One of the wonderful things about pizza is the infinite variety. From Naples to Tokyo, seemingly every region has its own type of pizza. Whether you want an authentic Sicilian-style pizza or a more modern pinwheel, there is so much to choose from.
One variety that is a favorite for pizza aficionados is Brooklyn-style pizza. So, what is a Brooklyn-style pizza? Does it have a special sauce? A new, trendy topping? A unique cheese? No, something more fundamental than any of that… the crust!
What is Brooklyn Style Pizza? The Short Answer
Brooklyn-style pizza is defined by its crust. It is thin and crispy. It is also bendable enough to be folded in half, as is typical for New York pizza. Brooklyn-style pizza also tends not to be too heavy on the toppings – no thick layer of cheese or big hunks of meat and vegetable and generally well done crust with a little extra sauce and light drizzle of olive oil. The most critical feature is a thin, crisp, and pliable crust.
What is the difference between New York-style pizza and Brooklyn-style pizza? As you might expect, they are closely related. Brooklyn-style tends to be thinner and crisper than New York-style pizza. New York pizza also tends to be heavy on the cheese and can handle a lot of toppings.
It should be remembered that terms like “Brooklyn style pizza” are not etched in stone. The pizza police aren’t going to arrest people who use the name wrong. As a result, many menus, articles, and recipes make different claims about Brooklyn-style pizza. The definitions are a bit all over, but the most consistent feature is the crust.
Interestingly, Domino’s helped popularize the term “Brooklyn style pizza.” They began marketing a Brooklyn-style pizza back in 2006. While it does bear a passing resemblance to the pizza found in Brooklyn, I doubt folks from Brooklyn would accept the Domino’s variety as authentic. Still, Domino’s has plaid an important role in spreading Brooklyn-style pizza beyond New York state.
How is Brooklyn Style Pizza Made?
Three main components lead to Brooklyn-style pizza. The first is high-gluten flour, the second is a thin crust, and the third is a scorching hot oven.
What is Gluten? How is it Important in Pizza?
Most people know that gluten is something found in wheat and that some people cannot eat gluten. That is about all many know on the subject. Generally, people don’t understand what gluten is or what it does in wheat-based foods. Why can’t scientists engineer gluten-free wheat or remove gluten from wheat?
The wheat-based dough is an extraordinary substance. It can be rolled, molded, stretched, and folded into noodles, cakes, cookies, crackers, and waffles. The ingredients list for each food is surprisingly similar – mostly flour, water, eggs, milk, and maybe some sugar or yeast. How can wheat dough do so much?
The secret to wheat’s infinite shapes and textures is gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, and it plays a role in maintaining the structure of the wheat plant. When you grind wheat into flour, the gluten can be activated by adding water and then agitating the flour. Gluten chains form, and these chains are partly responsible for giving the food its structure and texture. This is also why bread that is over-kneaded has a tough, chewy texture.
Making the Perfect Brooklyn Style Pizza Crust
Brooklyn pizza is thin and crispy, but it is also pliable. Using high-gluten flour allows the dough to be extremely stretchy. The dough goes through a series of kneading, resting, and stretching steps until it can form a thin crust. The crust is then topped with sauce, cheese, and toppings and place in the oven.
How can a pizza be thin, crispy, and pliable? Shouldn’t the crust be fragile? This is where the extremely hot oven comes in. Have you ever tried to cook a chicken or a turkey faster by turning up the heat of your oven? The outside gets burnt while the inside remains raw. Cooking is a function of temperature and time.
Brooklyn pizza takes advantage of a similar idea. High-quality pizza ovens go as high as 1000F. (540C.), so a thin pizza will be cooked in as little as a minute. The outside will be crisp, but the inside is still flexible.
This is why the dough needs to be thin – if it were thick, the balance would be off. Either the outside would be burned to a crisp, the inside would be raw, or both. This is also part of the reason Brooklyn pizza tends not to be heavy on toppings – too many extras would mess with the cooking times.
Di Fara and The Dom
One of the most storied pizza joints in Brooklyn is Di Fara Pizzeria. Domenico De Marco, also known as “Dom,” opened Di Fara in 1965. The restaurant took some time to gain attention, but it is now considered one of the best pizzerias in the world. Now in his 80’s, Dom still works at the restaurant with his family. He still makes every pizza himself.
Dom emigrated from Italy, which gives some clues to the origins of Brooklyn pizza. In some respects, it resembles a cross between a Napolitano pizza with the New York slice. The crust of a Brooklyn-style pizza resembles the thin and crispy Italian pizza. Dom’s oven runs at about 800 oF. Di Fara’s pizza also uses tomato sauce like traditional New York pizza, rather than tomatoes often used in many Italian pizzas.
Di Fara has won plenty of awards and acclaim over the decades, including the title of “Best Pizza in New York” multiple times. It has also been featured in several articles and videos.
While Brooklyn-style pizza may not be the best-known style of pie on the planet, it certainly holds a unique position in the pizza hierarchy. In some ways, it is a perfect cross between the two most iconic styles, the Napolitano and the New York slice. Hopefully, this exceptional style of pizza can continue to become more popular outside of its borough. Still, for now, we can be happy that it exists at all.