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Chef's Corner | Shawn Randazzo Explains His Philosophy Behind Detroit-Style Pizza

Shawn Randazzo, master of the Motor City pizza, teaches you all you need to know about Detroit-style pies so you don’t have to hear it through the grapevine.


Detroit is an industrious city famous for music and cars. However, some still don’t realize that it is also famous for pizza. Detroit-style pizza is a unique style of pie denoted by its thick and airy crust, signature rectangular shape, and caramelized cheese surrounding the edges, cooked in a pan originally used in motor vehicle factories to catch oil and scrap parts. This style of pizza has been around since 1946 but has only recently started to rise to prominence across the country. 

With more independents offering a type of Detroit-style pizza recently, I wanted to talk with someone I knew could shed some light on this delicious take on pizza. I reached out to Detroit’s favorite son—and, no, I’m not talking about Eminem or Robocop, I’m talking about Shawn Randazzo of Detroit Style Pizza Co. After numerous competition wins with his pizza, Randazzo took it upon himself to start spreading the word of this Motor City staple. Having learned from the originators of the style, he has made it his mission to bring knowledge of this pillowy pie to any pizzaiolo willing to listen. And he was kind enough to sit down in the Chef’s Corner and share a recipe that can be recreated in your home or restaurant.  

“In my opinion, there are five basic rules to follow to make a true Detroit-style pizza: 

The shape—Must be a rectangular pie, made in a deep pan.
Hydration—Should be 70% or more to contribute to the airiness and crispiness. 
The sauce—Goes on top. Some call it an ‘Upside-down pizza.’
The cheese—Brick cheese is key for that flavor and caramelization.
Thickness—About 1½” to be true Detroit style.”
—Shawn Randazzo


The Detroit Twist

Dough ingredients: 

1¾ c. 85˚F water
½ c. semolina flour
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. instant dry yeast
3½ c. bread or bakers flour
2 tsp. salt


Dough instructions:

Add water, semolina flour, sugar and yeast to the mixing bowl. Mix and let sit for about 15 minutes. Add the bread/bakers flour and salt to the mixing bowl. Mix all ingredients on the lowest speed for one minute. Scrape down the sides of bowl with a plastic dough scraper/divider. Mix on low/medium speed for three minutes. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and divide in two. Each dough ball should weigh 17.5 to 18 ounces. Coat the dough balls with oil and refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours. (Doing this provides more flavor and better texture. If you prefer, you can use the fresh dough right away.) Place the dough in a pan and press out with 8 to 10 presses. Let it rest in the pan, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Fully press out in the pan all the way to edges and corners. Let the dough sit covered at room temperature for 1½ to 2½ hours. Ideally, you want it to rise about a third of the way up the pan. Once the dough has risen, you’re ready to make pizza! Yields 2 large 10”-by-14” pizzas.


Pizza ingredients:

1 tsp. dry oregano
24 oz. shredded cheese blend, preferably a 50/50 blend of brick cheese and low-moisture mozzarella
1 red onion
2 roma tomatoes
4 oz. fresh arugula
1 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
Lemon Oil Dressing/Lemon Vinaigrette (see recipe below)


Lemon Vinaigrette 

1 c. olive oil
¼ c. red wine
8 tbsp. lemon juice (and more to taste)
8 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 pinches sea salt
4 pinches freshly ground black pepper
4 pinches sugar

In a squirt bottle, shake all of the ingredients until emulsified. Yields enough for several pizzas or salads.


Pizza Instructions:

Sprinkle dry oregano directly on the dough. Spread 12 oz. of cheese, making sure cheese is placed evenly across the pan, edge to edge. Slice the tomatoes and place on the cheese. Save a few slices and dice them up to toss with arugula (to be added after baking). Slice the red onion and place on the pizza.

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Once preheated, place the pizzas in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, resulting in browning on top and a golden brown bottom. Toss the arugula in a bowl with a drizzle of lemon oil dressing. Remove the pizza from the oven and place on a cutting board. Slice into 8 pieces. Place the arugula-tossed dressing directly on top of the pizza. Sprinkle with the lemon zest for color and additional flavor and serve.

There it is, pizza fans: the award-winning Detroit Twist! Enjoy!


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