The Top-5 Detroit Pizza Recipes

Detroit Pizza Basics & Tips

I think I first heard of Detroit pizza sometime in 2018, but I did a little research and discovered that it’s been around since 1946. (If you’re interested in a good, short history of Detroit pizza, I’d recommend this video from Detroit Public TV on Buddy’s Pizza and the origins of Detroit pizza.) That it took half a century for the world to discover it makes, you wonder how many other regions have an amazing pizza yet to be discovered. We’ve already “found” Chicago, New York, New Haven, etc. There seems to be a least some relationship to Italian American population and great pizza. If that’s the case, I wonder what kind of pizza is popular in Philadelphia, Boston, and Pittsburgh. Anyway, Detroit pizza is one of my favorite styles. It’s delicious, not hard to make, and forgiving of many mistakes and ingredient substitutions.

What is Detroit Style Pizza?

Detroit pizza needs a thick, focaccia like crust to stand up to the generous toppings. I’ve never had Detroit style pizza in Detroit, but I believe that there are a few things that set it apart from other deep dish styles. First, and most important in my opinion is the amazing crispy, crunchy cheese that forms around the edge of the pan — the result of edge-to-edge toppings. Second, most recipes I’ve seen uses strips of sauce instead of covering the entire surface and the sauce goes on last, above the cheese and any toppings. To me, those elements set Detroit pizza apart, but I’d add that I like it best when topped with a solid layer of pepperoni, a thick lightly sweetened sauce, and a blend of cheeses.

The Right Pan Is Essential to Good Detroit Pizza

The best part of Detroit pizza is the crispy cheese edges. To get those, you’ll need a deep metal pan. The original Detroit pizzas were made in steel pans used built for the automotive industry. The originals are hard to come by now but you’ve got several great options available. The best Detroit pans are made from aluminum or steel. Some type of non-stick coating or seasoning is also essential — if you try to cook this type of pizza in an untreated pan the crust and cheese will adhere to the sides and, you’ll have issues extracting it intact. Speaking of things to avoid, don’t bother doing this in glass pyrex dish. I was curious and did a comparison between glass and anodized aluminum pans. Wasn’t even close — while the glass dish produced a crisper than expected crust, it wasn’t nearly as crisp as the aluminum version and the crust stuck to the glass so that the crisp parts remained stuck to the glass dish, rendering the end product textureless. To sum up this section:

Aluminum or steel means you’re playing for real. Using glass shows you’re in need of a cooking class.

Two Detroit style pizza pans.
Two great pans for Detroit style. Monfish in the back and Lloyd’s in the front.

Which pans would I suggest? I love my 10×14 inch Lloyd’s Detroit style pizza pan. It’s just non-stick enough and produces the crispest crust of any pan I’ve used. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt recommends Lloyd’s pans, as does Peter Reinhart in his book on square pies (the source of my favorite Detroit pizza recipe). I am also a fan of Monfish’s carbon steel brownie pans, which in my early testing are incredibly non-stick and produce a nice, crisp crust.

Brick Cheese

Buddy’s, the home of the original Detroit style pizza, uses brick cheese. According to Peter Reinhart, John Jossi created brick cheese in 1877 as a less pungent version of Limburger. As of this writing, brick cheese isn’t readily available at grocery stores near me but you can order it online. Reinhart’s book indicates that Muenster is the closest readily available substitute for brick cheese.

Probably because Buddy’s has done the best job marketing themselves, brick cheese has become synonymous with Detroit pizza. However, it’s not clear it really is and you certainly don’t need it to make a great pizza. Cloverleaf,* another foundational Detroit pizza restaurant, only says it uses “a thick layer of select cheese” and if you start the online order process at the 25 Mile / Shelby location, you’ll see that the cheese blend is cheddar, feta, and Parmesan.

*I mention Cloverleaf because Anna Passalacqua, the likely creator of the original Detroit style pizza, worked there with her husband, Gus Guerra, after Gus sold Buddy's. So, I don't think you need to use brick cheese to get great results 

When it comes to cheese, don’t sweat it too much — texture is the key in my book and the right pan will give you that with most decent melting cheeses. I’ve had great results with combinations of Mozzarella (both part-skim and whole milk), Monterey Jack, and mild cheddar. I think my favorite is Mozzarella and Monterey jack, but you should experiment and find what you like.

1. Peter Reinhart’s Classic Red Stripe

Overhead view of a whole Detroit pizza made with Peter Reinhart's recipe.

Wow. This pizza’s shatteringly crisp, airy, and irregularly bubbled crust sets it apart from every other pizza on this list. I’ve never had anything like it. The rest of the recipes in Reinhart’s book are decent, but I’d probably buy the book for this recipe alone. This recipe is a little more challenging and time consuming than the 2nd recipe on this list, but whenever I have time, I put in the extra effort it requires. Beyond the nuances of ingredient ratios and rise times, this recipe adopts a few methods I haven’t seen elsewhere. Half the cheese is pressed into the dough before the final in-pan rise. Presumably to avoid any moisture preventing the crust from crisping, the sauce is added after the pizza comes out of the oven. Whatever the underlying technical reasons, I love this recipe and highly recommend it.

rating: 9/8 slices

9 out of 8 slices pizza rating — the very best rating's even better than 8 out of 8.

hydration: 80%

difficulty: moderate

Difficulty rating icon: 3 out of 5

Key takeaway

Baker beware: this crispy crust can lead to unending Detroit pizza lust.

2. J. Kenji López-Alt’s Detroit-Style Pan Pizza Recipe

Slice of Detroit pizza with cheese oozing from side.

This recipe ignited my interest in pizza making. For a while, I considered it the best Detroit style pizza recipe out there. It’s still my wife’s favorite, but Peter Reinhart’s Classic Red Stripe beat it out thanks to the Red Stripe’s incredibly crisp and light crust. While I don’t rate it the best here, that’s by a slim margin (both this pizza and the top one have 8 slices), and this is the easiest and most reliable (if you weigh your ingredients) Detroit recipe I’ve tried. If you’re interested in trying Detroit style pizza, this straightforward, delicious, and reliable recipe is a great place to start.

rating: 8/8 slices

8 out of 8 slices pizza rating — the best rating available

hydration: 73%

difficulty: not hard

Key takeaway

If you’ve got only one day, make this pizza right away. With time to spare, the Classic Red Stripe is better fare.

3. ATR / Cook’s Country Detroit-Style Pizza

Overhead shot of Cook's Country Detroit style pizza.
I love sauce, so I did half with a full topping of sauce over the cheese and pepperoni and the other half with the traditional strips of sauce.

I really like the chew and lightness of this dough but I might prefer the crisp of Kenji and Reinhart’s crusts. Also, this dough is hard to work with if you don’t have a mixer. The written recipe is behind a pay wall, but you can listen to the video to get the amounts. Unlike my top two picks, this recipe suggests grating the cheese instead of cubbing it. I believe the goal is to avoid deflating the dough. I honestly didn’t notice much difference.

rating: 7/8 slices

7 out of 8 pizza slices rating

hydration: 84%

difficulty: moderate

Difficulty rating icon: 3 out of 5

See the Recipe

Key takeaway

For those who prefer chew to crunch, make this for dinner and reheat for lunch.

*The actual recipe is behind a paywall, but the linked to video lists the dough amounts as:
2 ¼ (281 grams) cups flour
1.5 teaspoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
1 cup room temp water 

4. Detroit-Style Pizza by Brian Lagerstrom

Overhead shot of Brian Lagerstrom's Detroit style pizza.

I had high hopes for this recipe because Lagerstrom’s Neapolitan Style Pizza is one of the best I’ve ever made. Unfortunately, his Detroit iteration did not meet my high expectations. The crust come out light for its thickness, with a solid crunch. It’s good, but not as good as the ones ranked above. Unlike the other recipes listed here, Lagerstrom’s puts down cheese, sauce, then pepperoni, with the goal of adding cheese first to protect the crust from the sauce’s moisture.

rating: 6/8 slices

6 out of 8 pizza slices rating

hydration: 72%

difficulty: not hard

Key takeaway

If you’ve got only one day, make this pizza right away. With time to spare, the Classic Red Stripe is better fare.

5. King Arthur’s Detroit-Style Pizza

Overhead of King Arthur's Detroit pizza.

At this point in the list things are pretty close. I rated this recipe below the America’s Test Kitchen one, but my wife liked it better. As with most food items, it really comes down to preference. However, we both rated Kenji’s recipe above this one and amount of difficulty and time required are similar, so if you want a straightforward recipe that doesn’t require that much lead time, go with Kenji’s over this one.

rating: 6/8 slices

6 out of 8 pizza slices rating

hydration: 76%

difficulty: not hard

Key takeaway

The king of Detroit pizzas it’s not, but, if don’t trust me, give it a shot.