Pizzas might be the greatest layer in the foundation of the American diet. We celebrate birthdays, plow through late-night meetings and give ourselves a break from cooking by ordering a few pies. People from New York fold greasy slices in half before taking a bite. Ohians sprinkle the cheese on after the pizza has already baked. But perhaps the most renowned style of pizza comes from the windy city of Chicago, where locals dive into monstrous slices with a fork and knife.
What Makes a Chicago Pizza Unique?
Take one look at a Chicago style pie, and you’ll see why it stands out as a legend in the pizza world. This deep dish pizza is super thick and super messy, but that combination makes for a delicious slice.
The secret of the best pizza in Chicago comes down to the layers. Giordano’s breaks it down for us pretty easily. A bottom layer of buttery crust is the foundation of this pizza, often considered a stuffed pizza or pie by those who try to wrap their minds around its complex construction.
The crust is topped with a choice of toppings, whether you like your deep dish pizza filled with tasty meats or fresh vegetables (or combinations of the two). The third layer of the pie comes from the cheese. You know you’ve got a slice of the best Chicago style pizza when a gooey slice stretches the cheese as it’s sliced and served.
Giordano’s then covers its pizza with an airy layer of dough to help hold the classic Chicago way of topping the pizza: with a thick, rich tomato sauce. Maybe it’s a pizza turned inside out. Maybe it’s the best way to eat this comfort food. Either way, you’ve got to try it.
Understanding Chicago Pizza Lingo
There are a lot of terms that get tossed around when it comes to describing Chicago’s famous pizza. To understand the best pizza in Chicago, you need to know the styles.
Perhaps the most famous of the Chicago style pizzas, the deep dish pizza has helped the Chicago pizza become legendary. The crust holds thick layers of mozzarella cheese and thick, chunky-style sauce that has helped make the pizza so well known.
A form of deep dish pizza, you’ll want to keep an eye out for this bad boy. You’ll need to bring an appetite to conquer this huge pizza. We have arguably the best Chicago style pizza, and stuffed pizza is the style that Giordano’s is best known for. The thick base crust carries the whole pizza, but it’s the thin, flaky bonus layer of crust between the cheese and the sauce that makes it “stuffed.” It’s so thin that some people don’t even notice it. It almost melts between the gooey layer of cheese and the hot, saucy layer of tomato that sits on top.
This style of pizza is one that might seem the most familiar to people who are new to Chicago style pizza. Caramelized bits of cheese decorate the crust, and the classic Chicago-style sauce tops it all in deliciousness.
What Makes Chicago Pizza Different From the Rest?
There are almost as many pizza styles as there are major cities in the United States. How do you possibly distinguish all the differences? Here’s a quick breakdown to help make the styles of pizza more distinguishable and remind you why Chicago style pizza is the king of pizzas.
New York Style Pizza
This famous city pizza is often distinguished by its hand-tossed crust. It bakes up thin and is often served in large slices, often bought individually so busy New Yorkers can eat it on the go. Folding the pizza in half to get a bite was started in this city.
Ohio Valley Style Pizza
Two main things make this pizza distinct. First, it’s baked in a square pan and sliced not in the classic triangle shapes, but in individual squares. Second, the cheese isn’t melted the whole way. This pizza is baked first and then the cheese is sprinkled on top as it comes out of the oven, giving it a sharper texture and less gooey mouth feel.
Philadelphia’s Tomato Pie
A unique pizza of its own, the Philadelphia tomato pie is baked in long sheets. The sauce, which is cooked down with herbs and spices until it’s thin, is placed on top of the extra thick dough. The topping? Just some grated cheese.
California Style Pizza
Less traditional, the California style pizza often has odd toppings. Ever have a pie with avocado, egg or ostrich on it? You can likely find it here.
Chicago Style Is the Best
Where else can a single slice of pizza fill your belly? Chicago style pizzas are hearty and unique, filled to the brim with fresh and tasty toppings, the best cheeses in the world and the most robust tomato sauce. You really want to eat a different kind of pie? Then you want to eat a slice of the best Chicago style pizza.
How to Build a Chicago Style Pizza
Trying to tackle this pizza style staple is no easy task. There’s the classic, buttery dough. The top-notch ingredients. The gooiest of cheeses. And don’t forget the classic sauce.
With the right mindset and plenty of time, you might be able to enjoy a Chicago style pizza right at home.
Get the Dough Right
The crust is essential to making this pizza successful. It’s got to be thick enough to withstand the weight of the toppings yet buttery and light enough that it doesn’t cause you to flop into bed right after eating it. And you have to make sure the crust bakes the whole way through. Raw dough in the center will not only be a heart-dropping disappointment to the home chef, but it will make your dinner guests wait even longer to fill their bellies.
Letting the dough rise for several hours — and sometimes more than once — ensures it’s the perfect combination of thick and doughy, as well as fluffy and light. If you’re making a stuffed pizza, the crust can be even more tricky. The middle crust can’t be as thick as the bottom crust. That’s just no good. Instead, it’s got to be airy, barely there thin and, of course, delicious.
Take Your Time With the Sauce
While the sauce doesn’t get placed on the pizza until the end, it’s going to require a lot of love and attention. In fact, a good sauce can take hours to perfect. There’s a lot of slicing, dicing and simmering that goes into a well-made sauce. While fresh ingredients are important as toppings, they are just as important in the sauce. The tastiest tomatoes, right mix of herbs and carefully prepared peppers, onions and other veggies make the sauce stand out.
If you’re trying to make your own sauce, use a bit of butter to soften the onion and peppers. Fresh tomatoes can give the sauce a unique taste, especially if you don’t have hours to spend simmering out the aftertaste often found in canned tomatoes. And don’t forget the right mix of herbs and spices. Red pepper flakes, garlic, basil, oregano and a large dash of salt can turn a boring sauce into a tasty one you’ll want to lick off the plate. These flavorful additions should be enough to boost the sauce but not overwhelm it. You want all of the ingredients in the pizza to work well together, and they do that if each one has been given the most loving amount of attention.
Select the Best Toppings
Pizza toppings are sometimes the flavor carriers of this meal. If you’re choosing meats, make sure you don’t skimp by grabbing the cheapest stuff on the shelf. Instead, look for high-quality ingredients that have been created with care. Whether you’re dicing pepperoni or browning spicy sausage, you don’t want these toppings to weaken the rest of the pie.
The vegetables are just as important here. Fresh instead of canned or frozen is often the way to go when selecting pizza toppings. Dice peppers, onions, mushrooms and other vegetable toppings into small chunks. This makes them easier to stuff inside the pizza and better for biting into the slice. You’ll need that fork power to get through the thick crust and gooey cheese.
You don’t have to stick to the traditional toppings, either. Get creative with your pizza, kicking it up a notch with a barbecue-chicken flavor combination or a fresh bite of spinach and garlic. Pizza can be as delicious and creative as you want, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Don’t Skimp on the Cheese
Whatever classic pizza cheese you choose — mozzarella, parmesan, provolone or blends of your favorites — make sure your cheese will melt to a gooey, stringy stretch. A high-quality cheese with just the right amount of fat will bubble and melt to perfection. You want the cheese to stretch as you cut away at the slice. That’s one of the classic characteristics of the best pizza in Chicago.
Bake It Just Right
How you bake it can be the breaking point in your pizza-making process. When baking at home, use a cake pan. These are often the deepest ones you can find at home, and they can hold most of the ingredients for this deep dish pizza. Grease the pan so that your delicious crust doesn’t get stuck to the pan. That little error can ruin the whole meal.
Next, make sure you assemble the ingredients in the right order — dough, toppings, cheese, dough (again!) and the sauce. It can be messy if it isn’t done right. Also, make sure that each type of ingredient is evenly distributed. You don’t want too much cheese and not enough toppings. Assembling a stuffed pizza is a balancing act.
Preheat the oven to at least 425 degrees and bake the pizza for about 30 minutes. Halfway through, it’s a good idea to place some foil over the top so the edge of the crust doesn’t burn in the oven. Keep an eye on the pizza, make sure it cools enough so you don’t burn yourself and get ready to enjoy a pizza style known as a city classic.
If you’re like us, you always want to know the secret behind the food. While we have broken down the idea behind our famous stuffed pies, we decided that wasn’t enough. Just for you, we have the step by step instructions from our chef. Keep in mind, though, Giordano’s custom ovens and tools, combined with their signature ingredients produce a product that is uniquely impossible to replicate, but following these steps, you can learn to create your own home-made version of a stuffed deep dish pizza! If all else fails, you can always order from us – all across the country!
- Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees (the oven needs to be hot to accommodate the depth of the pizza!)
- Use a sturdy metal pan, preferably a deep-sided iron skillet, and place a thin layer of margarine in the pan.
- Roll the dough to about 1/3-inch-thick and large enough in circumference so it can be placed in the pan with about a ½ inch hanging over the edges. Place the dough in the pan.
- Place your protein ingredients in the bottom of the pan (high fat proteins such as bacon or salami should go on the top, in this instance, add them after step 9).
- Cheese: top the pan with handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese. (Giordano’s uses 100% Wisconsin mozzarella!)
- Top with veggies of choice
- The Giordano’s secret: Roll out another round layer of dough large enough in circumference to cover the top of the pan. Lay the dough on top like you are topping a pie. Tear 5 -6 holes in the dough for ventilation (must do this step!). Crimp the edges of the dough around the edges of the pan to create a seal, just like a pie!
- With a knife, trim the edges of the dough at the top of the pan to remove the excess.
- Top with a ¼ inch of your favorite pizza or tomato sauce (pro tip: make sure the consistency of the sauce is not too thick or it can burn).
- Top with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes; until the crust is golden brown or the internal temperature is 180 degrees.
- Slice, serve and enjoy!
Now that the secret is out, you can whip together a delectable stuffed pie any time you want! Making our famous stuffed pizza takes time, and it can be a great activity for the whole family! The kids can help with toppings and rolling the dough, making it a fun family memory. If you’re in a pinch or you want the original pie, you can always call us!
How to Eat a Chicago Style Pizza
If you’re new to this stuffed pizza, eating it can seem overwhelming. Do you pick it up and take a bite? Dive in with a fork a knife? Approach this mega pizza carefully, or you might come away with sauce-stained t-shirts and greasy jeans.
First thing first, don’t cut this pizza with a pizza cutter. The pressure of the wheel can turn this beautiful stuffed pizza into a messy pile of pizza ingredients. Instead, grab a chef’s knife and slice away.
When it’s time to dig in, grab a fork and knife. This isn’t a pizza you eat on the run. This is one you want to take your time enjoying. It’s a meal that was lovingly prepared and should be eaten until you can’t fit another bit until your tummy. Have napkins handy. Make sure you haven’t eaten for at least several hours. And then dig in. You’re going to need this dinner hour to really eat your fill.
Couldn’t finish the pizza and need to reheat leftovers? Do it in the oven. The microwave just makes the crust soggy and boils the sauce. The oven keeps the crust crispy and the cheese gooey. Cover the pizza with foil and heat it at 350 degrees until the cheese gets stretchy again. Take a bite, and it will transport you right back to the restaurant where the delicious pie was carefully created.
Get Chicago Style Pizza at Home
A Chicago style pizza is no easy feat — to create or eat. If you’re craving the gooey, thick temptation of a stuffed pizza, don’t worry about making one on your own. It can be tough to get all of the right ingredients, assemble it in Chicago fashion and patiently wait for it to bake. Give yourself a break!
Giordano’s offers home delivery anywhere in the United States. Browse Giordano’s various stuffed pizza and brownie options before filling your virtual shopping cart with the yummy choices. If you know you’ll be coming back for more, set up a profile so Giordano’s can remember your favorites.
These 10-inch stuffed pizzas serve up to four people and can be ordered in boxes of two, four or six. Never deny yourself a classic Chicago style pizza again. Giordano’s family recipe of pizzas mean you can get a taste of Chicago right at home, without having to dirty your kitchen or spend hours trying to bake one yourself. When it arrives, all you have to do is follow the simple instructions to let it finish baking. Let the delicious aroma of Chicago style pizza fill your kitchen today — check out our home delivery options!