Planet Money: always buy the bigger pizza because geometry.
The math of why bigger pizzas are such a good deal is simple. A pizza is a circle, and the area of a circle increases with the square of the radius.
So, for example, a 16-inch pizza is actually four times as big as an 8-inch pizza.
And when you look at thousands of pizza prices from around the U.S., you see that you almost always get a much, much better deal when you buy a bigger pizza.
This is a long zoom look at how pizza gets delivered to hungry people. It starts by looking at the routes taken by a Dominos delivery person during a typical night and slowly zooms out to reveal the pizza giant’s national supply chain.
Embark with Kwon on a trip that begins with a pizza delivery route in New York City, then goes across the country to California’s Central Valley, where nearly 50 percent of America’s fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown, and into the heartland for an aerial look at our farmlands.
For the Slice pizza blog, Adam Kuban lays down some serious-but-succinct NYC pizza literacy.
One thing you might not be familiar with is the fact that some NYC pizzerias use anthracite coal to cook their pizzas. (Then again, I know that Brooklyn-based Grimaldi’s has made inroads into Texas, so maybe you do know coal-fired pizza.) Pizza geeks have long been into coal-fired pizzas. The ovens cook at a hot-enough temperature that a skilled pizzamaker can create an amazing crust that is both crisp and chewy at the same time and that is not dried out and tough. Also, the way that most of these old-school coal-oven places make the pizza, they just sort of know how to make a nice balanced pie, one that doesn’t go too heavy on the sauce or pile on too much cheese.
Take five minutes to read this and you’ll be talking NYC pizza like an expert.
Why can’t you get a slice of pizza at John’s on Bleecker or Patsy’s? Allegedly because of Al Capone:
In his 1981 book on the mob called Vicious Circles: The Mafia in the Marketplace, the late Jonathan Kwitny detailed how Al Capone — who owned a string of dairy farms near Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin — forced New York pizzerias to use his rubbery mob cheese, so different from the real mozzarella produced here in New York City since the first immigrants from Naples arrived in Brooklyn around 1900.
As the story goes, the only places permitted to use good mozzarella made locally were the old-fashioned pizza parlors like Lombardi’s, Patsy’s, and John’s, who could continue doing so only if they promised to never serve slices. According to Kwitny, this is why John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street still has the warning “No Slices” on its awning today.
Inspiring short documentary about Dom DeMarco, owner/operator of, some say, the best pizzeria in NYC.
DeMarco doesn’t measure any of the ingredients for the dough; he just eyeballs it and can tell when the dough is right.
Over at Serious Eats, Kenji Lopez-Alt assures us that while you can’t make restaurant-quality Neapolitan pizza at home, you can come damn close. Best thing is, his technique doesn’t involve lining your oven with bricks and is actually as easy as making regular pizza at home.
After cooking for around a minute and a half, the bottom crust achieved the perfect degree of char-even better than what I was getting on the stone. Interestingly enough, the pan was actually cooler than the stone I was using, maxing out at around 450 degrees. So how does a 450 degree pan brown better and faster than a 550 degree stone? It’s a matter of heat capacity and density.
The heat capacity of a material is directly related to the amount of energy that a given mass of material holds at a given temperature. Even though stone has almost twice the heat capacity than steel (.2 kcal/kg C vs. .1 kcal/kg C), it loses in two ways: it is far less dense than steel, and it has a much lower rate of heat conduction than steel. The pizza cooking in a skillet is not just getting energy from the pan-it’s getting energy from the burner below the pan as it gets rapidly conducted through the metal.
It’s a clear demonstration of how when cooking foods, what matters it the amount of energy transferred, not just the temperature you cook at. The two are often directly related, but not always.
I have said it before but will repeat: I love Kenji’s nerdiness about the science combined with the ability to come up with the solution that’s easiest for non-nerds to appreciate and implement. It is a rare and wonderful thing to observe.
A round pizza with radius ‘z’ and thickness ‘a’ has the volume pi*z*z*a. That and other math jokes are available on Wikipedia. Don’t you love it when people explain jokes:
In this case, DEAD refers to a hexadecimal number (57005 base 10), not the state of being no longer alive.
High larious. (via reddit)
Adam Kuban interviewed my friend Mark about the pizza oven he built in his Brooklyn backyard.
It is actually pretty amazing how well the oven works. The first thing we made after pizza was a roasted chicken. I just can’t describe how amazing it was. Not to mention the pizzas. They cook in about 90 seconds, and when I pulled the first one out of the oven, and the backyard smelled like a pizzeria, we knew all the work was worth it.
Mark and I work in the same office and it’s nice to hear that his daily phone conversations about stucco, stucco suppliers, stucco styles, and stucco application techniques have resulted in success.
A year ago, I collected a bunch of links related to what makes NYC pizza taste like it does. New York’s fantastic tap water was a leading candidate. In a recent blind taste test of identical pies, a panel of judges — including some noted NYC pizza chefs — chose a pizza made with NYC municipal water over those made from LA and Chicago water.
Also, I just ran across this map showing NYC pizzerias which are outfitted with coal ovens. There are many more than I would have thought.
Video of the inner workings of a mostly automatic Irish frozen pizza factory. I like the tomato sauce shooter (the way it tracks along with the pizzas briefly as they whiz by on the conveyor belt) and the writhing pepperoni sticks.
Update: Inside an Austrian bread factory where they still made bread by hand.
Why is New York-style pizza so difficult to replicate in other areas of the world? Perhaps the answer lies with NYC’s legendary tap water.
“Water,” Batali says. “Water is huge. It’s probably one of California’s biggest problems with pizza.” Water binds the dough’s few ingredients. Nearly every chemical reaction that produces flavor occurs in water, says Chris Loss, a food scientist with the Culinary Institute of America. “So, naturally, the minerals and chemicals in it will affect every aspect of the way something tastes.”
Update: That legendary tap water was supposedly responsible for NYC-style bagels as well until Finagle A Bagel founder Larry Smith drove some Boston tap water to NYC and compared bagels made with the water from the two cities.
“There was absolutely no difference between them,” Smith reported. “What makes the difference is equipment, process and ingredients.”
Well, ingredients except water. (thx, darrin)
Update: Jeffrey Steingarten, among others, believes that temperature is the key to great pizza and that coal is the key to great temperatures. (thx, hillel)
Update: I knew we’d eventually end up on Slice…the web’s premiere pizza site hosts an account of Jeff Varasano’s attempt to reverse engineer a NYC pizza, specifically from the 117th St. Patsy’s. Among his findings:
There are a lot of variables for such a simple food. But these 3 FAR outweigh the others:
1. High Heat
2. Kneading Technique
3. The kind of yeast culture or “starter” used along with proper fermentation technique
All other factors pale in comparison to these 3. I know that people fuss over the brand of flour, the kind of sauce, etc. I discuss all of these things, but if you don’t have the 3 fundamentals above handled, you will be limited.
Over at Slice (the pizza blog!), Adam Kuban has compiled a list of all the different pizza styles found in the US.
Once the Italian immigrants brought their Naples-style pies to the States, it evolved a bit in the Italian neighborhoods of New York to something I’ve seen referred to as “New York-Neapolitan.” This is basically what all the coal-oven pizzerias of New York serve. It follows the tenets of Neapolitan style in that it’s thin-crusted, cooked in an ultra-hot oven, and uses a judicious amount of cheese and sauce (sauce which is typically fresh San Marzano tomatoes, as in Naples). It deviates from Naples-style in that it’s typically larger, a tad thinner, and more crisp.
There’s a surprising number of styles.
This page generates a random pizza for you. I got a thin crust pie with red sauce, topped with mozzarella, red peppers, tomatoes, black olives, green peppers, and breaded chicken. Yum?
SupersizedMeals.com is a blog documenting “foodstuffs of epic proportions”. Recently featured were a 100-patty burger, a 29” pizza, and a sandwich made from an entire loaf of bread sliced lengthwise.