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What is Detroit Style Pizza?

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MAKE AUTHENTIC DETROIT STYLE PIZZA. Modeled after the OG 10”X14”X2.5” blue steel auto parts trays from the Motor City that started it all – the Chef Pomodoro Detroit style pizza pan gives you a bonafide traditional “All corners”, 2.5-inch deep Detroit pizza every time. So you can pack it with fillings and flavor in every bite!

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Updated: May 3, 2022

What specifically is Detroit Style Pizza?

Detroit style pizza is a unique style of pizza that makes its own rules. It’s sometimes referred to as the “the square” or “Detroit Red Top.” It shares a thick crust with Chicago style pizza, but it’s an entirely different texture, so don’t confuse them.

It shares the square shape of the St. Louis style pizza, but the crust is airy, not crispy. Even the pepperoni is different in Detroit. Some might even argue that it shouldn’t be called pizza at all that it’s something else, a special thing that you can only find in Detroit.

Detroit Style Pizza Crust

Let’s start with the crust. Detroit-style pizza crust comes from the Sicilian-style crust called “sfincione” which resembles focaccia. Foccacia bread is a thick stretched-out dough covered in olive oil and traditional herbs and not much else. The dough is spongy and airy. 

The crust is cooked in a deep square pan with flared edges so the top is wider than the bottom. Pizza chefs either use an 8 by 10-inch pizza pan the equals four slices. Or they use a 10 by 14-inch pizza pan that makes eight slices. The nickname the “Detroit square” might anger engineers or mathematicians because it is very much a rectangle despite the nickname.

According to Detroit Motor City lore, pizza chefs originally made Detroit pizza in blue steel auto parts pans. These pans created the crispy golden edges of caramelized cheese.

How about Detroit Style Pizza Cheese?

Detroit-style pizza differs in its cheese too. In Detroit, they use a Wisconsin brick cheese. It is a mild cheese more similar to cheddar than mozzarella.

It has a high-fat content and cooks up with crispy edges of the pan.

In Detroit, the corner slices are the coveted slices for the extra crispy cheese and golden crust combo. 

It’s all about the Detroit-Style Pizza Toppings

Pepperoni is the king of the toppings in Detroit, but even that they do differently. Detroit pepperoni is smaller and denser. It’s still round like typical pepperoni slices, and when it cooks, it curls up, making little crispy pepperoni cups that hold the greasy, cheesy goodness.

Depending on which pizzeria you go to in Detroit, the order may be reversed. Some pizzerias put toppings right on the crust and then layer the cheese on, and others do cheese on crust and then layer on the toppings.

Then there’s the Detroit Style Pizza Sauce

While the sauce is a typical Italian red sauce, it’s not the flavor profile that makes it unique it’s the placement. Pizza sauce in Detroit is ladled on as a finishing touch to the Detroit pizza.

Often referred to as racing stripes, the pizza sauce is poured on top. This keeps the spongy focaccia crust from getting soggy. And you can see why they call it the “Detroit Red Top.”

Famous Detroit Pizzerias

If you find yourself in Detroit and want to try the famous Detroit pizza, here are three places considered the best by those in the know.

Buddy’s Pizza

It all started at Buddy’s Pizza in 1946. Gus Guerra opened a restaurant originally called Buddy’s Rendevous. Interestingly enough, the restaurant was a speakeasy during the 1930s Prohibition and then became a restaurant.

The story has it that he wanted to try a little something new to get new clients. So his wife found a Sicilian dough recipe from her grandmother, and that’s it. That’s the whole story of how Detroit pizza started. 

Today, Buddy’s Pizza is considered the master of the Detroit pizza. The original owners sold it and opened a few other pizzerias in different neighborhoods. Today they have locations all around the city and still use the traditional recipe that they made famous.

Visit Buddy’s Pizza


Loui’s Pizza

Loui’s was opened by a friend of Gus’s and has the traditional feel of an old-time pizzeria, checkered tablecloths, and vintage Chianti bottles. Its located in Hazel Park outside of Detroit and was even featured on Andrew Zimmern’s The List

Visit Loui’s Pizza’s Facebook


Detroit Style Pizza Company

This pizzeria is considered the new kid on the block. It was opened in 2012 by World Champion Pizza Maker Shawn Randazzo.

Randazzo won 3rd place in the Best of the Best Pizza Competition at the 2017 Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. They have also been featured in Vice and Food Network.

Visit the Detroit Style Pizza Company

How to Make Detroit Style Pizza at Home

If you are too far from Detroit but still want to give Detroit pizza a try you can always make your own. Of course, you will need a square pan with flared edges, a good pizza cutter, Wisconsin brick cheese, and a small pepperoni log.

The Dough

2 1/4 c. of flour

1 teaspoon rapid rise yeast

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 c. warm water

Olive oil for oiling the pan with a generous hand

The Sauce and Toppings

You can really use any red pizza sauce you like. As the sauce isn’t the star of the show. As for toppings, pepperoni is the key, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add sausage or peppers or mushrooms or whatever else you love on your pizza. As you can see in our recent attempt at Detroit-style, keeping it simple is always smart.

Mix the dough in a food processor. It should be slightly stickier than regular pizza dough. It needs to proof for about two hours or until it has doubled in size. 

Then, put olive oil in the pan, so the dough doesn’t stick. Next, stretch out the dough to fit the pan. Add cubed chunks of Wisconsin cheese and next layer pepperoni, and finish with sauce on top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes at around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the highest temperature for many home convection ovens. If you are using a pizza oven, bake at 550 Fahrenheit.

If you want to learn more about Detroit-style pizza, check out this book written by Loui’s Pizza that shares some of their tips and tricks to make great Detroit-style pizza.

So all this begs the question, have you tried making “Detroit Red Top” at home yet?

Share With Other Pizza Lovers:

Our friends over at Pro Pizza Ovens have released a handy dandy “Find Your Dream Pizza Oven” Quiz with just 5-6 questions to answer to choose the absolute best pizza oven for your family to buy for your home or backyard. Try it today!

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Authors

DK & Eliana

DK & Eliana

Thanks for reading about our homemade pizza journey! We're a young married couple who started making pizza at home on our wedding night and haven't looked back yet. We've learned over countless attempts of trial and error how to make the perfect pizza sauce, pizza dough, and exactly which pizza accessories to buy for your home setup...

FYI When you make a purchase or, sometimes, carry out some other action as direct result of clicking on a link at Homemade Pizza School, we will receive a small commission. Gratzie!

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