Hand Tossed vs Pan Pizza

There is perhaps no more sacred debate in the world of pizza lovers than the great hand-tossed vs pan pizza showdown. As a lifelong pie enthusiast, I’ve consumed more than my fair share of rounds in my day and have strong opinions on what makes for the best pizza crust experience.

While both preparation methods have their diehard fans, there are some key differences in texture, appearance, and most importantly – flavor – that make one style rise above the other in my book. 

Today, we want to take a deep dive into the distinguishing traits of Hand Tossed and Pan Pizza so we can finally put this never-ending conflict to rest once and for all. May the best pizza win!

What Is Hand Tossed Pizza?

hand tossed pizza

Hand Tossed Pizza is exactly what it sounds like – it’s pizza dough that has been stretched and shaped by hand. This style of crust is typically thinner in the middle with slightly thicker edges, known as the “cornicione.” 

The dough is often tossed into the air to create a round shape, hence the name “hand-tossed.” This traditional method of preparing pizza crust has been used for centuries and is still favored by many pizzerias today. 

The result is a crust that is crispy on the outside, yet chewy on the inside, with a lightness that allows the toppings to shine.

What Is Pan Pizza?

pan pizza

Pan Pizza, also known as deep-dish or Chicago-style pizza, was created in – you guessed it – Chicago in the 1940s. This style of crust is made by pressing pizza dough into a deep dish pan and then adding toppings, typically in reverse order (cheese on the bottom and sauce on top). 

The edges of the dough are often pressed up against the sides of the pan to create a thick, fluffy crust that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Pan Pizza is known for its hearty, filling nature and generous amounts of cheese and toppings.

The History Behind Hand-Tossed and Pan Pizza

Both hand-tossed and Pan Pizza have a rich history that contributes to their popularity today. 

Hand Tossed Pizza dates back to ancient Greece, with evidence of its existence found in Pompeii during the first century BC. It wasn’t until the late 19th century when Italian immigrants brought this style of pizza to America that it gained widespread popularity. 

On the other hand, Pan Pizza was invented much more recently in Chicago by Ike Sewell. The deep-dish style was a response to the thin and crispy New York-style pizza that dominated the market at the time.

Hand Tossed vs Pan Pizza: The Main Differences

Now it’s time for the main event – hand-tossed vs Pan Pizza, round by round. Let’s break down the key differences between these two popular crust styles:

1. Texture

The texture of Hand Tossed Pizza is considerably different from that of Pan Pizza. Hand Tossed Pizza offers a more balanced bite, featuring a thin, crispy bottom and a thicker, chewy edge known as the “cornicione”.

This style of pizza is often light and airy, allowing a crisp bite that still maintains a satisfying chewiness. The toppings and sauce complement rather than overwhelm the crust, creating a harmonious bite every time. 

Pan Pizza, on the other hand, has a thick and fluffy crust due to its cooking process. The crust is crunchy on the outside due to the oil in the pan, and the inside remains soft and tender. 

The Pan Pizza’s crust serves as a sturdy base for generous amounts of toppings and cheese, which can be particularly satisfying for those who love a hearty piece of pizza. 

2. Flavor

As for the flavor, the Hand Tossed Pizza dough often has a more nuanced, yeasty flavor due to its thinness and direct exposure to the oven’s heat. 

On the other hand, Pan Pizza is often more about the flavor of the toppings and cheese since the crust is thick and takes a back seat. 

3. Appearance

Visually, Hand Tossed Pizzas are typically asymmetrical and thin with a thick, bubbled crust around the edges. The middle part of the pizza showcases the toppings, as the crust is thin and doesn’t rise much. 

On the other hand, Pan Pizzas look quite different. They are thick, fluffy, and perfectly round due to being baked in a pan. The crust rises along the sides of the pan, forming a sort of ‘pie’ shape, and the toppings are laid out evenly across the dough. 

4. Cooking Method

The cooking methods also vary between these two types of pizza. Hand Tossed Pizza is typically cooked directly on the surface of the pizza stone or oven rack, allowing for a more direct heat application, which results in a crispier crust. 

Pan Pizza is baked in a deep-dish pan, resulting in a crust that’s crispy on the outside due to the oil in the pan and soft on the inside. 

Both styles have their unique attributes and cater to different pizza lovers’ preferences. Whether you lean towards the thin, crispy, and chewy Hand Tossed Pizza or the thick, fluffy, and hearty Pan Pizza, there’s no denying that each style has its appeal.

Pizza Pairings: Best Toppings For Hand-Tossed and Pan Pizza

Now that we’ve covered the main differences between Hand Tossed and Pan Pizza, let’s talk about one of the most crucial elements of any pizza – the toppings! While both styles can be topped with a variety of ingredients, some toppings pair particularly well with each type of crust.

For Hand Tossed Pizza, lighter and more delicate toppings work best. Thinly sliced vegetables, such as mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers, or lighter meats like grilled chicken or prosciutto complement the light and crispy crust. 

For those who prefer a little more flavor, a few dollops of ricotta cheese can add a creamy texture that pairs perfectly with Hand Tossed Pizza.

On the other hand, Pan Pizza is perfect for loading up on toppings. The hearty crust can support a variety of toppings, making it perfect for meat lovers. 

Thick slices of pepperoni, sausage, and bacon are popular choices for Pan Pizza. For vegetarians, thicker vegetables like eggplant or zucchini hold up well on the thick crust.

As with any pizza, the possibilities are endless when it comes to toppings – it all depends on your taste and preferences. 

But one thing is for sure, whether you prefer hand-tossed or Pan Pizza, there’s a perfect combination of toppings to satisfy your cravings.

Pizza Etiquette: How To Eat Hand-Tossed and Pan Pizzas

Now we will show you the best way to enjoy hand-tossed and Pan Pizza like a true pizza connoisseur. 

When it comes to eating Hand Tossed Pizza, the best way is to pick up a slice and fold it slightly in half before taking a bite. 

This helps prevent any toppings from falling off and allows for easy handling of the thin crust. Plus, folding the pizza can create an even distribution of toppings in each bite.

For Pan Pizza, it’s best to use a fork and knife since the thick crust and heavy toppings can make it difficult to pick up and eat with your hands. 

Cut the pizza into smaller pieces before starting so that you can enjoy a bit of everything in each bite.

And one important tip for both styles – always start with the traditional cheese slice first before trying out any fancy toppings. This allows you to truly appreciate the flavors and quality of the pizza crust itself.

Pizza Around The World: Variations On Hand Tossed and Pan Pizzas 

While hand-tossed and Pan Pizza are two of the most popular styles in North America, there are many different variations of pizza around the world. From Neapolitan-style pizza in Italy to deep-dish pizzas in Detroit, each region has its take on this beloved dish.

In Italy, where pizza originated, Neapolitan-style pizza is a thin-crust pie topped with ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil. 

In Chicago, deep-dish pizza is a thicker version of Pan Pizza with a buttery crust and lots of toppings inside.

In Japan, okonomiyaki pizza is a fusion of traditional Japanese savory pancakes with classic pizza elements like cheese and tomato sauce. 

In Turkey, pide is a boat-shaped pizza with a crispy crust and various toppings, often including minced meat and vegetables.

No matter where you go in the world, there’s likely to be a unique style of pizza to try. But whether you prefer Hand Tossed or Pan Pizza, one thing is for sure – nothing beats a delicious slice of pizza shared with friends and family.  

Final Thoughts: The Great Pizza Debate – Which Is Better?

Hand-tossed vs pan pizza has been a heated debate among pizza lovers for decades. While both styles have their unique characteristics, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. 

Some may enjoy the light and crispy texture of Hand Tossed Pizza, while others might desire the robust flavor of Pan Pizza.

Whichever crust style you choose, one thing is for sure – pizza is a beloved dish that brings people together and sparks endless conversations about toppings, cooking methods, and everything in between. 

So the next time you’re craving a slice of delicious pizza, just remember to enjoy it in your way and savor every bite. Cheers to hand-tossed and Pan Pizzas – may they continue to delight our taste buds for years to come. 


In short, we have shown you the intriguing world between hand-tossed vs pan pizza. We discussed the differences in crust, toppings, and even pizza etiquette. And while the debate between these two styles may never be settled, one thing is for sure – pizza will always hold a special place in our hearts and stomachs. 

So go ahead and indulge in your favorite style of pizza, whether it’s Hand Tossed or Pan, and enjoy every cheesy bite!

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