Essential Cooking: Not all Detroit pizza is square

In this episode of the Essential Cooking podcast, Val Markel of Val’s Pizza talks about Detroit-style pizza and how she has found her niche by embracing a traditional pizza that is a world apart from Detroit square – Neapolitan.

Detroit-style pizza has gone mainstream. National chains like Jets and Pizza Hut are serving fast-food versions Detroit square pizza across the country. But that’s just the beginning of Detroit-style pizza. Metro Detroit residents are fortunate enough to have a seemingly endless menu of Detroit pizza to enjoy.

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In this episode:

  • Val Markel on how she sets Val’s Pizza apart in Detroit
  • The rules for making Neapolitan pizza
  • The national popularity of Detroit-style pizza
  • A short list of Detroit pizza mainstays

There are the Detroit pizza mainstays like Buddy’s, Loui’s and Cloverleaf

Then there are newer additions to the scene like Michigan & Trumbull and Pie-Sci.

But not everything is “Detroit-style.” There’s also New York-style classics, like Supino’s.

Val Markel of Val’s Pizza has her own niche in the already jam-packed Detroit pizza scene, what she calls Neo-Neapolitan pizza.

The ingredients are simple: flour, crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and sometimes parmesan cheese.

Markel embraces the tradition, using specific ingredients that together, give Neapolitan pizza its unique flavor and tender texture. That includes finely milled double-zero flour, fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, all cooked in a 800-950 degree wood-fired oven.

Even with such strict rules, making a perfect pizza requires a lot of trial and error. For Markel, getting the dough she desired took years of trial and error. Variables can include water temperature, amount of kneading, and how long the dough sits in the fridge to prove.

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  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.