While deep dish pizzas and Chicago go hand in hand, they're not mutually exclusive. We'd even argue that some of the deep dish pizzas we've made at home are even better than what you'd find in a popular Chicago restaurant. Though Chicago-Style deep dish pizza recipes are a little trickier than regular pizza recipes, we've stumbled upon some secrets about how to make deep dish pizza right in your own kitchen.
But first, let's cover some basics for our first-time Chicago-style deep dish pizza makers.
How to Make a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza vs. a Regular Pizza
A deep dish pizza is exactly what it sounds like—a deep, deliciously doughy dish to hold all of your favorite toppings. When making a Chicago-style deep dish pizza, special pans are used to help create a thick pizza that resembles a pie. Though the crust itself is not overly thick, it is deep, allowing it to hold a lot of sauce, cheese and toppings, making the entire pizza that much more abundant.
A special pan is often used in the making of Chicago-style deep dish pizzas, allowing the outside and edges of the crust to reach a golden brown crisp. Due to the pie’s thickness, deep dish pizzas take a longer time to cook, and as a result, you add their toppings in reverse order. Just imagine if you placed the cheese and other toppings on top, at the end of baking, you'd have a burnt mess of a pizza. By working in reverse, the cheese won’t overcook and you’ll end up with a creamy top layer of sauce.
While Chicago-style deep dish pizza is stacked with several layers of tasty toppings, it’s important to note that it is in fact different than stuffed pizza.
Though many people place stuffed pizza under the category of deep dish pizzas, actual stuffed pizza is created with a layer of dough on top. This top layer of dough is then covered in tomato sauce before baking. Now let's dive into the secrets on how to make a deep dish pizza.
Choose Your Pan Wisely
Like we mentioned, a deep dish pizza pan is a critical part of making the perfect Chicag-style deep dish pizza. The pan allows you to create the actual "dish" part of the pizza and build the sides of the crust up. When molding your pizza dough to your pan, be sure not to stretch the dough too much. You'll want to extend it in a circular pattern and check that it's even throughout. Deep dish pizza dough does not even out when baking, so you must make sure the crust is even before placing it into the oven to bake.
Many different types of pans can be used to make a deep dish pizza, each one creating a different result! A casserole dish is a perfect option as it's a large deep pan that can be filled to the rim with tasty pizza toppings. A sheet pan can also be used for a deep dish pizza; while the pan is not as deep as a casserole dish, it does allow you to build a crust along the sides as well as a base for the pizza toppings. If neither of these pans is available to you, you can also use a skillet. Skillets serve as an excellent base for deep dish pizzas and they allow the bottom and sides of the pizza crust to crisp and reach a perfect golden brown.
If this is your first time using your pan, then be sure to season it! To properly season your pan, cover the inside of it with olive oil and a sprinkle of Italian spices. Then place the pan in the oven for about an hour at 300° to 350°F. After your pan has been in the oven for an hour, remove it and season it again. Once it has been placed in the oven twice, it's correctly seasoned and ready to use!
How to Make a Deep Dish Pizza With the Right Flour
All-purpose flour is usually the go-to when making a Chicago style deep dish pizza. Though it may be a bit harder to stretch, it's high gluten content makes it an excellent choice for pizza crust. Our All-Purpose Unbleached White Flour uses the highest quality wheat and has a touch of malted barley added to enhance the rise.
If your gluten intolerant or baking for someone who is, our Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour makes it easy to transform your traditional deep dish recipe into a delicious gluten free one. Gluten free pizza dough creates a light and crispy texture when baked and can hold a variety of different pizza topping combos. Using a unique blend of gluten free flours and starches, this can be used as a direct replacement for all-purpose baking flour.
Check out our favorite gluten free deep dish recipe that can also be converted into a vegan dish as well!
Give Your Dough Enough Time to Rise
All-purpose flour has a high gluten content, which makes it one of the most natural flours to bake with! However, gluten is also what gives your dough its elasticity, and if not appropriately proofed, it can make your dough hard and difficult to work with. Thin and torn dough can cause problems when making Chicago-style deep dish pizzas because the crust serves as the base for all of the toppings. If there are holes, or if the crust is thin, then the toppings will easily break through it. If you notice that your dough is tearing easily or trying to bounce back to its original round shape, then it's probably a sign that your dough needs to proof a while longer before baking.
When freshly mixed, the gluten in your dough is very tight and stiff, which is what causes it to tear when stretched. Proofing your homemade pizza dough for the correct amount of time is extremely important as it allows the gluten to relax and stretch more easily. Different recipes may call for different proofing times, however, when it comes to letting the gluten rest the longer, the better! For deep dish pizzas, we'd recommend allowing your dough to proof overnight to create the perfect texture and flavor.
Don't Overdo the Toppings
While Chicago style deep dish pizzas can hold a lot more toppings than traditional pizzas, it's important to not weigh them down with too many toppings, cheese and sauce. A simple trick is to lay out all your toppings before adding them to your pizza and then take some away. It's fun to get creative and think of everything you'd like to add to your pizza but try not to overdo it.
It's also essential that the toppings are added in a strategic order. When adding deep dish toppings, the cheese should always be the first ingredient on the dough, as this will ensure that it isn't overcooked in the baking process. After the cheese has been added, layer the other toppings (veggies, sausage, peppers, etc.). To top it off, pour the sauce over the toppings evenly and sparingly. Using too much sauce on your deep dish pizza will create a soggy mess.
Turn Up the Heat
Due to their hearty nature, deep dish pizzas need to bake a bit longer than traditional pizzas. Most recipes range from 350-400°F; however, it's essential to take a look at your toppings and determine what your pizza needs. If you're using a lot of moist toppings or meat, you may want to turn up the heat a bit to make sure they cook thoroughly. On the other hand, if your deep dish pizza is on the lighter side with fewer toppings, 350°F should work fine. Either way, don't worry about turning the heat up too much. Unless your pizza is left in the oven for an extremely long time, it's hard to burn a Chicago-style deep dish pizza!
If you're having a hard time telling if your deep dish pizza is done, checking the temperature is a quick and accurate way to tell. Stick a thermometer into the center of your pizza until it reaches the base of the crust. If your pizza is done and ready to remove, the temperature should read upwards of 190°F.
Don't Cut Your Pizza Until Serving It
A lot of toppings and the right amount of sauce leave your deep dish pizza with a lot of moisture in it. To make sure that your toppings and sauce stay where they should, don't cut your pizza until it's ready to serve. Cutting your pizza when you're serving will also lock in the heat and leave it at the perfect temperature!