Happy New Year!
First, I apologize for the gap of several weeks. Holidays and transitioning out of a job (and frantically looking for a new one!) has kept me busy. But I’m back with a fun activity my family, best friends and I experienced at home:
A pizza taste test! Specifically with your friends. Or family. Or complete strangers.
I will go over the step-by-step process of how to organize your own pizza taste test.
Step by Step Process for Your Own Pizza Taste Test
(I will be using my own pizza taste test I recently conducted during Christmas Eve in my home town)
Step 1: Acknowledge that pizza is awesome, and everyone participating in this activity is a winner.
Step 2: Decide on what kind of pizzas you would like to test.
There needs to be a common foundation among the pizzas you will be comparing against one another. For my taste test, we wanted to compare hometown pizzas. That was the first characteristic. For the second common characteristic, we picked our favorite pizza places from growing up. Third, we decided to keep it simple and test cheese pizzas.
Step 3: Decide how many pizzas you would like to test.
There were 7 of us participating in this pizza analysis. We figured that three large cheese pizzas would suffice (each of us had 3 normal slices, one from each pizza). Three larges also worked because some of us were able to have seconds. We originally considered testing 4 pizzas, but three turned out to be perfect.
Another consideration when determining how many pizzas you should test is the actual purchasing and obtaining of said pizzas. Luckily, we had enough friends with cars to pick up the pizzas in the various locations.
Step 4: Determine a start time.
Since we had our pizza taste test in the comfort of my parents’ kitchen, we had to take into consideration that these pizzas would not be fresh out of the oven, but would be traveling in the box in the car for around 15-20 minutes. We were OK with this, but to minimize the control factors with each pizza, we synchronized our orders and we in fact arrived at my parent’s home with the pizzas at the exact same time.
Step 5: Select one person to set up the blind taste test (do this before you actually get the pizzas)
The point is to do this blindly. Therefore, one person will actually need to know which pizzas correspond to which restaurant with an indicator of your choice. For this test, my mother was the person to set this up while my friends, my brother and I were downstairs playing Mario Kart 64. Upstairs, my mother assigned a number to each pizza, then placed a slice from each pie on a paper plate with the number written on.
Step 6: Come up with a scoring system/data collection tool
You can go about this step in several ways. The simplest method to collect data and to rate the pizzas is to just pick preferences at the end and tally up those preferences. Or you can be elaborate and have a 1-5 scale rating with specific categories. I went all out and created a scorecard with 12 categories! They were:
- Dough toughness (chewy or tender)
- Dough crispness (crackle or flaccid)
- Dough taste
- Oven spring (form large air bubbles, everything falling off, or compact and dense)
- Sauce taste (savory, sweet, bland?)
- Sauce body (thick or thin)
- Cheese taste
- Cheese springiness/texture
- Oil (soaked, not enough?)
- Overall Quality
Print out score cards, give everyone pencils, go over the categories as a group to make sure everyone is on the same page, get all questions out of the way, and get ready to analyze some pizza.
Of course, you do not need this many categories. You can simplify your categories to just dough, sauce and cheese.
Step 7: Set up the testing area, including water and napkins.
I found that having the entire kitchen set up for this allowed us to jump right into the taste testing. I think it would have been distracting to have to get up and get items that were missing (like water and napkins). Of course, you can conduct this type of taste test in any environment, but I found that having fewer distractions allowed us to remain focused.
Step 8: Taste test!
Step 9: Go over results.
Step 10: Declare a winner, and most importantly, celebrate the fact that you enjoyed some great pizza with friendship.
I’ll start with the conclusion first: eating pizza is great. That was certain.
There were 7 taste testers, 3 different pizzas and 12 categories. That’s 252 pieces of data!
Here is an example of our data from one of the categories:
|Dough Taste||Pizza 1||Pizza 2||Pizza 3|
|Me||Good, 4||Some burnt taste, just OK, 3||Some burnt, but great taste, 4|
|Brother||Hard to taste||Not so great, reminded me of Chinese food||Fresh, like dough should taste|
|Mom||4, not overpowering||4, perfect for pizza||Dough did not have strong taste|
|Chris||Least fav, tastes like it’s from a box||Tastes hand-tossed, favorite||Good, but too much and too chewy.|
|Will||Not sweet, but enjoyable, sour dough?||Good, though did not shine through even in last bites||Good, not overly fresh, prefer to #1|
|Katie||Got nothing||It’s just great!||Chewbackahhhh|
|Nate||A little floury||Hidden by cheese||Bready, bolder than first|
Some other notable assessments:
Under Sauce Taste:
“Tastes like throwing a football on the field after riding bikes.” (these vivid associations with childhood memories are encouraged when taste testing food)
Under Overall Quality:
“My mouth is having a party like it’s 1985! All the happiness I knew as a child has returned for a few perfect minutes.”
What was also certain is that judging hometown pizzas is like determining that your cherished childhood memories are quantifiable. There were clearly biases, since your loyalty to a place that brought you happiness as a child will undermine any objectivity in the assessment of food. Three out of the seven taste testers already knew which pizza pie came from their favorite pizza place, so from the beginning this test was not very blind at all.
And that’s totally OK!
So grab some friends, follow these steps, have enjoy some food and friendship in a unique way.
And don’t forget brownies for dessert: