Can we make the perfect Chicago deep dish pizza? YES. We have been covering the Chicago deep dish for a few weeks now and I think I found my pizza. One that takes all of the elements of a great Chicago deep dish and brings it to fruition in a great pizza recipe. Somewhere I channeled my Chicago deep dish muse and found THE recipe. This is our best Chicago deep dish that I feel captures the essence and heritage of this pizza. Go straight to the recipe.
The Basic Construction of the Best Chicago Deep Dish
We previously looked at the elements of a great Chicago deep dish, so you can dive a bit deeper there, but here is the basic rundown. One of the defining characteristics of a Chicago deep dish is that the cheese is not on top. It is constructed with the crust, then the mozzarella cheese, THEN the ingredients, and then the sauce. You might find parmesan on top or some high moisture ingredients on top, but the bulk of the cheese is on the bottom.
The Pizza Dough
I really struggled with the dough on this one. I made several pizzas trying to get this down (the struggles of a food blogger, right?). When you look into it, it seems that there are so many opinions on the Chicago deep dish dough and what makes it great. Some claim that the Chicago deep dish pizza should be bready and huge, but this is wrong. This pizza definitely has some bulk to it, but the crust should not feel like a loaf of bread. The crust should actually be thin, but strong enough to hold the ingredients of this pizza. There is a debate on whether a Chicago deep dish should contain cornmeal or semolina flour. I chose to make my best Chicago deep dish without either.
A great Chicago deep dish dough should be thin, but able to carry quite a bit of ingredients. It should be golden brown, as though it has been fried just a tad. The edges should not be loaves of bread but have a crisp, golden brown flakiness to them.
We tried so many recipes and tweaked them in so many ways, but just couldn’t get it right. Then, I found inspiration. It was getting really frustrating until I found Real Deep Dish and deep dish 101. My best Chicago deep dish is a modified version of this recipe.
If you have gotten serious about bread baking before, you know that measurements matter. One thing I really appreciate about Deep Dish 101 is that he gives exact measurements. That can really make a difference. Just a few tablespoons of water or flour can really impact the rise and the final product. So, I have to give credit to Deep Dish 101 on the dough recipe in helping me make the best Chicago deep dish.
The Pan and a Pizza Stone
The other element that Deep Dish 101 used and helped level up my deep dish pizza abilities was the use of a pizza stone. I had originally wondered why I would need a pizza stone, as I am not cooking directly on the stone like other pizza styles. When I cook a Neapolitan, it goes directly on the stone, but Chicago deep dishes are already cooked in a pan. For this recipe, the pan goes directly on the stone. It turns out that this helps create a nice golden brown crust on the bottom and contributes to the bake of the whole pie. Make sure to give your stone enough time to warm up!
Originally, I was using my 14-inch cast iron to cook my pizzas. I think this would continue to work, but I decided to splurge and get a 12-inch pizza pan. I was also thinking about getting a spring pan, as that could make slicing much easier, but most had a rough bottom and I did not want that.
The Pizza Sauce
As indicated in my elements of a great Chicago deep dish post, the pizza sauce for this style is super simple. I used a simple 28 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. VIOLA! Unlike my other pizza sauce that I cook in a pot and simmer to reduction, this is baked right on the pizza. I had tried some other crushed tomatoes and crushed my own from San Marzano canned whole tomatoes. The Cento petite diced tomatoes worked best for me.
Finally, it is important to strain these guys. We want as little loose liquid floating around in here as possible. I found out early on that too much moisture can result in pooling of liquid in your pizza when baking. That is no fun.
Whole milk, low-moisture mozzarella is the cheese to use. Do yourself a favor and get it sliced from the deli or slice your own. I am sure shredded will work, but it is not in the tradition of this style. Additionally, as we covered in our Macaroni and Cheese series, pre-bought shredded cheese has chemicals added. We are trying to keep in the tradition of making a GREAT dish, so I would recommend going au natural, rather than pre-bought shredded cheese with mold inhibitor and chemicals to prevent sticking.
Toppings for this Deep Dish Pizza
Well, this is completely up to you. I am going to keep in Chicago tradition and make this a sausage pizza. For any ingredients that are high in moisture, I drain them. For example, my wife likes pepperoncini and pineapple. Of course, I try to cook to her taste. I will throw these high moisture ingredients in a strainer for a while to get as much of the moisture out as possible.
Cutting and Serving the Pizza
The deep dish can be a little tricky to cut and serve (hence, why I was thinking about using a spring pan). What I did was cut the best I could using my pizza cutter. Then, using a knife, I cut the small corners to ensure that the pieces were separated before I tried removing the slices. When everything was cut, I used my pie server to move the pieces to the plate. Remember, this is a bulky pizza and is best served on a plate.
The Best Chicago Deep Dish Recipe
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Best Chicago Deep Dish RecipePrint Recipe
- 283 grams bread flour
- 170 grams lukewarm water
- 54 grams peanut oil
- 2 grams active dry yeast
- 2 grams salt
- 1 gram sugar
- 1 pound of whole milk low-moisture mozzarella, sliced
- 14 ounces of Italian Sausage, uncooked
- Other Toppings (Optional)
- 1 batch of the best Chicago deep dish sauce
- ¼ cup of freshly grated parmesan
In large mixing bowl, add water, sugar and salt
Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit for 5 minutes
Add ¼ cup of flour and oil to bowl
Continue adding ¼ cup of flour and mixing until it is of batter consistency
Add rest of flour and mix until combined
Use your mixer and dough hook to mix on medium low for 1 minute OR knead by hand for 2-3 minutes
Form into ball and place in bowl
Lightly cover ball with oil
Place plastic wrap over bowl and place in warm place for 1-2 hours OR until dough size has doubled
While dough is rising, place pizza stone on bottom rack and heat oven to 500
Allow stone to heat appropriately (40 minutes to 1 hour)
Once dough has doubled, place dough into lightly oiled 12 inch deep dish pizza pan
Spread dough to cover bottom. It should be flat and even all along the bottom.
Using your pointer finger and thumb pinch up along the sides of the entirety of the pizza, creating the side crust of your pizza
Add sliced mozzarella to the cover the bottom of the crust
Add Italian sausage and any other ingredients you may want. Spread evenly
Add deep dish pizza sauce and spread evenly
Sprinkle parmesan cheese over top
Place pie in oven and cook for 35 minutes
Remove and and let rest for 5 minutes
As a disclaimer, the pizza pictured has a 1/4 of it as a vegetarian pizza.