The Science of Why Pizza is So Greasy (and how to reduce it)

  • By: Mike
  • Date: December 29, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

We’ve all bitten into a delicious slice only to have grease drip onto our hands or – worse – our pants! At this moment, you might have asked yourself why pizza is so greasy to begin with. Is it supposed to be so oily?

While greasy pizza may taste fine, there’s a limit to how much oil your slice should have. This article will cover:

  • What makes pizza greasy
  • How oily pizza should be
  • How to make a non-greasy pizza

Let’s get started!

What Makes Pizza Greasy

When we see or feel grease in foods like pizza, this is actually animal fats and vegetable oils. These can be found in a ton of ingredients that are used to create our favorite cheesy pizza dish, from the dough to the toppings. The way that the pizza is made and cooked can also affect the oil content.

Fatty Cheeses

Some of the best cheeses for pizza, including mozzarella, have a high-fat content. When the cheese melts in the oven, the fat drips off the cheese as grease.

The lower the cheese’s melting point, the deeper it will melt into the dough to produce a greasy, soggy slice.

The melted fat is part of what gives cheese – and the pizza – its great taste, but overloading the dough with too much of this cheese could also cause a greasy mess.

High-Fat Toppings

Other delicious, yet high-fat toppings on pizza also excrete oils and fats during the cooking process. These include pepperoni, bacon, sausage, and other meat toppings, which tend to make a more orange-colored oil appear on the pizza’s surface. If you’ve ever stained your clothes with this oil, you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re making your own pizza, don’t put the toppings on more than 5 minutes before you plan to cook your pizza. The earlier they go on the pizza, the more grease will extract to the surface.

Oil in the Dough

Pizza has been a blessing on earth since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Strangely enough, humans decided to alter the original recipe and started adding oil to the dough more recently. Most recipes will suggest using olive oil or canola oil.

This additional ingredient is used to help soften the dough so that it doesn’t crumble while kneading. While it isn’t mandatory, it does add to the flavor and greasiness of our modern-day slices.

Most recipes ask for 2-3 tablespoons of oil per 2 cups of flour or so, but many people eyeball their measurements. While it helps with the preparation, this oil is absorbed into the dough and comes out again during the cooking process as grease, so be cautious of how much you add to your recipe.

A Thin Crust

A thinner crust will cook much more quickly, becoming crunchy and not absorbing the grease produced by the pizza’s toppings. This boundary will make your pizza softer in the middle as the grease remains on the surface. You can add this information to the eternal debate of thin-crust versus thick-crust.

Watery Dough

If you add too much water to your dough or excessive tomato sauce to the top of your pizza, it will prevent oils and liquids from evaporating from the crust as it bakes. The pizza will take longer to bake, excreting more oils from the toppings and cheese in the meantime. This results in an overall greasier slice.

Unkneaded Dough

Making pizza dough is a lot of work because you need to knead the dough extensively to get the right texture. This compacts the yeast in the dough, eliminating air pockets and helping the dough rise correctly.

Kneading the dough properly also mixes your wet and dry ingredients – oil included – so that they’re evenly distributed for cooking. If you don’t knead the dough long enough, you’ll find some parts of the pizza to be much greasier than others.

A Low Baking Temperature

Pizza should typically be baked between 450- and 500-degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re cooking your pizza at lower temperatures, it will take longer to bake.

The extra time means more oil is extracted from the dough and your ingredients, ending up on the surface of your pizza pie.

Should Pizza Be Oily?

Unless you’re a weir-dough who doesn’t eat pizza, you’ve probably enjoyed more than one slice of oily pizza. Without a little oil, pizza may seem dry or even undercooked.

Some types of pizza tend to have more oil than others. Common pizza brands like Domino’s or Papa John’s could have as much as 7% oil just within the dough – that’s not counting the grease from toppings. Chicago deep-dish pizzas could be more than 20% oil, depending on where they’re made.

Pizza should have some oil, although originally this should come more from the melted cheese and toppings as opposed to the dough. How much oil your slice has depends on preference.

How to Make a Non-Greasy Pizza

If you need to cut down on your fats and want to make a non-greasy pizza, you have a few options.

First, you could cut down or eliminate the oil you use in your pizza dough. Most people would benefit from at least a little oil to make the kneading process easier, but don’t feel the need to use the entire recommended amount in the recipe.

When cooking your dough, also create a thicker pizza crust to absorb some of the toppings’ grease.

Second, you can adjust your toppings, starting with the tomato sauce. Less is more when it comes to the sauce so you avoid suffocating the dough and making the pizza soggy.

Choose low-moisture cheeses to limit the grease they expulse during cooking, and opt for veggie toppings instead of meat ones if possible.

If you’re a meat lover, try precooking pepperoni and meats for your toppings instead. After they’re cooked, drop them on a paper towel to soak up the grease before adding them to your cooked pizza base.

Finally, remember to cook your pizza at a high temperature and consider broiling your pizza for the final few minutes to evaporate some of the grease off of the top.

Final Thoughts

It may be cliché to say that pizza is one of my favorite foods, but I would be lying if I said any different. While a little grease adds to the good ole traditional pizza taste, no one wants grease dripping off of their slice as they try to take a bite. 

Luckily, with some small adjustments to the ingredients and cooking method, you can fix up your pizza pie to make it just right.

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