In the pizza Olympics, the deep dish pizzas would be the all-round track and field stars who participate in multiple events — not the world-famous superstar sprinters like their thin-based competitors, but still exceptional pizzathletes (yes, pizzathletes). Theirs’ may not be the event you buy a ticket for, but once you’ve experienced the Deep Dish Decathlon, you’re hooked.
Deep dish pizzas have something for everyone. Some are more focused on their cheese game, while others put a lot of effort into increasing their crusty gains. Whatever your preference, there’s a deep dish pizzathlete that you will love.
Let’s meet our contestants.
Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza — ‘Chi-Town Chuck’
Probably the most well-known of the deep dish pizzas, Chicago deep dish pizza is a luxuriously rich pizza pie. It has a golden crust of medium-thickness which holds back a dam of cheese, sauce, and sausage meat. It's made in a signature deep, round, steel pan prepared with lashings of olive oil.
While most other pizza varieties have their sauce at the bottom, followed by toppings and cheese on top, Chicago deep dish pizza has the cheese directly on top of the crust. This helps to create a moisture barrier between the crust and the oodles of sauce — and the sausage meat that skinny-dips in it.
Most pizzas are made with plain dough, which consists of flour, yeast, salt, and water. This is different from Chicago Style deep dish pizza, which is made from a type of enriched dough. This basically means that it’s got some form of fat (like butter) in it. The added fat is what makes Chicago style deep dish extra decadent. It also makes it possible to laminate the dough, or fold it into many layers, making the base flaky and full of great taste, like a croissant or a millennial.
Chicago Tavern Style Pizza — ‘Tiny Tim’
While technically not a deep dish pizza, Chicago tavern style pizza deserves to be mentioned.
Chicago tavern style pizza is deep dish’s thin-crusted little brother who didn’t make the team, but is more popular with local Chicagoans. Like a New York style pizza, it’s made with a pizza peel and pizza stone, and it has a thin crust. The difference is that it doesn’t have the crust ring around the edge — the cheese goes all the way to the edge. Oh, and the base is seriously crunchy.
The main point of a Chicago tavern style pizza is that it’s sliced ‘party cut’ or ‘tavern cut’. Much like the Chicagoans who love it, this pizza is practical — you only need one hand to hold and eat it, leaving your other hand free to keep hustlin’.
Detroit Style — ‘Crunchy Carl’
Our next deep dish all-star is the hero of the working class. Proudly invented in — and named for — the famously blue-collar city in Michigan, Detroit style pizza is the birthright of Motor City natives.
Detroit Style deep dish pizza is a lavish celebration of gooey, golden Wisconsin cheese melted over the ENTIRE surface of the light, airy, crunchy crust. Covered with small, succulent pepperoni cups and mouth-watering sauce (which goes on top), Detroit style pizza is a taste adventure — a light, crunchy, buttery adventure of slightly sweet, umami-infused delight.
With New York style or Chicago deep dish pizza, you might leave a bit of the crust on the edge of your plate. Detroit style’s crust, on the other hand, is the crowning glory of this deep dish pizza. Ideally, this caramelized crust is baked in rectangular industrial pans straight from Motor City factory floors, but we’ve found that a modified non-stick 14 x 10-inch Detroit style pizza pan that’s been upgraded from the original (for easier cleaning) works best to give that authentic ‘all-corners’ crunch.
*Pro tip: The serious crunch of Detroit style comes from using the correct dish, and layering the toppings in reverse order: first pepperoni, followed by the cheese, and finally the sauce. This creates a moisture barrier to make the base crunch, nay — rumble. Oh, and make sure you cover the entire base with cheese — all the way to the corners.
Stuffed Pizza — ‘Two-Ton Tony’
Our final deep dish pizzathlete is the corpulent cousin of the Chicago style deep dish pizza. Also hailing from the Windy City, the stuffed deep dish pizza is a lot like the Chicago deep dish pizza — except that it’s deeper and more decadent.
The stuffed pizza is very similar to the Chicago deep dish pizza — both are made in a round, steel, deep dish pizza pan, both have thick layers of fillings, and they’re both made with a delicious golden-brown crust.
So how can the aspiring pizzaiolo tell the difference between Tony and Chuck?
‘Two-Ton Tony’ gets his nickname from the extra deep crust — yep, even deeper than the Chicago deep dish. A stuffed pizza also has an extra layer of dough over the toppings, forming a nice chewy crust (and a little platform for some extra cheese sprinkles). The cheese-to-sauce ratio is also much greater than in a Chicago deep dish. The stuffed pizza shines in the cheese events, while the Chicago pie is better in the sauce department.
Because of its extra depth, extra cheese, and extra dough crust covering, the stuffed pizza tastes completely different from its Chicago style brother. It’s great on the taste buds, but extra rough on the waistband.
Deep Dish Differences (in a Dash)
- Oodles of cheese
- Sauce goes on top
- Crispy crusts
Chicago Style Deep Dish:.
- Round in shape
- Greater sauce-to-cheese ratio
- Cheese goes directly onto the crust
Detroit Style Deep Dish:
- Rectangular in shape (Don’t tell the Detroiters — they think it’s square)
- Even sauce-to-cheese ratio
- Pepperoni cups go directly onto the crust
- Round in shape
- Greater cheese-to-sauce ratio
- Cheese goes directly onto the crust
Want to know more? Check out our deep-dives on Chicago Style and Detroit Style Pizza.
And the winner is…
After looking at their seasoning averages, their performance in the bakeoffs, and their crust-to-cheese ratios, we’ve decided that the best pizzathlete in the Deep Dish Decathlon division is:
Okay, so we can’t decide. They’re all delicious. We suggest that you get yourself a deep dish pizza pan and decide for yourself.