Pizza is a great meal to bring people together, with many distinct styles and flavors to choose from. From the thin-crust New York style to the wood-fired Neapolitan style, there is, certainly, something for everyone.
But Chicagoans have taken the pizza-making concept to an entirely new level by filling a thick, crunchy crust with reversed layers of flavorful cheese, meat, and sauce. It’s no secret; Chicago style pizza is among the most consumed pizzas in the US.
So, what is Chicago style pizza exactly and what makes it so amazing? Keep reading!
Chicago Style Pizza at a Glance
Chicago style pizza offers all the good stuff people crave when they think about pizza – a crispy-edged crust that is not too crunchy but not too doughy.
The pizza is cooked in a deep-dish pie pan in a manner that allows it to produce a crust that is delightful both when freshly baked and even as leftovers.
Many aspects of this pizza are unique. For starters, it clearly doesn’t look like the regular pizzas we are used to. Apart from being baked from a deep pan, the cheese is added directly onto the crust and sauce comes on top. It is some sort of an inverted pizza.
Also, unlike many pizzas, this one is often eaten with a fork. It is the only way to avoid making a mess from the thick layers of cheese and sauce.
What Goes Into Chicago Style Pizza?
Now that you have a slight idea of what Chicago style pizza is, let’s look at what makes the layers of this pizza so special, shall we?
The crispy-edged, flaky crust is what makes Chicago style pizza so remarkable. To make such a crust, you have to steer completely away from the standard pizza crust recipe and dive into something totally different; using cornmeal.
Cornmeal is good at making things crunchy and is what makes the Chicago style pizza crust so crispy. Another unique feature about this crust is that it has plenty of butter. It is one of the creamiest crusts you will ever find in a pizza.
So, how do you achieve that ultra-creamy flavor?
Well, the trick is laminating the pizza dough. Lamination is, simply, the process of rolling and folding butter into the pizza dough. This may sound weird for new bakers, we know, but this process is what gives Chicago style pizzas their flaky crust.
And it is not difficult; just apply butter to your dough and roll it up. Then fold the dough again along its length to lock the butter inside. But despite all this rolling and flaking, the resulting crust will be absolutely tender in your mouth.
To go with the amazing crust is an incredibly thick and tangy pizza sauce that will give you something to talk about.
The Chicago style pizza sauce is garlic-infused and is made on a stovetop. Prepare it and let it simmer as you wait for the dough to ferment. This will allow the different flavors to blend well, thickening the texture of the sauce.
If you like a little bit of heat, you can throw in a few red pepper flakes; it will really give your sauce something extra.
If there is something the Chicago style pizza is known for is the huge amount of cheese that goes into the pie. You can use either sliced or shredded mozzarella. Whichever you choose, make sure you are getting your slices or shreds from a chunk of fresh cheese.
If you don’t have a block of mozzarella cheese, it’s fine. You can always go for the pre-shredded type, but you will notice the huge difference in taste between fresh and pre-sliced mozzarella. The taste of real mozzarella is unbeatable.
Why is Chicago Pizza Assembled Differently?
The standard order of assembling pizzas is crust-sauce-cheese-toppings. However, the arrangement of layers in a Chicago style pizza, as we mentioned earlier, is slightly different, i.e., crust-cheese-toppings-sauce.
The reason this pizza is assembled as so is that deep dish pizzas require a little more bake time than thin-crust pizzas. Now, if the mozzarella was put on top, it would be exposed to severe oven heat for the entire baking time, causing it to burn or become hard and chewy.
Tips for Making the Perfect Chicago Style Pizza
You can always order Chicago style pizza from your favorite pizzeria. But if you are like most of us who like having home-baked pies, here are tips to help you bake your deep dish pizza like a pro.
1. Start With the Right Dough
When it comes to Chicago style pizza, the crust is key. It has to be thick and sturdy enough to support the weight of the heavy toppings that will go onto it, yet light enough so it cooks well.
Let the dough ferment for a few hours (if possible, let it rise more than once) to make sure it is fluffy and light. If you are preparing stuffed pizza, ensure the middle crust is not as thick as the crust you have at the bottom.
2. Spend a Little More Time on the Sauce
Even though you won’t be adding your sauce to the pizza until toward the end, you will need to take your time with it to make it perfect. Good pizza sauce can take quite an amount of time to prepare due to all the work that goes into dicing, chopping, slicing, and simmering.
The right mix of herbs, tastiest tomatoes, and carefully selected onions, peppers, and other veggies can mean the difference between a finger-licking sauce and an okay one.
If you will be making your own pizza sauce, add a little bit of butter and olive oil to soften the peppers and onions. Consider using fresh veggies instead of canned ones, especially if you don’t have enough time to simmer out the aftertaste that comes with canned veggies.
And don’t forget to mix your herbs and spices correctly. Garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and a dash of salt can easily transform a dull sauce into something scrumptious.
Make sure you are not overwhelming the sauce, though. You want everything to be well balanced and work well together. You can only achieve this by spending the right amount of time on your sauce.
3. Pick Good Toppings
As much as the sauce is the key element in determining how flavorful your pizza will be, you don’t want to select your meats carelessly. Your toppings are also flavor carriers and should be picked carefully.
Don’t just grab low-priced stuff. Instead, get high-quality ingredients that have been prepped and processed with care. Whether you are browning a spicy Italian sausage or dicing pepperoni, you want your toppings to enhance the taste of your pizza, not weaken it.
The vegetables you choose are just as essential. Slice onions, mushrooms, peppers, and other veggies into small chunks so you can easily stuff them inside the pie.
But you don’t have to stick to these specific vegetable toppings. Kick up your pizza a notch higher by throwing in a fresh bite of garlic and spinach or a combination of barbecue-chicken flavor.
A Chicago style pizza, or any other pizza for that matter, can be as tasteful as you want. You just need to be a little creative.
4. Don’t Gamble With the Cheese
Whether you choose mozzarella, provolone, Parmigiano Reggiano, or any other type of cheese for your Chicago style pizza, make sure the cheese will become gooey and viscous when cooked.
The best cheese will have the ideal amount of fat and will melt and bubble to perfection. The whole idea is to have stretchy cheese while slicing up the pizza; one of the notable characteristics of Chicago style pizzas.
5. Bake the Pizza Properly
How you bake your Chicago style pizza can make or break the end product. For this kind of pie, you will need a deep cake pan so that all the ingredients can sit properly inside the crust. Don’t forget to grease the pan or your delicious crust will stick onto the pan.
Also, make sure you are doing the layering correctly. Your ingredients should be uniformly distributed too; you don’t want too many toppings and not enough cheese or vice versa.
As you assemble your pizza, have the oven preheating. And once you have eventually set the pizza inside the oven, keep an eye on it to make sure the edges aren’t burning.
Chicago style pizza is a must-try for anyone who loves deep-dish pies. If this article has got your mouth watering, why not order one right now?
Or better yet, use the tips we have discussed here to make your own. All you need to do is prepare the dough properly, get the appropriate ingredients for the topping, and remember to assemble the layers in the right order. That’s it.
Looking to learn more about Chicago style pizza? Leave us a comment below.
Barbara is an enthusiastic food-exploring person that goes through different culinary experiences. She got inspired by creating a pizza blog post after she tasted one of the best-selling pizzas in Toledo.