If you’re looking for a hearty and filling meal, look no further than Detroit-style and Chicago-style pizza, two styles of deep-dish pizza that they eat in the Midwest. These two Italian-American staples are made with a thick crust, plenty of cheese, and cooked tomato sauce on the top.
Since Chicago and Detroit are only 281 miles apart, there are some similarities between their styles of pizza. But the devil is in the detail, as they so, and there are also plenty of small but important differences.
Both Detroit-style and Chicago-style pizza are American regional deep-dish pizza styles. But the similarities between them end there.
Detroit-style pizza is rectangular in shape. It’s made of a high-hydration dough using bread flour. It’s topped with Wisconsin brick cheese, cooked tomato sauce, and has a chewy and crispy flat crust.
Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is round and made of a flaky dough using all-purpose flour mixed with plenty of olive oil and butter. It’s topped with mozzarella cheese, Italian sausage, and cooked tomato sauce, and has a 1 ½-inch tall crust.
I put together this table to help you spot all of the differences between the two:
|Detroit-Style Pizza||Chicago-Style Pizza|
|Flour||Bread flour (or high-protein flour in general)||All-purpose flour|
|Dough||High-hydration dough for a chewy crust||Flaky dough for a smooth and 1 ½-inch tall crust|
|Toppings||Wisconsin brick cheese all the way to the edge and cooked tomato sauce on top (on racing stripes)||Mozzarella cheese, sausage, and cooked tomato sauce on top|
|Optional toppings||Pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, onions, pepperoncini peppers||Onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, grated parmesan on top|
|Pan||Hard-anodized aluminum pan (rectangular)||Metallic deep-dish pizza pan (round)|
|Baking temperature||500°F (260°C)||425°F (218°C)|
|Baking time||12-15 minutes||35 minutes|
Now let’s look at each style of pizza in more detail.
Detroit-Style Deep-Dish Pizza
This style of pizza was created at Buddy’s Rendezvous, a former bling pig owned by Gus and Anna Guerra, who added it to the menu in 1946. Today, Buddy’s Pizza is a chain of 20 restaurants and ships frozen pizza nationwide.
The dominant narrative is that Gus’ wife, Anna, was based on her mother’s recipe for sfincione, a focaccia-like pizza that they make in Sicily, Italy. Sfincione is also considered to be the base recipe for the so-called grandma pizza.
For decades, it stayed largely unknown in the pizza community until the 2010s, when it started trending nationwide. It got another boost in 2021 when Pizza Hut introduced a Detroit-style pizza to their menu.
Detroit-style pizza is a rectangular deep-dish pizza made of a high-hydration dough (2 ½ cups bread flour and 1 cup water) for a crispy and chewy crust.
It’s topped with thick cubes of Wisconsin brick cheese and cooked tomato sauce. Traditionally, the sauce is layered on the top in the form of “racing stripes” and the cheese cubes go right to the edges of the pan, so that it caramelizes on the crust.
Optional toppings for Detroit-style pizza include mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, onions, pepperoncini peppers, and ⅛-inch thick pepperoni slices.
Detroit-style pizza is baked in seasoned hard-anodized aluminum pans; the same kind of pans that car factory workers in Motor City used to catch oil drippings and store their tools in.
Thanks to the high-hydration dough, thick cubes of cheese all the way to the edges of the pan, and the hard-anodized aluminum pan, Detroit-style pizza is light and airy, has a dark and golden crust, thick and crispy walls, and is almost always topped with a generous amount of cheese.
Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza
Make no doubt about it: the residents of Windy City like their meals hearty—and their pizza deep-dish.
This style of pizza is attributed to Pizzeria Uno, the first pizzeria in Chicago. Pizzeria Uno was opened in 1943 in the Near North Side neighbourhood of Chicago by Italian-American restaurateur Ric Riccardo and American football player Ike Sewell.
The pair hired chef Alice May Redmond, bartender/bar manager Adolpho “Rudy” Malnati Sr., and waitress Helen Delisi, and opened the pizzeria for business. It was most probably Alice May Redmond who came up with the recipe for Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, though that can’t be proven.
Chicago-style pizza is a round deep-dish pizza made of a flaky dough (4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup water, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, 3-4 tablespoons butter) that produces a smooth and tall crust approximately 1 ½ inches tall.
It’s traditionally topped with a thick layer of sliced mozzarella cheese, Italian sweet or hot sausage, and cooked tomato sauce on the top. The cheese is the base of a Chicago-style pizza because it makes it easier to apply the sausage—and seals the crust from absorbing too much of the fat from the meat once it heats up and starts melting.
Optional toppings include onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese on the top.
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Chicagoans eat their pizza with a knife and fork. The first time you try it, you’ll fall in love with the crumbly dough, tall crust, and hearty toppings.
Which is better? Detroit-style or Chicago-style pizza?
If you ask me, both of these deep-dish pizza styles are different enough to be just as good.
When I want a pizza that looks and feels more like a focaccia, I go for the kind of pizza they make in Motor City.
When I want a pizza that’s very much like a hearty meal on a plate, I go for the crumbly and hearty pizza that Chicagoans like to eat.
Which is your favorite? Share your thoughts with me and the rest of this post’s readers in the comments below.