Chicago is famous for its hearty, delicious deep-dish pizza. What you might not know if you're not from Chicago, though, is that this is just one of three main types of pizza served there. Here is a quick, two-minute guide to all three types of Chicago pizzas to prepare you for your trip to the Windy City.
The classic deep-dish
The classic, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is often imitated, but never duplicated. According to pizza experts, true Chicago deep-dish is made with a "fragile and oily" dough that is pressed into a pan greased with oil (usually vegetable or corn oil). Some variations on this are made with a buttery crust instead of an oily one, which some Chicago natives prefer.
Once the crust has covered the bottom and the tall sides of the pizza pan, the chef places mozzarella cheese slices on top of it. The toppings are then placed on top of the cheese, then the sauce is added last — the complete opposite of pizzas from most other cities. The pizza is then baked up and served bubbling hot. Sometimes it is so thick that it has to be eaten with a fork instead of in slices with your hands.
If you thought the deep-dish was heavy, you ain't seen nothing yet! Chicago stuffed pizza is even taller and fuller than the deep-dish. While the two are sometimes thought to be interchangeable, they actually couldn't be much more different. The preparation process completely changes when crafting a stuffed pizza: The crust is made from a drier dough that has more butter and garlic than the deep-dish, and that is run through a sheeter to flatten it out before it is draped into the tall pizza pan.
The main difference between the two pizzas, though, is what comes next. Shredded (not sliced) mozzarella is spread on top of the dough, followed by a second layer of dough. Then come the toppings and the sauce as before, making a taller, denser pizza creation.
Pan pizza has a thinner crust than both of the previous two pizzas, and the dough is baked in a completely different way. In many pizza parlors, the crust is "parbaked," meaning that it is cooked to around the halfway point, then frozen. Later, the crust is thawed and filled with cheese and toppings and baked to delicious perfection. This crust is crispier than the other two, but it still maintains the signature high sides of a deep-dish pizza.
Bonus: Pub-Style Pizza
Okay, so there are only three nationally recognized Chicago-style pizzas, but there is actually a fourth type of pizza that was born in Chicago that has just as rich a history as its better-known counterparts. This fourth type of pizza is called pub-style, and is eaten mostly on the South Side of Chicago. It was created in a pub, where Chicagoans would often go after work. In an attempt to make people stay longer and drink more beer, the pub owner came up with the idea of a pizza that is less "breadlike" than the others on this list, with a crust that was crispier and saltier, almost like a cracker. The pizza (covered in a sweeter, thinner sauce and light toppings) was cut into squares and served to hungry barflies, who loved it so much that they made it a Chicago staple.
To sample all four of these types of pizzas, you can make it your mission to check out all of the best pizza parlors in Chicago, like the ones on this list, made by real Chicago foodies.