Detroit-style pizza is a glorious thing, but you don’t have to be in the Motor City to try it (nor do you have to pay a premium to order it online). We got a Detroit-style pizza recipe from Matt Hyland of Emmy Squared, with expert tips and intel on what tools you need to get the crispy crust just right. The good news: No wood fired oven or convection oven is necessary. It’s all in the pan.
A note on Emmy Squared: The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the restaurant industry have hit them too; they are still providing takeout and delivery in some areas, so if you’re local, you can order a pizza or two. Otherwise, try making it at home (and consider donating to a GoFundMe for their employees).
The Hallmarks of Detroit-Style Pizza
For the uninitiated, Detroit-style pizza is recognizable by its rectangular shape and deeply crunchy, caramelized edges (“like when a mozzarella stick explodes in a deep fryer,” as Hyland puts it). The toppings cover it from one beautiful edge to another—so there are no naked crusts to be nibbled, or (depending on your proclivities) to become pizza bones discarded on the plate. You’ll also usually see that the sauce is on top of the cheese, but depending on what other ingredients are in the mix, the inverted order might not be easy to spot.
Speaking of ingredients, the sauce is standard tomato and the dough is made in the usual manner, but mild and creamy Wisconsin brick cheese is considered the proper dairy topper. As it can be hard to find in some places, though, a low-moisture mozzarella will also work. Some people advocate for a mix of shredded mozz and muenster or Monterey Jack to more closely approximate the flavor.
The Importance of the Pan
What’s non-negotiable is the pan. The legend goes that Detroit-style pizza was invented when an auto worker brought home a tray commonly used to hold spare parts at the factory to repurpose as a pizza pan. While the story is maddeningly short on specifics, it’s a fact that the right pan is key to getting those crunchy edges. A Michigan-made, deep, rectangular, blue steel pan (8 x 10 or 10 x 14 inches) is ideal.
Lloyd Pans Kitchenware 8 x 10 Detroit Style Pizza Pan, $40 on Amazon
Keep it seasoned like you would cast iron.
How to Build It
You can make your own pizza dough if you like, or use store-bought—either way, for an 8 x 10-inch pan, you’ll want a 10-ounce portion of dough. Lightly oil the pan and place the dough in it to relax at room temp until it starts to loosen up; use your hands to coax it into the edges of the pan (and appreciate the lack of pressure of trying to stretch the perfect circle).
Let the dough rest for about half an hour once in the pan, then cover the whole thing with shredded cheese, making sure to go right to the edges so they crisp up against the hot metal. Place two racing stripes of sauce down the length of the pizza and spread them out a little with the bottom of a ladle.
Finally, scatter on whatever toppings you like—Emmy Squared’s Colony² pie (as shown in the video above) has pickled jalapeños, thick pepperoni* that cooks up into crispy cups full of greasy goodness, and a shower of pecorino cheese to finish. When it comes out of the oven, it also gets a drizzle of sweet honey, which is dynamite with the spicy elements of the pie.
*Pepperoni often goes underneath the cheese and sauce on Detroit-style pizza, but for the crispest edges, keep it on top.
How to Bake It
Get that oven hot—500°F—and give it plenty of time to reach temperature (at least 20 minutes). If you have a pizza stone, preheat that too and set the pan on top of it to help conduct the heat. Bake the pizza for about 8-11 minutes or until the edges look properly caramelized, then remove from the oven, use a metal spatula to cut the pizza out of the pan (since those edges are fused to it with melted cheese), and lift it onto a cooling rack to keep the bottom from getting steamy and soft.
Offset Meta Turner Spatula, $6.97 on Amazon
Perfect for getting the pizza out of the pan.
You can transfer to a cutting board to slice it up, but then place it back on the rack to keep it crisp.
Pro-tip: Using clamps is not only more fun than using kitchen towels or pot holders to take the pan out of the oven, but it makes clean-up easier too (no greasy silicone or oily fabric to deal with). Plus, you’re less likely to burn yourself.
Check out the cookbook Matt and his wife Emily wrote for more recipes and expert tips:
Emily: The Cookbook by Emily and Matthew Hyland, $9.99 on Amazon
More than 100 recipes to keep you full.
And learn more about the specific tools they use at Emmy Squared in this video:
What If You Don’t Have a Detroit-Style Pizza Pan?
The heart wants what the heart wants—the stomach too—and if you just can’t wait to receive a proper pan (or simply refuse to buy yet another piece of kitchen equipment), break out your 8 x 8-inch brownie pan (aka, a square cake pan). But follow Food52’s advice if possible and make sure it’s dark metal, which will give you the best possible crust.