When we first read about this scholarly paper examining the science of pizza, the first name that came to mind was J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of The Food Lab. Kenji’s scientific approach to making pizza (and other foods) gave us an entertaining and thorough explanation as to how and why things work in the kitchen.
This is not that. The Physics of baking good Pizza is a ten-page dissertation by three scientists (two Russian and one Italian) that includes a brief pizza history (it’s fairly accurate and uses some of the same sources we did). It goes on to explain some differences between Roman and Neapolitan pizza, and then to the heart of the matter: why pizzas made in a wood-fired oven are inherently better than, say, an electric oven.
Andrey Varlamov researches superconductivity at Italy’s Consiglio Nazionale della Ricerche (CRN). One day, he struck up a conversation with the pizzaiolos (pizza-makers) at his local café about the niceties of oven temperature. He was inspired to analyze heat flow between the brick base of the oven and pizza dough, according to Cosmos
The science of pizza is not really news
We kinda knew about this stuff, although without the graphs and formulas. We learned years ago about the three kinds of heat in a wood-fired oven: conductive (the oven floor), convection (the moving air in the oven), and radiant (heat reflected from the dome). It’s the conductive and radiant that cook the bottom and the toppings at approximately the same time, and in a 900 degree oven, raising the pizza to the dome right before taking it out can finish the top just fine.
Still, it’s always interesting to read a paper on the science of pizza right before bed, or right after a good pizza!