizza is cooked to perfection, with the thickness of the base acting to make it as sturdy and solid as possible: heavier layers of sauce, cheese, and toppings can be added.
In fact, it’s for this reason that people sometimes prefer pan pizza: more toppings are used to create a taller, richer, and more flavorful meal.
The taste and texture
The main differences between the taste and texture of the two doughs is the fat content and the browning.
Generally speaking, pan pizza dough has a little more fat in it. This means that, when it’s cooked, it becomes crispier on the outside and softer on the inside. It also means that the flavor of the dough is richer and more indulgent.
Hand-tossed pizza dough, however, is typically browned more rapidly, in a hotter oven. The reason for this is that the thinner pizzas are thrown directly onto a hot stone, and baked in less than a minute. This results in rapid browning on the base and crust of the pizza, with some level of blackening occurring in some situations. This rich, harsh taste that can develop is loved by some, and not others. However, the appeal is certainly understandable - it’s cooked very intensely, with a powerful heat that leads to a bitterness that counterposes the rich sweetness of simple pizza dough.
So - which is better?
Well, this is a question that we can’t answer, sadly. The truth of the matter is that no one of them is better than the other - it’s down to what you personally prefer.
Generally speaking, people tend to prefer the core of a thinner pizza, and the outer crust of a thicker pizza - that’s the pizza that a number of chain restaurants try to emulate. In truth, though, there is such variety out there that there may be many different pizzas that are ideal for you. All that’s left is to try them out!