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Why Does Pizza Taste So Good?

November 6th, 2019

Pizza slice

Pizza is arguably America's favorite food. 21% of us would eat only pizza if we had to for the rest of our lives. "Billions and billions" of hamburgers may have been sold, but we gobble down 350 slices of pizza every second and 40% of us eat pizza at least once a week.

What is it about pizza that makes it so addicting? That's what 5 year-old Annika from Oneonta, NY wanted to know, asking The Conversation's Curious Kids column, "Why does pizza taste so good?"

Glutamate, turns out to be a big part of why we love pizza so much. Found naturally in the tomatoes, cheese, pepperoni and sausage, glutamate causes our mouth to water and cues our brain to crave more. It stimulates our taste buds in a way scientists call the umami perception Umami is Japanese for delicious, meaning something is rich and savory. And yes, glutamate is the monosodium glutamate widely used to enhance flavor.

Adding to the whole mouth experience is the carmelization of the tomatoes, onions (if that happens to be a topping) and the crust. The high temperature cooking of the pizza turns the naturally occurring sugars brown, concentrating them and making them even more flavorful. Something similar occurs to the meat toppings as well.

When you put it all together in a pizza, it creates a flavor explosion that only makes us want more.

The downside to all this deliciousness is that a single slice of basic cheese pizza can have as many as 370 calories. And whoever heard of having just one slice?

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