It’s no surprise that America loves pizza: 13% of the U.S. population—starting at 2 years old!—have a slice on any given day, according to the USDA. Now, science has stepped in, with research published in The Journal of Food Science on what cheese is required for pizza perfection. The answer? Classic mozzarella.
When you think about your ideal cheese pizza, a few things probably come to mind: You want it to be gooey, golden brown, and just greasy enough, without overpowering the sauce underneath. To end the cheese debate once and for all, scientists at New Zealand’s University of Auckland examined mozzarella, cheddar, Colby, Edam, Emmental, Gruyere, and provolone to “quantify browning and blistering behavior.”
“So pizza browning and blistering seems like a totally trivial question, right? You stuff your pizza in the oven and it clearly is going to brown and blister,” researcher Bryony James, Ph.D., said in a YouTube video posted to explain the findings. “But it actually is dictated by a combination of composition and mechanical properties of the cheese itself, as well as every other component of the pizza.”
Mozzarella, the researchers found, did not have high moisture levels like Gruyere and provolone, so it browned more easily. It’s far stretchier than cheddar, Colby, and Edam, whose lack of elasticity prevented blisters. The scientists didn’t even trust human taste-testers—they developed machinery to determine which topping was both visually appealing and scientifically tasty.
As for the optimal size of pepperoni, that research project is still up for grabs.