America's Test Kitchen: Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

[skip to see: recipe | video]

Deep dish pizza originated in Chicago with pizzerias Lou Malnati's, Pizza Uno, Gino’s East, and Giordano's having made a name for themselves making some of the best deep dish pizzas around. Deep dish pizza is characterized as being baked in a deep dish pan and having a very thick flaky/buttery crust.

Home Baked Deep Dish Pizza
Home Baked Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
The cheese is often layered just above the dough and the sauce is layered on top of that so that the cheese can prevent the sauce from making the crust soggy. Eating a slice would require the use of a fork and knife.

I can tell you that I’m more of a New York-style thin crust pizza kind of a guy than someone who prefers the Chicago Deep Dish variety. Just because I prefer New York’s thin crust pizza, it doesn’t mean that I cannot enjoy Chicago’s version as well. The way I see it, I can have the best of both worlds in this tale of two pizzas.

If I’m not having a pizza delivered to my door, I’m almost always heating a frozen pizza instead. Also, I noticed that Chicago deep dish pizzas are quite pricey which really doesn’t surprise me. After all, there’s just so much pizza you’re getting in each pie. I never thought about making my own pizza when I happened to catch this episode of America’s Test Kitchen (season 11 episode 19: Deep Dish Pizza) where they were making Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza. I decided to make this because the video shows just how easy it is to make your own dough - I never knew it was that simple to do. I was always under the impression that bread baking and making your own dough from scratch was such a complicated process meant for the professionals, but it really isn't.

Pizza Dough Rising
Letting the Dough Rise

Adding Cheese on a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
First Layering Cheese on a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Adding Tomato Sauce on a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
Then Adding Tomato Sauce on a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Toppings on a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
Then Adding Extra Toppings on a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

After taking the 2 deep dish pizzas out of the oven and letting it rest, I saw how crisp the crust was. The crust had a nice, buttery taste which added to the heartiness of each slice, and there certainly isn't a shortage of melted cheese. You can get full really fast after eating only a couple of slices. I've already made this recipe a few times and it's a great dish that kids will love.

Slice of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
Slice of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

FlavorFool's Notes

  • I used 2 9-inch diameter cake pans to bake the pizzas in. I'd prefer to use say a larger cake pan (say a 10 inch diameter) instead since there seemed to be too much dough making the pizza crust too thick. That or I would lessen the amount of flour and make less of the dough.
  • The recipe says to use 4 tbsp of butter to spread on the flattened dough. I think 3 tbsp is enough and would still do the job.
  • I prepared the accompanying pizza sauce where you cook down some canned crushed tomatoes after you saute some grated onion. I found the preparation of this sauce to be too labor intensive: grating the onion and cooking down the sauce. And I found the sauce to be too acidic after cooking it down. I instead used the pizza sauce recipe from America’s Test Kitchen New York style thin crust pizza (season 12 episode 8: New York-style Pizza at Home) where they get a can of whole peeled tomatoes, drain, puree, and leave it uncooked. I watched a tv show on Chicago deep dish pizza (I think it was Throwdown with Bobby Flay) and I vaguely recall Marc Malnati (from Lou Malnati’s pizzeria in Chicago and Lou's son) mentioning that the sauce is always uncooked before going into the oven - that’s straight from the expert himself! In addition to the sauce, I added some fresh chopped basil. I found that this pizza sauce gave a fresher taste and wasn’t too thick and acidic after trying the original pizza sauce that went with this recipe.
  • I also added more toppings just because that’s the way I like my pizzas to be. I added green bell peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni, and onions (I'm not a big fan of olives). I microwaved the pepperoni on top of a paper towel so that the oil from the pepperoni can be released before putting it on my pizza pie. Sometimes I add bits of uncooked Italian sausage and when I do, I don't go overboard with it because Italian sausage has that distinct "medicine" flavor due to the fennel seeds.
  • As previously mentioned, the cheese is layered on top of the dough and then the sauce is added on top of the cheese. I add the veggies (onions, green peppers, mushrooms) on top of the sauce because they tend to have a lot of water and being on top allows them to properly cook through. I put the pepperoni in between the sauce and cheese because that's how Chicago pizzerias do it. The sausage would normally be put here too but I put it up top since I'm putting raw sausage on my pie, so just like the veggies, I'd like the Italian sausage to be fully cooked as well.
  • Sometimes rolling out the dough using a rolling pin works like they do in the video below. However, there are times when my dough is too wet such that the dough sticks to the rolling pin and/or my rolling surface and I could'nt separate it once it started sticking. I've messed up doughs this way that I had to just discard the dough and cut my losses. As a personal preference, I use my hands in the proper pizza making technique where the dough is draped on your knuckles and you stretch out the dough instead. Luckily, this dough is not so sticky that it'd stick to your hands. To me this method is easier than rolling the dough using a rolling pin.
  • Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza Recipe

    Makes two 9-inch pizzas, serving 4 to 6

    Handle the dough with slightly oiled hands, or it might stick.


    3 1/4 cups (16 1/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup (2 3/4 oz) yellow cornmeal [I leave this out because I don't like the gritty texture, but if you don't mind the texture/taste then leave it in]
    1 1/2 tsp table salt
    2 tsp sugar
    2 1/4 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
    1 1/4 cups water (10 oz), room temperature
    3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tablespoons, softened [I used 3 tbsp softened butter which was enough to laminate the dough]
    1 teaspoon plus 4 tablespoons olive oil

    2 tbsp unsalted butter
    1/4 cup grated onion, from 1 medium onion [use large holes of a box grater]
    1/4 tsp dried oregano
    Table salt
    2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
    1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (see note)
    1/4 tsp sugar
    2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
    1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    Ground black pepper

    1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups) [don't use pre-shredded since it doesn't melt easily]
    1/2 oz grated Parmesan cheese(about 1/4 cup)


    1. FOR THE DOUGH: Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add water and melted butter and mix on low speed until fully combined, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is glossy and smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, 4 to 5 minutes. (Dough will only pull away from sides while mixer is on. When mixer is off, dough will fall back to sides.)

    2. Using fingers, coat large bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil, rubbing excess oil from fingers onto blade of rubber spatula. Using oiled spatula, transfer dough to bowl, turning once to oil top; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.

    3. FOR THE SAUCE: While dough rises, heat butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add onion, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, increase heat to high, and bring to simmer. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Off heat, stir in basil and oil, then season with salt and pepper.

    4. TO LAMINATE THE DOUGH: Adjust oven rack to lower position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Using rubber spatula, turn dough out onto dry work surface and roll into 15- by 12-inch rec-tangle. Using offset spatula, spread softened butter over surface of dough, leaving 1/2-inch border along edges. Starting at short end, roll dough into tight cylinder. With seam side down, flatten cylinder into 18- by 4-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle in half crosswise. Working with 1 half, fold into thirds like business letter; pinch seams together to form ball. Repeat with remaining half. Return balls to oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in refrigerator until nearly doubled in volume, 40 to 50 minutes.

    5. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Transfer 1 dough ball to dry work surface and roll out into 13-inch disk about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer dough to pan by rolling dough loosely around rolling pin and unrolling into pan. Lightly press dough into pan, working into corners and 1 inch up sides. If dough resists stretching, let it relax 5 minutes before trying again. Repeat with remaining dough ball.

    6. For each pizza, sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella evenly over surface of dough. Spread 1 1/4 cups tomato sauce over cheese and sprinkle 2 tablespoons Parmesan over sauce. Bake until crust is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes [I used the full 30 min since a massive Chicago deep dish pizza needs time to cook]. Remove pizza from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

    Video: Demonstrating Chicago Deep Dish Pizza on America's Test Kitchen


    Robin said...

    I made these today, and they came out great! We're not big on chunky sauce, so I put the sauce in the blender to make it smooth before adding basil/olive oil. Living in Chicago for awhile, I've had my share of Chicago-style pizza, and they actually do have a buttery, flaky crust...a bit different than a standard pizza crust. I took your advice and only spread 3 tbsp of butter onto the dough. Next time, I'll use the recommended 4 tbsp. Took a bit of time to make, but definitely worth the effort!

    FlavorFool said...

    @Robin, that's great that your deep dish pizzas came out well. As a person who has lived in Chicago, you'd know what good deep dish pizza should taste like. It's been awhile since I've had a deep dish pizza from a restaurant since I've found this recipe. I usually make 2 pizzas at a time, but if I'm having a gathering at my house, doubling the recipe to get 4 pizzas is easy enough to do and seems to make my guests happy.

    Anonymous said...

    I use this recipe in my classroom and it is a great hit. They all wait for this food lab. I follow the recipe as it is written.

    FlavorFool said...

    Hi @Anonymous, I'm glad that your class likes it when you make them Chicago style deep dish pizza from America's Test Kitchen. It's definitely great when you have to feed several people. This recipe is always popular among my family as well. What I liked about this recipe is that it's way easier making pizza in a pan versus the traditional way of baking a pizza on a baking stone (I always have issues with the dough sticking to the pizza peel and sliding it over to the stone). Not only that, but it introduced me to bread baking since I didn't realize that making your own dough wasn't that difficult at all.

    Sherri said...

    Have you ever the dough a day or two before you need it? Have you ever froze your dough?

    FlavorFool said...

    Hello @Sherri, whenever I make the dough for America's Test Kitchen's recipe for deep dish pizza, I always make it the day before. I do keep it in the refrigerator overnight, but I've never put it in the freezer.

    Post a Comment