If you’ve ever eaten at California Pizza Kitchen, chances are you’ve tried the restaurant’s most signature menu item, its BBQ chicken pizza. The unconventional pie, which was introduced at the opening of CPK’s Beverly Hills restaurant in 1985, became instantly popular and opened the door to the idea of nontraditional toppings on a pizza crust. While the all-American combination of sweet and spicy barbecued chicken, gooey cheese, and hearty pizza crust has been copied all over the world, we went behind the scenes at CPK’s test kitchen to learn exactly what goes into the original. See how it’s made, then get the recipe below.
CPK’s BBQ Chicken Pizza
From California Pizza Kitchen
The introduction of this pizza at the opening of CPK’s Beverly Hills restaurant in 1985 ignited the craze that is California-style pizza.
For BBQ chicken:
10 ounces boneless/skinless chicken breasts cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons favorite BBQ sauce (we use a spicy-sweet sauce)
2 balls CPK pizza dough or other premade pizza dough
Cornmeal, semolina, or flour for handling raw pizza dough
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
2 tablespoons shredded smoked Gouda cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 small red onion, sliced in 1/8-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Make the BBQ chicken: In a large frying pan, cook the chicken in olive oil over medium-high heat until just cooked, 5 to 6 minutes. Do not overcook. Set aside in the refrigerator until chilled through. Once chilled, coat the chicken with 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce; set aside in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven: Place a pizza stone in the center of the oven and preheat to 500ºF for 1 hour before cooking pizzas.
Construct the pizzas: For each pizza, use a large spoon to spread 1/4 cup BBQ sauce evenly over the surface of the prepared dough within the rim. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon smoked Gouda cheese over the sauce. Cover with 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella.
Distribute half the chicken pieces evenly over the cheese (approximately 18 pieces). Place approximately 18 to 20 pieces of red onion over the surface. Sprinkle an additional 1/4 cup mozzarella over the top of the pizza.
Transfer pizza (or pizzas; the 2 pizzas may be prepared simultaneously if you are careful in placing the pizzas at opposite corners of your pizza stone) to the oven; bake until crust is crisp and golden and the cheese at the center is bubbly, 8 to 10 minutes. When pizza is cooked, carefully remove it from the oven; sprinkle 1 tablespoon cilantro over the hot surface. If necessary, repeat with remaining ingredients for a second pizza. Slice and serve.
Makes 2 BBQ chicken pizzas.
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