Cole Cooks: Making Detroit Pizza

Making Detroit Pizza


It was fairly late in life that I found out that some of the best pizza in the world comes from Detroit, Michigan.  It seems Detroit-style pizza is starting to catch on in a big way and I am firmly on the bandwagon.  This post describes my discovery of this pizza style and provides our experience making Detroit Pizza.  It includes a link to our recipe for making Detroit Pizza at home.  FOR THE RECIPE GO HERE

Detroit Pizza Overview

I was familiar with Detroit pizza for several years.  It is on the menu at one of my favorite pizza places, Tony’s Napoletana in San Francisco (they also have the great Pizza Rock in Las Vegas).  However, Tony has so many pizza choices I have never gotten around trying his take on Detroit pizza (his pizza book has a fairly complex recipe).  I also saw that Little Caesars pizza chain has a Detroit style pie.  Little Caesers is headquartered in Detroit, but I am not a big fan of chain pizza.

So I didn’t eat my first Detroit pizza place until 2016 in, of all places, North Carolina.  For many years, we have stayed in Hendersonville, NC for family reunions.  Hendersonville, near Asheville, is a very hip and trendy mountain town with many great dining options.  Lo and behold, they have a restaurant that specialized in Detroit-style pizza, Pi-Squared.

Trying the pizza at Pi Squared got myself and the whole family hooked on this style of pizza.  I must say a return visit in 2017 was not quite as pleasant because we ordered a pizza that had mayonnaise on it.  We ordered from their online menu and there was no mention of that foul condiment and we had quite a few people gagging.  Luckily none of my other searches have shown mayo as a standard topping on Detroit Pizza.

In San Diego, I am happy to report that a Detroit pizza place opened a few months after our initial North Carolina experience.  This place, the Square Pizza company, actually specializes in several styles of square pizza, one of which is Detroit-style.  This small mom and pop shop, in Pacific Beach has become a family favorite, mainly because of their take on Detroit pies, I mean squares.  Check out our review here.

Detroit pizza’s nearest cousins are Sicilian deep dish and Chicago style.  However, it is very much its own style.  This pizza is cooked in special square pans and the sauce goes on top of the cheese.  The official cheese for Detroit pizza is Wisconsin brick cheese.  As I discovered, that is not easy to find in California and is expensive.  I am not sure if restaurants outside Detroit use this type of cheese.  Detroit and Milwaukee are the only two major U.S. cities I have never visited so I am not sure I have actually tried true Detroit pizza.  However, I can say the knockoff attempts are pretty delicious.

Making Detroit Pizza at Home: Attempt 1

In early 2017, Serious Eats published a recipe for Detroit-style pizza and I knew I had to make it at home.

I actually went out and ordered an authentic Detroit pizza pan from Amazon for close to $40.  I also ordered the recommended Vermont pepperoni which was excellent.  The brick cheese was a different story so I used the suggested replacement of Jack and Mozzarella, along with some Wisconsin cheese curds I found.  I followed the Serious Eats recipe exactly and the outcome was pretty good.  However, there were some issues.  I thought there was too little cheese, there was barely enough sauce and there was way too much pepperoni.  The biggest issue was it was extremely salty.  This recipe was good but I definitely needed to tweak it.

Making Detroit Pizza
My custom Detroit pizza pan. A regular 11 by 15 pan works fine
Making Detroit Pizza
Not sure if Wisconsin cheese curds are a substitute for brick cheese but it tasted good
Making Detroit Pizza
This was more than enough pepperoni for one pizza

Making Detroit Pizza at Home: Attempt 2

The second time I made Detroit pizza I decided to make two at once.  I only had one Detroit Pizza pan so I used a regular pan for the second pizza.  In doing some more research I found a recipe on the King Arthur Flour site that tweaked the Serious Eats recipe.  Mainly they added more yeast and less salt to the dough.

So I ended up making two pizzas, once using the Serious Eats formula and the other using the King Arthur recipe.  On the Serious Eats dough I did dial back the salt, knowing it was way too salty the first time.  After letting the dough sit, it was fairly obvious that the extra yeast made quite a difference.  The King Arthur dough had doubled in size.

Making Detroit Pizza
Left is Serious Eats dough, right is King Arthur

The New Sauce

The second major change I made was to the sauce.  I have my own recipe for a no-cook pizza sauce.  Basically, you just mix the ingredients together and put it on top of the pizza.  This is not only much easier but I think it ended up tasting better.  As a concession to the original recipe, I added a tablespoon of sugar to my traditional sauce.

In terms of cheese, Brick Cheese is just not available in the San Diego area (UPDATE: we found some at Grocery Outlet, will use it for attempt 3).  I tried a combination of Muenster, Mozzarella and White Cheddar on one pizza and Monterrey Jack, Mozzarella and White Cheddar on the other pizza.  The cheddar was sprinkled around the edges, like Tony’s Napoletana does it. In total, I used 18 ounces of cheese versus only 12 in the Serious Eats version.  I also cut the amount of pepperoni in half. 

Making Detroit Pizza
4 different kinds of cheese


Making Detroit Pizza
I up the cheese and sauce!

On a side note, I tried two different types of crushed tomatoes.  A generic store bought brand and a fancy, twice the price can of San Marzano tomatoes.  I tested them with six people.  two preferred the generic, two preferred the San Marzano and two couldn’t tell the difference.  They all claimed both sauces were great.

Making Detroit Pizza
Which is better? We couldn’t tell.
Making Detroit Pizza
My no cook sauce worked great

The second attempt came out much better.  Both pizzas were good, with the King Arthur dough being noticeably thicker.  Next time I will probably continue to use the extra yeast.  Each pizza makes about six large slices.  Each slice is a fairly hearty serving, I would say one pizza comfortably serves 4.

Normally I find making pizza at home you get a decent product that is better than the chain restaurants but not as good as a premium pizza place.  I think Detroit pizza is the exception.  This is one where the make at home version can rival most restaurants.


Making Detroit Pizza
Left is Serious Eats style, right is my new recipe


If you want an authentic Detroit Pizza Pan 


I also ordered the recommended Vermont Pepperoni and liked it so much I have it delivered on a monthly basis for a discount.



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