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Do You Know Your Pizza Crust?

Pizza

When you think of pizza, the first thing that comes to mind is probably all the delicious toppings. Spicy pepperoni, gooey cheese, zesty tomato sauce, smoky bacon, savory artichokes, crisp onion – the list goes on depending on your tastes for one of America’s favorite foods. But what is pizza without the crust to hold all that mouthwatering goodness together?

Now when you’re imagining different kinds of pizza crust, the classics bubble up first: the typical hand-tossed variety most national chains use, pan-style pizza, thin crust. If you’re a crust connoisseur, you might know the intricacies of Detroit, New York, and Chicago-style pizzas or even the difference between the New York and Brooklyn styles.

No matter your crust credentials, we wanted to explore a few of the most common of the dozens of pizza crusts out there. To make things a little easier, we’ll divide our selection up into three groups: thick crust, thin crust, and alternative crusts.

Thick Crust

Did you know that thick crust is the second most popular behind thin crust (at 31% and 47% respectively), according to a 2022 food preference poll from YouGov of all places? Still, thick crusts remain a beloved staple in the pizza world. 

You might also hear them referred to as pan pizzas; just as the name suggests, thick crust pizza dough is rolled and shaped into the baking pan which can be circular or rectangular. Different kinds of thick crust pizzas may form a wall of dough alongside the pan to hold more toppings or sauce… but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

Stuffed Crust

For those who love extra cheese or sauce, the stuffed crust pizza is the way to go. Stuffed crust pizzas are actually a kind of double-dough pizza; two layers of dough are stacked on top of one another for extra thickness. In the case of stuffed crust, the two layers form a pocket that surrounds mozzarella cheese around the edges. 

These crusts might also have garlic and herb butter layered across the edges, making them golden and crunchy. Because of this, stuffed crust pizzas are one of the few pizza types people prefer eating crust-first and working towards the middle. Depending on how it’s prepared, the edges might even be crimped so people can tear the crust away and enjoy it as a breadstick or little mozzarella-filled cheese balls accompanied with dipping sauce.

Chicago Deep-Dish

The Chicago-style pizza – or also called the Chicago deep-dish – is characterized by a love of cheese and chunky tomato sauce. Where most thick crust pizzas range between ⅛ – ¼ inches thick, Chicago deep-dish pizzas can be up to two inches. If pizza were envisioned as a casserole, this would be it.

In addition to the sheer amount of toppings and a longer bake time to heat up all that deliciousness, Chicago-style pizzas require a different layering technique: the dough goes into a cast iron pan that’s been buttered or oiled. Cheese is then sprinkled onto the dough alongside toppings, and then finally a chunky pizza sauce covers the whole thing. This kind of layering keeps the crust from burning and allows all the flavors to soak into the dough.

Sicilian Style

Sicilian pizzas are one of the most popular styles of pan pizzas. Usually cooked in a rectangular pan, Sicilian pizzas are known for their fluffy crusts. Much like the Chicago deep-dish, Sicilian pizzas are baked in pans generously coated in olive oil. However, the crust is usually about an inch thick – still sizeable, but less than its Chicago counterpart.

As its name suggests, the Sicilian style is derived from another pizza from Sicily called sfincione which became popular by the mid-1800s. Where the original Sicilian pizzas were made on focaccia, the Sicilian pizza that we enjoy here in North America (mostly in the Northeast) is the typical rectangular pizza we know today.

Detroit Style

The Detroit-style pizza is – you guessed it – popular in Michigan. A derivative of the Sicilian pizza as pockets of Sicilian and Italian immigrants made their way west, it shares the same thick crust baked in a rectangular pan. One of its defining characteristics, however, is that its layering is even more reversed than the Chicago style. Most pizzas layer with sauce-cheese-toppings and the Chicago style is layered with cheese-toppings-sauce. The Detroit, however, layers with toppings-cheese-sauce.

Combined with a chewier crust, the Detroit-style pizza makes for an interesting, delicious pie. And with cheese stretching the entire surface, the caramelized edges make for a satisfying crunch.

Greek Style

Greek-style pizzas are a compromise between thick and thin crusts; they enjoy the crispy texture of a thin crust due to the fried bottom, but the crust’s surface is fluffier and chewier. While the Greek pizza was first made by a Greek immigrant to the United States in 1955 named Costas Kitsatis, it remains a popular style, especially in Greek-owned pizzerias in New England.

Despite its name, Greek pizzas aren’t limited to typically Greek ingredients such as feta, olives, and onions.

Thin Crust

Thin crusts are considered the de-facto standard in the pizza world – not to mention the first kind of crust to get global attention. With a rich history, there are plenty of kinds of thin crusts floating around out there, all characterized by a crunchy, stiff dough that’s been stretched across a pan.

Like their thick crust cousins, thin crust pizzas can be circular or rectangular and have a variety of defining features depending on the style. However, due to how little dough is used in comparison, thin crust pizzas can’t hold as many toppings. This isn’t a bad thing though since it offers pizza enjoyers a lighter variety of pizza that’s still delicious without putting them into a food coma if you eat too much.

St. Louis Style

If you’re looking for unique pizza, the St. Louis style stands out among its peers. Made with a cracker-like, unleavened crust, the St. Louis is defined by its provel cheese blend of Swiss, provolone, and white cheddar. Because of the crust’s lack of pliability, it’s usually shaped in a rectangle with pieces cut into squares – referred to as “party squares” or “tavern style.”

Neapolitan Crust

The Neapolitan is arguably the pizza that helped this delicious food take the world by storm. Named for Naples, its city of origin, this pizza was served to King Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita, after the Unification of Italy in the late 1800s. Indeed, Margherita pizzas still bear the queen’s name to this day.

Traditional Neapolitan pizzas are some of the quickest and easiest to make – if you have the right tools. These pizzas are made with flour, yeast, water, and salt and baked in a wood fire oven at a sweltering 800ºF for about a minute and a half. Because of such a thin crust and intense heat, pizza-makers need to ensure they don’t burn, though the charred bubbles along the outer layer of crust are intentional for an authentic Neapolitan.

New York Style

The New York style is one of the most popular, especially in the media. When you’re thinking of huge pizza slices that you can fold to get a better handle on them, that’s a New York Pizza. It’s for that reason that these are often sold by the slice instead of entire pies.

New York-style crusts are a bit thicker, yet still flexible enough for its characteristic fold. What makes this style of crust interesting is that authentic New York pizzas have a very unique taste in part to the minerals present in New York’s water. Believe it or not, it’s a quality so sought after for authenticity that other restaurants outside the city will import water to make the dough.

Brooklyn Style

Unsurprisingly, the New York style isn’t the only kind of pizza you can find in New York City. There’s also a Brooklyn-style pizza. The difference? A crispier crust (though it’s still foldable) and toppings that cover the whole surface, all the way up to the edge.

California Style

As pizza continued to grow in popularity throughout the United States, chefs in 1970s California started experimenting with all sorts of toppings and ways to create crust. What became the California style of pizza crust was a delicious, flaky crust that helped highlight non-traditional toppings, including salmon, capers, pate, and mustard – though not altogether. This is a style most popular in many West Coast pizza restaurants and also gave rise to barbecue chicken pizza.

While California-style pizzas come in traditional sizes, they’re often single-serve meals.

Alternative Crusts

Though most crusts are made with flour, yeast, and water, there are other alternative crusts beyond the standard fare to cater to various tastes and dietary needs. While the above sections deal with how the crust is prepared and presented, these alternatives define themselves by their ingredients.

Gluten-Free Crust

One of the factors that makes pizza dough – especially thick crusts – so chewy and pliable is gluten, a little protein found in grains like wheat. However, gluten can instigate a variety of problems with those who are sensitive to gluten or have Celiac disease.

When wheat flour can’t be used, gluten-free dough can still be made from other ingredients such as rice, soy, or even potatoes, cauliflower, and chickpeas. Whichever ingredient is chosen, they’re often riced (in the case of potatoes or cauliflower) and mashed into a paste-like dough. That dough is then spread into a thin crust that bakes into something with a cracker-like texture.

Vegan-Friendly Crust

Though vegan-friendly crusts can use wheat flour, the main concern here is removing any animal-related ingredients – mainly cheese made from cow’s or goat’s milk. While there are a few traditional pizza recipes that don’t use cheese anyway, pizzas without cheese usually rely on the crust to make up for any lost flavor. This is usually addressed with extra herbs and flavored oils when preparing the dough. Of course, using vegan cheeses derived from soy, cashews, or macadamia nuts can be used.

What Kind of Pizza Crust Does Coconut Kenny’s Have?

So of all the kinds of pizza crusts we’ve listed, you must be wondering: what crust do we love to use at Coconut Kenny’s? We’ve always described our pizza crust as a pan style, but it’s a mix between the texture of the Greek pizza (a crisp bottom layer with a fluffier top layer) and the edge-to-edge toppings of a Brooklyn-style pizza. And, for our friends with a gluten sensitivity, we do offer gluten-free options for our large pizzas.

Want to try them out for yourself? Check out our menu online or stop in for some pizza today!

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