When contemplating pizza and its many toppings, some thoughts come to mind. Such as how delicious it is, how the crust can be either boring or amazing (with filling), and the sheer amount of flavor options is sometimes overwhelming. Pizza is invariably good. Even bad pizza is good, especially if you have some extra sauce to save it.
But have you ever wondered why pizza is round ? When you think about the toppings and crispy edges you get distracted from the weird shapes pizza comes in. It’s round but comes in square boxes, and you cut it into triangles. So why is it ? Let’s find out.
Why is pizza round ?
Pizza is round because it’s the easiest shape to make, and it cooks evenly in an oven. Aside from the, when the crust is on the outside every slice gets an even amount of crust and pizza toppings, without discrimination.
It’s something that many pizza lovers don’t even think about, but once it’s brought to their attention they can’t stop thinking about it. Let’s explore the whole round-is-better-and-convenient route.
Round shapes cook evenly in high heat
If you’ve ever made cookies you know that the edges are the first to burn. This is especially true when baking, say, a gingerbread man where there are shorter and longer bits. The outer edges always cook the fastest.
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A round shape is evenly far or close to heat, on all sides. So is one edge starts to burn, it’s pretty much all evenly done around the edge. Unless the oven is stronger on one side, which is rare with pizza ovens.
And you may be thinking: okay, just lower the heat then ! Well, no. A screaming hot 800 F/425 C oven will blitz the pizza dough into the dough you know. If you were to bake it at a lower heat, it would rise more and fluff up and you’d get a chewy dough. Not what you’re looking for. It’s also why home ovens are not a good choice for baking pizza.
A round shape is the easiest to make
Aside from simply being the perfect shape to bake, circles are simply easy to make. Of course it’s not always a perfect circle, but the way pizza dough is handled ends up making it a round shape. Why ?
Well we’re sure you’ve seem movies and cartoons of someone passing a pizzeria and you can see the decidedly Italian pizzaiolo (mustache and all) happily twirling a pizza dough in the air. That’s because it’s the easiest way of getting a round shape, and it’s way more difficult that it seems.
Throwing the dough evenly distributes the, uh, dough without getting thin or thick places. If you were to spread it with your hands it would simply tear, as pizza dough is notoriously hard to get right.
What about using a rolling pin ? No. You flatten it too much and it leads to a dried out, dense crust. No rolling pins please.
Square pizzas tend to have burned corners
If you were to somehow get a square shape, rolling pin or not, the edges would burn by the time the middle of the pizza is done. It’s also the main reason pizzas aren’t very large. Make a pizza too big and it will really burn at the edges before the middle is even cooked through.
The slices are triangles because it’s the easiest, even cut
Alright, if pizza is a circles because it’s simple, convenient, and the best shape to baking, why do we cut it in triangles ? For the same reason you cut any sort of pie in triangles.
It’s the most even way of cutting pizza. You cut it in half, them in another half, and then two more slices between those halves, Boom, 8 even slices and everyone gets an even amount of crust and topping.
The box is square because it’s easy and cheap to make
You’ve seen some pizza boxes in an octagon shape, but most of the time they come in square boxes. It’s mostly because those boxes are produced by a company that then sells them to the pizza place. This means it has tons or orders each day and it has to produce cardboard rectangles fast to meet that demand.
Changing the shape isn’t viable since squares are the easiest to make when packing something, and square boxes stack the easiest.
So in short, the square boxes are cheap to buy and easy to make. Usually the edges of the pizza are flush against the sides of the cardboard, so they won’t squish them. And lately more and more pizza places use those little plastic shields to keep the top from crushing the pizza.
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The original pizza was all about convenience
By now you’re probably noticed that pizza relies on quick, convenient methods. It’s not just because of the hundreds of orders each pizza place has to deliver every day. No, it’s more than that, as in it started way before we were born and noticed that pizza is delicious.
The original pizza was a flatbread with simpler toppings, and it was the go-to meal for laborers. They needed something quick, cheap, and very filling. Pizza was exactly that, even in its original version.
As with everything pizza recipes became better and betters, to the point where many pizza places sell some really good products, not just something filling.
This is how we got to the whole pizza dough in the air thing. Over time the dough became better and the way it was handled had to change, to get the right texture and flavor.
So we think pizza is actually really cool. From a filling, quick meal that was convenient for everyone, it’s now both that and something really delicious. Pizzas are now a very familiar, comforting food that really brings the family together, as cheesy as that may sound.