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I've made a couple of deep dish pizzas over the last several months and I occasionally get either a soggy or a not cooked crust. I've been pushing the dough into a cast iron skillet and then putting it into a 400-450 degree oven for say around 25 minutes. By then the crust around the edges is threatening on burning but the crust on the bottom might still be doughy.

I've thought of a couple things and I'd love to hear some feedback on what you may have tried and found successful:

  • "sear" the pizza on the stove for a little bit (Wondering if just a minute or two would suffice
  • Bake the pizza with the pan on my baking stone

I'm nervous that the cast iron might suck enough heat out of the stone to risk cracking it.

As always your feedback is appreciated.

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This is an interesting question. For a normal pizza I would say to preheat the pan- obviously that doesn't work here. I fear the answer may turn out to be "bake it in a 800F pizza oven". –  Sobachatina Feb 1 '12 at 0:28
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@Sobachatina: Extreme heat is only for thin-crust. Not deep dish. –  derobert Feb 1 '12 at 0:48
    
Also I think the extra heat would have the opposite result. I think the main problem I'm trying to overcome is the incredible heat capacitance of the cast iron on the bottom of this fully stuffed pan. –  Brian Feb 1 '12 at 2:12
    
FWIW, Chicago restaurants bake their deep dish pizza for 30 to 40 minutes. Maybe you should give it a little longer? –  FuzzyChef Feb 1 '12 at 3:41
    
That was my initial thought was to lower the temp and increase the time, but from the condition of the dough I don't think it would be effective. I think it's a combination of the inertia in the castiron combined with possibly too much liquid in the ingredients as suggest by @derobert –  Brian Feb 1 '12 at 14:47

5 Answers 5

Low moisture skim mozz! The sauce needs to be as moisture free as possible (without being solid.) You can also precook the dough without anything in it for 8-10 minutes before putting in the toppings, that will help if you have too moist sauce.

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I've made it personal policy to never put fresh veggies on a pizza that are not Pre cooked. That would have to go double for thick and deep dish crusts.

If a liquid is evaporating it will hold the temperature at the evaporation point (of water in this case). This is why toast seems to get brown all at once; it takes time for the surface to heat and then evaporate away the moisture that prevents it from getting hot enough to brown. This is true of all baking where dough is involved; it is basically a drying process. So anything you can do to reduce the overall moisture content will improve the bake. This is the number one issue with pizza with veggies on it.

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Would you like to explain the why behind your reasoning, and perhaps how this inhibits the ability of a crust to cook, or ensures that it does? –  mfg Feb 2 '12 at 13:41
    
I don't know why anyone would vote it down either. +1 –  Carey Gregory Feb 12 '12 at 20:47
    
While I disagree with your premise, I think your answer would not be not useful if you included that explanation in it. Also, if you edit that response in then I can remove my downvote, and that would be rad. Baking is more complicated than generalizing as a straight "drying process"; braising and roasting are examples of this, as is roasting raw nuts. In my experience of cooking pizzas, both in a restaurant and at home, I have found pre-cooked vegetables (esp. broccoli and greens) to be flat, limp, and tasteless due to being overcooked. –  mfg Feb 12 '12 at 21:18
    
Edited. Braising and roasting are not baking in this context :-) I added clarification of the baking = drying as applicable to dough only. –  renegade Feb 13 '12 at 15:01
    
Baking dough isn't really primarily a drying process. The starch gelatinization is quite important (you could dry the dough at 140°F, but it'd not be bread). So is the browning. –  derobert Feb 13 '12 at 17:15

For a deep-dish pizza, around 425°F is right, and so is 20–30 minutes. That's starting with cold dough (need to keep the butter layers chilled, at least for a Chicago-style pizza).

Cooking in an aluminum 3" deep cake pan is fine. I suppose cast iron should work too (though it'll heat slower, so might take longer). As has been pointed out in comments, the cast iron much greater heat capacity may be part of the problem; I'd guess preheating it would help. (You can just put the cast iron skillet in the oven as the oven heats, though depending on how long you let the oven heat, you may want it in for only part of the time—no idea what the optimal temperature for it is). Make sure to have plenty of oil under the dough, and also cook on a lower oven rack.

I'd guess that you're using too-watery toppings. The tomato sauce should be pretty thick, much thicker than you'd ever use on a thin-crust pizza. Vegetables may need sweating to get some moisture out. If nothing else works, partially cook the crust (say, ten minutes or so) and then add the sauce and toppings.

I can vouch by Cook's Illustrated's Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza recipe. Normally they have a paywall, but currently that recipe isn't behind it, so grab it quick.

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I wonder if that recipe is in a new best recipe. I'll have to take a peak at my book. The sweating is probably something I need to do. I've been using diced tomatoes tossed with some salt, garlic, herbs, and shaved parmesean –  Brian Feb 1 '12 at 1:50
    
Butter layers eh? I know this isn't really the place, but I have yet to see a pastry style dough recipe. Mine just uses a very generous percentage of oil in the dough. I'd LOVE to see something that was more of a pastry style folded dough! –  Brian Feb 1 '12 at 2:12
    
@Brian: Turns out that recipe isn't currently behind their paywall. Grab a copy and enjoy the butter layers. –  derobert Feb 1 '12 at 16:24
    
Oh yum, I'll give it a try. I'm currently using pizzeria uno's recipe but the thought of a more buttery flaky crust is very appealing. –  Brian Feb 1 '12 at 17:45
    
I absolutely love this recipe. The folks on the Pizza Making forum (great reference) say that the butter layers replicate what's done using dough sheeters (which make dough layers using flour) at places like Giordanos. –  justkt Feb 14 '12 at 19:32
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Deep dish modifications successful.

I ended up cooking in my 10" cast iron skillet at 475 for 20 minutes directly on my preheated pizza stone.

On top of this I followed @derobert's advice and sweat the ever loving crap out of my diced tomatoes. Was able to extract a full cup of liquid out of them AFTER draining for an hour.

The crust came out golden brown from edge to edge and all along the bottom and the exposed upper rim. There was no pool of liquid pouring through during cutting either. Was great last night and was great today for lunch.

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Glad to hear that. Ever get around to trying to buttery crust? –  derobert Feb 7 '12 at 20:16
    
Not yet, that will likely happen with the next deep dish pizza, probably in a month or so. The scientist in me said change one thing at a time. –  Brian Feb 7 '12 at 22:42

Some more suggestions on top of deroberts' good post:

  • Make sure your oven temperature is correct with a standalone thermometer at the position you bake. I've found many ovens much hotter than their dial/display indicates.
  • dough mix too wet?
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