By Debbie Gregory.
After working on it for the last five years, scientists have almost perfected a recipe for pizza that doesn’t require any refrigeration or freezing that will remain edible for years.
The biggest hurdle scientists had to overcome was the moisture in tomato sauce, cheese and toppings that migrated to the dough over time, resulting in soggy pizza Soggy pizza provided the perfect conditions for mold and disease-causing bacteria to grow. But through the use of “Hurdle Technology” which creates a kind of barrier that protects the pie from bacteria and mold, the lab was able to stop bacteria from forming. They also tweaked the acidity of the sauce, cheese and dough to make it harder for oxygen and bacteria to thrive, and added iron fillings to the package to absorb any air remaining in the pouch.
In the not-to-distant future, U.S. soldiers will be able to open a meal pouch and pull out a ready-to-eat pizza. Food technologist Lauren Oleksyk, who works at the Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, says that the meal is a fully-cooked piece of pizza that comes in a package. The lab specializes in creating meals-ready-to-eat for the military. Co-worker Michelle Richardson said, “You can basically take the pizza, leave it on the counter, packaged, for three years and it’d still be edible.”
Soldiers have been asking for pizza since lightweight individual field rations — known as meals ready to eat (MREs) replaced canned food in 1981 for soldiers in combat zones or areas where field kitchens cannot be set up.
While the pizza unsurprisingly won’t be the same as a fresh slice, it’ll taste more like the ones served during lunch time in a school cafeteria. That doesn’t sound bad at all. The pizza has so far been well-received.
According to Jill Bates, who runs the lab, “It pretty much tastes just like a typical pan pizza that you would make at home and take out of the oven or the toaster oven.”
In addition to creating the ready to eat meals, scientists at the Natick labs are also responsible for developing equipment and clothing that improves soldiers’ combat effectiveness and their survival.