How to make the perfect pizza

The physics behind creating this tasty Italian dish

(Image source: Pixabay)

From its humble beginning, sold only by street vendors in the Italian city of Naples, pizza has become much more than a delicious source of cheap food. Each year, 5 billion pizzas are sold around the world. You can find them in the frozen section of almost every supermarket, have them made fresh from the menu at a restaurant or you can travel to their roots and try an original pizza experience from a top chef in Italy.

Pizzas first came into existence as the ideal food source for poverty-stricken people in 18th-century Naples. It was cheap, easy to make and tasty to eat. These characteristics are still important, but the beauty of today’s pizzas is that they can be what you want them to be. Whether it’s topped with the smoky taste of bacon, the polarising sweetness of pineapple or the simple cheese-and-tomato Margherita, pizza can have it all. We can all imagine our own personal piece of perfect pizza, but what steps can we take to bake our pizzas to be the best they can be, according to science?

1. Liquid limits

Adding water to the dough base alters the properties of gluten. It acts to hydrate the gluten proteins, changing the consistency. If not enough water is added then the proteins gliadin and glutenin won’t combine well and the dough will easily tear. If you add too much water the protein fibres will be too loose and the base will lose its shape.

2. Need to knead

To keep the gluten bonds flexible, knead the dough. This will unfold the gluten chains into a stretchy dough for trapping air. Adding a pinch of salt in kneading can neutralise electrically charged particles and help them move across each other more readily.

3. Handling the heat

For the most authentic pizza, bake the dough in a wood-fired pizza oven at 330 degrees Celsius. If baking at home with an electric oven, preheat to 230 degrees Celsius.

4. Timing to perfection

At these temperatures, keep the pizza in the wood-fired oven for two minutes, and the electric oven for just 170 seconds.

5. Getting a grilling

Once the base is cooked, turning the temperature to its maximum and switching to the grill setting for a matter of a few seconds will achieve base crispness and gooey cheese, without causing the pizza to dry out.

6. Choosing your cheese

Mozzarella is considered the most desirable cheese for pizza topping. As cheese heats up, the water inside boils, with steam creating a bubbling effect. This cheese is more elastic than other varieties such as cheddar and edam and creates a stretchy well-bubbling surface. It also has the ideal oil content to create the browning top associated with a well-baked pizza.


For more science and technology articles, pick up the latest copy of How It Works from all good retailers or from our website now. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!