Q: Our pizzas become soggy soon after baking, and our delivery and carryout customers have been complaining. What can we do to get a consistently crispier pizza?
A: This is one of those questions that I get a lot. Pizza can become soggy shortly after baking for any number of reasons, but let’s discuss the three most likely causes.
Failure to allow the pizza to “steam off” after baking is probably the most common reason for loss of crispiness. Immediately upon removing the pizza from the oven, you’ll want to place it on a wire cooling rack or a pizza screen. This will allow the steam to escape from the pizza rather than letting it get forced back into the crust, which is what will make it lose its crisp. Leave it on the rack for about 30 seconds to one minute at most.
Pizza can also lose its crispiness if it’s baked at an excessively high temperature. In this case, the pizza’s crust will have only a very thin layer of crispiness; once this thin layer absorbs moisture, its crisp is quickly diminished or lost completely. That’s why pizzas that are baked quickly in a very hot oven are fine for dine-in but tend to become soft and soggy in a delivery-carryout (DELCO) application. Boxing a DELCO pizza holds in all that steam for an extended period of time, leading to a softer, soggier pizza. The problem gets worse when the box is placed in an insulated delivery bag!
The third most common reason for a soggy pizza is the use of too much sugar in the dough formulation. Excess sugar impacts the pizza’s retention of crispiness in a number of ways. First, it yields a crust that colors faster, resulting in a shorter baking time, which definitely impacts crispiness. Then there’s the problem of residual sugar in the crust, especially in the browned portion, where the sugar becomes concentrated due to the lower moisture content. In this case, the sugar, being hygroscopic (meaning it absorbs or attracts moisture from the air), readily pulls moisture from both the inner crumb portion of the crust as well as the environment around the crust—which is highly moisture-laden immediately after baking—resulting in, once again, a loss of crispiness!