Cupped Pepperoni Pan Pizza with Brick Cheese (Detroit-style)

My quest for a homemade Detroit-style pizza started with lots of recipe testing and experimenting and finally settling on a cupped pepperoni pan pizza with light bakery crust, caramelized brick cheese and crispy edges. Learn how to make this Motor City pizza for your next pizza party.

Sliced Detroit pan pepperoni pizza on black pizza peel.
Cupped pepperoni and brick cheese make a Detroit style pan pizza.

Being Italian and having lived in Chicago for over 35 years, I know a thing or two about what makes a really good pizza. And I’ve made my fair share of them over the years. My take on Chicago’s famous upside down pizza and my Gram’s sheet pan pizza especially come to mind. But it wasn’t until recently that I even gave Detroit style pizza a second glance.

You see…I lived in Toledo, Ohio for many years and never once thought or even heard of Detroit-style pizza despite it only being an hour away. And we went north a lot. Clearly I was a distracted, self-involved high schooler. And clearly, I had to make things right.

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The great Detroit-style pizza experiment

Living in Chicago, our Detroit pizza options are limited. There is no Detroit famous Buddy’s here. Frozen was my first experience via Motor City Pizza Co. from Costco and to be honest, it was good! Inspired, I set out to study, read and recipe test.

I had several sources I researched including Serious Eats, King Arthur’s Baking and Pizza Today along with my friend, Alexandra Stafford from Alexandra Cooks who is an expert bread maker and chef. (pssst…she has an amazing new book, Pizza Night, launching Spring 2024, that I ordered…cannot wait!)

Below is my journey to make Detroit-style pepperoni pan pizza at home.

Components of a Detroit-style pan pizza

Ingredients for pepperoni pan pizza on white background.
Ingredients for a cupped pepperoni pan pizza.

I’m going to run down the components and ingredients of this Detroit pepperoni pan pizza in order of how they’re used and assembled. It’s definitely different than

Pan

The hallmark of a Detroit pizza is its rectangular shape and charred, caramelized edges of sauce and cheese, neither of which could happen without a very unique, special pizza pan. A Detroit pizza pan is made of dark steel and has exaggerated angled sides that allow the cheese to sneak down and broil to golden crunchy perfection.

The Detroit pizza pan I used comes from Lloyd’s and they make either a small 8″ wide by 10″ long or the one I used which is a 10″ wide by 14″ long.

Dough

The key to Detroit pizza dough is hydration and rising time. After experimenting with lower and higher hydration levels, I settled on a 72% hydration of the dough and at minimum, an 8 hour rising time. A longer rising time creates to a more fermented, tangier flavor.

You could try your favorite store bought dough. Just make sure it’s sat out at room temperature so that’s it’s nice and soft and pliable.

Cheese

This is the most unique ingredient of all. Shredded brick cheese is what sets Detroit pizza apart from Chicago or New York pizza (or even St. Louis pizza which calls for processed provel cheese).

Brick cheese melts creamy and creates a great cheese pull while adding a sweet tangy flavor, I order brick cheese from the deli counter in a large block and grate it by hand. If you can’t find it, a combination of mozzarella and a little havarti or Italian fontina would work well too.

Sauce

It’s not so much what’s in the sauce as to when and how the sauce is applied to the pizza.

After copious amounts of shredded brick cheese are sprinkled over the pizza dough, you drizzle on spoonfuls of the zesty pizza sauce. I do a diagonal striping of sauce making sure to kiss the edges of the pan. You can also do plops of sauce haphazardly across the pie.

Your call!

Cupped pepperoni

The key to getting cupped pepperoni is buying the right kind of pepperoni. You’re not going to buy the package of pepperoni you usually buy when making pizza. Instead, go to the deli section of your grocer and look for natural casing pepperoni. Boar’s Head makes a stick of it and Hormel has just released pre-sliced cupped pepperoni. I went the Boar’s Head route as the Hormel ones weren’t available near me.

Things learned to make crispy pan pizza

  1. Use the autolyse technique for mixing the dough to allow the gluten to develop making it easier to work with and knead.
  2. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for maximum flavor.
  3. Par-baking the pizza crust for 5 minutes creates a crispy base, especially at the center where things typically go soft.

Step by step instructions

After 3 different rounds of dough testing with various hydration levels and adjusting yeast, salt and rising times, below is the ultimate dough recipe for pan pizza. It’s fluffy and crispy thanks to a layer of olive oil and butter at the bottom of the pan.

And it’s topped with a gooey, layer of hand grated brick cheese and cupped, charred pepperoni.

Let’s get to making the best pan pizza.

Water being poured into flour for autolyse.
An autolyse starts with flour and water.
Wooden paddle mixing dough in stainless mixing bowl.
Mix in yeast, sugar and salt.
Raised pizza dough in bowl for pan pizza.
Let dough rise at room temperature.

Make the dough

Two options:

By hand. This is a really wet dough but it will come together.

  • In a large bowl, mix flour with instant yeast and water. Stir to incorporate and allow the blend to rest for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, mix in the instant yeast and sugar. Once mixed, sprinkle in the salt separately to avoid killing the yeast.
  • Turn out onto a floured counter and knead until combined, about 5 minutes. Add more flour as needed.

With stand mixer or food processor. With the stand mixer, use first the paddle and then the dough hook to knead. For the food processor, use the dough blade.

  • Follow all the steps above when it comes to kneading.
  • Knead until the dough comes together and makes a beautiful smooth ball.

For both methods. Place into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and then a dish towel and set on the counter to rise for a minimum of 8 -24 hours.


Pro tip

Wet your hands with a little water when kneading the dough to avoid it from sticking too much.


Assembling the pizza

The order is:

  • dough
  • cheese
  • sauce
  • toppings
Steel Detroit pizza pan being spread with butter.
Butter and oil a steel angled edge pizza pan.
Detroit pizza dough unbaked in pan.
Allow dough to raise another hour.
  1. Generously smear 2 T butter on the bottom of the pan and then pour on about 2 T of olive oil. Spread the dough on top and allow to rise for another hour. Cover with the clean dish towel.
  2. Parbake the crust at 475˚ for 5 minutes.
Tomatoes and seasoning in sauce pan on board with masher nearby.
Make pizza sauce by mashing tomatoes into seasoning.
Grated brick cheese sprinkled on Detroit pizza in pan.
Top pizza dough with grated brickk cheese.
Sauce in diagonal on cheese in Detroit pizza pan.
Layer on pizza sauce.
  1. Add sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and use a potato masher to mash the tomatoes. Add seasoning and simmer for 15 minutes on medium-ow until thickened. Cool.
  2. Sprinkle grated cheese over the crust. Tuck some between the sides of the pan and the crust.
  3. Use a large spoon to drizzle sauce over the cheese. You don’t want to cover the cheese completely.
Layering pepperoni on pan pizza
Top pizza sauce with pepperoni.
Pan of baked pepperoni pizza in a Detroit pizza pan.
Bake pizza until pepperoni is charred and pizza is golden.
  1. Layer on the pepperoni making sure that every piece has ample spicy bites.
  2. Bake in a preheated 500˚ oven until the pepperoni is charred and the edges are golden

Cutting and serving

Rectangular pan pizza is best cut down the middle and then crosswise into long strips. That way, everyone gets a piece with crispy edges.

Storage, reheating and freezing

close up of side of charred pepperoni pan pizza.
The oil captures in the pepperoni cup for a big flavorful bite.

Storage. My favorite method for storing cooled, leftover pizza is to layer it between parchment paper and then wrapping in plastic wrap. Store the whole packet in a resealable storage bag and place in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Reheating. Heat leftover pizza on a sheet pan in a preheated 350˚ oven until heated and bubbling.

Freeze. Wrap leftover cooked pizza as described in storage above and freeze for up to 3 months. You can reheat from frozen in a 425˚ oven until crispy.


Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


close up of side of charred pepperoni pan pizza.
5 from 2 votes

Charred Pepperoni Pan Pizza with Brick Cheese (Detroit-style)

My quest for a homemade Detroit-style pizza started with lots of recipe testing and experimenting and finally settling on a cupped pepperoni pan pizza with light bakery crust, caramelized brick cheese and crispy edges. Learn how to make this Motor City pizza for your next pizza party.
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time:25 minutes
Dough rising time:9 hours
Total Time:9 hours 45 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

Ingredients
 

For the dough

Toppings

For the sauce

Instructions

Make the sauce:

  • In a small saucepan, smash the tomatoes with a potato masher (or slightly puree in a blender). Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for about 15 minutes over medium heat. Cool.

For the dough:

  • In a large bowl, stir the flour and water together. Allow the flour/water mix to sit for about 10 minutes. This is called an autolyse and allows the flour to be hydrated. This process makes for more stretchy, more flavorful dough albeit results in a slower fermentation.
    Stir in the yeast and the sugar Once mixed, add in the salt and mix together in a bowl either by hand or a stand mixer. You can also use a food processor.
  • Bring the dough together and knead for about minutes on a floured counter until smooth. Conversely, use a dough hook/blade in either a stand mixer or food processor and mix on medium low until the dough is smooth. It will be sticky to the touch.
  • Tips: wet your hands with a little water when kneading the dough.
  • Pour dough into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 24 hours.
  • About 2 hours before you want to eat, butter and oil a Detroit style pizza pan. Place the dough in the center and stretch it to the edges. Allow the dough to rise for another hour. Dimple with hands.
  • Preheat oven to 475˚

Top the pizza:

  • Parbake pizza at 475˚ for about 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the pan so it doesn’t get soggy. Add the crust back to the pan
  • Sprinkle the cheese on the edges of the pie first and tuck some down the sides of the pan. Then sprinkle in the middle. Spread on sauce either in rows (diagonal) or clumps. Top with pieces of sliced pepperoni.
  • Place the pizza on a rack right below the middle. Bake until the top is golden and the edges are dark and the pepperoni is charred and curled.

Notes

We are making a dough of 72% hydration that will rise overnight on the counter.
Course: Main Course, Pizza
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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2 Comments

  1. Made this delicious pizza this weekend and loved every charred bite. The crust was flavorful, tender and chewy all at the same time. Thank you Lori for finding the perfect cheese to top it off. You will not go wrong making this pizza for your family and friends. Also delicious cold the next day!!5 stars