Share your deep-dish pizza tricks

This morning, I was struck by culinary inspiration and decided to make a deep-dish pizza. I went to the store, bought some ingredients, and in a few hours, I was set. I made my own sauce from scratch, cheated somewhat and used a store-made dough ball instead of making my own dough (although I did fold some extra butter into it), assembled in a springform pan with some Italian sausage, pepperoni, bell pepper, and onions, and let it bake for the better part of an hour. The end result, as the photographic evidence can attest, was delicious.

But not quite perfect.

When it comes to deep-dish, I’m completely self-taught. I’ve never lived anywhere near Chicago. I only ever had the opportunity once to order an “authentic” Chicago-style pie once before the one Chicago-style restaurant in my area went out of business. And there are certain things that just keep coming out not-quite-right when I try to make the stuff based on what I’ve learned online. I’m hoping that there are people out there who’ve made the stuff more than I have who can offer some pointers.

The two biggest problems I have are as such;

  • Shaping the dough. I understand that one should heavily flour their surface and hands, then roll it out with a rolling pin to a few inches wider than the desired size of the pie. It sounds simple enough, but somehow I always manage to screw this up - I can’t get the dough to actually flatten out without just contracting back on itself, or it tears, or it ends up being unevenly thick, and eventually I just give up, toss the half-rolled crust into the pan, and spend the next fifteen minutes shaping it by hand until it finally fits the pan and has absorbed way more olive oil than I planned on. There must be some fundamental technique of rolling pin usage I never learned here.

  • The finished pie is too moist. I know you’re supposed to let the pie rest for 10-15 minutes after taking it out of the oven to let it stabilize, but even that doesn’t seem like long enough. Invariably, the first slice I cut out of a new pie half-disintegrates while I’m trying to plate it, and I can easily tilt the pie over the sink and drain off a quarter-pint or so of oily pizza-liquid. The second slice comes out easier but is still hard to handle. The third slice comes out just fine. If I keep the leftovers in the fridge overnight, the fourth slice is firm enough that it can be eaten by hand after reheating. My gut tells me I should use less sauce, but the amount of sauce I use (about 2 1/2 cups in the pie shown above) is just barely enough to cover the cheese and toppings. I wonder if I should be cooking it down more before I assemble the pie, or letting the pie bake for longer, or if I should add some thickener to the sauce so it won’t be as watery when it’s hot.

The pie I made today was utterly delicious and filling in spite of the problems I had making it, but it could definitely be better. Anyone out there got any tips on these issues, or other general tips or secrets that they’d be willing to offer?

I’m going to be watching this thread. I’ve never tried making deep-dish pizza so I’ll try to glean some tips and tricks.

Sounds like you’re not letting the dough rest enough. When it’s well rested, the gluten will relax and be more pliable so it rolls out much easier. After you’ve let the dough rise and punched out all the air, let it rest again at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes and try rolling it out then.

I’ve made stuffed Chicago style pizza a number of times, which is slightly different than your deep-dish pizza. The description of what I usually make is: bottom layer of crust (I use a basic recipe of yeast, sugar, water, oil, and bread flour), then the stuffing of shredded mozzarella cheese (low moisture) and chopped fresh spinach, then a top crust. After baking about 30 minutes, the top crust is getting brown and I added a tomato sauce over the top crust and continue baking about 15 more minutes. The tomato sauce is simply a large can of crushed tomatoes, diced garlic, some dried herbs, salt, and some grated parm cheese. Edit to add: I’ve also used pepperoni instead of spinach, and it turned out fine. There may have been a little grease, but not too bad.

When I roll out the dough, it takes quite a while. It is roll roll roll, rest about five minutes. Repeat a number of times. It’ll get there.

As for your concoction being too runny, some ideas:
–maybe too much stuff (the meats could end up with a lot of grease and the veggies may give off some water too).
–tomato sauce too runny.
–too much moisture in the cheese.

If you look on line for recipes that are close to what you want, there are often a lot of good comments on managing issues that may come up.

Your pie looks great, but it is a little bit on the over-stuffed side (unless it is a stuffed pizza–then it’s about right.) A standard deep dish looks more like this, so that could be part of your problem.

For all things pizza-related, I strongly recommend checking out the resources at They have forums dedicated to various styles of pizza, including a Chicago pizza forum. If you click on “pizza recipes,” they give four basic Chicago style recipes. I would recommend either the first recipe (DKM’s Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza) or the Pizzeria Uno recipe. Your bottom layer of dough is probably going to be a bit thinner than you think. Chicago style deep dishes don’t have an absurdly heavy bottom layer. Look at the picture atop the DKM recipe. That or a little thicker is good. You don’t want something super doughy, and remember that the crust will puff up while cooking. The tip about using 6-in-1 brand ground tomatoes is great–that’s the perfect texture and flavor for a Chicago pie, and, AFAIK, is what a lot of pizzerias use in the area. I know it’s my go-to for pretty much any kind of pizza. It’s just a matter of whether it’s available where you are. It kind of looks like a cheap generic brand, but it’s not. It’s fantastic for sauces.

Also, how hot are you cooking this pizza? You should be around 450-475.

Just the one layer of crust. I formed it about halfway up the sides of a springform pan. It had about 2 1/2 cups of sauce, five slices of mozzarella on the bottom, plus the sausage (about 6 oz.), some pepperoni slices, and a handful each of chopped onion and bell pepper. I’m guessing the moisture from all of those must be what’s causing my pie to be so runny when I pull it out of the oven.

I cooked that one at 425 for about 45 minutes, which is what the recipe I used recommended. Would higher heat help with the moisture problem? Or am I just making it too big?

I’ll probably cook another one in a few days, since I have enough meat and cheese left over for another one and the sauce is fairly easy to make. I’ve been using canned San Marzano tomatoes, which have a pretty good flavor IMO and which I’ve been told are ideal for sauce. I’ve never seen “6-in-1” brand in my area.

Yeah, that’s a good guess. Onions and peppers both have a lot of moisture in them. I don’t know if the deep dish places do it, but I cook those down a bit before adding them to a deep dish pizza because they will sog up the pie.

I’ve made the deep dish pizza recipe from America’s Test Kitchen (it’s online, but you have to have an ATK subscription) several times and it’s worked very well. The episode with the recipe and techniques is on YouTube.

San Marzanos are good. The 6-in-1 brand tomatoes are basically pureed tomatoes with a bit of tomato paste in them, so they have a nice, sturdy consistency and are not pooling with water.

Their version is a little odd if you’re really trying to cook to style. A bit too doughy. The cornmeal bit is a minor controversy in Chicago deep dish circles (most places don’t use it–yes, I know the two recipes I recommended do use it, but I don’t) and the puff-pastry technique with the butter layers is a real puzzler. I’m sure it turns out a fine pizza, but it’s not really the usual technique and it’s fussier than it needs to be with the butter layers.

That recipe is almost identical to the one I used - whoever made that recipe must have based theirs on the ATK version.