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The Art of Thin Crust Tavern-Style Pizza at Home

sausage and pepperoni pizza tavern style

Pizza is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beloved foods, and its diverse styles offer something for everyone. While deep-dish and New York-style pizzas often steal the spotlight, the unassuming thin crust tavern-style pizza has its own legion of devoted fans. Today, we will explore the allure of thin crust tavern-style pizza and show you how to celebrate it at home with a fantastic recipe!  This is our go-to pizza recipe at home, as the dough is easy to work with and you can repeat the same results every time.  So damn good!

sausage and pepperoni pizza thin and crispy

The Origin of Tavern-Style Pizza

Tavern-style pizza, also known as bar pizza, is believed to have originated in Chicago. These thin crust, crispy pizzas were designed to be served in bars and taverns, to the working class of the big city. Often served in bars, they are perfect for social gatherings and happy hours, with some cold light beers. Over time, this unique style of pizza has grown in popularity and can now be found in pizzerias across the country.  If you are near Des Moines, IA where I live, my favorite version of this can be found at Bordenaro’s Pizza.  Love the crust and unique tangy sauce there.  When I make thin crust pizza at home, this is what I am trying to emulate.  Let’s show you how to get it done! 

Pizza Gear

Not much needed for this recipe, but I recommend a cheap baking scale allowing you to measure the dough in grams, so you can nail the dough recipe every time.  I also recommend buying a high quality baking steel, instead of a ceramic stone, for amazingly crispy pizza.  You will not regret the purchase. 

A mixing stand is not required.  I own one, but I actually enjoy mixing the dough by hand.  I do love these cheap dough scrapers though, which make handling and cutting dough much easier. 

The Dough, becomes The Crust

The defining feature of tavern-style pizza is, of course, its thin crust. This thin, crisp, and almost cracker-like foundation is what sets it apart from other pizza styles.  So… the dough is the most important part of this pizza.  Luckily, it is a very easy dough to make and handle through the entire process.  

The quick overview of the process is… 

  1. Mix the Dough
  2. Leave covered at room temperature for 1 hour
  3.  Then cover in the fridge overnight, or up to 3 nights. 
  4. The day you make the pizzas, bring the dough to room temperature, which takes about 2 hours. 
  5. Press and roll the dough into your pizza “skins”
  6. Let the thin rolled pizza dough skins sit uncovered for 4-8 hours. I prefer 6-8 hours if possible. This is called curing the dough, and it makes it easy to handle and allows the crust to become crisp and light when baked. 
  7. Assemble pizza’s and cook on a baking steel at 550°F for 5-10 minutes.  

That may sound like a long process, but the steps themselves do not take a lot of time, you just need to plan ahead.  This will be worth it in the end!  This is by far the easiest way to make GREAT pizza at home.  Below are the pressed and rolled pizza dough skins, resting for afternoon before baking. 

rolled out thin and crispy pizza dough before cooking

Making the Dough

No fancy ingredients or equipment needed for this dough, just a baking scale for accurate measurements.  I like to make this dough by hand.  You can use a stand mixer, but it is not needed.  

Dry Ingredients

  • 1000 grams AP Flour ( I use King Aurther)
  • 25 grams Fine Sea Salt  (2.5%)
  • 1 teaspoon or 3 grams Active Dry Yeast ( 0.3%)

Wet Ingredients

  • 580 grams Water – luke warm (58%)
  • 70 grams olive oil  (7%)
  1. Bring Dry Ingredients together in a bowl, and mix thoroughly
  2. Add all wet ingredients at the same time
  3. Bring together with a non stick spatula and your hands.  It will be sticky and lumpy to start.  That is OK. 
  4. Let it rest covered for 10 minutes.
  5. Knead the dough on your counter top or cutting board for a few minutes.  Let it rest covered for 10 minutes.  
  6. Knead the dough for a few minutes until the texture becomes smooth. Form it into a ball and lightly coat in olive oil.  Place the dough back into a clean bowl. 
  7. Let the dough sit covered at room temperature for 1 hour.  
  8. Then cover in the fridge overnight, or up to 3 nights. 
  9. The day you want to make pizza, bring the dough to room temperature. Divide your dough into dough balls between 210 – 350 grams depending on the size you want.  See below for recommendations on size.
  10. Form them into balls and let them rest for 15 minutes.  
  11. Flour your surface with a 50/50 mix of semolina and AP flour.  Then press your dough balls by hand into discs.  Flip a few times flattening with your finger tips. 
  12. Continue to flour your dough and then roll the dough into 10-14 inch sized pizza skins depending on your liking and equipment available.  If anything sticks, you need more flour.  
  13. Once rolled out, dust your pizza dough with more flour and let the thin rolled pizza dough skins sit uncovered for 4-8 hours.  I like to place them on cutting boards during as they cure, as the wood helps them dry out more evenly on each side. 
  14. Flip the pizza dough skins half way through, to allow both sides of the dough to cure equally as possible.
  15. Before assembling pizzas, flip the driest side of the dough down, for more crisp results. 
Dough Ball Weights for 10″, 12″, and 14″ pizzas
  • 335-350 gram dough balls for 14″ Pizzas.  335 g dough balls will give you 5 pizzas
  • 260 grams dough for 12″ Pizzas.  260 g dough balls will give you 6 pizzas, plus a little extra dough
  • 210 grams dough for 10″ pizzas.  210 g dough balls will give you 8 pizzas
For more tips and images on bringing the dough together without a stand mixer, check out a more detailed description in my Detroit Style Pizza Recipe.  The dough ingredient ratios are different, but the process is the same.  It will give you some good visual cues on what to look for in the dough

Pressing and Rolling the Dough

I like to use a mix of semolina flour and AP flour when pressing, stretching, and rolling the dough.  I like to form the dough into flat “pucks” then press them down a little more, flipping and adding more flour as needed.  

Then use a rolling pin as you meet resistance from the dough.  Roll gently and repeatedly, while flipping often.  Soon you will have some nicely shaped dough skins to work with. 

rolling out pizza dough
rolled out thin and crispy pizza dough before cooking

The Sauce

I like to keep Tavern-style pizza sauce simple, with high quality crushed tomatoes, a dash of oregano and basil, and thickened with tomato paste.

  • 28 oz of high quality crushed tomatoes  ( I love these SMT Crushed Tomatoes for all my sauces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • Taste and add Salt if Needed

Bring all ingredients together in a small sauce pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Let it cool and you have a great tangy sauce for Tavern pizza or any other style pizza.

The sauce-to-crust ratio is key to great tavern style pizza,  which should be balanced to ensure that each bite offers just the right amount of tangy goodness. I like to error on the side of too much, as the sauce is my favorite part.  

saucing a thin crust pizza correctly

The Pizza Toppings

Toppings for tavern-style pizza tend to be minimal but full of flavor. Common choices include pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and sometimes bringing the heat with hot peppers or giardiniera.  

I think fresh sausage is a must for one of the pizzas.  You may struggle to put raw italian sausage on a pizza, but try it… it will cook perfectly and be tender and succulent when you serve your pizza!

prepping toppings for thin crust pizza recipe

A combination of whole milk aged mozzerella and fresh buffalo Mozzarella cheese is my cheese of choice for tavern-style pizza. Dice the cheese in small cubes and the cheese will melt perfectly.  If you use pre-shredded cheese, it will melt too quick and most likely brown too quickly before the pizza is done.  

prepping toppings for thin crust pizza recipe

Baking Crispy Pizza at Home

To get crispy tavern style pizza, you need a hot oven and a quality pizza steel or ceramic pizza stone.  After trying both, do not waste your money on a pizza stone, go straight to a pizza baking steel.  They will change your pizza baking life forever!  Check out BakingSteel’s selection for the best.  I am using one of their 16″ models below to get the job done quickly. 

thin crust pizza on a baking steel in the oven

Heat your pizza steel in the oven at 550°F or whatever your highest setting is. If cooking in an outdoor oven,  600-700° should work OK.  Launch your pizza in the oven and check on it 5 minutes later.  The time will vary between 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how heavily you top your pizza and the size of the pizza. 

Check the bottom of the pizza for some nice browning, combined with melty cheese with some browning in some areas, and  you know you are done! 

thin and crispy pizza crust bottom

Victory Dance with Square Cuts

Now its time for glory! You’ve done it.  You made some of the best pizza ever tasted at home.  It’s OK to brag to your husband or wife about how amazing you are.   You earned it. 

Square cuts are the best.  You can eat 10 slices and still squeeze in a few more later for a snack.  Maybe I should eat less, but I never do with this recipe.  Give it a go…. you deserve this in your weekly grind. 

tavern style pizza cut in squares
sausage pepper and mushroom thin crust pizza