Pizza

Hello? Is That You, Deep Dish Pizza?

February 16, 2017

I hail from the Midwest, and tasted my first real deep dish pizza long before I tasted my first proper New York slice. That said, I've always been a thin and crispy kind of girl. When deep dish pizza is done right, it can be awesome: soft, pillowy crust loaded with sauce, cheese, and toppings galore. But when it's done wrong, it's a big old mess.

So many things can go awry with deep dish that you don't necessarily have to think about with traditional pizza. The crust can be under-baked, even gooey in places. The whole thing can be too wet, and all that extra weight can mess with the way the cheese melts and make it hard to eat. But after some research, and a few pizza disasters that I may have eaten with a spoon, I found my preferred deep dish method: A hefty crust on bottom and plenty of crust on the side as well, which ensures there's plenty of room for toppings (also, I really like crust). To all you purists out there, some of my methods may not be tried and true (Chicago-style), but they'll lead to some seriously delicious dinners.

Photos by James Ransom; Video by Gabriella Mangino

Here's what you need to know:

  • The dough.
  • The pan.
  • Shaping the dough.
  • The sauce situation.
  • The toppings.
  • Baking.
  • Serving.
This isn't too much dough. It's exactly what you need. Photo by James Ransom

The dough.

It helps to have a particular kind of pizza dough to make deep dish pizza. You want the finished dough to be lightly crisp at the edges, but soft inside. My go-to dough for deep dish has a blend of all-purpose and semolina flour, the usual salt, yeast, and water, plus a healthy dose of olive oil. Can you use your favorite standard pizza dough recipe to make deep dish pizza? Totally—it should work great, just remember you might need a larger batch than your usual recipe makes. You'll want about 2 pounds of dough for most deep dish pizzas. Other than that, making the deep dish dough is pretty similar to usual dough recipes: mix it, let it rise, go to town. Like most pizza dough, you can make it ahead and hold it in the fridge until you need it (up to three days).

Photo by James Ransom

The pan.

There are many ways to make deep dish pizza, and you can use a variety of vessels, depending on your desired result. While you can pretty much bake in any oven-safe container, I have three favorites. The first is a baking or casserole dish (I use a pretty typical 9x13-inch pan, making sure it's at least 2 inches deep). You can also use a sheet pan, I just like to have the option of a deeper pan so I can have crust on the sides as well as on the base of the pizza. My other favorites are springform pans and skillets. Springform pans are great because they can let you get seriously deep, and allow you to unmold the pizza relatively easily without disturbing all the melty cheese business on top. Skillets are especially good at making sure the base and side crusts are golden and crisp. Whatever you choose, be sure to generously grease the pan with oil—and don't forget the sides!

Treat it like focaccia and use your fingertips. Photo by James Ransom

Shaping the dough.

I don't usually roll the dough for deep dish pizza, I stretch and stipple it, much like making focaccia. Stretch the dough to the right size and shape first. You'll want to lightly oil or flour your hands, depending on your dough. If your dough is wet and sticky, opt for flour. If it's firm and tight, go with oil. Stretch the dough until it's slightly larger than your vessel. I start by pressing the dough down to flatten it, then I pick it up at the edges and pull to stretch it longer. I like my dough to be at least 1-inch thick when it goes into the pan. Pick up the dough and transfer it to your vessel, then stipple it with your fingertips to help get it into the perfect shape. Like I mentioned before, I really like my deep dish pizza to have crust on the sides as well as the base, but if that's not your thing, just stick to crust on the base of the vessel. Once it's in place, let it rest in a warm place for 15-20 minutes. If it puffs up too much, you can stipple it again. But, more importantly, it's good to let the dough relax so you know it's the right size and won't shrink on you when you weigh in down with filling.

Too thin sauce will lead to a soggy crust. Photo by James Ransom

The sauce situation.

Sauce can be the enemy of deep dish pizza. Luckily, there's really only two golden rules. The first is to use a thicker sauce. For traditional tomato sauce, this can be accomplished by reducing your favorite sauce a bit or by including a higher ratio of a thicker tomato product, like tomato paste. But you don't have to limit yourself to tomato sauce. I like a béchamel on top of a white pizza and homemade hot sauce can actually make a mighty fine addition, too. The same rules apply: Make the sauce a bit thicker, if you can – or use less of it to avoid soupiness later. It can also be helpful to apply the bulk of the sauce to the top of the pizza (taking a cue from traditional deep dish pies here). You'll still want a little bit of sauce on the base to help tie things together, but keep it minimal—just enough to coat the surface of the dough. Then, layer in your toppings (cheese counts), and finish with more sauce on top. Building your pizza this way helps ensure things don't get too wet, and keeps the toppings evenly distributed, even when you go to slice. They're weighed down a bit by sauce!

Photo by James Ransom

The toppings.

The great thing about any kind of pizza is that really anything goes, toppings-wise. But it's important to think of deep dish pizza toppings as more of a filling. You need to handle them accordingly. Any kind of meat or veggie with a high level of moisture should be cooked first to help remove excess wetness. Things like mushrooms, zucchini, leafy greens, and so on should be sautéed, roasted, or so on before adding to the pizza. Things that aren't as high in moisture (onions, garlic, etc.) can be added raw, because they'll have plenty of time in the oven to cook through, thanks to a longer bake time than thin and crispy pizzas. I've found it's best to layer cheese as close as possible to the base crust, due to it's weight and moisture. That said, a thin sprinkling of cheese on the surface of the pie is excellent, especially hard cheeses like Parmesan.

At least 190°F inside. Photo by James Ransom

Baking.

Unlike thinner pizzas, deep dish pizzas need a longer, more gradual bake time to ensure everything comes together. Recipes range anywhere between 350-400°F, but I found 375°F to be the sweet spot—hot enough to get a crisp base and sides, but not so hot you risk burning anything. If you notice the surface is browning too quickly, you can always tent your baking vessel with foil for the remainder of bake time. It can be hard to tell when a deep dish pizza is done, and if you're really unsure, temperature is the best way to tell. Stick a thermometer into the center of the pizza, all the way into the base crust (but not touching the bottom of the pan). The temperature should be at least 190°F.

Photo by James Ransom

Serving.

Deep dish pizzas can be difficult to unmold and slice because they're molten inside. I like to let them cool for at least 15 minutes out of the oven before serving them. They're still plenty hot, but they hold up a bit better.

Have any deep dish pizza questions? Let us know in the comments.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I'm also a deep dish pizza lover. Haven't posted my recipe here because it's actually from the original Pizzeria Uno (I grew up on that pizza!) in Chicago. Do you ever par-bake your crust? I usually bake it for about 8 minutes before I [put the toppings on. That ensures that the crust will be completely baked when the toppings are perfectly gooey and done. One of the pizzaoli at Due's gave me that tip for the home oven. I also use a special deep round pizza pan when I make it. And now you have me hungry for one!”
— ChefJune
Comment

Erin McDowell is a baking aficionado, writer, stylist, and Test Kitchen Manager at Food52. She is currently writing a cookbook. You can learn more about her here.

14 Comments

s August 19, 2017
Your dough recipe is incorrect (if you want to authentic Chicago deep dish). You need far more oil (3 Tablespoons for each cup of AP flour--no need for semolina) plus a very short mix/knead (1 minute to mix, no more than 2 to knead--Chicago deep crust is very biscuit-like)--this means that you'll have to proof the yeast first.<br /><br />Also, use a good-quality brand of ground tomatoes (6-in-1, Pagliacchi, etc.) or hand-crush whole canned tomatoes (drain very well first). A combination of part-skim and whole milk mozzarella is excellent (3/4 skim, 1/4 whole)--Stella and Frigo are good brands.
 
BerryBaby April 6, 2017
Here is the site that has all pizza recipes with tutorials that are very helpful<br />stellaculinary.com<br />FYI, I do not use fish sauce with the tomatoes ... you'll understand when you watch the video. Hope you enjoy the site and Chef Jacob!
 
kath1 February 22, 2017
Erin the second I saw that gif in my emails all dinner plans were thrown aside and 2.5 hours later we were tucking in to a puffy savoury delight. I think a par bake and a little less yeast might be in order next time, mine was well cooked but paler and much thicker than yours looks. I used coarse semolina was that wrong?
 
Sylvia February 19, 2017
I agree with you all...pizza has it's own personality dependent upon the locale. So far all are delicious it just depends on your pizza mood. However I was never impressed with pizza in southern Cal but maybe just a poor choice of location to go, and pizza in Hawaii not impressive - I just couldn't get past the pineapple on it but again maybe another poor choice of restaurant even though it was recommended. Actually northern Wisconsin has awesome pizza overloaded with cheese (but it is the dairy state)! It's hard to find a bad pizza in NY state as well as New Jersey and Chicago!<br />
 
Rosalind P. February 19, 2017
Yummmmm. Sounds great. (I've been to a few places in Sicily...and never saw any pizza like that. Doesn't mean it's not there...and doesn't matter. Food evolves deliciously as people travel. I'd be happy to put some of that on my plate.
 
Magnus T. February 19, 2017
we called that Sicilian in NY and yes it can be amazing as Luna the only place that made it that I know of in area of long island and it also had a buttery crust and 100 year old pot of sauce as it was simmering on that old stove for over a 100 years and tom of cheese on it with just the min right amount of that heavenly sauce so you could eat it with out a fork sadly the kids of the current gen back in the 1980s cared more about the vacations then the sauce so let it get trashed on a vacation and went out of business 6 months later
 
Rosalind P. February 19, 2017
I'm a New Yorker, and to me pizza is defined by New York Pizza -- either the crisp wood oven type or the more street-ready common pizzeria type. All heavenly. I lived in Chicago for eight years, and loved their "pizza" just as much. BUT I always contended that what Chicago calls pizza is just a heavenly casserole. There's no "pizza" in Italy (that I know of) that has that same profile of dough and filling. But there's no need for civil war here. All of them are delicious.
 
Magnus T. February 19, 2017
I agree most Chicago pizza should be called pizza lasagna
 
Sylvia February 19, 2017
LOL the 1st Time I had Chicago pizza that is exactly what I thought - had to eat it with a knife and fork but not complaining!<br />
 
Sylvia February 19, 2017
I always use a well seasoned cast iron skillet - the crust is always crispy regardless of thickness and never fails! It also works on the grill for a smoky flavor (I finish it off for the last 20 minutes of cooking).
 
BerryBaby February 18, 2017
I'm an original Lou Malnati's fan, 1973 Their dough contains butter...deep dish butter crust is amazing. I found a recipe that is very close to Lou's. ChefJune, did you live in Chicago? I was a suburbanite and went to Lou's in Elk Grove. However, I worked downtown for many years and Uno's was the place for lunch! That's where I got hooked on deep dish.
 
NYRangersfan April 5, 2017
BerryBaby, would you be willing to share your "very close to Lou's" recipe. I just went to LM for the first time yesterday- it was divine!!!! Quite a drive for me, if I could make it at home-that would be fantastic. Thank you.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
 
ChefJune February 16, 2017
Hi Gena! Great article. :) I'm also a deep dish pizza lover. Haven't posted my recipe here because it's actually from the original Pizzeria Uno (I grew up on that pizza!) in Chicago.<br />Do you ever par-bake your crust? I usually bake it for about 8 minutes before I [put the toppings on. That ensures that the crust will be completely baked when the toppings are perfectly gooey and done. One of the pizzaoli at Due's gave me that tip for the home oven.<br />I also use a special deep round pizza pan when I make it. And now you have me hungry for one!
 
cjkingmd February 18, 2017
Any chance you might share your recipe? I also grew up on Uno's Original. And Edwardo's pesto stuffed pizza 😌