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How Brick Ovens Create the Ideal Italian-Style Pizza

How Brick Ovens Create the Ideal Italian-Style Pizza . The quintessential Italian pizza, whether it be Neapolitan or Roman, boasts a crispy crust with blackened spots resulting from the intense heat of a brick oven. The dough is light, moist, and stretchy, and the toppings are piping hot. While pizzerias can produce this perfect pizza consistently, replicating it at home can be challenging.

According to Andreas Glatz, a physicist at Northern Illinois University and pizza aficionado, “Even if you prepare [the pizza] the exact same way, you cannot get the identical result with just your oven at home.”

While it is widely acknowledged that a brick oven is necessary to achieve the perfect Italian-style pizza, Glatz and Andrey Varlamov, a physicist at the Institute of Superconductors, Oxides and Other Innovative Materials and Devices in Rome, sought to understand why. In a recent paper published on arXiv.org, they revealed that the key to a pizzeria’s success lies in the unique thermal properties of a brick oven.

The researchers began by interviewing master pizza makers in Rome who specialize in the Roman style of pizza. This style is characterized by a bake time of 2 minutes at a temperature of 626 degrees Fahrenheit (Neapolitan pizzas are typically baked at even higher temperatures, around 700 degrees).

This results in a dough that is “well-baked but still moist” and toppings that are “well-cooked,” according to Glatz. However, using the same settings in a conventional steel oven would yield vastly inferior results. Glatz states, “You already burned the dough before the pizza surface reaches boiling, so this is not a product you will want to eat.”

Steel Vs. Brick – How Brick Ovens Create the Ideal Italian-Style Pizza

Upon further examination, the physicists discovered that the key difference between a brick oven and a steel oven lies in their thermal conductivity, which refers to how quickly heat is transferred to the dough. In a brick oven heated to 626 degrees Fahrenheit, the crust will reach around 392 degrees, while the toppings receive indirect heat from the oven and stay at 212 degrees as the cheese and tomato sauce release water. As a result, after about two minutes, both the crust and toppings are perfectly cooked.

However, when using a steel oven at the same temperature, the crust will reach 572 degrees Fahrenheit, which is too high for the dough and will result in burning. Lowering the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit would not be a solution either, as it would only heat the crust to 392 degrees, leaving the toppings undercooked as they would not receive adequate heat to boil by the time the crust is cooked.

Home cooks may attempt to use a ceramic pizza stone in their home ovens to replicate the brick oven experience, but this would only work if they can reach temperatures as high as 626 degrees Fahrenheit. However, most home electric ovens cannot reach these high temperatures. Even at the upper limit of 550 degrees Fahrenheit for many home ovens, the longer bake time required at this lower temperature will result in a dried-out pizza.

So there is no good way to replicate the unique flavors imparted by a brick oven’s smoke, wood, and dry heat at home. So Love Life and Fire Up Your Brick Oven !

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