Chicago-style Cast Iron Deep Dish Pizza

My wife is from Indiana, near Chicago. So Chicago-style deep dish pizza is something we’re not exactly strangers to. Not a single trip to visit the family goes by without a trip to Beggar’s for a deep dish.

But it SUCKS only getting to sink your teeth into one a couple of times a year, y’know?

All hail our saviour, the cast iron pan!

I’ll admit, I’ve been sitting on this one for quite some time. We received a big cast iron pan as a gift several years ago, specifically with the intention that I’d make deep dish pizza with it.

Cast iron is a funny thing. It’s RENOWNED for it’s sheer, unmatched awesomeness in the kitchen. But people are also a bit scared of them if they’re not used to them.

You can’t toss them in the dishwasher. You should avoid acidic foods like tomato sauces in them. Seasoning cast iron is one part science and two parts mythology. Nobody can seem to agree on the “right” way to do it. So most people avoid them.

Guilty.

But not only have I decided to shake the fear, but add an extra ‘smaller’ 10 inch pan to my kitchen. I’m still trying to figure out some of the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to do things, like cleaning without ruining the seasoning, but it gets easier the more you use them.

I was as surprised as anyone to learn that “pre-seasoned” doesn’t actually mean “ready to use.” In fact, a lot of people, when getting a new cast iron pan, will entirely strip it and start from scratch. I know I still need to do several more seasoning cycles on my pans to get them good and broken in, but you have to start somewhere!

I started with a lot of smoke alarms and a panicking dog. YMMV.

ANYWAY, back to pizza. Your traditional Chicago-style deep dish is a pretty straight forward affair. A really crispy crust in a deep pan with a couple of inches of meat, cheese, and sauce! Layered in that order.

I did a fair bit of researching before deciding on my method. And yes, there are a LOT of different methods to do cast iron deep dish out there. I ended up with a mix of several I saw and liked certain aspects of.

Pre-heating the pan helps with crisping the crust, because cast iron holds heat so well. It can start to cook on the outside before it’s even in the oven.

Pre-baking the crust for a few minutes is something I’ve been doing with my crusts for a while now, and adding a brush of oil (or butter) helps it develop a bit of a crust before you add toppings and keeps the dough from getting gummy.

Basting the crust with garlic butter after baking add another layer of flavour to the crust and softens it a bit to make it easier to slice.

It all made sense to me, so I went for it. The results were fantastic. And since I already had one crust worth of dough left over from making a stuffed crust the other night, it took no time at all to throw together. I started after work, and a trip to the store for sauce and sausage, and had it done and ready to eat before darts. Barely. Okay, I was like 10 minutes late for darts. But it was worth it.

I loved it, family loved it, and I no longer have to wait for our next trip to Indiana to enjoy the authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza we all love.

That crust came out so nice and crisp that you could actually pick up the whole slice by the outside crust and it didn’t droop or fall apart. If that ain’t success, I don’t know what is!

Break out those cast iron pans and make delicious things in them!!

Chicago-style Cast Iron Deep Dish Pizza

You don't need to take a trip to Chicagoland to get that super thick slice with a wonderfully crispy crust! The best part? It's incredibly easy to put it all together.
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cast iron, cheese, Chicago, deep dish, pizza, sausage
Servings: 8 slices
Author: Chris Pollard

Equipment

  • 12" cast iron skillet
  • Rolling Pin
  • Frying pan
  • small bowl
  • basting brush
  • spatula

Ingredients

  • 1 pizza dough (½ of "Only Pizza Dough You'll Ever Need" recipe)
  • 3 tbsp butter divided
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (technically, "a good drizzle")
  • 2 lb Italian sausage fried and crumbled
  • 2 cups pizza sauce approximately
  • ¾-1 lb shredded pizza mozzarella
  • cup Parmesan cheese shredded
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
  • Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried basil, oregano, and thyme will work)

Instructions

Pre-heat and Prep

  • Place oven rack on lowest setting and pre-heat to 200°.
  • Put your cast iron pan in the oven and let it warm up.
  • In a frying pan, brown and crumble your Italian sausage.
  • Remove sausage from pan and set aside. Doesn't hurt to put it on some paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
  • If you're grating your own cheese vs. using pre-shredded, do that now.
  • Roll out your pizza dough. It needs to be large enough to cover the bottom of the cast iron pan AND go up the sides, all the way around. Figure on 14-15 inches.

Pizza – ASSEMBLE!

  • With potholders on hands, remove the cast iron pan from the oven.
  • Increase oven temperature to 425°.
  • Take about half of the butter and, using a fork, fully coat the sides and bottom of the cast iron pan with butter.
  • Transfer your crust into the pan. Be careful not to burn your fingers when pressing the dough up against the sides of the pan.
  • Put the pan and crust on your stove and put the burner to medium/medium-high heat while you do the next step.
  • Give the crust a good drizzle of olive oil, and rub it all over. Use a basting brush if you don't want to get your fingers oily. I won't judge.
  • Sprinkle a pinch or two of Italian seasoning over the crust.
  • Turn off the stove and move the crust into the oven. Bake for 6 or 7 minutes.
  • Pull the crust from the oven and get ready for action!
  • Add a light sprinkle of cheese to the bottom of the crust.
  • Add all of the crumbled sausage to the pan and spread it out evenly.
  • If adding any other toppings (mushrooms, onions, peppers, whatever), add them on top of the sausage.
  • Add your cheese. A really good, thick layer of cheese. Don't be stingy. Edge to edge. Lay it on thick.
  • Now coat it all in your sauce. A good thick layer of sauce. You don't need to measure this … just add sauce until it looks good and coated.
  • Sprinkle a little more of your Italian seasoning over the top.
  • Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese over the top.
  • Put your pie in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes. It may need a little longer. Check at 35 minutes. If the crust is golden brown, pull it out. If it's still on the lighter side, give it a few more minutes. 45 minutes for a deep dish isn't unheard of.

Finishing Touches

  • A few minutes before the pizza is ready to come out, melt the rest of your butter and add the granulated garlic to it.
  • Pull the pizza from the oven when it's finished cooking.
  • With a basting brush, coat the crust with the garlic butter. Not just the top and pizza side, but push it down the outside of the crust, against the cast iron. It will foam and sizzle. Be generous with it.
  • Let the whole thing sit for about 5 minutes.
  • Carefully work a spatula under the pizza. The whole thing should easily separate from the pan and lift right out.
  • Transfer the pizza to a large cutting board. I actually don't have one quite large enough, so I used my regular pizza pan instead!
  • Slice and enjoy! A regular pizza wheel may not be big enough to cut through it. I actually used a big meat cleaver to cut mine.

Notes

Technically, a proper Chicago-style deep dish is supposed to be just sausage, but let’s be real. It’s pizza!  Top it however you want. We’re huge fans of mushrooms, so we’ll always add mushrooms. When I made the one pictured, I had some leftover diced mushrooms/onions/red pepper from making sous vide egg bites, so I put a layer of that on top of the sausage too. It was fantastic. 
I’m also a fan of a bit of spice, so I always add a shake of crushed red pepper flakes to my slice, as well as some extra Parmesan cheese. 
Some people also like to add a drizzle of olive oil over the sauce before cooking.  I’m not big on the step, so I skip it. But it’s an option. Your call!

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