What is Detroit-Style Pizza?

For decades, Detroit-style pizza was one of the Motor City’s best kept secrets.  That is, until recently, when Detroit-style pies began popping up in all different regions of the U.S.

Clearly, the secret is out, and we’re very thankful for that. For the uninitiated and the initiated alike, here’s a rundown of what makes Detroit-style pizza special and how it all got started.

What is Detroit-style pizza?

Detroit-style pizza is cooked in a rectangular steel pan, which gives the outer layer of the crust a delightfully crunchy texture. Further inside, the crust has a delightful chew and a buttery flavor that it owes to the fat drippings which are collected by the bottom of the pan.

The sauce of a Detroit-style pizza is typically sweetened with a bit of sugar and the tomatoes are crushed, giving it a thicker consistency than that of a New York-style pie. Detroit pies are also primarily, and sometimes exclusively, topped with brick cheese, which you’ll be hard pressed to find at any classic N.Y. pizzeria.

Named for its loaf-like shape, brick cheese is a cousin of limburger cheese. The flavor profile of brick cheese varies depending on its aging process, but the younger brick cheese found on Detroit-style pizzas is far less funky in flavor and pungent in its aroma than limburger. Some liken the pizza-friendly variety to mozzarella, making it a sensible choice for a pie.

How is Detroit-style pizza assembled?

Most pizza styles call for the sauce to go on first, followed by the cheese, and then the toppings. On a Detroit-style pie, the cheese goes directly on the dough. After that comes either the cheese or the toppings, depending on the pizza purveyor’s preference.

Why are the edges of a Detroit-style pizza so delicious?

The edges of a Detroit-style pan pie may appear to be overcooked upon first glance, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the thin, charcoal-black edges of this pizza are nothing short of exceptional.

The outer crust of the pizza is flanked with brick cheese and gains additional flavor from the pie’s fat drippings. The edges wind up black and crispy without tasting burnt. Even the pickiest of eaters who usually prefer to leave their crust on the plate find themselves consuming every crumb.

Who invented the Detroit-style pizza?

Detroit-style pizza was invented by Gus Guerra, who first served the pies at Buddy’s Rendezvous in 1946. When Gus struck out on his own years later, he opened up Cloverleaf in Eastpointe, Michigan (née East Detroit). Both pizzerias share the Guerra lineage and are considered to be among Detroit’s best.


Can you get a Detroit-style pizza outside of Detroit?


Much like the cheese layer in this famed pie, Detroit-style pizza has spread to all corners of the map. These square-shaped pizzas still aren’t as common as other varieties, but the odds of finding a Detroit-style pie outside of Motown are exponentially higher than they were just ten years ago.


— 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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