Pizza. Who can hear that simple word without immediately imagining a hot-from-the-oven slice, its golden crust cradling a lava-flow of melting cheese and tempting toppings? Pizza is everyone’s favorite indulgence — which is why we’ve made Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza our 2020 Recipe of the Year.

Thick-crust pizza on a cutting board, cut wedge being lifted out, cheese oozing.

With nearly 40 different pizza recipes on our site, it took some special touches to elevate Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza to Recipe of the Year status.

First and foremost, the extra-thick crust is an amazing combination of height and delicacy. While you might imagine a nearly 2”-tall crust being sturdy, this one is actually light and airy, its soft interior balancing beautifully with its crunchy bottom and crispy edges. It’s thick-crust perfection.

How do we come by this superior crust? By employing several interesting techniques.

Dough in a glass bowl, a hand lifting one edge preparatory to folding it into the center.

No kneading needed

The crust’s light texture is the result of dough made not by kneading, but with a short series of folds followed by a long rest. This simple no-knead dough is approachable by anyone, no matter your skill level; the simple act of folding followed by a rest develops the dough just as well as kneading. Folding also adds airy pockets to the finished crust. Plus, as the dough rests overnight in the fridge, it develops outstanding flavor.

Pizza dough being spread into a cast iron skillet.

Cast iron yields an exceptional crust

Rather than rely on a baking sheet or standard pizza pan, you bake our Recipe of the Year in a cast iron skillet. The pan’s heft and dark color act like a pizza stone, translating the oven’s heat into a crunchy-crispy, totally crave-worthy bottom and side crust.

That said, while a heavy, dark cast iron skillet will give you a superb crust, no worries if you don't have one; we offer some alternative pans in the recipe.

Cheese being sprinkled on unbaked pizza crust in a cast iron pan.

Cheese goes on first, not last

And how about the top? Unlike the vast majority of pizzas, which start with a heavy application of sauce, with this pizza you lay down a substantial layer of cheese first, then sauce. The cheese, spread edge to edge so that not a bit of the top crust remains bare, is an effective shield against any sauce-induced sogginess.

Baked thick-crust pizza showing its heavily charred cheesy edge.

Deep-brown cheesy edges add extra flavor

Oh, and one more thing: You know how, with a typical pizza, cheese sometimes oozes over the side and bakes into a delicious puddle of almost-burned crispiness on the pan? With Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza you’re guaranteed an entire outer edge of this delightful crispy crackly cheese, thanks to the magic of super-hot cast iron and melty mozzarella.

Tips for topping

Now, what about toppings? We’ve chosen to focus on crust here, since we’re sure you can easily come up with your own favorite add-ons. But here are some simple tips.

Tomato sauce being dolloped atop a cheese-topped pizza before baking.

  • Sauce minimally. This pizza is mostly about crust and cheese, with sauce simply providing a bit of flavor in a non-starring role. The recipe calls for just 1/3 to 1/2 cup sauce, far less than for a standard pizza.

Blocks of different types of cheese on a marble slab, some grated.

  • Consider meltability. If you don’t use mozzarella, use another good melting cheese: Fontina, Monterey Jack, Muenster, Gouda, provolone, and cheddar are all good choices. Don’t be afraid to mix and match.

Pepperoni slices being arranged atop a cheese-topped pizza, ready for the oven.

  • Top thoughtfully. Too many heavy toppings laid onto this crust will weigh it down and create dense pockets. Use a light touch — except for the cheese, which you can add with a generous hand!
  • Finish with style. Once the pizza's out of the oven, a sprig of fresh oregano or scattering of basil leaves adds color. A grating of aged hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago) offers umami-like tang.

Plan ahead

Our Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza recipe gives you everything you need to successfully make this delightful treat. One thing you might note, though: the no-knead crust needs to rest for a minimum of 12 hours in the fridge, so consider this an overnight recipe and plan accordingly. Here's a simple timeline:

The night before: Stir together the pizza dough, give it its folds, and refrigerate it. Hands-on time for this process is only about 5 minutes, but it’ll take an hour overall for the dough to be ready to be put to bed for the night — so don’t start too late!

Cheese being sprinkled atop a pizza ready to go into the oven.

Pizza day: You’ll need about 3 hours, start to finish, to warm the dough, top it, and bake the pizza. If you want pizza for lunch, start around 9 a.m. Dinner pizza? Start mid- to late-afternoon. It’s just as easy as that.

We encourage you to make Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza as soon as possible; start by checking out the complete recipe with its handy step-by-step photos. Once you've tasted this pizza, you’ll understand why it’s our 2020 Recipe of the Year.

Oh, and hey, gluten-free bakers: we haven't forgotten you. See our new recipe for Gluten-Free Pan Pizza.

Given Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza's star status, we’ll check back in here periodically with additional tips and suggestions around sauce, cheese, scaling the recipe for a crowd, and other topics of interest. Until then — happy pizza baking!

Baked pizza on a cutting board with lit candles, wine, beer, and hands of people sharing.

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, three dogs, and really good food!

View all posts by PJ Hamel