Ital­ian physi­cists wrote a ‘per­fect pizza’ equa­tion, be­cause not all he­roes wear capes

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Bran­don Speck­tor

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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

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