Everything in chemistry: science says pizza is delicious

Pizza is the most popular food in the world for one reason: it’s delicious. And this statement is not an opinion; it’s science.

WASHINGTON – Pizza is the world’s favorite food for one reason: It’s delicious. And that’s not an opinion; It’s science.

According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), the pleasant taste of the pizza is based on special properties of the basic ingredients and a large chemical reaction that takes place when the cake is baked. It doesn’t matter if you eat New York, New Haven, or Chicago style pizza. The end result is sheer joy.

Matt Hartings, assistant professor of chemistry at American University, says the key to a delicious pizza starts with the batter. Pizza dough is a basic mixture of flour, salt, yeast and warm water. When all the ingredients are mixed together, the yeast reacts with the warm water and begins to break down complex sugars in the flour, releasing carbon dioxide. This reaction causes the dough to rise.

If you want the best tasting batter, Hartings says you should let the batter rise longer than normal.

“If you let the yeast work a little longer, the yeast will actually make mistakes,” says Hartings. “Yeast is supposed to produce carbon dioxide, and in fact, they make ethanol with that carbon dioxide. But if you let them work longer than they should, they make mistakes, and those mistakes are taste molecules. The longer rise time helps a lot with flavor development. “

Yes, pizza fans, a little patience goes a long way.

Next up: the tomato sauce. According to Hartings, the tomato sauce gives a pizza a “light” taste. This brightness is the acid found in tomatoes. The ACS explains that this acidity is why some people experience acid reflux after eating pizza. If this happens to you, add a small pinch of baking soda to your tomato sauce. This will help neutralize the acid in the tomatoes.

It’s also just about layering the dough and sauce. According to Hartings, the contrast between the crispness of the dough and the moisture of the tomato sauce is irresistible.

Many pizza fans consider the cheese to be the best. And the way the cheese is made has a lot to do with how it melts on a pizza.

Hartings says that most protein-based foods change texture when cooked. For example, if you fry an egg, the yolk will change from liquid to solid.

“But when you boil milk, it stays liquid, and in order to boil milk to turn into a solid, you have to add an acid,” says Hartings.

To make cheese, an ingredient such as lactic acid, lemon juice, or vinegar is usually added to the milk to help the proteins start to clump together. “And once they start clumping together, there are all kinds of fun things you can do to change their properties.”

Mozzarella is the most common cheese used for pizza; A lot of calcium is added in the cheese making process.

“And that calcium makes the cheese nice and ooey, gooey, stretchy,” says Hartings.

But the real magic happens when the pizza is cooked. A chemical reaction takes place in the furnace – what the ACS calls “the holy grail of chemical reactions”.

“The Maillard reaction is something that no one has heard of before, but it occurs in almost all of the foods we eat. Sometimes that’s how we define taste or delicacy. Anything that tastes good has probably experienced the Maillard reaction, ”says Hartings.

“The sugar and protein will react together to make all kinds of flavors … The proteins in the pizza dough and the sugar in the pizza dough will react and brown your pizza dough; The sugar and proteins in your cheese will start to react together and they will brown too. It’s a very generic type of chemical reaction that takes place anywhere but brings out the most amazing aromas and flavors. “

Hartings says he’s a huge fan of pizza and even an avid pizza maker. And his biggest secret for the perfect pizza – another scientifically based tip – is cooking the pizza on a baking tray.

“It’s about 3 / 8th of an inch steel, and this steel absorbs so much energy that when you bake a pizza, you can bake a pizza that fast. It’s like being in a really fancy pizza restaurant, ”says Hartings, who says he can cook a pizza with the steel in about three minutes.

“I like pizza the way you make it, but I take pride in my ability to make pizza.”

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