If you are curious about why mozzarella is the perfect cheese for pizza, this article will explain it.
All of these factors – elasticity, moisture, and oil content – need to be just right to get that particular pattern of blistering. The researchers found that cheddar, colby, and edam were not elastic enough to form large bubbles. Gruyere and provolone formed large bubbles but contained too much oil to create a brown coating. Emmental had only enough moisture to make flat bubbles that never broke the surface. Mozzarella, it turns out, is a rather unusual cheese. It alone combined enough moisture, the right amount of stretchiness, and the right amount of oil to make the browning pattern we all associate with pizza.
Of course, we already knew that mozzarella is best. We don’t need science to tell us that. So why is it important for chefs to know the science? Because knowing the science can help avoid fruitless experimentation and can provide direction and focus to creativity in the kitchen. The science explains why you should not bother with cheddar if you want melted goodness on the pizza.
But this article at MAD, a community for chefs, (h/t Symposion) suggests that a lot of food science is not very useful in the kitchen. This is in part because food scientists do not often work with chefs to find out what they need to know. (They are too busy working with the food industry to discover how to make crap taste less crappy)
While a rigorously designed sensory descriptive analysis of novel vinegars, for example, helped earn me a PhD, I am dubious that it will help anyone produce a better dish, or if the kind of work that would help is even possible within the confines of the academic establishment. To date, in-depth food research has been limited to exploring questions academia and the commercial food industry deem important. The result is that most of what we know about how food works is confined to a very narrow set of issues, much of it hidden away in cryptically-written journal articles that most non-academics can neither access nor understand, and very little designed with any sort of practical application in mind.
So chefs and home cooks should pay more attention to food scientists, but only if food scientists pay more attention to chefs and home cooks.