What is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza?

For many outside of the greater Chicago area, deep dish pizza is something of a mystery. At three times the height of a New York style pie, it resembles more of a cheese-laden casserole than a traditional pizza, and that can be intimidating for those who are accustomed to thin-crust pizza.

Trust us, there’s nothing to fear here. It’s time to dig in and learn about the history of deep dish pizza, how it’s made, and why you should consider ordering one from Slice.

So, what is a Chicago deep dish pizza exactly?

As the name implies, deep dish pizza is thick. Forget the negative connotations that come with describing a typical pizza as “heavy” or “dense” – deep dish is hefty in the best way possible.

The cheese layer, which is made with a whole lot of whole milk mozzarella, oozes out of every slice. The crust, which is lighter than it looks, is rich and buttery. Here, you’ll find the sauce layer at the very top, and, true to the spirit of the pie, it is comprised of thick, chunky tomatoes rather than the thin and easily spreadable variety. Any “toppings” that are added to the pie are contained within, and the meaty ones bestow the bottom layer of dough with fat drippings that impart irresistible flavor on an already decadent crust.

If you’re only accustomed to thin-crust pizza, then it’s unlike any pizza you’ve ever had before. And that’s a good thing.

Why is the sauce on top of the pizza?

The deep dish pizza definitely gets style points for having its sauce on top, but it’s not an aesthetic choice. If the cheese and toppings were placed on top of a deep dish pizza, they would burn during the lengthy cooking process. Instead, the sauce goes on top, insulating the rest of the goodness within.

Thin-crust pizza makers rely on ultra hot ovens that reach temperatures of 800°F or more and can fire out a pie in a matter of minutes. Deep dish, on the other hand, is baked for approximately 30 minutes at temperatures ranging from 350-425°F, so proper precautions are required.

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Oh, this pie!!!!

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Who invented the deep dish pizza?

Well, that depends on who you ask. Even Tim Samuelson, the city of Chicago’s official historian, doesn’t have a definitive answer. Some say the deep dish pizza was invented by Ike Sewell, the founder of Pizzeria Uno. Others say the first recipe was written by Rudy Malnati, who was the original chef of Sewell’s restaurant.

Over time, Pizzeria Uno blossomed into a chain restaurant with franchised locations across America and other parts of the world. Meanwhile, Rudy’s son launched Lou Malnati’s Pizza, which many view as the gold standard of deep dish pizza with upwards of 50 outposts throughout Chicagoland.   

Can you get a deep dish pizza outside of Chicago?

Absolutely! The deep dish was born in Chicagoland, but it is beloved all over the world, and you can almost definitely find this beautiful behemoth of a pizza near you

– Zach Links is an L.A.-based sports journalist who is equally concerned with the outcome of the game and what he’ll be eating at halftime. In addition to serving as a staff writer for The Sauce, he’s also the lead writer and editor of You can follow him on Twitter @ZachLinks and on Instagram @FatZachLinks.

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