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Welcome to “Kitchen Essentials,” a new series from Chowhound where chefs and bartenders from around the country invite viewers into their kitchens and bars, unveiling the five tools that are simply essential to their work.
Matt Hyland has created a pizza empire. His restaurants, titled Emily, Emmy Squared, and Violet, are peppered in a number of cities across the country—from Brooklyn to Philadelphia and Nashville. Each restaurant showcases a different regional pizza: At Violet you’ll find New England pies, while at Emmy Squared it’s all about the Detroit-style variety—puffy pizzas baked in a blue steel pan whose origins come with a bit of folklore.
“The old-style pan was originally used for auto body parts,” Matt explains. “The lore is that somebody brought this home from a factory and had their wife cook a pizza inside of it, and that’s how Detroit-style pizza was born.”
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And it’s here at Emmy Squared that Matt has decidedly seen his biggest success. Before Emmy Squared landed in Williamsburg, there were few places outside of Detroit where Detroit-style pies were prolific. But Matt’s version was different from the classic: His crisped-up, thick-cut slices were served piled with funky ingredients and plenty of cheese, with scores of people willing to wait upwards of two hours for a taste.
Matt has since expanded Emmy Squared, opening locations in D.C. and Philadelphia, with menus that reflect the food scenes of each city. In D.C., pies might arrive crowned with fried chicken and slathered with EC Shaw sauce (a riff on D.C.’s famed mumbo sauce). Whereas in Philadelphia, a pie aptly called Tony Luke Jr. is covered with broccoli rabe, roasted garlic, bacon, hot peppers, and provolone.
So for those who want to make Detroit-style pizza at home, look to Matt for the tools that are most essential for making these pies. Many are probably items you already have stored in your kitchen—others you’ll just have to add to your pizza collection.
The shape of Detroit-style pizza is all thanks to one unique pan. Made in Fort Huron, Michigan, the blue steel pans are quite deep with high edges, allowing the crust and cheese to brown and caramelize—a distinctive feature of this regional pie. As long as you keep oiling the pans and keep them seasoned, Matt says that they can last for many years. Buy Now
Matt’s a big fan of his ladle because it helps with portion control. Instead of measuring out two ounces of tomato sauce per pie every time, he can count on his trusty ladle to always scoop out the right amount. Plus, he uses the flat bottom to coax the sauce across the pizza. For the home cook, Matt explains that this ladle is also useful for getting a perfect swirl of sauce on pizza dough. Buy Now
Instead of relying on towels to lift hot things in the kitchen, Matt prefers using a clasp to remove scalding hot and greasy pizza pans out of the oven. For Matt, the clamp acts as an extra extendable hand, a sturdy lever that can quickly and efficiently move the pans in and out of the oven.Buy Now
A pizza cutter is, of course, synonymous with essential pizza tools. But Matt has a couple of tips for using and picking the right one. He suggests purchasing a heavier cutter—it cuts through the pizza a lot easier. But the biggest technique Matt tells his cooks is to always cut with confidence when using a pizza cutter: You want to go down against the dough and cut right through it for one clean single cut. If you’re wary about your cut, you might jiggle the cutter and result in a pizza that’s uneven and scraggly.Buy Now
Cooling racks are essential for home cooks—from resting meats to cooling cookies—but Matt found that resting his Detroit-style pizza on top of one resulted in a pizza that wasn’t soggy. The crust stays crisp and crackly, and as long as it remains on that cooling rack, it can stay out for a long time without succumbing to a soggy bottom.Buy Now
Header image by Chowhound.