Italian physicists wrote a ‘perfect pizza’ equation, because not all heroes wear capes
If you’d like to eat the world’s most scientifically perfect pizza, you have two options: one, fly to Rome and order a margherita pizza fresh from the brick oven; or two, solve a long thermodynamic equation to simulate that glorious Italian pizza in your electric oven at home. That’s the basic premise of a new paper titled The physics of baking good pizza, published earlier this year in the preprint journal arxiv.
The secret to an authentic pizza is the physics of the brick oven. With a wood fire burning in one corner, heat radiates uniformly through the curved walls and stone floor of the oven, ensuring an even bake on all sides of the pizza. Under ideal conditions, the authors wrote, a single margherita could be baked to perfection in precisely two minutes in a brick oven heated to 330 degrees Celsius. When additional toppings require additional bake time, some pizzaiolos may lift the pizza up with a wooden or aluminium spade for an additional 30 seconds or so “in order to expose the pizza to just heat irradiation” and prevent a toasty bottom, the authors wrote.
Don’t own a brick oven at home, because you’re a normal person? The authors have helpfully described how to simulate that pizza a la Roma perfection in a standard electric oven.
Using a long thermodynamic equation, the authors determined that a pizza cooked in an electric oven could meet similar conditions to a Roman brick oven by turning the heat down to 230 degrees Celsius for 170 seconds. Crucially, the authors noted, aspiring pizzaiolos cooking toppings with higher water content (basically any additional vegetables) may need to leave their pizzas in the oven longer, as the pizza will return more heat to the oven via evaporation.
While the authors of the study concluded that your homemade pizza will probably never be as perfect as a fresh, firebrick pizza, physics can still help you to take a step in the right direction towards a tastier offering at dinner time.
The study was conducted by physicists Andrey Varlamov and Andreas Glatz and food anthropologist Sergio Grasso