Detroit vs Chicago Style Pizza

Pizza is a beloved dish that has captured the hearts and stomachs of people all around the world. The mere mention of it can spark a heated debate amongst pizza lovers – which style reigns supreme? 

And when it comes to Detroit vs Chicago-style pizza, things only get more intense. Both claim to have the best version of this classic comfort food, these two cities have been in an ongoing battle for decades. 

In this blog post, we dive deep into the history and evolution of both styles, taste-test them side by side, and finally settle once and for all on which city truly deserves the title of pizza capital. 

What Is Detroit-Style Pizza?

what is detroit pizza

Originating in the Motor City in the 1940s, Detroit-style pizza has a deep-dish crust with a crispy exterior and airy interior. This square-shaped pizza is typically baked in a well-oiled pan, creating a crunchy caramelized crust on the bottom. 

The toppings are then added in reverse order – cheese on the bottom, followed by toppings and sauce on top, giving it a unique and delicious flavor profile.

What Is Chicago-Style Pizza?

what is chicago style pizza

Chicago-style pizza, also known as deep-dish pizza, was born in the Windy City in 1943. Its crust is thicker than traditional pizza and resembles more of a pie or casserole dish. 

The layers are reversed from traditional pizzas as well – cheese on the bottom, topped with toppings, and then sauce on top. This style is known for its generous use of cheese and chunky tomato sauce.

History Of Detroit-Style Pizza

detroit pizza

Detroit-style pizza was first created by Gus Guerra in 1946 at a pizzeria called Buddy’s Rendezvous. It started as a way to use up extra Sicilian-style dough scraps but quickly became a hit with the locals. 

With the rise of the auto industry in Detroit, this pizza style gained popularity as a quick and filling meal for factory workers. Today, it has spread beyond the city limits and can be found in pizzerias across the United States.

History Of Chicago-Style Pizza

chicago style pizza

The origin story of Chicago Style pizza is credited to Ike Sewell who opened Pizzeria Uno in 1943. He wanted to create a pizza that could be eaten with a fork and knife, similar to other hearty meals enjoyed in Chicago. 

The deep-dish style was an instant hit, and today the city is known for its iconic pizza. In 1974, Rudy Malnati Sr. opened Lou Malnati’s pizzeria, which is credited for perfecting the Chicago-style pizza by using a dense crust and chunky tomato sauce.

Detroit vs Chicago Style Pizza: The Main Difference

Now, let’s get down to the main event – the differences between Detroit and Chicago-style pizza. Both have a deep-dish crust, but the similarities pretty much end there.

1. The Crust

The crust in Detroit-style pizza is thick and sponge-like, perfect for absorbing the rich flavors of the toppings. 

It’s baked in a rectangular steel pan (originally, blue steel pans from automotive factories were used) which results in a crispy, almost fried bottom and caramelized cheesy edges. The unique texture of the crust is a result of the high-hydration dough that’s used.

detroit pizza crust

On the other hand, the crust in a Chicago-style pizza is more akin to a buttery, flaky pie crust. It’s thick and sturdy enough to hold all the cheese, toppings, and sauce, but remains tender and flaky when bitten into. 

It’s baked in a round, deep-dish pan, giving it high edges that can contain all the fillings. The crust is also often dusted with cornmeal for added texture and flavor. 

chicago style pizza crust

2. The Sauce

The sauce plays a critical role in both Detroit and Chicago-style pizzas, but their application and taste profiles diverge significantly. Detroit-style pizza typically uses a classic tomato sauce, sometimes infused with herbs and spices, spread across the toppings. 

What sets it apart is that the sauce is often applied after the pizza is baked, creating a distinct flavor contrast between the hot, crispy pizza and the tangy, cool sauce. This also prevents the crust from becoming soggy during the baking process.

In contrast, in a Chicago-style pizza, a chunky tomato sauce, often cooked with a blend of herbs, garlic, and onions, is generously ladled on top. Due to the dense nature of the pizza, the sauce needs to be hearty, with a thicker consistency. 

It serves as the lid of the pizza, locking in the cheese and toppings beneath. The sauce is applied before the pizza is baked, allowing it to meld with the ingredients underneath and create a unified burst of flavor in every bite. 

The application of the sauce on top also prevents the cheese from burning during the extended baking time.

3. The Toppings

In Detroit Style pizza, toppings are layered in an unconventional order with the cheese directly on the crust followed by the toppings and then the sauce. This ‘red top’ style helps to keep the crust light and airy despite the generous helping of toppings. 

Traditional toppings typically include pepperoni placed directly on the cheese, which gets crispy and slightly charred during baking.

detroit pizza toppings

Chicago-style pizza, by contrast, also places the cheese directly on the crust, but it’s then topped with a hearty helping of chunky tomato sauce, which allows the crust to stay crisp and not become soggy. 

Toppings are typically an assortment of meats and vegetables tucked in between the cheese and the sauce. The sauce, robust and chunky, is placed on top and is often spiced with herbs, providing a fresh contrast to the rich cheese and toppings.

chicago style pizza toppings

4. The Cheese

Both Detroit and Chicago-style pizzas use a blend of cheeses, but they differ in the type and amount used. 

In Detroit-style pizza, a brick cheese blend is often used – a mix of mozzarella and Wisconsin brick cheese which has a mild flavor and high melting point. This gives the pizza its signature crispy, caramelized cheese edges.

detroit pizza cheese

In Chicago-style pizza, a thicker crust means more room for cheese, and it’s not shy about using it. A blend of mozzarella, parmesan, and romano cheeses is layered over the toppings, creating a gooey layer that ties everything together. 

chicago style pizza cheese

The high heat and long baking time allow the cheese to melt into every nook and cranny, giving each slice a cheesy pull with every bite.

5. Serving Style

Detroit-style pizza is often served as a whole rectangular pie, with each slice cut into squares. This makes it perfect for sharing and snacking throughout the day. 

In contrast, Chicago-style pizza is usually served as individual slices from a round pie or as a personal-sized deep-dish pizza. It’s considered a full meal in itself, with its thick crust and hearty toppings.

6. Cooking Method

Detroit-style pizza is baked in a well-oiled steel pan at high heat, giving it its signature crispy bottom and caramelized cheese edges. 

In contrast, Chicago-style pizza requires a much longer baking time, often up to 35 minutes, due to the thick crust and layers of toppings. It’s usually baked in a deep-dish pan at a lower temperature to allow the ingredients to cook and meld together without burning.

While both Detroit and Chicago-style pizzas share some similarities, they are distinct in their own right. 

Distinctive Characteristics Of Detroit-Style Pizza

detroit style pizza

Detroit-style pizza is known for its unique characteristics that set it apart from other types of pizza. These distinctive traits give Detroit-style pizza its signature taste and texture, making it a favorite among pizza lovers.

One of the most notable features of Detroit-style pizza is its thick, sponge-like crust. The high-hydration dough used to make this type of crust results in a soft, airy texture that is perfect for absorbing all the rich flavors of the toppings. 

Additionally, baking it in a rectangular steel pan gives it a crispy bottom and caramelized cheesy edges that add an extra dimension of taste.

Apart from the crust, another stand-out characteristic of Detroit-style pizza is its unconventional layering of toppings. In this style, toppings are placed on top of the cheese which acts as a barrier between the crust and the sauce. 

This helps to keep the crust light and airy, despite the generous amounts of toppings. It also adds a layer of crispiness to the pizza as some toppings, like pepperoni, become crispy during baking.

The sauce in Detroit-style pizza is often applied after baking, creating a contrast between hot, crispy pizza and cool, tangy sauce. This not only adds a burst of flavor but also prevents the crust from becoming soggy during baking. 

Overall, Detroit-style pizza stands out for its unique crust, unconventional topping layering, and tangy sauce application. These distinctive characteristics make it a must-try for any pizza lover looking to explore different styles and flavors. 

Exploring The Flavorful World Of Chicago-Style Pizza

While Detroit-style pizza has its own set of distinctive characteristics, Chicago-style pizza also has a lot to offer in terms of flavor and texture. This deep-dish pizza is known for its thick crust, hearty toppings, and gooey layers of cheese that make it a delight for the taste buds.

The most obvious characteristic of Chicago-style pizza is its deep-dish crust. Unlike other types of pizza, this style features a thick, buttery crust that provides a sturdy base for the generous amounts of toppings. The dough is often made with cornmeal, giving it a slightly sweet and crunchy texture that perfectly complements the savory flavors of the pizza.

When it comes to toppings, Chicago-style pizza is not shy about loading them on. From an assortment of meats to a variety of vegetables, this style has it all. The toppings are placed on a layer of cheese, creating a gooey, flavorful combination that makes each bite satisfyingly delicious.

What truly sets Chicago-style pizza apart from others is its sauce application. Unlike any other type of pizza, this style places the robust and chunky tomato sauce on top of the toppings and cheese. This not only enhances the flavor but also prevents the crust from getting soggy. The sauce is often spiced with herbs, giving it a fresh and tangy taste that complements the rich cheese and toppings.

Chicago-style pizza offers a unique blend of thick crust, hearty toppings, and tangy sauce, making it a flavorful experience for any pizza lover. 


In conclusion, we have shown you the intriguing world between Detroit and Chicago-style pizza. From their distinct characteristics to their unique flavor profiles, it’s clear that both styles have a special place in the hearts of pizza lovers. 

Whether you prefer a crispy yet airy crust with sauce on top or a buttery deep-dish crust with toppings and cheese, Detroit and Chicago-style pizzas offer something for everyone.

So next time you’re craving pizza, why not mix things up and try a new style? You never know, you might find your new favorite. 

And remember, no matter which style you prefer, pizza is always a delicious, satisfying meal that brings people together!

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