Many of us believe that you can’t beat a Chicago deep dish pizza. Yet, to make one at home without messing it up, you need a deep dish pizza pan.
Of course the traditional Chicago deep dish pizza pan is great, but there are alternatives.
So, what should you look for when buying, and why should you get one?
Read my in depth review to find out why.
Why a Deep Dish Pizza Pan?
You can make both deep and regular crust pizzas in one, but just don’t make the crust high or the base as thick when preparing regular pizza.
The versatility of the pan is what makes it such a fantastic tool.
Now, if you don’t know what’s special about a deep dish pizza, let me clue you in.
Regular Pizza Pan
A regular pizza pan is flat, usually has a thin crust, and you’re limited to the typical set of ingredients:
- Base (that won’t rise).
- Cheese and toppings.
Deep Dish Pizza
But, with a deep dish pizza, there’s so much more to offer.
If you like lots of ingredients, a ton of cheese and a feast in each slice, Chicago style deep dish pizza pans are optimal.
Firstly, you don’t wait for the dough to settle. You get a thicker, more fluffy base once the dough rises.
And the best bit? This thicker crust can accommodate more and heavier ingredients.
For example, you could include:
- MORE cheese.
- Thick sausages and yummy ingredients.
- MORE sauce.
- Even more cheese!
See? You have an inch or two (a few cms) to work with here—but over-piling on a regular pizza would make the toppings slide over the edge.
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
There are many types of deep dish pizza, and one thing I like to do is fill one up with whatever ingredients I have lying around. This can be leftovers or food that is due to expire soon – waste not, want not!
Yet a Chicago pizza is more than just a deep dish pizza. There’s something special about, and if you’ve never made one before, you should try it at least once.
Check out this video if you’re not sure how:
Materials for the Best Deep Dish Pizza Pan
1. Cast Iron
On top of this, cast iron pizza pans handle heat really well, once warmed up, making them an excellent choice for the oven.
Rather than cooking on the bare iron, you should season the material before use. Even better, most products come pre-seasoned.
Personally I think a pizza actually tastes slightly better when cooked in cast iron!
2. Aluminized Steel
Aluminum steel is quite common in pizza pans.
You get the strength of steel, wrapped in the heat-conducting properties of aluminum—and some people say it conducts heat better than aluminum. (Though I haven’t seen any actual research that backs up this popular anecdote.)
3. Carbon Steel
Carbon steel is very similar to cast iron, but instead of being “cast”, it’s pressed into shape from sheet metal. The result is that a carbon steel pizza pan has a smoother surface and is thinner than a cast iron pan. It’s still suitable as a deep dish pizza pan, but it’s lighter.
Like cast iron, it requires seasoning but may come pre-seasoned. Either way, it will need re-seasoning at some point in its lifetime.
Anecdotally, according to many users, it heats more evenly than cast iron. Yet I suspect that this is down to how people cook. Cast iron, and carbon steel, need pre-heating (cast iron more so as it is thicker). If you pre-heat, I’ve found cast iron can actually cook more evenly.
As with cast iron, never cook acidic foods in this material—be careful with your sauces if they’re acidic. Carbon steel and iron are reactive materials. When you cook acidic food in them, it can taste metallic. Plus it’s literally eating your pan.
4. Anodized Aluminum
Anodized aluminum is an excellent material since it’s light, durable, and resists scratches, though I’ve heard complaints that it can be prone to warping. (This will depend on both the manufacturer and how the pan is used.)
It’s also better than regular aluminum but is more expensive. Personally, I think the extra money to make the pan more durable and seal in the aluminum is worth it.
Aluminum is an excellent budget material and is best if you value a lightweight pizza pan.
Be careful as, sometimes, it’s too light for a hefty pizza, so can warp with heat. Do you want a crooked pizza? Me neither!
Plus, it reacts with certain foods. It may stain light-colored foods. This can depend, though, on whether it has a coating and what the coating is made of. Aluminum without any sort of coating can be dangerous.
What Size Pan Should I Get?
How big is your
The larger your family, the larger the pan you need.
Most of the pans I’ve reviewed below are 14 inches (35.6 centimeters) in diameter. Two are 12 inches (30.5 centimeters).
My advice is to consider what size you usually get when ordering out. Then, get a deep dish pan that matches the size. If you normally order two pizzas of a particular size—either order two pans or cook one pizza after the other.
If you don’t know how many inches across your usual pizza is, here are typical pizza sizes:
- Small: 8–10 inches (20–25 centimeters)—works for 1 or 2 people.
- Medium: 12 inches (30.5 centimeters)—good for 2 or 3 people.
- Large: 14 inches (35.6 centimeters)—can feed 4-5 people.
- Extra large: 16+ inches (40.6+ centimeters)—5 +people
Of course with hungry teenagers, you need to increase the size. For my family of four (two of whom are children), I like to cook two medium pizzas. I really only need one 12 inch pan then—the second pizza is cooking while we eat the first. Two times fresh pizza! Just make sure the second pizza is ready to cook before the first one finishes.
Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Pan (Best Deep Dish Pizza Pan)
I have to admit, this isn’t just a pizza pan. It’s a skillet, so you can cook all sorts of dishes with it, but it’s excellent for deep dish pizzas!
This skillet has two benefits above all others, though:
- It has handles, so it’s easy to move in and out of the oven. Wear some mitts though!
- It comes pre-seasoned, so you can get cooking with it straight away.
Cast iron can be a bit of work to season correctly if you’re not used to it. Lodge has taken the job out of your hands. That’s one reason I like this pan so much, and some customers agree it’s a convenience.
Although, some customers report the pan isn’t seasoned perfectly. I would recommend a seasoning top up before use. Seasoning can get a bit damaged in transport—this is easy to fix though.
The only real downside of this pan is how heavy cast iron can be—several customers report getting an unpleasant shock when lifting it for the first time!
Plus, storing something of this weight can be a pain. I wouldn’t hang it on my pots and pans rack, that’s for sure.
- Incredibly easy to clean
- Cast iron is intensely durable
- Several size variants
- Handles make transporting the dish easy
- Heavy (it is cast iron after all)
- Weight makes it difficult to store
- Some customers report issues upon arrival, like chipped seasoning
If you want something less weighty to accommodate your large pizzas, this carbon steel pan is a good option.
It’s true that it isn’t the lightest, but it’s not as hefty as cast iron.
Even so, it’s a strong pan that should withstand a lot of use, especially if you hand-wash it. Hand-washing is always best for a non-stick pan like this.
Yet you may need to spend time washing as the non-stick isn’t always effective. Customers mention cheese is difficult to remove from it, especially if burned. They also say oil burns in the pan.
Carbon steel is naturally non-stick if treated right, so I don’t see why it needed the coating to start with—plus, it doesn’t say it’s PTFE-free. (PTFE is the main component of Teflon.) This is okay, but I’d avoid using the pan for anything stickier than pizza.
Something else to avoid is stacking these pans in the oven—they nest, which is great for storage but will squish the food below.
- Lighter than cast iron
- Smooth surface for easy cleaning and food release
- Great for cakes
- Dishwasher safe
- Handles would be an improvement
- Doesn’t clean well if cheese melts or burns on it
- Oil burns in the pan
- The pans don’t stack if you want to cook multiple pizzas at once
- Likely contains PTFE
This Nordic Ware pan is one of the lighter options since it’s made from aluminum. As a bonus, it won’t rust.
Unfortunately, this pan isn’t non-stick—without a coating, aluminum never is. For me that would have been an issue. I used to make the pizza bases too sticky, and they’d sort of… cook into my pizza pan.
But, if your bases are perfect and don’t stick to the pan, then you should have no problem. Easy cooking, easy release, followed by a prompt cleanup.
Cleaning-wise, this is a hand-wash only item, which is unfortunate. You’d think an item lacking a non-stick coating could handle a harder scrub. Worse, some people report having difficulties getting the pan spotless.
The main problems are in the pizza itself. Some users found the dough hard to spread because of the pan’s sloped sides. Others found the crust doesn’t bake well.
- Reinforced sides to ensure no warping
- Even heat distribution
- Curled edge makes it easy to grip
- Very deep—1.75 inches (3.3 centimeters)
- Users report that the crust doesn’t bake well
- The sides are at a slight angle to the bottom, so it’s hard to spread the dough
- Some people had difficulty cleaning the pan
If you liked the Chicago pizza pan above but not the carbon steel, here’s a similar piece but made of a different material. You get the same heavy-duty construction, but the aluminized steel conducts heat better.
It’s also coated in a double layer non-stick coating, making it easier to remove your finished pizzas.
Beware, not a big deal, but it looks like the pan contains PTFE. (PTFE is the main ingredient in Teflon.) And, it may not be very effective—customers found the pan difficult to clean.
Users report the pizza crust browns well in this pan, which is a definite positive.
- Thick, non-stick coating
- Strong construction
- Highly effective at browning
- Great heat distribution due to the aluminized steel
- Despite the non-stick coating, customers found it difficult to clean
- The bottom isn’t flat, so it may rock
This cast iron pan has the same great features as the last. It’s 14 inches (36 centimeters) in size, with handles. Because of this sizing, customers find the pan easy to use, especially because the sides and bottom are flat.
Users also found the cast iron thinner than most pans. They still found it bulkier than other materials, though.
Customers report that the pan heats quickly. Fast heating leads to less time in the oven, which I think is a plus.
Yet a downer with the thin cast iron is that some customers found it prone to warping.
- Handles to deal with the bulk
- Long-lasting cast iron
- Easy to use due to excellent depth and shape
- Highly inexpensive for cast iron
- Heats quickly
- Naturally non-stick surface allows for easy cleaning and food release
- Not pre-seasoned
- The handles make storage difficult
- Pan warped for some users
- Rough surface
Manpans Hard-Anodized Perforated Deep Dish Pizza Pan (Best for Crispy Crusts)
Anodized aluminum is decently tough and less likely to stain or burn. This pan will be easy to keep clean with its Teflon-free nonstick coating.
Now, this pan’s standout feature is the ventilation holes in the base. This clever design lets any moisture within the dough dissipate easily.
So, if you usually end up with soggy-bottomed pizza, you may want to look at this pan.
But if your oven runs hotter than most, stay clear—you could end up with a series of small, round burns on the base.
You may also end up with a line running around the crust due to the pan’s textured sides. Not everyone has a problem with this line, but it bugs me. It ruins the visual of a dish. I might like this look in a square deep dish pizza pan, but it’s messy in a round one.
Messy visuals are especially prevalent in a smaller slice, and the pan is only 12 inches (30 centimeters) in diameter. On the plus side, that makes it easy to store.
- Not too large, so stores easily
- Great for smaller families
- Holes for ventilation while cooking = crispy crusts
- Smooth, easy-release material
- Non-stick and toxin-free
- Takes little effort to clean
- Won’t burn or rust
- Requires no pre-seasoning
- PTFE-Free (Teflon-Free) non stick coating
- Parts of the pizza base may burn in powerful ovens
- May end up with a textured crust—not a pleasant visual for everyone
- Not as solid as pther pans
My Top Choice
You could use any of the pizza pans I reviewed and get a decent result.
But, I feel that the best deep dish pizza pan is the Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Pan.
Most of the choice goes into the material, with cast iron being the top option since it’s durable, long-lasting and can withstand high heat.
Plus, the Lodge’s handles make the choice even easier. Cast iron is no easy beast to lift without something to grip. It shows the manufacturer is paying attention to your needs.
All in all, I feel that it’s an excellent pan for deep-dish goodness.