Tapping into The broad appeal AND VERSATILITY of pizza | McCormick Flavor Solutions
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Chef's Notes

Tapping into The broad appeal and versatility of pizza

March 2018 | Rachel, research chef

What’s not to love about a canvas you can eat? I may be a research chef, but I’m also an artist, so it makes sense that my favorite food is pizza: countless styles, totally customizable, endless possibilities.

We all have our own preferences, our “must haves”, no matter what the style or what city we’re in. For me, it’s gotta be ultra-crisp. The first fight my boyfriend and I ever got into was over pizza: I insisted on ordering a pie “well done” because most places, in my opinion, undercook it. He was arguing that they would burn it, and that he doesn’t like crunchy things. Who doesn’t like crunchy things? Yet somehow, we’re still together. With pizza you can always order another pie for your significant other, no matter how wrong their opinions might be.

Pizza Making

When you take into account the tweaks and variations made by people across the world, it’s now essentially nothing more than a cooked piece of dough with something on top of it. There are pizzas that are just a cooked crust with a salad on top, and you know what? They’re amazing. No sauce, no cheese, just salad.

A century ago your pizza came topped with tomato sauce and cheese. Now you can find pizzas topped with Thai curry, Buffalo chicken, Filipino adobo and more, and no one bats an eye. In fact, people are enthusiastically adventurous with toppings. They’re even game for trying out new crusts, made from spelt, rye, and other whole grains.

The sphere of pizza encompasses more than ingredients. Consider the way it’s cooked; commonly we associate pizza making with a hot oven, but where I come from in Rhode Island, pizza is often grilled. We stretch the dough, throw it on a hot oiled grill, then flip and put the toppings on while the underside is cooking. In Naples, Italy, a style has been developed where the dough is first deep fried into a crispy disc, then topped and finished off in the oven as usual. Even when you’re speaking of oven-fired pizzas there are major variances. There are ovens that burn coal or wood at temperatures nearing 1,000°, that create a deep char and ultra-crisp crust. And of course, there are gas ovens found in most pizzerias, which are also the hallmark of the famed New York City slice. It’s far more complicated than just thin crust or deep dish.

Product development starts with the crust.

Pan pizza is a complex genre all its own. Chicago style deep dish is arguably the most famous to most Americans, straddling the line between a pizza and a pie. Here in Baltimore, where McCormick is based, the dough is dropped into the pan before it rises, then punched down, topped and baked in that cold pan where it slowly comes to temperature, almost like a focaccia. A huge trend at the moment is Detroit style pizza, where the pan is filled a with a ton of oil before the dough is put down, which essentially fries it while it bakes, creating a beautifully finished edge.

I always get unreasonably excited when one of our clients approaches us about a pizza project looking to capture the essence of its flavor for their product line. Oftentimes I don’t think they realize just how endless the possibilities are. We’ll begin establishing a general theme, starting with the base—thin and crusty or thick and doughy? We take them into the kitchen to perfect that crust so they can experience what exactly makes it perfect: the balance of yeasty, char, savory, sweet, and salty. No matter how good your toppings are, a solid pizza needs a solid foundation.

Once we establish the perfect crust, we can start building on top of it. After the crust, anything goes. Just a bunch of chefs and product developers together in a room geeking out over pizza. Have I mentioned how much I love my job?

To create your next pizza inspired innovation through the McCormick Difference, contact your McCormick account representative, or contact us today.