Chicago-style pizza

Chicago-style pizza is a very specific variety of pizza. Pizza is traditionally considered to be a type of hearth cake such as focaccia. The Chicago-style pizza varies from the traditional pizza in that it shares more in common with a casserole such as lasagna than with a hearth cake type dish.

The Chicago-style "stuffed" or "deep-dish" pizza begins with a simple, often very thick, crust in a deep round pan. The bottom of the crust is lined with ingredients, such as pepperoni or any other pizza topping while the sides rise to the top of the pan. A well prepared stuffed pizza generally has much higher topping density than any other type of pizza. Mozzarella cheese is added atop the meats, vegetables, or whatever other topping are used. Then, an additional layer of dough is added over the cheese. This second layer of dough is secured to the primary crust. At this stage in the preparation, the thin dough top should have a rounded, domed appearance, with the center rising almost as high as the primary crust, and the sides appreciably lower, to act as a reservoir for the sauce. Tearing a small hole in the top of the "lid" allows air to escape while cooking, so that the pizza does not explode. Once the dough cover is well fastened, pizza sauce is ladled onto the top of the pizza, forming a level top that covers the dough, but leaves a small amount of the primary crust visible along the circumference of the pizza. At this point, any "final toppers" can be added, such as bacon, fresh pineapple, parmesan or romano cheeses, etc. The pizza is then baked and eaten.

To accelerate baking, a heat sink can be used (for instance, aluminum pieces with spikes several inches long put into the pizza). The heat sink allows heat to get to the center of the pizza efficiently: a stuffed pizza can be thoroughly cooked in only 12 minutes.

In addition to Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza, there is also a thin-crust style of pizza unique to Chicago (and equally difficult to obtain outside Chicagoland), which is less famous than the stuffed pizza outside of the area but outsells it by a high margin. The crust is thin and solid enough to have a noticeable crunch (unlike a New York pizza), yet thick enough to be soft and doughy on the top. This is invariably topped with a liberal quantity of southern-Italian style tomato sauce (usually spicy and never sugar-sweet), a layer of toppings such as Italian sausage (a Chicago staple), onions, and green peppers, and a layer of mozzarella cheese which, due to the quantity of tomato sauce, frequently separates from the bottom crust. Traditionally, this pizza is cut into squares, not wedges. The consistency of the crust and the quality and quantity of the tomato sauce and cheese are what separate this style from East Coast, Roman, and St. Louis-style pizzas, and makes the pizza from neighborhood pizzerias immediately distinguishable from that offered by national chains such as Papa John's or Pizza Hut.

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