Wednesday November 7, 2018

Nov 7 2018 / 8:36 am

Scientists have finally figured out how to make the perfect pizza. During a recent visit to Italy, physicists Andreas Glatz and Andrey Varlamov began to wonder why pizza tastes best when it comes from a brick oven. Realizing that the average person doesn't have a brick oven in their household, they worked to develop a scientific equation that could deliver the same outcome. Their findings are detailed in a study titled “The Physics of baking good Pizza,” which was published earlier this year in the scientific journal arXiv. For the study, they used the Margherita pizza, which is thought to be the first example of modern-day pizza. The Margherita pizza dates back to roughly 1889, when chef Raffaele Esposito was tasked with making a dish for the Italian Queen Margherita of Savoy, using the pizza's red tomatoes, white mozzarella and green basil leaves to symbolize the colors of the Italian flag. “That was the first pizza as we know it, and it became famous,” Glatz, a Northern Illinois University professor and scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, said. Glatz and Varlamov asked the Italian pizza pros how to cook a Margherita pizza at a temperature where the crust is perfectly crispy but not burnt. They were told it should be cooked in a brick oven at 626 degrees Fahrenheit for two minutes. Researchers decided to examine the advantages of cooking a pizza in a brick oven vs. a conventional oven and whether there is a way to improve the latter to produce a decent pizza. They found that it all comes down to the thermodynamics of wood-fired brick ovens, illustrating this via a mathematical equation. In less-scientific terms, they found that the physics around conduction, convection and radiation enable brick ovens to cook the perfect pie. As wood burns in one corner of the oven, that heat then radiates up the curved walls and stone floor to cook the pizza evenly. They developed a thermodynamic equation to calculate what the conditions would need to be in a traditional oven to match a brick oven. In doing so, they determined that the electric oven would need to be at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, while the pizza cooks for 170 seconds. And for veggie lovers, the scientists recommend they increase the cooking time slightly to compensate for pizzas with water-rich toppings.

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