Nostalgia: Detroit Deep Dish Pizza

Nostalgia. In my opinion, one of Detroit’s best kept secrets is its deep dish pizza. Uniquely Detroit, it differs from Chicago-style pizzas in several respects — and I much prefer Detroit’s style. Detroit’s pizza is rich and flavorful with a very thick, chewy crust and layers of melt-in-your mouth cheese.  When I lived in Detroit, we would drive across town just to eat this pizza at an “authentic” Sicilian restaurant. Now that Pizza Hut has added this style of pizza to its menu, the secret of Detroit’s deep dish pizza is “out-of-the box”. I started writing this post about how to make the pizza over a year ago; now seems like a good time to finish it — so you can have your own “Detroit Deep Dish Pizza” recipe.

Detroit’s Secret.  There are several things which make Detroit’s pizza unique.

First, the pizza is baked in a heavy, rectangular pan with tall sides  — not on a pizza wheel. The pan dates back to Detroit’s auto industry and apparently came from discarded industrial parts on assembly lines. Using this heavy pan results is a thick, chewy crust which, traditionally, is rather oily. I make a homemade crust for this pizza, using the same recipe as for my focaccia bread.

The second “secret” to Detroit’s deep dish pizzas is the cheese — Brick cheese is used to make this pizza.  Brick cheese is a mild-flavored, semi-soft white cheese made in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, this cheese is rarely found outside the Midwest making it difficult to bake an authentic “Detroit Deep Dish Pizza” if you live in Louisiana or some other part of the world. In fact, when I inquire about Brick cheese at local grocery stores — for example, at Whole Foods — they haven’t even heard of this cheese.

Eventually, I searched the internet for alternative cheeses and found several ones which produce similar results. One such cheese is Havarti cheese, which originated in Denmark. It can be described as semi-soft cheese with a smooth, buttery, mild, creamy flavor and melts well. This cheese is now made in Wisconsin, too, and I found it at our local Rouses grocery store. Another cheese substitute is Monterey Jack cheese. However, mozzarella cheese just doesn’t work for this pizza.

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Another tip to making this pizza is that the Brick cheese is spread to the edges of the pan, giving a chewy dimension to the crust.

The third “secret” in making this pizza is the pizza sauce.  A thick, flavorful marinara sauce is used. It is spread in two stripes down the length of the pizza and is the last ingredient added to the pizza prior to baking. 

Lastly, the ingredients are added in “reverse order” onto to the crust. Sprinkle dried oregano leaves over the dough. This really adds a flavor “kick.” Then meat and other toppings are placed onto the crust. Next the cheese is added and lastly the pizza sauce. 

Making the Pizza

Okay, let’s make the pizza. Get all the components ready — the dough for the crust, toppings, pizza sauce and sliced cheese.

First, we need a homemade pizza crust for this thick, chewy pizza. The dough is a simple one made with only flour, yeast, salt and water and a bit or sugar and oil. I use unbleached flour which is naturally bleached, has an off-white color and is slightly denser that all-purpose flour (which is bleached with chemicals). And I use Rapid-Rise yeast so the dough rises relatively quickly.

For simplicity, I mix the dough up in a food processor, taking the work out of kneading the dough. After less than an hour, my dough had doubled in size and is ready to go.

For the sauce, I make a flavorful, homemade marinara or pasta sauce. The key ingredient here is using Cento “Chef Cut” tomatoes which give just the right amount of texture. I sauté chopped onions and garlic, then add the other ingredients. The sauce simmers on the stove while the pizza dough is proofing  Alternately, the sauce can be made a day ahead.

I featured my sauce recipe on this blog in the summer of 2020 titled, a “Versatile Pasta, Pizza & Dipping Sauce.” It is just right for this pizza as well as many other dishes.  Assemble the pizza

Oil the pizza pan well. (Original Detroit Deep Dish pizzas are notoriously oily  — one of their trademarks.) Stretch out the dough. It if doesn’t’ stretch — let it rest for 10 minutes or so until the dough relaxes. Then you can stretch it to the corners.

Sprinkle dried oregano leaves on the crust. This herb enhances the flavor of the crust and gives an extra flavor “punch.”  Add the pepperoni and other toppings (as desired). Layer on an entire pound of Havarti (or Brick) cheese slices.

Last, add the pizza sauce. Traditionally the sauce is spread onto the pizza in two or three stripes down the length of the pizza — but I covered the entire pizza.

Bake until the crust is baked and golden. The toppings will cook and blend, the cheese melts. I bake this pizza at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes rather than the extremely high baking temperatures used in restaurants.

Here’s my “Detroit Deep Dish Pizza.” This pizza is exceptionally flavorful; I love it. One slice is really a “meal” and so this pizza can serve several people. I hope that you enjoy my classic pizza recipe from years past. And now you have a homemade version of the pizza offered by Pizza Hut. I lived in Detroit for several years — a long time ago. We did alot of camping, traveling and exploring in upper Michigan, surrounding states and Canada while living there. Of all my experiences, Detroit’s Deep Dish Pizza is one of my favorite memories. Nostalgia.

Detroit Deep Dish Pizza

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • vegetable oil
  • 1 recipe Pizza Dough
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 8 oz pepperoni slices
  • 1 lb Brick cheese, sliced (may substitute Havarti or Monterey Jack cheeses)
  • 3 cups “Versatile Pasta, Pizza & Dipping Sauce”

Method and Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Generously oil 9″ x 13″ rectangular baking pan. (Preferably a heavy pan with tall sides.)
  3. Add the prepared pizza dough, stretching to reach all corners. If the dough is springy and uncooperative, let it “rest” and “relax” for 10 minutes and stretch again.
  4. Sprinkle dough with dried oregano leaves.
  5. Layer on pepperoni slices, overlapping if needed.
  6. Layer on Brick cheese slices (or Havarti, Monterey Jack cheeses). Make sure the cheese is spread to touch all the edges of the pan.
  7. Lastly spoon on pizza sauce down length of pizza in two stripes. (If desired, cover entire pizza.).
  8. Bake in 375 degree hot oven for 30 to 35 minutes until the crust is baked and brown on bottom and pizza is bubbly.
  9. Remove from oven. To serve, hold pizza pan with hot pad or mitt, cut into squares and remove from pan using spatula.

Pizza Dough

  • Servings: 1 deep dish pizza -- 9 in x 13 in pan
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 2-1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 pkg Rapid Rise Yeast
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup water, lukewarm at 110 degrees
  • 2 Tbsp oil, plus more for oiling bowl

Method and Steps:

  1. Add flour, yeast, sugar and salt to large food processor bowl with dough attachment and pulse one time to mix.
  2. With food processor, add lukewarm water (heated to 110 degrees F) continuously to flour and mix until dough is formed.
  3. Add oil to dough and continue to mix.
  4. Pulse off and on and knead dough for about 2 to 3 minutes until dough is elastic.
  5. Remove from food processor. Place in oiled bowl and turn to coat dough with oil. Cover with damp cloth and place in warm area. Let rise until double in size, about one hour.
  6. Punch down.

Easy Homemade: Versatile Pasta, Pizza & Dipping Sauce

  • Servings: about 3 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  •  Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  •  (28 oz) can of Cento Chef’s Cut Tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  •  tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • dash of red pepper flakes

Method and Steps:

  1. Add olive oil and chopped onion to heavy pot or small Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until the onions become; translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the minced garlic, stir and cook a minute longer.
  3. Add the tomatoes with the tomato puree, sugar, oregano, basil, salt, black pepper and a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes (optional).
  4. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  5. Reduce heat on stove to very low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Remove from stove and use in favorite recipe.


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