Pizza Hut is giving away free pizzas to anyone named John or Sarah Connor on May 21st, 2009.

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This message just received thru time-shift encrypted untraceable terminator-proof communications network:
“Nice try, Skynet, but we like authentic Chicago deep dish! – J.C.”

For a few weeks now, I’ve been pondering the possibility of reproducing an acceptible version of a Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at home. I’ve been searching for pizza dough recipes (There’s a minor controversy about corn meal; I’ll write about that later), and I’ve also been looking for the proper pans to bake them in. Then the Obama thing happened (he ordered deep dish from St. Louis. Read Pizza Rant #1) and I figured I should start blogging about my minor culinary quest.

After a bit of exhaustive research, I’ve done it. I’ve ordered some deep dish pizza pans. From my google-assisted investigation, I’ve learned that tin-plated steel* is the way to go (aluminized steel is even better) instead of plain aluminum, as the steel is supposed to make the pan stronger and the aluminum/tin helps to distribute heat better for more even baking of a larger pizza.

There are a few brands out there that sell deep dish pizza pans, which are really no more than large heavy-gauge metal cake pans. If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to do the research, you can easily find one on Amazon or Ebay by searching for ‘deep dish pizza pan’, and you could go with the ‘Chicago Metallic UNO Deep Dish Pizza Set‘ combo pack which includes a 12″ round 2″ deep aluminized steel deep dish pan, a serving/cutting spatula, and a book with recipes for about $16.

A small word of caution: Although this is a great deal whether you got the recipe book or not, I don’t know if I would trust the recipes, as the Uno Chicago Grill restaurants around the country don’t quite make an authentic deep dish like their namesake at the original Pizzeria Uno in downtown Chicago. The franchises all over the country serve a pizza-hut-inspired version of a deep dish pizza, which is tasty enough, but really doesn’t qualify if you’re looking for authentic Chicago deep dish. For that, you need to go to Pizzeria Uno or Pizzeria Due which are owned by the same people and are located about a block away from each other, or have a par-baked pizza shipped to you frozen from Lou Malnati’s which you can bake in your oven… or make it yourself (which I am attempting to do). The last option is obviously the most difficult and it’s going to take a bit of trial and error and a lot of research to learn the truths about making authentic deep dish pizza. The first step of course, is getting the right pan. Let’s continue…

The REAL Pizzeria Uno in Chicago (not the franchised knockoff).

I wanted to see if I could find a 14″ pan, which is the same size as a large pizza from Lou Malnati’s or Pizzeria Uno. A more extensive search on Amazon found me a company called AMCO that makes aluminized steel pans. The deep dish pan is actually a ’round cake pan‘ which might make it difficult to find if you’re searching for a ‘pizza pan’. You can also find the reliable Chicago Metallic brand, who make all kinds of pans, including a deep dish pizza pan with a non-stick coating. I’m a baking masochist, so I skipped the non-stick easy solution and ended up ordering two AMCO – 12″ pans and one 14″ pan, which are like the ones that the restaurants use*. I also ordered a couple ‘pan grippers’, which are these little clamp handles that they use to grab the pizza pans out of the oven. If you’re wondering why the pictures of the pans show bright silver colored pans, when you often see a darker or even black colored pan at the restaurants, it is because the restaurant pans are well ‘seasoned’ from continual use. These pans will get darker the more I use them.

So while I wait for the pans I ordered to arrive, I will work on the next step: THE CRUST. (to be continued)

*update 4-25: a quick note – the AMCO pans i ordered from Amazon are aluminized steel (not tin) with a silicone coating (so I guess they actually are non-stick after all). Actual tin-plated bakeware darkens the more it is used; aluminum typically does not, but the coating on these pans is supposed to darken the more you use it. I’ve learned that tin melts at 450 degrees, which is why it was replaced by aluminum in bakeware.

**update & correction 1-28-2018:
I had previously mentioned that tin melts around 450 (449.4, if we’re being exact) degrees F and that tin bakeware is not likely being made any more. I’ve learned that tin-plated bakeware is still being made, and while it’s true that tin melts at 450, it doesn’t necessarily melt when baking a pizza in a tin-plated pan because the pizza (or whatever you’re baking in the pan) contains moisture that acts as a heat-sink, sucking heat from the pan so it never reaches that melting point. Steel and aluminum both have higher melting points, so if either were tin plated, the steel or aluminum would also assist in preventing the melting of the tin.

Click to read PIZZA RANT#1:

Click to read PIZZA RANT#2.5 :

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I’m all worked up about pizza right now because our beloved President Obama has chosen to fly his Deep Dish Chicago style pizza from …

I’ll chalk this one up to higher priorities (fixin our economy, iraq, afghanistan, flying in the Jonas Brothers for his daughters ) and a limited experience with St. Louis and their history of ‘pizza’. Mister President, not all midwest pizza is the same.

Normally, when talking about pizza, people divide into two categories and start a ‘NY vs Chicago, Deep Dish vs Thin Crust’ war. Often, I argue that you’re comparing apples to oranges. Few can argue that pizza started in Italy and the original American concept of pizza was created (quite nicely) by east coast Italians in the US. Chicago Deep Dish is a different animal. It is only part-Italian and was a collaboration between an Italian American and a Texan who originally came to Chicago to run a Mexican restaurant .

Now we come to St. Louis. This city has embraced the “bar” or thin crust style pizza which is done quite well in many places in Chicago and other cities. I have no problem with thin crust pizza, and in fact am a fan of a few places in the Chicago area that make it well (Rosati’s, Barnaby’s, Jakes, Nick and Vito’s – or is it Vito and Nick’s – to name a few).

St. Louis, however, has chosen to top their version of thin crust pizza with an abomination, a processed cheese called PROVEL . This ‘cheese’ , created over 50 years ago by Hoffman Dairy (and Kraft) , ‘was developed to meet perceived demand for a pizza cheese with a “clean bite”: one that melts well but breaks off nicely when bitten.’
Sticks to your teeth like the worst movie theatre nacho cheese is what it does! Falls off the crust onto your lap is what it does! Silly St. Louisans! Pizza cheese is supposed to be gooey and stringy!

QUESTION: How can you think you’re going to get anything close to a Chicago style deep dish pizza from a city that created Provel? ANSWER: YOU AREN’T. You cannot trust any culinary expertise from a city that justifies ‘Provel’ as an acceptable cheese for a pizza.

More pizza rants to come. I have more about deep dish pizza, and a tasty anomaly originating from Morton Grove called Pequod’s. mmmmm…. Pequod’s

Click to read PIZZA RANT#2

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