Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit style pizza is hands-down my favorite kind of pizza. A good Detroit style pizza should have a thick, fluffy crust with ultra crispy edges, gooey cheese, and thick, flavorful sauce. Since this is my favorite kind of pizza, and one of my favorite foods in general, I set out to develop a recipe for my perfect Detroit Style pizza at home. I spent over a year trying out different variations of each key ingredient, until eventually honing in on this recipe. The summary of why each ingredient was selected is detailed in the sections below, please check them out if you’re interested.

To keep it a little easier, I stuck with pepperoni as the only topping through the development phase, but now that the core pizza recipe is finished I plan to work on some other topping combos to share with you!

I don’t usually share many personal stories on here, but I must add that my husband is from Michigan and grew up on Detroit Style Pizza. He was obviously very excited to participate as in this process as Lead Taste Tester, and has dubbed the final result his all-time favorite food. When I shot the final photos of this recipe, he immediately made this picture the background of his computer. Pictured here, because I think it’s hilarious, but all of this is to say that this recipe is certainly special to us, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do.

What is Detroit Style Pizza?

Detroit style pizza is a very thick crust pizza. The dough is thick and fluffy, kind of similar to focaccia bread. The dough gets coated in oil, so the crust comes out super crispy, with an almost deep-fried feel. While most pizzas have sauce all around, Detroit style has strips of sauce, so only about half the pizza has sauce. It might sound odd, but this deviation is 100% worth it and lends itself perfectly to the rest of the pizza (discussed more below).

The origin of Detroit Style Pizza goes back to the 1940’s, when a local pizza maker wanted to add a thick crust pizza, similar to Sicilian style, to his menu. As the legend goes, he used metal parts trays from a nearby car manufacturer to bake the pies. The unique, high-walled pans are generally considered to be critical to making proper Detroit Style Pizza. The pans I use are discussed in more detail in the Equipment section below!

Detroit Style Pizza

Equipment – Detroit Style Pizza


Specialized Detroit style pizza pans are generally considered to be critical to getting perfect results. You can certainly make Detroit style in a similar pan, such as a metal 9×13, but I can’t speak to this much myself because I invested in a proper pan at the beginning. These pans are pretty pricey, but considering that this pizza doesn’t require a special pizza oven, and the ingredients are pretty cheap, overall it’s not too bad if you plan to make it regularly.

There are two main pan sizes, full size pans which are 10″ x 14″, and half size pans which are 8″x 10″. At the time I’m writing this, the full size pan runs about $50, and the half size are about $40 from Llyod Pans, which are generally regarded as the best option. Like I said, this is pricey, but luckily just about everything else for these pizzas is cheap, and the pans will last forever.

I started out with one full size pan since it was a much better deal than buying two of the half size. After I got the hang of things, I wanted to be able to make two batches at once to feed more friends and have more pizza for leftovers. For my second purchase, I splurged on the two half size pans, and I’m really glad I did. The smaller pans mean that every slice is a corner slice, and honestly I think it’s worth the extra money. If I didn’t already have the big pan, I’d rather just have 4 of the half size. For this recipe, one batch is enough for one full size pan or two half size. I pretty much always make a double batch at this point since the leftovers freeze so well.

Everything else

Aside from the pans, there is some other nice-to-have equipment.

  • Kitchen Scale – for weighing the dough ingredients rather than using volume measurements.
  • Stand Mixer – for kneading the dough rather than doing it by hand.
  • Bench Scraper – a great tool for separating the pizza’s edges from the side of the pan, but you can also use a knife.
  • XL Spatula – For lifting the pizzas out of the pans.
  • XL Pizza Slicer – works much better than a small pizza slicer, but you can also use a large knife.
Detroit Style Pizza

Ghee vs. Olive Oil – Detroit Style Pizza

One of my biggest deviations from other Detroit style recipes is my use of ghee to coat the dough, rather than olive oil. If you aren’t familiar with ghee, it’s clarified butter, which is butter that has had all the milk solids removed from it. Basically, it is butter but as a pure oil. When butter burns at high heat it’s the milk solids that are burning, so by removing them, ghee can go up to much higher temperatures without burning.

I did multiple side-by-side comparisons of identical pizzas made with ghee and olive oil on the crust, and each time the ghee crust came out much crispier. Ghee is a bit more expensive than olive oil, so it is a little bit of an investment, but now I only use ghee on the crust. If you can get your hands on some ghee, definitely give it a try!

Detroit Style Pizza
Incredibly crispy crust, made with ghee.

Cheese – Detroit Style Pizza

The traditional cheese to use for Detroit Style Pizza is Wisconsin brick cheese, which is a type of white processed cheese. It can be very difficult and expensive to get Wisconsin brick cheese outside the upper midwest, so for most people, I’d recommend using an alternative.

My favorite cheese to use for this is 1/2 mozzarella and 1/2 Monterey jack. The Monterey jack contributes some extra flavor to the cheese that the mozzarella lacks on its own, and the mozzarella contributes that ooey-gooey texture we want from pizza cheese. The combination is much better than using just one variety on its own.

The shape of the cheese – cubed, not shredded, is also very important. This may seem like a trivial detail, but it’s key to the perfect Detroit style pizza. Cubed cheese melts much slower than shredded cheese, and results in a different texture. Shredded cheese will melt too quickly, and the cheese will become overcooked while you’re waiting for the dough to bake through. I tested out a few batches with shredded cheese and trust me, it ruins that gooey melty cheese texture we want.

I buy my cheese at Costco since it’s the best deal I’ve found, and they usually have both Monterey Jack and Mozzarella in 2 lb blocks. This is enough for 4 batches, and since I usually make 2 batches at a time I will cube all the cheese and pack the extras in a vacuum bag, then toss it in the freezer for next time.

Detroit Style Pizza
Detroit Style Pizza

Dough – Detroit Style Pizza

The dough is probably the simplest part of this recipe. It’s just bread flour, water, table salt, and instant dry yeast. It needs about 2 hours proof, but I don’t do anything fancy with it. If you have a stand mixer, I’d recommend using it for the kneading portion, but you can also knead by hand. Note, bread flour contains more gluten than all-purpose flour, which helps get the texture we want. This is a 65% hydration dough.

Detroit Style Pizza

Sauce – Detroit Style Pizza

This sauce is super easy to make, and packs a ton of flavor. Other than the crushed tomatoes, the two most important ingredients in this sauce are the garlic and red pepper flakes. I’m a garlic lover, so I’d say it’s fairly heavy-handed on the garlic, but it took a few batches to hone in on this amount. I wanted the sauce to have just a hint of spice, without being truly spicy, so that’s what the red pepper flakes are for. If you or someone you’re serving is very sensitive to spice, you may want to consider omitting or reducing them, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call the sauce “spicy”. If you want more spice, definitely bump up the red pepper flakes, and also keep in mind they can be added as a topping at the end as well.

I like to reduce my sauce for about 15 minutes until it’s pretty thick and not watery at all. This texture is ideal for the Detroit style sauce distribution. Pictured below is how I distribute the sauce on a full size pizza (left) and half size (right). Note, you can do your strips of sauce however you want, but I think the diagonal strips yield the most even results when the slices are cut.

Why add the sauce in strips? I’ve always been a bit skeptical about the sauce distribution on DSP, wouldn’t it be better to just have the sauce all over, under the cheese? The answer is really a matter of texture. If you put a thin layer of sauce under the cheese, the cheese tends to form a sheet on top, which slides around and generally makes a bit of a mess with each bite. Adding the sauce on top means that the cheese can lay directly on the bread instead, which makes for a much cleaner bite. It’s also really nice to get alternating bites of pizza with and without sauce (but note, every bite still has cheese!). After testing a few batches with a “normal” pizza sauce distribution, the merits of the strange style became obvious. That said, there are still many places that build their Detroit style pizza with the sauce on the bottom, and it still makes for a very delicious pie.

Detroit Style Pizza
Sauce distribution for full size pizza.
Detroit Style Pizza
Sauce distribution for half size pizza.

Toppings – Detroit Style Pizza

For a classic pepperoni pizza, the combo of pepperonis both under the sauce/cheese and on top comes out very nicely. So far, I haven’t explored other toppings because I wanted to keep it simple for the development phase. Now that I’ve wrapped up development for the core recipe, I’m going to start exploring some other fun topping ideas.

Looking for some inspiration? Jet’s Pizza is arguably the most popular chain featuring Detroit Style Pizza, so check out their menu here for some ideas of other toppings to try!

If you want a little bit of freshness and earthiness on your pizza, try tossing some arugula in a little bit of white balsamic vinegar and putting that on top after baking!

Freeze the Leftovers!

I was absolutely delighted to discover how well this pizza freezes and reheats!! Please see the recipe for freezing and reheating instructions. Since discovering this, I’ve started making double batches even when we don’t need them, just to freeze the extra pizza. It’s such a treat to pull out a slice from the freezer and heat it up for a quick lunch.

I highly recommend investing in a vacuum sealer (I have this one) and vacuum bags (I use these for most things). It may seem a little over-the-top, but it is SUCH a good way to reduce food waste and keep things fresh for a long time in the freezer.

Detroit Style Pizza
Frozen slices of DSP!

Dietary Restrictions – Detroit Style Pizza

Make it Vegetarian:

  • Omit the pepperoni
Detroit Style Pizza

A Note On Serving Sizes

Serving sizes are a very personal thing, making it very difficult for me to select a serving size that suits everyone. This recipe lists a “serving” as one slice, but note that most people will want to have more than one slice. Each batch makes 8 slices.

Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit Style Pizza

Classic Detroit Style Pizza! A thick, fluffy crust with crispy edges, gooey cheese, and a rich, flavorful sauce. I spent over a year perfecting the fine details of this recipe!
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Dough Proofing Time 2 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8 slices



For Dough:

For Sauce:

To Finish Pizza:


Prepare the Dough:

  • In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dough ingredients. Mix by hand or with a stand mixer until a dough forms, then let it rest for about 10 minutes. (If preparing a double batch, this portion can be done together)
  • After resting, knead for about 10 minutes until a smooth dough forms. If you're using a stand mixer, dust the outside of the dough ball with a little more flour to keep it from sticking to the dough hook (repeat as needed if the dough sticks) knead on medium-high speed. For a double batch, I recommend splitting it in half and kneading each ball separately if using a stand mixer.
  • After kneading, form the dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5-2 hours. I use the bread proof feature on my oven for this step.
    Detroit Style Pizza
  • When the dough is done rising, prepare the pans. For each batch of dough, prepare either 1 full size pan (10"x14") or two half size pans (8"x10"). Coat a full size pan with 4 tbsp of melted ghee or olive oil, and half size pans with 2 tbsp each. Use your hands to spread the oil all around, including on the sides.
  • Divide the dough as needed for each pan (I weigh my dough balls to ensure they are even). Add the dough ball to the pan and toss it to get it coated in the oil. Use your hands to gently stretch out the dough until it's about the size of the pan (this skill gets easier with practice). Stretch the corners out past the edges of the pan and allow them to shrink back in to fill the corner space. Repeat for each pizza, and cover with cling wrap placed directly over the dough. Let the dough rise in the pans as you prepare the sauce, occasionally stretching out the corners as needed to make sure the dough fills the whole pan.
    Detroit Style Pizza

Prepare the Sauce:

  • Warm the olive oil in a medium size pot over medium heat (I use a large pot for double batches to help it simmer down faster). Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until very fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Once the garlic is fragment, add the crushed tomatoes and mix well. Add the rest of the seasonings and bring the mixture to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced to your desired thickness. I prefer a thick sauce and usually simmer it for about 15 minutes.
    Detroit Style Pizza

Finish the Pizza:

  • Preheat the oven to 500 F.
    Note, Detroit style pizza is assembled differently than normal pizza, but this is for good reason. See the post section of this page for more info if you're curious!
  • Confirm that the dough is filling the whole pan. If not, gently stretch it out a little more. Place a single layer of peperoni down directly on the dough as pictured.
    Detroit Style Pizza
  • Scatter the cheese cubes evenly over the top, make sure that there is good coverage around the edges.
    Detroit Style Pizza
  • Add the sauce in thick strips over the cheese. I like to do diagonal lines, as pictured, but you can also do vertical or horizontal lines if desired. (Pictured is a half size pizza, see the post above for an example of this on a full size pizza.)
    Detroit Style Pizza
  • Add more pepperoni on top, filling in the space that isn't covered with sauce, as shown.
    Detroit Style Pizza
  • Place the pizza in the preheated oven and bake until the cheese is fully melted and just starting to turn golden on top, about 10-12 minutes.
    I recommend setting a timer for 8 minutes, and then watching it pretty closely at the end, since the exact timing will vary. If you make a double batch, I recommend baking one batch at a time.
    Detroit Style Pizza
  • Immediately after removing the pizza from the oven, remove it from the pan and place it on a cutting board. The cheese will be stuck to the pan around the edges, I use a metal bench scraper to break it off, and then lift the pizza from the pan with the bench scraper and a large spatula. Slice and serve immediately.
    Detroit Style Pizza

Freeze the Leftovers:

  • This reheats incredibly well from frozen, so I almost always make extra to freeze! Once the pizza has cooled to room temp, line a cookie sheet or plate with wax paper and place the slices on it so that they aren't touching. Place in the freezer until completely frozen, then transfer to vacuum bags or freezer zip bags to store.
    Detroit Style Pizza
  • To reheat from frozen, defrost in the microwave (about 1 minute for 1 slice, or 1.5 minutes for two slices) then crisp in a toaster oven or air fryer set to 375 F until the crust is crispy and the cheese is bubbly, about 3-4 minutes.


Serving: 1 slice
Keyword Detroit Style Pizza, Pizza, Special Occasion
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Send me pictures of your creations — it’ll make my day! Message @CraftyCookbook on Instagram or tag me in a post! Please note, tagged posts are only visible to me if your account is public. Did you make any interesting changes or substitutions for this recipe? Tell me about them in the comment section below!
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1 Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve tried a few different DSP recipes and this is my new favorite. The crust is incredible, and the flavor of the sauce is perfect. Thanks!

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