Cast-iron skillet pizza delivers the crunchy crust we crave

Ann Maloney

THE WASHINGTON POST – Crispy pizza crust is so satisfying. It’s essential if I’m going to give a pie a gold star, especially if we’re talking about the thick crust style, with the dough battling the toppings for a starring role.

The first thing I noticed as I took my first bite of this incredibly easy Italian Sausage and Kalamata Olive Cast Iron Skillet Pizza was the sound – that crunch.

The beauty of this little pizza, made in a piping hot cast-iron skillet, is that you can have it ready in less time than ordering takeout. And, because you’re making the pizza at home, it doesn’t get softened by delivery-box steam.

I looked at many variations of cast-iron skillet pizza, settling on one that I adapted below. (The original version called for whole wheat dough and kale.) I opted for easy-to-find store-bought white dough. I kept the 500-degree cast-iron skillet and fairly dry toppings. It baked in 15 minutes.

Pizza dough is easy enough to make at home. The pizza dough you’ll get will be superlative, but you’ll be adding many more minutes to the recipe preparation.

Italian Sausage and Kalamata Olive Cast Iron Skillet Pizza. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Make pizza at home so it doesn’t get softened by delivery-box steam

Lots of folks make their dough in advance and store it in the refrigerator or freezer, so it is ready to roll when they walk in the door at 7pm on a weeknight.

Otherwise, look for a ready-to-bake dough at your grocery store. You can use the pop-open-can brands like Pillsbury. Or, try dough made at grocery stores, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. You also can swing by your local pizzeria on your way home and see if they’ll sell you a ball of dough – some parlours are happy to do that.

Keep in mind, though, that the golden key to unlock the crunch in this recipe is the blazing hot cast-iron skillet. When the raw dough hits the hot metal, it almost immediately begins forming a crust.

The other key to that crunch is to keep the toppings mostly dry. Rather than a sauce, this recipe calls for diced, fire-roasted canned tomatoes that are drained.

Because the pizza cooks at such a high temperature, it’s important to layer the ingredients as directed, start with tomatoes, then layer cheese, sausage, cheese, sausage.

Do not end with cheese on top because it will burn at that high heat. The 12-inch cast iron skillet heats up in a 500-degree oven while you prepare the toppings, so it is essential to be prepared. Gather everything you’ll need to protect your hands (sturdy oven mitts) and your counters (a heatproof surface, such as cookie rack) before pulling that hot pan out of the oven.

Don’t have a cast-iron skillet or just don’t want to deal with that heavy, hot metal? You can still make a quick, delicious pizza.

In addition to the cast-iron method, we also tested this recipe using a lightly oiled sheet pan. We baked our pizza at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

It wasn’t as crunchy or deep-dish, of course, but we still had a delicious dinner on the table in, well, minutes.


Active: 25 minutes | Total: 45 minutes

High heat and cast iron come together to help produce a crunchy, crispy crust on this easy-to-make pizza.

Don’t want to mess with that hot skillet? Make this pie on a sheet pan.

Storage note: Let pizza cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.


Three tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, or more as needed

Six ounces (about two links)

sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing

Quarter cup (about 10) pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

One cup arugula leaves

13 ounces to one pound ready-to-bake pizza dough

One teaspoon cornmeal

Half cup canned, no-salt-added fire-roasted tomatoes, diced

Four ounces shredded mozzarella

Grated Parmesan (optional)

Fresh basil (optional)


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Place a well-seasoned 12-inch cast-iron skillet, or other ovenproof, heavy-bottom skillet, in the oven.

In another large skillet over medium-high heat, heat One tablespoon oil until shimmering.

Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, five to eight minutes.

Add the olives and stir to combine. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Stir the arugula into meat. Stretch dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface.

Using sturdy oven mitts, carefully remove the very hot skillet from the oven and place it on a heatproof surface.

Sprinkle the cornmeal into the skillet. Carefully place the dough on top of the cornmeal and press the dough out toward the edges of the pan, being careful not to touch the very hot skillet.

It’s okay if the dough bounces back a bit. Brush the edges of the dough with the olive oil, creating a one-inch border of oiled dough.

Spoon the tomatoes over the dough, leaving a one-inch border. Top with half of the mozzarella, followed by the half of the sausage-arugula mixture.

Repeat with the remaining mozzarella and sausage mixture.

Return the skillet to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the bottom of the pizza is crisp and the cheese is starting to bubble.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least three minutes before serving. Using oven mitts to hold the hot pan, tilt the pan over a cutting board and use a spatula to gently slide the pizza onto the board.

Sprinkle with Parmesan and fresh basil, if desired, then cut and serve. If you don’t want to use the hot-skillet method, this pie can be baked on a sheet pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 and bake for about 35 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and the cheese bubbling.


Calories: 500; Total Fat: 24g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 30mg; Sodium: 1010mg; Carbohydrates: 46g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugars: 1g; Protein: 21g.