Chicage Style Pizza

can any Chi Town guys or anyone else here give me the rundown on chicago pizza. I’ve tried deep dish. The only way i can get it to be decent is by pre cooking a shell out of two doughs put together, Kind of the way we make our sicilian. Im thinking in New York, Nobody does it. I feel like I should. Just another option. where should I start? Do i need special pans? help!

I’m a Chi-town guy, but I’ll never give away the secrets!

Just kidding. Tom Lehmann is definitely the expert on this, but until he comes along I’ll put in my two cents. There are really two styles of “deep” pizza inside Chicago - “Deep Dish” and “Stuffed”. Uno’s and Gino’s East are Deep Dish style, Giordano’s is Stuffed.

The Deep Dish is made with a thick layer of dough that bakes up like a bread and your topping are on top of that. The Stuffed pizza is made with two thin layers of dough and is made just like an apple pie - Dough, cheese and toppings and another layer of dough on the top. The sauce is placed on the top layer of dough after it has been baked about half way.

I do the stuffed pizza in my store because we can use the same dough as our Chicago-style thin crust; I don’t want do get into making different batches of dough.

I think you’ll find one of the secrets to a great “Deep Dish” is to make a dough with H&R flour. You don’t want the high gluten that makes good thin-crust pizza, you want a nice bread base. You also need to give the dough a proof once it’s already in the pan at probably 90 degrees.

And speaking of Chicago-style pizza, I bet most people don’t know that us natives consider our thin-crust (cut in squares, of course) to be the real Chicago-style pizza!

Take a look in the RECIPE BANK for my Chicago deep-dish pizza dough formula and procedure. Let me know if you should have any questions.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

I’m not from Chicago and have never lived there. But we make a Chicago Style Pizza. Remember, most Chicago Style Recipes take 30 minutes in the oven. And that’s when the oven is hot. There are lots of tricks for conveyor ovens (I don’t use conveyors yet). Our dough uses 47% water and 18% Whirl. About 30% of our flour mix is Semolina. Ours rises in the walk in in a cambro. We lack the space to cut it into balls before the rise.

In my opinion, the sauce is one of the unique things about Chicago Pizza - the tomatoes roast for 30 minutes eliminating moisture and changing the flavor of the tomatoes substantially. If you cut out a step (parcooking crusts, for instance) you may need to pre cook your sauce for a good flavor profile. If I can get a deal on a steam kettle I’m going to experiment with this.

I had a friend bring me back a pizza from Pi in Saint Louis this weekend. If you don’t know, Pi has become an instant hit in Saint Louis with their take on a Chi-pie. They are a huge success so I thought I’d analyze their deep-dish. I took it apart and observed a few things:

  1. They use cornmeal. Lots of cornmeal. I have eaten lots of Chicago pizzas and not seen cornmeal in the pie. It gave it a flaky texture (similar to my use of semolina) but with a lot more grit to it. I found it tiring to eat after a few bites, but you can’t argue with their success. Play around with Flour/Semolina/Cornmeal and see if you find something you like.
  2. They clearly par-cooked. Upon removing the substantial layer of sauce, I noticed the top of the cheese was thoroughly browned. The cheese was melted into the crust which causes me to believe they parcook the crust with the cheese and then add toppings and sauce later. This makes a lot of sense if they’re using conveyor ovens (I don’t know that they are). One pass with cheese and another with sauce…
  3. Their sauce was a little runnier than I prefer. I do NOT think they strained their tomatoes or cooked their sauce. It also appeared that a substantial amount of the seasoning in the sauce was put on top of the pizza. The sauce itself appeared relatively unflavored (I think very minimal seasoning is common in Chicago pies). Overall, the pie had good flavor. Just weird that it appeared sprinkled on…I probably use too much seasoning in my sauce but that’s how I like it. I also strain my 6-in-1’s and apply dollops of tomato rather than a layer of sauce. Most of my customers did not like scraping thick layers of sauce off the top of their pizza to get to the toppings and cheese and I decided not to fight it…

Some other random thoughts:

We use tons of crisco on our pans. First, it allows the pizza to release. Second, it gives the outside an almost deep-fried texture. Speaking of getting the pizzas out of the pans, that was tricky for us at first. I now invested in a dozen huge pancake spatulas which work well. It still takes practice and everytime I hire a new cook, it takes several times for them to get the hang of it.

We use tons of cheese. A full pound on a 14" pizza. To me, that is the hallmark of chicago deep-dish pizza.

Many people from Chicago will expect a sausage patty. Most outside Chicago will cringe. I choose to make it available but it is an option.

I hope I helped in some way.