Deep Dish Pizza

A delicious thick crust pizza which is crispy all over, but soft within. Made with a savoury tomato sauce and your favourite pizza toppings, this deep dish pizza will be the best homemade pizza you have ever tasted! Recipe with step-by-step photos.

deep dish pizza with salami

Deep Dish Pizza

Back in my days as a corporate lawyer, I used to work frequently in Chicago (Schaumburg, to be more precise). My husband had been transferred there for a few years, and my employer was generous enough to let me work from the Chicago office for long periods so that I could be with my husband.

Whilst the suburbs of Chicago were not much to write home postcards about, we do remember fondly our wonderful American colleagues, our friendly neighbours in Elk Grove Village, the fantastic restaurants in and around Chicago, and, of course, deep dish pizza.

Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Pizza

When we first arrived in Chicago, the first food recommendation most people gave us was to try the deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s. Having been familiar with mostly the Italian-style thin crust pizza, Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza was a revelation for us!

At Lou Malnati’s, the pizza crust was deliciously thick and crispy, almost like it had been fried. And their pizza sauce was savoury and addictive. Even though we knew their pizzas were calorie bombs, we could never resist treating ourselves regularly at Lou Malnati’s.

deep dish pizza slice with salami

What is Deep Dish Pizza?

A deep dish pizza is a thick crust pizza baked in a deep dish to create high sides, topped with lots of savoury pizza sauce and oozing with lots of melted cheese.

Due to the depth of the pizza, the pizza filling will generally be soft and oozy, so it’s definitely something you need to eat with a knife and fork.

Many people describe a deep dish pizza as a “pie”, but if you are of British or Australian origin, that classification may be confusing. It is definitely more substantial than a regular Italian-style pizza; a deep dish pizza is like your favourite pizza, but bigger and better!

As we live next door to Italy, the Italian-style thin crust pizza is generally the only type of pizza you can buy here. So when I feel like making homemade pizza, I usually make a deep dish pizza (or cast iron pizza), just to vary things at bit. If anything, once you have tried baking a pizza in a cast iron pan, you won’t make pizza any other way!

Deep Dish Pizza Recipe

My deep dish pizza recipe is actually my go-to pizza recipe.

I like to make my deep dish pizza in a cast-iron pan to recreate the thick and crispy crust. The heat from the cast-iron pan will help the pizza dough to rise up the sides of the pan to create a tall and deep pizza.

deep dish pizza sprinkled with parsley

The Best Homemade Pizza

Most good pizzerias will make their pizza in a wood-fired oven which can go up to 500°C/900°F. The heat from the floor of the oven (where the pizzas are baked), as well as the very hot flames in the oven, cook the pizza very quickly; the heat will instantly activate the yeast, so the dough will puff up beautifully in the oven and become faintly scorched by the flames. At the same time, the flames create a smokiness in the oven, which will in turn impart a lovely smokey flavour in the pizza.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to create such conditions in a domestic oven. But I believe that there are still ways to make delicious pizzas at home, just differently.

To mimic the high heat of a wood-fired oven, I like to make my pizzas in a cast-iron pan. The first time I tried this method, using the same pizza dough recipe which I had been using for years, I was blown away by the results.

The fierce heat from the cast-iron pan alone helped to cook the pizza dough from underneath, helping the dough to rise at least twice more than usual, and giving it a crispy crust all over. The same pizza dough which used to produce a thin crust pizza was transformed into a thick crust pizza simply from using a cast-iron pan.

And this thick-crust pizza is the perfect vehicle for a deep dish pizza.

Cast-Iron Pizza Recipe

My cast iron pizza recipe follows the same cooking method as that which I use to make No-Knead Bread in a cast iron pan.

You need to preheat your cast iron pan until it is very hot – I find 220°/430°F to be a good temperature for cooking pizza.

I shape the dough on a sheet of baking paper and then proceed to top the pizza dough while it is still on the baking paper.

The baking paper is then used to transfer the prepared pizza to the searingly-hot cast iron pan.

deep dish pizza in cast iron skillet

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

When making a cast iron pizza, choose a cast iron pan, cast iron skillet or cast iron pizza pan which is about 26 cm/10 inches in diameter. You could use a larger sized pan, but you may need to adjust the dough recipe accordingly.

Ideally, the inside of the pan should be proper cast iron and NOT have an enamel coating. It should be fine if the outside of the pan has an enamel coating.

For reference, cast iron pans made by Staub generally do not have an enamel coating on the inside, which is why the interior is always black.

In contrast, cast iron pans made by Le Creuset tend to have an enamel coating on the inside, which you can tell by the lighter colour and smoother/shinier surface. However, many of the Le Creuset skillets have a cast iron surface on the inside.

For this pizza recipe, it is best to choose a cast iron pan which is not very tall, such as a cast iron skillet, braising pan or casserole dish. This is to reduce the risk of burning yourself as the pans will get very hot once they are heated at high temperature.

You could also use a cast iron pizza pan which is round and flat. However, I have found that the pizzas made on these flat pizza pans do not rise and puff as much as the cast iron pans; the heat from the sides of the pan also help the pizza to puff up nicely.

Alternatives to Cast Iron

If you don’t own any cast iron cookware, a metal baking tray or stainless steel roasting pan is the next best thing. You won’t achieve the same results as with cast iron, but it will still be very good.

Simply follow the instructions in the recipe as for cast iron.

deep dish pizza on table

How to Make Deep Dish Pizza

Step 1

To make a homemade pizza dough, please see my recipe with step-by-step photos here. My recipe and instructions for the pizza dough are otherwise included in the recipe below.

You could also use a good quality, shop-bought pizza dough as the base.

step by step photos for making pizza dough
{Homemade Pizza Dough recipe with step-by-step photos}

Step 2

To make a pizza sauce, please see my recipe for Easy Tomato Sauce with step-by-step photos.

To use this tomato sauce as a pizza sauce, I like to cook the sauce for a little bit longer than I would for a pasta sauce, so that the sauce thickens considerably and the flavours are more intensified. And for a pizza sauce, I usually add dried or fresh oregano to ramp up the flavours.

step by step photos for making tomato sauce
{Easy Tomato Sauce with step-by-step photos}

Step 3

Preheat the oven to 220°C/430°F.

Place a metal baking tray in the middle of the oven.

If you are using a cast iron pan or other pizza tray, also place this in the oven (on the metal tray) to preheat.

Step 4

Spread the sauce onto the pizza base, leaving a small border around the edges.

pizza dough with pizza sauce

Step 5

Next sprinkle over the grated mozzarella cheese.

pizza dough with pizza sauce and grated cheese

Step 6

Add the pizza toppings of your choice on top of the cheese.

pizza dough with tomato sauce, grated cheese and salami

Step 7

Use the baking paper to transfer the prepared pizza onto the cast iron pan or pizza tray. Carefully trim the baking paper so that it does not catch fire in the oven.

uncooked pizza in cast iron skillet

Step 8

Bake the pizza for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese has fully melted, and the edges of the pizza are golden brown.

Garnish with parsley and or basil. Serve immediately.

More Pizza Recipes

If you are looking for more pizza recipes, you may also like:

Homemade Pizza Dough

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Print

Deep Dish Pizza

5 from 2 reviews

  • Resting Time: 1 hour
  • Author: Thanh | Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 1 pizza
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

A delicious thick crust pizza which is crispy all over, but soft within. Made with a savoury tomato sauce and your favourite pizza toppings, this deep dish pizza will be the best homemade pizza you have ever tasted! Recipe with step-by-step photos.

Ingredients

For the Pizza Dough

  • 250 g (1 2/3 cup) strong white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 150 ml (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) warm water
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the Pizza Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 200 g (7 oz) canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • parsley, finely chopped

For the Toppings

  • 200 g (1 cup) mozzarella cheese, grated (or other cheese for melting)
  • salami or pepperoni, thinly sliced
  • parsley or basil, for garnish

Instructions

To make the pizza dough

  1. Place the flour, instant yeast, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. I use an electric stand mixer to make bread, but you can also make the bread by hand.
  2. Measure the water into a measuring jug, and add the olive oil.
  3. Lightly mix together the dry ingredients.
  4. Slowly add the liquid ingredients until the mixture comes together into a dough. You may not need all of the liquid, or you may need to add a bit extra.
  5. Knead the dough for about 15 to 20 minutes. I generally do this on medium speed with the stand mixer.
  6. The dough should be ready when it is smooth and elastic in texture.
  7. Lightly oil a clean, large mixing bowl.
  8. Place the dough into the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel, and place the bowl somewhere warm for the dough to double in size. This should take 1 to 2 hours. (See Kitchen Notes below)
  9. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it back to knock out the air.
  10. Knead the dough gently (just a few turns) until it soft and smooth again.

For the Pizza Sauce

  1. Pour the oil into a small saucepan.
  2. Add the garlic to the cold oil, together with a sprinkle of sea salt.
  3. Sauté over medium-high heat until the garlic has softened and is aromatic.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, together with the dried oregano, sugar, salt and some pepper to taste.
  5. Simmer the mixture over low-medium heat for about 20-25 minutes, or until it has thickened and is no longer watery.
  6. Stir the mixture frequently, and use a wooden spoon to help break down the tomatoes.
  7. Taste for seasoning. Depending on the acidity of your canned tomatoes, you might need to add some more sugar.
  8. Stir through the chopped parsley.

To prepare the pizza

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/430°F.
  2. Place a large metal baking tray to preheat in the middle of the oven. If you are using a special pizza tray, pizza stone or cast-iron pan, also place this into the cold oven to preheat for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough onto a sheet of baking paper.
  4. Gently stretch the dough into your desired shape, and which will fit your pizza tray or cast-iron pan.
  5. Stretch the dough by pushing from the centre outwards, creating a thick crust as you do so. As you stretch the dough, it may shrink back a little. Let the dough shrink or relax after each stretch, before you continue stretching to your desired shape. The dough will rise a little upon baking, so keep the thickness of the dough in mind.
  6. Spread the dough with the barbecue sauce, leaving a small border. I generally use about 6-8 tablespoons of pizza sauce, but use as much or as little as you like.
  7. Sprinkle over the freshly grated mozzarella.
  8. Add the remaining toppings.

To cook the pizza

  1. When you are ready to bake, transfer the pizza – together with the baking paper – onto the pizza tray or cast-iron pan. Be careful – the pizza tray or cast-iron pan will be very hot!
  2. Trim off any excess baking paper, otherwise it might catch in the oven.
  3. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese has fully melted and the edges of the pizza are lightly golden.
  4. Garnish with parsley or basil.
  5. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Notes

MAKING MULTIPLE PIZZAS
* If you plan to multiply the recipe to make more pizzas, I recommend proofing the dough separately (and not as one large piece of dough). This will allow each piece of dough to trap more carbon dioxide as it is proofing, which will result in a lighter dough.
* I also recommend making the full recipe for Easy Tomato Sauce and freezing any leftovers in a zip-lock freezer bag for future pizzas, or even as a pasta sauce.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF FLOUR
For Swiss readers: I use Zopfmehl (or farine pour tresse) when making bread and enriched dough.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF YEAST
* Please note that there is a difference between instant yeast (also called instant dried yeast or fast-action dried yeast) and dried yeast (also called active dry yeast). If you are not sure what type of yeast you have, please check the packaging for instructions on how to use the yeast.
* With instant yeast, you can add it directly to the flour mixture without having to activate it first.
* With dried yeast, you will need to activate it first (usually in some warm liquid).

PROOFING THE DOUGH
Dough needs a warm environment for the yeast to activate and cause the dough to rise. If you don’t have a warm place in your home, try one of the following ideas:
* In the oven with the oven light switched on (works only for some ovens).
* In the oven with a tray of boiling water on the bottom shelf.
* In the oven at a low temperature of about 25-30°C (77-86°F).

OVEN TEMPERATURES
All recipes on this website state temperatures for a regular oven (i.e. a conventional oven without fan). If you have a convection oven with a fan, please consult the manufacturer’s handbook on how to adjust the temperature and baking time accordingly.

CONVERSIONS
To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.

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2 comments

  1. Peter 25 August 2022

    I have used your pizza dough recipe for a long time but always baked my pizza on a standard baking tray. My family and I have always enjoyed the pizza made this way. Today. I tried using a cast iron pan and wow, game changer!! Bloody amazing pizza!

    Reply
  2. Rachel 29 August 2022

    I had almost given up on making my own pizza dough – they never work out and the supermarket ones were often better. But someone on FB said how much they liked your recipe, so I thought I would give it a try. Omg it is so good!!! Your tips on using cast iron has changed my life! This was the BEST homemade pizza I have ever tasted.

    Reply