Use Your Cast Iron Pan and a Tortilla for Extra-Crispy Pizza in Just 12 Minutes

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

With the right technique, regular flour tortillas make excellent thin-crust, bar-style pizzas. [Photographs and video: J. Kenji López-Alt]

I've gotta tell you: In the catalog of easy, cheaty pizza recipes that start with some form of pre-baked bread base, flour tortilla–based pizzas have historically ranked pretty low on my list. Certainly lower than French bread pizza, lower than English muffin pizza (my first love), and even lower than matzo pizza. They always seemed a little too far removed from pizza for me, tasting more like pizza-flavored open-faced quesadillas. Not a bad thing, but not what I'm looking for when I need a pizza fix.

Well, I'm happy to report that all that has changed, and I'm now going to take the position that, given the proper technique, a couple of tricks, and the aid of a cast iron skillet, flour tortillas are actually the best way to make quick thin-and-crisp, bar-style pizza at home, producing results that are worlds better than any frozen product out there, and a good deal better than the majority of delivery options as well.

No, it's not gonna compare to Adam Kuban's Margot's Pizza, but for a sub-15-minute snack? Nothing compares.

Here's how to do it, or how not to do it, as in the case of point number one.

What Not to Do: Use a Baking Stone

Before we jump into the best way to make tortilla pizza, a quick side note on what not to do.

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A baking stone (or, better yet, a Baking Steel) is great for regular homemade pizza, creating a crisp bottom crust and good, poofy oven spring. But with tortilla pizza, you'll run into a couple of problems.

First of all, there's the preheating time. Preheating a steel properly takes at least 45 minutes or so, which kind of makes the whole quick-and-easy claim moot.

Second, and more importantly, tortilla pizzas don't have a cornicione—that's pizza-nerd-speak for the puffed, risen crust around the edge of a pizza. Thus, there's nothing preventing the cheese and toppings from sliding off. Bake a tortilla pizza on a Baking Steel and you'll end up with crud burnt onto it.

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Not fun to clean up.

The Right Way: A Cast Iron Skillet

So what's the right way to do it? Easy. Use a good cast iron skillet. Not only can that skillet be heated up on the stovetop (way faster than waiting for the whole oven to heat), it also contains the spillover nicely. In fact, as you'll see, we can actually use this to our advantage to create the crispy, Italian frico–esque browned cheesy edges that are the best part of a good bar pie.

Step 1: Oil and Heat Your Skillet

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Put a little oil into your skillet, then heat it over high heat until the oil just starts to shimmer. As soon as it does, reduce the heat to low and wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. This will help crisp up the bottom, while making sure that it doesn't get too greasy.

Step 2: Add Your Tortilla

Add a store-bought flour tortilla to the bottom of the skillet.

If you look at a flour tortilla, you'll probably notice that the two sides are a little different. One side will have tiny bubbles, while the other will have larger bubbles, like this:

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You want the smaller bubbles to be on the bottom, with the large bubbles facing upwards (pretty much the exact opposite of what I accidentally photographed in the picture below). That'll ensure that the bottom crust gets extra crisp, with more surface area, while the upper crust puffs a little bit to create some nice, charred bubbles of dough.

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You want to find a skillet-and-tortilla combo in which the tortilla just fits into the bottom of the skillet.

Step 3: Sauce It

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Spread on a thin layer of sauce. You can use either store-bought pizza sauce, homemade pizza sauce, or simply some puréed canned tomatoes, seasoned with a little salt.

Spread the sauce out with a spoon, and make sure it gets all the way to the edges of the tortilla.

Step 4: Get Cheesy

I like to use a combination of two different cheeses. Mozzarella is in for its good melting characteristics. (I use whole-milk, low-moisture mozzarella, grated by hand.)

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And something hard and nutty for extra flavor, like Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.

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The mozzarella goes on evenly over the whole top surface. You want to keep it relatively light—the sauce should be peeking through at least 50% of the surface area—since that cheese will melt and spread as it bakes.

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Then comes the Parmesan, and I pay extra-special attention to getting it around the edges of the pizza, going so far as to intentionally sprinkle it around the edges, directly onto the surface of the pan.

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This is going to magically transform as the pizza bakes.

Step 5: Top As Desired

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You can choose to keep things simple by going with a plain old margherita-style pie, with just a drizzle of good olive oil and a scattering of basil leaves.

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Or you can go all out, like I did here with this supreme pie, made with chunks of fresh sausage (put 'em on raw so that they stay juicy as they cook), sliced pepperoni (use the nice curling kind), and diced peppers and onions.

I really like the way the diced peppers meld into the cheese and add flavor to every bite. It's a trick I cribbed from Adam's Love Supreme at Margot's Pizza (which, for the record, is the best bar pie you'll ever taste anywhere).

Step 6: Bake!

Because the cast iron pan was preheated, your pizza should have already begun crisping up on the bottom and around the edges, but we still need to get at that upper crust. The best, fastest way? Just stick the whole skillet under the broiler, as close to it as possible, until the cheese is lightly browned.

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Your pie should pop out of the oven fully cooked in just about three minutes. I use a really thin offset metal spatula to gently release the crisp cheese edges from the pan, shaking the skillet a bit until the pizza slides around freely.

You should be able to slide your pizza out directly onto a cutting board.

Step 7: Eat!

Can you believe this can come out of your kitchen in less time than it takes to read this article?

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Let's take a tour of its features, shall we?

First up, those cheesy, crispy edges:

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Deeply flavored, sweet and nutty, and ridiculously crisp, this is better than a real pizza crust in my book.

Next stop, the underbelly:

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Thanks to the skillet, the bottom of the pizza comes out crisp, leopard-spotted, and browned. You've had floppy tortilla pizza in the past, right? Not anymore. This is as crisp as it gets.

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Crisp enough to hold itself out horizontally, in fact. And, unlike regular pizza, this stuff stays cracker-crisp even as it cools, making it perfect game-day or movie-night (not to mention hangover-morning) food.

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Not bad for an under-15-minute recipe, right? Not bad at all.