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Mozzarella Is the Best Pizza Cheese Because Science

Pizza with mozzarella
Pizza with mozzarella

After performing exhaustive research (with lots of charts, graphs, diagrams, calculations and footnotes), scientists in New Zealand have determined that mozzarella is the best cheese for pizza.

Their findings, “Quantification of Pizza Baking Properties of Different Cheeses, and Their Correlation with Cheese Functionality,” were published in the Journal of Food Science on July 21.

“The aim of this study is to quantify the pizza baking properties and performance of different cheeses, including the browning and blistering, and to investigate the correlation to cheese properties (rheology, free oil, transition temperature, and water activity),” the authors, from the University of Auckland as well as the College of Food Science and Engineering at Ocean University in Qingdao, China, write in their introduction.

They examined mozzarella, cheddar, Colby, Edam, Emmental, gruyere and provolone, noting that previous “scientific studies on cheese blistering and browning have mainly focused on Mozzarella cheese (Ma and others 2013a, 2013b), even though other cheeses are frequently employed on ‘gourmet’ style pizzas in combination with Mozzarella.”

See also: 10 Best Gluten-Free Pizzas in L.A.

The aim of their study, they said, “was to develop improved methods for quantifying and differentiating the appearances of different pizzas after baking (by quantifying browning and blistering behavior).”

Very important research, indeed. And, just to be sure of the findings, “All tests were done in triplicate.”

The mozzarella, cheddar, Colby, Edam, Emmental, and gruyere were very scientifically "bought from a local supermarket and provolone was bought from a local delicatessen in Auckland, New Zealand,” according to the study.

After conducting their research (i.e., making pizzas), the scientists determined that Edam and gruyere had the smallest browning area, followed by Colby and Emmental. (Browning is a good thing.) “Moreover, mozzarella, cheddar, and provolone had significantly higher browning areas. Mozzarella, gruyere, and provolone had relatively even distribution of browning spots, while the other cheeses mostly browned around the edge. It is noted in Figure 2 that Emmental had big bubbles with only slight browning, while mozzarella had extremely high browning.”

The researchers concluded that mozzarella has “extremely different pizza baking performance from the other cheeses, reflected by its lowest color uniformity. Mozzarella has high water activity and elasticity, but mostly importantly, it has unique stretchability, which makes it commonly used as a pizza topping. Different cheeses can be employed on ‘gourmet’ pizzas in combination with mozzarella. Gruyere and provolone can be added to obtain less burnt appearance by producing more free oil, and the color would be more uniform by adding cheeses with low elasticity, such as Colby.”

In layman's terms: Mozzarella is the best cheese for pizza because it melts, bubbles and browns better than any other cheese, but you can add some other cheese to it if you wanna be all fancy.

Thank you, science. Who ever heard of mozzarella on pizza? We can’t wait for researchers to get us some answers on pepperoni. 

Besides the issue of "figuring out" something the Neapolitans put their fingers on over a century ago, there's an even bigger problem with the very premise of this study, according to Occidental College's assistant professor of sociology John Lang, who specializes in the relationship between food, risk, trust, consumers and consumption.

"They were searching for the best elastic cheese that melts and blisters without burning and produces a certain amount of free oil. In a sense the game is rigged to match a certain predetermined image of a pizza, which is roughly the typical American plain cheese pizza with tomato sauce. That's important information for big chains and food processors and companies who sell frozen pizza," he says. "But if we only ate that we'd never have Wolfgang Puck's signature smoked salmon pizza or N.Y.-style white pizza with whole-milk ricotta with a thyme and garlic cream sauce, or a host of other wonderful pizzas."

See also: 10 Best Pizza Restaurants in Los Angeles


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