Iron Skillet Chicken Pesto Pizza

March 6, 2014Katie

Folks tend to have some pretty serious preferences for pizza. They tend to argue about thick crust verses thin crust, Chicago-style verses New York-style. Everyone has an opinion and most will tend to pretty doggone vocal about which they prefer.

When I went off to college at 17, I lived a mere 45 minutes or less from Chicago. The deep dish pizza at Gino’s and Giordano’s was a new revelation to me with its incredible cornmeal-dusted crust baked in a deep dish pan that almost seemed “fried”. It was stuffed inside-out with loads of chunky fillings and cheese, and because it requires more baking time that would burn the cheese if on top, the uncooked tomato sauce was ladled on top instead and cooked nicely over top of layers of sliced mozzarella cheese. Some of the Chicago places went beyond deep-dish like Giordano’s and added another layer of crust to become truly “stuffed” pizzas. It was love at first bite for me, all those bubbling layers of goodness.

Living in Oklahoma has left a Chicago pizza- sized hole in me to be satisfied so recently when the iron skillet pizza recipes began to surface, I realized that HEY, the iron skillet could easily double for the deep dish pie pan used in Chicago.

Last night I made my first deep dish pie. It was stuffed full of good things like pesto and large chunks of chicken. Trying to lighten things up for myself, I used feta instead of mozzarella and added veggies like mushrooms and red onions and I skipped the top layer of crust.

The result was delicious. I can’t wait to try some other versions, even that cheese laden one some night when I’m feeling a bit naughty…

Pizza dough isn’t really all that difficult to make. I mixed ¾ cup of lukewarm water with a tablespoon of active dry yeast and a teaspoon of sugar. (I used the pizza quick version shown in the picture below.) Whisk it for about 20 seconds to get rid of the lumps and then set it aside to let the yeast activate. Set a timer for 5 minutes.

While that’s working, take your mixer and using beaters or the paddle attachment, fluff 2 ¼ cups of flour with a teaspoon of salt just to mix it up. If your preference is a wheat crust, use ¾ cup wheat flour and 1 ½ cups white flour.

When your 5 minute timer goes off, you should now have a foamy mixture in your water/yeast bowl.

Pour it into your flour mixture with your mixer on low. Also drizzle in 3 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin).

Mix this with your mixer for a minute until you get what is known as“shaggy dough”.

I have a KitchenAid mixer, and changed to my dough hook and mixed the dough for 6 minutes more on medium speed. If you don’t have a dough hook, remove the dough and mash it together to form a ball and knead it until it gets smooth.

Then I drizzled a little olive oil into a large (non-metal) bowl and brushed the olive oil all over the sides of the bowl. I plopped my dough into it and rolled it around to coat it with the olive oil. Next, I covered it with a tea towel (you could also use plastic wrap) and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.

Next , I drizzled another tablespoon of olive oil or two into my beloved iron skillet and brushed it up the sides of the skillet. I then sprinkle lightly with cornmeal.

I added my dough and “punched it down” with my knuckles and continued to use my knuckles to push the dough outward towards the edges of the pan.

Press pizza dough in skillet

I have no idea if this is the “professional” way to stretch dough but it seemed to work for me. I continued to push it up the sides of the pan.
Skillet pizza dough

If a hole tore in the dough, I just pinched it together to fix it. I then let this rise again for about 20 minutes.
Second rise skillet pizza
Next, I spread the bottom of the crust with ½ cup of prepared basil pesto. Thank goodness I still have lots of homemade pesto in my freezer from last summer’s basil explosion in my herb garden.

If you want to try your hand at making it yourself, click here for my easy recipe.

Since I was using chicken in my pizza, I simply sprinkled two chicken breasts with salt and pepper and sizzled them in another tablespoon of olive oil to brown them on both sides on the stove, about 3-4 minutes per side. Then I transferred my pan to the oven to finish cooking while my dough was rising.

After they were done (about 20 minutes), I cut them in half and sliced them into good size slices.

I also sliced up 2 tomatoes and a couple of slices of red onion.

I generously covered my pesto with the chicken inside my crust.

Then I added sliced red onions.

Then I added sliced cremini mushrooms.

Then I added sliced fresh tomatoes and lightly salted and peppered them.

Then I sprinkled the entire thing with feta cheese crumbles.

Then I brushed the crust still showing with a little olive oil and THEN…

I became immensely excited and impatient because I still had to bake my masterpiece.

I baked my pie at 400º for about 25 minutes. Since ovens vary, you will want your crust to be browned and golden around the edges.

The pizza slid right out of the skillet with a little support from a big spatula right onto my cutting board.

I sliced it up.

It was absolutely delicious. I could only handle one piece of this stuffed and hearty pie.

I am already thinking of new things to try – even with a dessert version soon.

What do you think would be fabulous? Shout it out in the comments below!

Iron Skillet Chicken Pesto Pizza
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • ¾ c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. active dry yeast
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 2¼ c. flour (For whole wheat dough,
  • use ¾ cup whole wheat flour and 1½ cups all-purpose flour)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3 T.extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 T. olive oil, divided
  • ½ c. basil pesto
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 c. cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 red onions sliced
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. pepper
  • 1 c. feta cheese, crumbled
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the lukewarm water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Using a standing mixer, mix the flour and salt at low speed.
  3. Mix in the yeast mixture and olive oil until a shaggy dough forms. If using a KitchenAid, change to the dough hook attachment and mix at medium speed until smooth, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a large mixing bowl.
  5. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning to coat; cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and let rise until doubled in size, 45 minutes.
  6. While dough is rising make chicken.
  7. Preheat oven to 400º
  8. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of chicken breasts.
  9. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to skillet and turn on medium heat on burner
  10. When hot, add chicken breasts and cook on each side for 5 minutes or until browning.
  11. Transfer skillet to oven and bake for 20 25 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 350º.
  12. Remove from oven (but leave oven on for pizza!), and let cool a bit, then slice into ¼ inch strips and then cut strips in half.
  13. After dough has risen for 25 minutes, add remaining olive oil (1 T.) to iron skillet and brush all over bottom and up sides at least 1 inch.
  14. Add dough to center of skillet and begin pressing outward with your knuckles in all directions until dough covers pan bottom and also up all sides at least one inch.
  15. Let dough rise in pan 20 minutes.
  16. (You may need to press dough up sides one more time when done)
  17. Spread pesto over bottom of dough.
  18. Add chicken in single layer.
  19. Add a layer of red onion slices
  20. Add a layer of mushrooms
  21. Add a layer of tomato slices and sprinkle them with salt and pepper
  22. Add feta cheese over all
  23. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until edges are crispy and golden brown. (Oven temps may vary in different ovens).

Just look at these fabulous recipes other food bloggers participating in Food Network’s Comfort Fest: Pizza have come up with!
The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Pizza Crust and Homemade Pizza Sauce

Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Easy Turkey Taco Pizza

Devour: Top 5 Pizzas Without Sauce

Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

Weelicious: Pizza Balls

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomato, Red Pepper and Corn

Red or Green: Pizza with Green Chile, Chicken and Cheese (Gluten-Free)

Virtually Homemade: Individual Cheese Quesadilla Pizzas

Domesticate Me: Grilled Pita Pizza with Prosciutto, Chanterelles, Arugula and a Fried Egg

Food for 7 Stages of Life: No Yeast Pizza Dough

In Jennie’s Kitchen: Easy, Homemade Pizza Dough

The Blue Apron Blog: Our Favorite Pizza Toppings

The Sensitive Epicure: Mini Deep Dish Polenta Pizzas (Gluten-Free)

FN Dish: Homemade Pizza Comfort by the Slice

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