Pizza Science is the Tastiest Science

Everybody knows that pizza is delicious, but did you know that there's a science to getting that perfectly browned-but-not-too-brown, moist-but-not-oily, haphazard-but-also-uniform arrangement of peaks and valleys for the blistered cheese that rests on top of a pizza?

Bryony James, a researcher at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, is interested in the microstructure of food. One of her PhD students set out to see how to make the best looking pizza. As they say, you eat with your eyes before you eat with your palate, and the best tasting pizza will stay uneaten if it doesn't look visually appetizing.

James and her group put seven cheeses to the test: mozzarella, cheddar, colby, Edam, Emmental, Gruyere, and provolone. And instead of asking humans to rate their visual attractiveness, she had a computer do it.

As James explains in this video, the outcomes of the research fall into two buckets.

First, the researchers demonstrated that machine vision could be used to assess color and color uniformity.

The other set of findings will help pizza makers combine their cheeses to make the prettiest pie. For example, cheddar, colby, and Edam didn't blister, and that's because they're relatively un-elastic, compared to the other varieties. Gruyere, Emmental, and provolone didn't brown very much because they have so much oil in them that the moisture couldn't evaporate. "These cheeses can be combined with the easily blistering mozzarella to create a gourmet pizza with a less burnt appearance," the researchers explain in a statement.

"If you want a particular appearance on your pizza...by understanding what each cheese contributes to the blistering mechanism, you can yourself manipulate the recipe [and] give yourself the appearance you want on your pizza," says James.

[Journal of Food Science; Institute of Food Technologists]