This is a membership forum. Guests can view 5 pages for free. To participate, please join.

[ Pitmaster Club Information | Join Now | Login | Contact Us ]

Only 4 free page views remaining.


No announcement yet.

Detroit Style Pizza Techniques

This is a sticky topic.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Detroit Style Pizza Techniques

    Detroit Style Pizza!

    I just discovered Detroit Style Pizza and I will never go back to Chicago Style Pizza. I've been baking 2 of them every weekend for my cheat meal (this is the only thing that gets me through my annual "reset my weight" diet). The results have been great, but I know that I can do better. I wanted to share my experience and collaborate with others attempting the process.

    DISCLAIMER: I am not from Detroit. I've never been to Detroit, and I do not have the original with which to compare. It should be further noted that I am not particularly interested in preserving what is traditional. American food is defined by 2 prevailing trends: convenience and a willingness to break from tradition. Therefore, I am most interested in what yields the best results based on what I have at my disposal. I am not interested in faithfully reproducing every detail of traditionally Detroit style pizza (if there exists any such universally agreed-upon specimen).

    I like to describe Detroit style pizza as the perfect marriage of Chicago and Cecilian style pizza. It's a pan pizza that should not be deep-dish. Like Chicago and Cecilian style pizza, the sauce generally goes on top of the cheese. However, there seems to be no agreed upon order for any of the rest of the toppings. Perhaps the one thing that most defines this pizza is the tall, crunchy, crusty, "Cheez-It" ring of fried cheese baked all the way around the edge of the crust. This is NOT the type of crust that you will leave on your plate.

    First off, here are 2 youtube videos that will get you started:

    The Hardware:
    Basically, you need an oven and a pan. The traditional Detroit Style pizza pan is rumored to be a deep, 10" x 14" stainless steel pan (basically a stainless steel lasagna pan). However, as you see in the second video, I really think that an 8" x 8" or 9" x 9" pan is the ideal size. The corner pieces are unarguably the best pieces and this will produce a pizza that is nothing but corner pieces. I am still experimenting between non-stick aluminum and cast-iron pans. I've also had better crust results when I place the pan directly on top of a very hot pizza stone to ensure that the under-side and center of the crust is fully cooked.

    Here is the original forum thread discussing the detroit style pizza pan and its significance: https://pitmaster.amazingribs.com/fo...a-pan-question

    The Oven:
    I'm still experimenting with this one. My kitchen oven can only be set to 500F (I'm not sure it actually reaches this). My neighbor's newer (more expensive) oven can hit 550F, and this definitely produced better results. This weekend I'm going to fire up my Camp Chef 16" pizza oven topper (which tends to be warmer on the bottom than on the top), fire it up to about 600F and see if that produces better results. I'd eventually like to try a higher end pizza oven like the Roccbox. Like any pizza, it's best to preheat your oven for a good hour or so to make sure that it is retaining as much heat as possible. I keep a very thick, very large pizza stone in the bottom of my kitchen oven. As I mentioned above, I have received the best results by placing an 8" x 8" pan on the bottom rack, directly on top of a very hot pizza stone.

    The Dough:
    There really is nothing significant about the dough recipe at all. The standard NY pizza style dough recipe is all that we need. Every recipe that I found was invariably the same:
    • 1 package yeast (I recommend SAF or Hodgson Mill brand)
    • 1 - 1.5 cups of water
    • 2.25 - 2.5 cups bread flour
    • 1 - 1.5 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 tsp sugar (I recommend honey)
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    The technique is also quite standard. Begin with 1 cup of warm water in a mixing bowl. Add sugar and yeast and wait for signs of life. Once the yeast begins to activate, add all of the rest of the ingredients and mix with a dough hook on high for 5 - 10 minutes adding extra water as needed to reach the desired consistency. The end product should be a relatively soft, slightly sticky dough. This recipe is perfect for at traditional 10" x 14" pan. If you are using 8" or 9" square pans like I recommend, simply divide this dough into 2 equal pieces and use each piece separately inside of your square pan. Form dough into ball(s) and place in a covered, highly oiled container to let it rise.

    As with any yeast-based bread, ALWAYS LET RISE FOR 24 HOURS IN THE FRIDGE. It's always best to prep the dough the night before you are going to use it. If you are impatient, you will end up with a very mediocre crust.

    The Crust:
    Despite the completely uninteresting dough, the crust is quite possibly the biggest defining feature of Detroit style pizza. Detroit style pizza is best described as "the art of making pan pizza without making deep dish pizza". The crust itself is similar to a thin focaccia bread and you should be able to eat the end-product comfortably with your hands. The most amazing thing about the crust is the dark, crunchy, fried cheese layer that surrounds the entire edge of the crust (see pictures below). The bottom of the crust should be a nice crispy texture as well. This is the result of the pizza literally frying in a thin layer of olive oil as the pizza bakes.

    The Cheese:
    The traditional Detroit style pizza cheese is something called Wisconsin "Brick" cheese. I had never even heard of this cheese before I discovered Detroit style pizza. DISCLAIMER: I have never tasted this cheese. I am currently located in norther San Diego county and it is not readily available locally. From what I understand, it is found throughout the norther midwest and resembles a mild, white cheddar cheese. It can be found on Amazon for a very steep delivery charge which totals around $15 per pound if you buy in bulk.

    In lieu of traditional "Brick" cheese, and through experimentation, I have devised the following mixture:
    • 2 parts low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese (DO NOT USE ANYTHING MARKED "PART SKIM")
    • 1 part provolone cheese
    • 1 part sharp white cheddar

    This is still a work in progress. I'm going to try adding some Asiago cheese to the mixture. I know that this is not traditional, but it tastes amazing. I shred my cheese, but many more "traditional" recipes use small cheese cubes instead. The latter may allow for extra baking time without over-baking the cheese layer on top.

    The Sauce:
    Like Chicago style pizza, I believe that the Detroit style pizza sauce should be kept very simple. Simply start with some whole peeled tomatoes in a tomato sauce. Simmer until the tomatoes begin to soften using an blender or immersion blender to make the texture more consistent. Only use a few pulses as the end result should be a bit chunky. It should also be relatively thick. If the sauce is runny or thin, keep simmering it until it reduces into something thicker. Add dried oregano, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes as desired (but try not to overwhelm the natural tomato-y-ness of the sauce). Add a dash of olive oil too if desired. The sauce is usually ladled onto the top of the pizza in red "stripes" at the very end of the cooking process.

    As with any tomato sauce, you'll want to open the tomatoes up and try to get rid of any seeds before adding them to the pot (they are very bitter). Likewise, you may need to add just a little bit of sugar or honey if the acidity of the tomatoes is too strong. I recommend prepping the sauce the night before as well.

    THE SAUCE IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL! If you use a cheap tomato, you will have an unpleasant sauce. I found the following article helpful:

    The Toppings:
    Simply put, "whatever you want". There is no hard and fast rule here. I think that the most common pizzas are either simply cheese (with sauce) or pepperoni. (More on the pepperoni later). Personally, I LOVE pepperoni. The more the better. I snack on it, top my lasagna with it, and even put it in my grilled cheese sammiches. However, feel free to experiment with whatever you want.

    The Technique:
    Preheat your oven as high as it will possibly go. (up to 600F). Allow one hour before adding any pizza to the oven.

    Cook your pizza sauce. If you have already prepped the sauce beforehand (as I recommend), it should be heated and kept warm in a pot before you begin building your pizza. The sauce should always be hot when it goes on top of this style of pizza.

    Start by liberally oiling your pan! Pour several tablespoons of olive oil into your pan and evenly spread it all over the pan. You especially want to coat the sides of the pan as best you can. The more oil that stays on the sides of the pan, the easier it will be to remove the pizza once the beautiful cheese crust has formed. There should thick coating of olive oil all over the pan. You can have too much, however. I find that the best way manage the olive oil is to tip the pan over and pour out any excess. The olive oil in the pan should not pour out quickly. If you have to wait for the olive oil to move to one side before it begins to drizzle out, you've got it just right.

    Next, stretch the dough ball a bit and place it in the center of the oiled pan. Place your fingertips in the olive oil and use them to push the dough evenly, stretching it to the full shape and length of the pan. Once you have the approximate size and shape of the pan, you'll find that the dough will stretch back into a much smaller shape like elastic. This is okay. Let the dough sit for 3 - 5 minutes and then resume until the dough retains its shape covering the pan from edge to edge. (Note, small cracks between the pan and the dough are okay and even preferred. They will enhance your baked cheese crust).

    (Optional): It is not uncommon, when using pepperoni, to add a layer of thinly sliced pepperoni between the dough and the cheese. I think that this is purely a matter of preference.

    Next, pour the cheese on top of the dough. If you don't add enough cheese, the cheese layer will feel more like a baked cheese layer and less like a pizza cheese layer. If you add too much cheese, the crust may end up flacid and a little soggy and the cheese will run when you cut the pizza. For an 8" or 9" square pan, I found 1 lb of cheese to be too little, and 2 lbs to be far too much. About 1.25 lbs of cheese seems to be just about right. Add a little extra cheese everywhere where the dough meets the pan. This will fall between the crust and the pan to become the best part of the pizza (the baked "Cheez-It" crust).

    You should place the pizza into the bottom rack of the oven at this point (preferably on a very hot pizza stone). Bake for 8 - 12 minutes before adding any additional toppings. You will recognize when this stage is complete because there will be large bubbles rising all throughout the dough and you will see brown caramelized spots on the top of the cheese.

    NOTE: this is where procedure may change depending on source and/or preference.

    Technique 1:
    Remove the pizza from the oven once it has reached its bubbly crust phase. Add desired toppings on top of the baked cheese. Work quickly because you don't want the pizza to cool down. Place back in the oven for another 5 - 10 minutes. This is where thick-sliced pepperoni really shines. Allow the toppings to bake and caramelize as desired. Once the pizza is completely baked, remove it from the oven and spoon the hot sauce on in 2 thin, wide, even length-wise "stripes" across the pizza. You may wish to return the pizza back to the oven for another minute or two if desired just to help the sauce set.

    Technique 2:
    Remove the pizza from the oven once it has reached its bubbly crust phase. Immediately ladle the hot sauce on lengthwise in two wide, thin "stripes". Add your toppings over the sauce and place back into the oven for another 8 - 12 minutes.

    Once the pizza is completely finished baking, remove it from the oven. As soon as you are able to do so, transfer the pizza from the hot pan onto a wooden cutting board. Depending on the pan, your oil, and the amount of cheese, you may need to take a small, cheap knife and go around the edges of the pizza to loosen it from the pan. Once the "Cheez-It" sides are released, the pizza should pop cleanly out of the pan without any sticking (remember, it's been frying in a thin layer of oil). Allow the pizza to rest for a few minutes so that the oil can be absorbed back into the crust and the cheese and sauce can firm up a little bit.

    Cut into squares, serve, Enjoy!

    Some Final Thoughts:
    • The trick with this pizza is to get a uniformly crispy crust all along the bottom of the pizza without allowing that wonderful crispy baked Cheez-It layer to become too dark. Ideally, the cheese crust will be a medium brown, not a dark brown or black (despite some of the example photos and videos out there). To date, this has been my biggest challenge.
    • Determining the right amount of cheese can be tricky. If you have too little, the cheese will set on the top and will no longer be stringy or creamy (You effectively have cheese bread). If you have too much, it will create a heat barrier to the dough as well as providing too much extra grease under the dough resulting in a flaccid and soggy crust. Likewise, the pizza will not hold its shape once released from the pan if it is too heavy with molten cheese.
    • I have experimented with trying to put a little extra cheese on the bottom of the pan underneath the dough so that I could get some extra crispiness all around. This has always met with failure. Whether I tried some of the cheese mix, straight-up cheddar, or even parmigiano reggiano, the result was always a soggy, greasy crust.
    • Achieving a pleasant sauce is absolutely crucial. In this style, it is showcased very prominently as a topping, not a filler. Likewise, achieving the right amount of sauce can be tricky. Too little, and your pizza tastes more like cheesy bread. If the pizza is swimming in too much sauce, it will run when you cut the pizza and overpower everything else. This is why the sauce is usually ladled on in stripes (there should not be sauce where the pizza is cut).
    • I still have not determined if, in a long bake like this one, cast-iron is a help or hindrance to the browning/crisping process of the bottom and center of the crust. I tried using a ribbed "panini grill" bottom styled cast iron skillet to see if the extra surface area would translate into a crisper crust. While the pizza still did not stick to the bottom of the pan, it did not seem to achieve anything aside from adding an unpleasant scalloped texture to the bottom of the crust.
    • I have yet to experiment with shredded vs cubed cheese. One hypothesis might be that the cubed cheese will melt more slowly and allow more time for the bread to set up and become crispy before the cheese is over-baked.

    The Finished Product (A.K.A. The Food Porn):

    Lastly, here are the results of some of my early experiments:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	U0txKY_GRkhK8PZ_qPVYtR_tmYSO5d90W1nXPSWYaLZ  yLVVDrUWzeQQDhP4SPXiO6rbUxNb1i1AwTUA5uBy78ZJ1XI0BE  oR4zsKe_47Pio8CdreR_zo1Hz1DWSmA-iWTT5fLfK7KNvfL8laDvG6fGwWYztI3zChIQuZVdOWmp9S_yQ7  HGZg_L4nFJOFB4fEzlHImxfyShDesJVs2prAtwpvYKBxdB1h20  ZAP9Hg_Jeftit8kuo9kHF8JFi87UgU Views:	1 Size:	286.2 KB ID:	666110
    Click image for larger version  Name:	htV9NUsNc45_LSwY_ofutXWvTmU8hyef6XTnh1iQK5f  SxlJ5gG_xpnaGcpwT1ub1mZm0RGE0ltqT29PEFf0jDTUNRXUTK  LnU9WuszydYzO1KXgemxqaqhbHS5tyYlkEiYoDwVmgCMplEbO9  d7pSt-8DNbKLvkh8bERK5d0ei8tF9ZrxpMrfHWLBpMgQmkbjI928YQkT  pu3Fh7rqbfaDZ02I49iK8Jt-hVZx7CEvJJGyLAeYkiCApfC6TAdp4Dq9 Views:	1 Size:	232.8 KB ID:	666111
    Click image for larger version  Name:	OlleSj7Gvu-JP_agX3lvpyZxth3cWHzkN65W8-xGaHUw-kq_EXWjiSyrNHqr1YIdi7AayoVxtJSDsNsfl52zOjgDqf_ZNeu  47tIcBm9pbF6hIdFfMtTMwlTU2jGwefzeJAhb9O_ejQYt5qafr  MGpW5TJ8JBKfHqKjebT9XsJYmAtU-ihHVDwxexP1TDTuOSQAWadLfozawWDWmFvOE0Lz13cHv2iV0Yb  o_T4FHEEh8t0ny2hfpqJkv7OmJjJfRS Views:	1 Size:	354.9 KB ID:	666119
    Last edited by coreyo; April 19, 2019, 10:10 AM. Reason: more typos

    Great write-up. I've lived my entire life in Michigan. The only restaurant I know of that makes pizzas this style is Buddy's. Having said that, Buddy's is renowned in these parts and the pizza really is fantastic. You look like you nailed it.


    Thanx, and I agree - great write up.


      Thank you for this post! This is a great write up!


        Well, I was born in Detroit, grew up in Detroit, ate pizza in Detroit & left Detroit. And, I am glad you do not give a rip about exactness of replication except ya wanna cook sumthin that tastes great. Great write. You have motivated me to give what you do a try. Cuz one thing I miss about Detroit is the pizza, that and kielbasa. Also all the Arabic food and............ I’ll cut it there. Again, great write.


        • FireMan
          FireMan commented
          Editing a comment
          Murdy there is a heavy German influence here. First, no one knows how to make kielbasa, second, nobody cares to make it. The only thing obtainable is Hillshire farm. Pass!

        • klflowers
          klflowers commented
          Editing a comment
          Yea, the coneys. I guess I hadn't thought about the pizza's much. Used to go to a place called Greg's on Livernois. Was my favorite place. It is still there (according to the almighty internet) - wonder if it is as good as I remember...

        • Murdy
          Murdy commented
          Editing a comment
          FireMan. I lived about a hundred miles north of you for a good portion of my life. I guess my idea of good Kielbasa is influenced by that German tradition you referenced. I take it what Nueske's or Held's (or Usingers?) are putting out isn't authentic, even if it may be a decent product? If you get up to Antigo, try Peroutka's.

        Pizza (or any dish) is like BBQ.....the way you like it. Great write up. May try it once I loose my next 50 pounds. I too have need of adjusting my weight.


          Not barbeque but an excellent piece of work. Show us more of your wares, love to see a good barbecue recipes from you if that's the kind of love and effort you put into all of your dishes.


            Wow. Thanks!


              Great writeup and photos! I just wish I hadn't looked at this with a couple more hours to go til lunch time.


                Great write up, thanks for taking the time to do it. I do these 1-2 times a month and pretty much like you do. Here's a link for some brick cheese, not cheap but not over the top either: https://www.wisconsincheeseman.com/c...ecialty/brick/


                • coreyo
                  coreyo commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Thanks for the link. I thought it might be worth noting that this site blocks access to VPN users. I had to go to another computer to view it. The brick cheese here looks a bit different (yellow and mild) compared to what I'm seeing in my research. Have you tried it personally?

                • CaptainMike
                  CaptainMike commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I've been using the yellow mild cheese, but trying the German style tomorrow. I prefer a stronger cheese, but the mild brick is very good. It has a nice creamy texture and melts/cooks well, making for a great frico. I'll let you know about the German style after we try it.

                coreyo that pizza is absolutely amazing, and your write up is great. Do you deliver to Alabama?

                I really want to try this, but guess I need to get a pizza stone and the right kind of pans first...


                Awesome post and a beautiful looking pie. I love that there are multiple ways to get to a delicious pizza in the end.

                I have been trying to perfect a Detroit style pizza over the last couple months. My first try was a bit overdone, my second was a bit under but from then on I figured what temp I needed the oven (550) and where the pizza needed to be (middle of the oven) to get a nice, crisp base, a good crisp cheese layer around the edge, a cooked crust, and nice, bubbly sauce. For me it takes about 12 minutes.

                Click image for larger version

Name:	20190314_180032.jpg
Views:	4071
Size:	43.9 KB
ID:	666352

                I did a full writeup of what I did here: http://completecarnivore.com/my-take...t-style-pizza/ It is based on Kenji's Detroit Style pizza recipe on Serious Eats: https://www.seriouseats.com/2017/02/...yle-pizza.html. Took me quite a while to find someone local that could get me the Wisconsin Brick cheese but once they did it was much less than ordering online. I think it was $9 per pound.

                And one of these days I will get myself a rectangle pan but my round one does fine for now.

                Click image for larger version

Name:	20190221_174929.jpg
Views:	4052
Size:	39.9 KB
ID:	666353


                  Moar Research

                  Thanks to JeffJ for his personal knowledge of Detroit for pointing me in the right direction:

                  It looks like "Buddy's" pizza is considered to be the current father of Detroit style pizza. 2 other notable restaurants are "Cloverleaf" and "Loui's" pizza. Both of these restaurants were founded by former employees of Buddy's. Notice that Cloverleaf pizza uses a mixture of mozzarella AND brick cheeses.

                  Here is a video that prominently showcases Loui's pizza. Note that they use a 650F oven temperature:

                  Here's a Detroit style pizza that is clearly the work of some experimentation. Notice that he lets the dough rise for several hours in the pan first. He also uses a mixture of low-moisture mozzarella and brick cheese. His oven is set to 525F:
                  Last edited by coreyo; April 18, 2019, 10:04 AM.


                    coreyo now you have me looking at Camp Chef stoves and pizza ovens. Must. Resist. MCS...


                    • CaptainMike
                      CaptainMike commented
                      Editing a comment

                    • FireMan
                      FireMan commented
                      Editing a comment
                      To resist is futile!

                    • Huskee
                      Huskee commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Meathead will be testing the new Ooni propane oven tonight! He has high hopes about it.


                  No announcement yet.