Detroit is a strong city known for many things, namely cars, music and pizza. Known as the Detroit-style square, Detroit’s pizza has earned its reputation as one of the best slices around. With its distinct rectangular shape, light and airy dough, crispy caramelized cheese perimeter and delightful crunch, Detroit-style pizza was built for savoring.
But what exactly makes a pan pizza Detroit-style, and why is a hearty Detroit slice so highly sought after? In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this delicious Detroit dish from what qualities define a Detroit-style pizza and how a Detroit-style pizza is made to what separates a Detroit-style pie from other types of deep-dish pizza. If you’re looking for a pizza unlike any other, learn more about Detroit-style!
What Are the Defining Characteristics of Detroit-Style Pizza?
Detroit-style pizza is a thick, square-cut pizza with a crunchy, fried bottom layer of crust overflowing with delicious melted cheese. Like most rectangular pan pizzas served in America, Detroit-style pizza is a variation of the Sicilian pizza. Originally called “sfincione,” which means “little sponge,” Sicilian pizza has a fluffier bread base than most U.S. pizzas.
Detroit-style pizza sets itself apart from Sicilian pizza with its cheese-covered crust, which is typically so crispy that the cheese is slightly burnt, and its long, vertical streaks of sauce on top of the cheese. The result of this unique pizza style is a gooey, doughy center with a crunchy outer crust and caramelized cheese hugging its edges.
The traditional topping for a Detroit-style pizza is pepperoni, but Detroit-style pizza doesn’t use just any pepperoni. Instead of the large, flat circular pepperoni that comes on most ordinary pizzas, Detroit-style pizza features smaller, thicker slices of pepperoni that curl up into miniature cups as they cook. These cute little pepperoni cups hold onto their fat and enhance the pizza during the baking process.
How Is Detroit-Style Pizza Made?
Making Detroit-style pizza starts with the dough. Because Detroit-style pizza is known for its more airy center with a crusty outside, the dough must be hydrated just right, which means achieving the perfect ratio of water to flour. To create its crust’s famous open, fluffy and chewy center with a crisp exterior, Detroit-style pizza uses a wetter dough.
The next all-important factor for making a flawless Detroit-style pizza is the pan. As a deep-dish rectangular pizza, Detroit-style pizza is best cooked in a steel industrial pan with sides angled outwards to make the area at the top of the pan greater than the area at the bottom. A 10-by-14-inch pan with black surfaces is ideal for ensuring the dough fills the entire pan and its sides get a nice crisp.
Unlike most other pizza styles, Detroit-style pizza layers the crust with cheese and toppings below the sauce. Traditionally, Detroit-style pizza uses Wisconsin brick cheese, a mildly flavored semi-soft cheese with a high fat content, as opposed to the usual mozzarella. The fat from Wisconsin brick cheese lends the crust some mouth-watering buttery flavor, while the cheese itself stays gooey in the center as it spreads toward the edges of the pie to caramelize into a golden, cheesy crust.
Sometimes the cheese is added first, and sometimes the toppings are placed directly on the crust, but the sauce is always ladled onto the pizza last as the finishing layer of flavor. A Detroit-style pizza features a tomato-based sauce that excellently complements the more mild brick cheese, which tastes similar to cheddar. The sauce can be applied as blotchy dollops or as thick lines called “racing stripes.”
Some recipes recommend adding the sauce after the pizza comes out of the oven, which is referred to as “red top” because the sauce is the final topping. By waiting until the last second to add the sauce, the crust is protected from ever getting soggy. Whether the sauce is added before or after it enters the oven, a Detroit-style pizza should be baked at about 440 degrees Fahrenheit for around 13 minutes to ensure a perfect pie.
Once the pizza is done cooking, it gets cut into squares to make it definitively Detroit-style. Because these square slices are served piping hot, many diners choose to eat Detroit-style pizza with a fork and knife, although some dedicated Detroit pizza fans do dare to brave the heat and go without utensils.
How Is Detroit-Style Pizza Different From Other Types of Pizza?
Typically, the image that comes to mind when someone says “pizza” is a round, thin-crust pie with stringy melted mozzarella cheese dropping off of flimsy triangular slices. Detroit-style pizza deviates from these conventions entirely with its rectangular shape, sauce-topped cheese and a crust so thick it would be impossible to fold.
Although Detroit-style pizza is completely different from conventional thin-crust pizzas like a New York slice, it does share some common features with other pan pizzas. So what separates a slice of Detroit-style pizza from a slice of any other Sicilian pizza descendant?
The most notable quality of Detroit-style pizza when comparing it to other pan pizzas is its cheese. A Detroit-style pie has cheese spread everywhere on top, which gives it a distinct crispy layer of burnt cheese around its edges. The fat drippings from the Wisconsin brick cheese used to top the pie also help to fry the sides and bottom of the crust as the pizza cooks.
While other pizza types may be considered deep dish, Detroit-style pizza sets itself apart with its soft inside and crispy outside. While Chicago-style pizza features a flakier, thin deep crust like a traditional pie, Detroit-style pizza stars a thick crust that closely resembles focaccia. The Detroit-style crust sets itself apart from a Sicilian crust with its airier texture, fluffy chew and crispy underside.
Similar to a Chicago deep-dish pizza, a Detroit-style pizza scoops its sauce over top of its cheese. However, a Detroit-style pizza doesn’t use nearly as much sauce as Chicago-style and stands out with its spotted dollops of sauce or sleek red racing stripes. In fact, the unique aesthetic of Detroit-style pizza’s tomato sauce artfully contrasting with its burnt cheese edges has made the food a social media hit.
Get the Best Detroit-Style Pizza in Town From Green Lantern Pizza
If you’re looking for the tastiest Detroit-style pizza in the Metro-Detroit area, Green Lantern Pizza is the place you’ve been searching for. Since the early 1950s, Green Lantern Pizza has been hand cutting each of its ingredients and making its delicious dough and sauce fresh every morning.
You can taste the difference these high-quality ingredients make in every single slice from Green Lantern Pizza. As the King of Pepperoni, Green Lantern Pizza is most well-known for its delicious pepperoni-topped deep-dish pies. To explore more toppings options, check out the full menu.
To experience the best Detroit-style pizza in the Metro-Detroit area, find the Green Lantern Pizza location nearest you or order a Green Lantern pie online. If you have any questions about the menu or Detroit-style pizza in general, contact Green Lantern Pizza today.