Pizza is such a simple food, yet strange in its presentation. It’s literally a flat circle of crusty goodness topped with a cacophony of ingredients like tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, sausage, pepperoni and onions, among a host of various others. But another curious aspect is the slices and how they always come in the shape of a triangle.So, why is pizza cut into triangles?
In short, it’s the easiest and most recognizable way to slice a circle. Every piece has a crust with toppings and it’s easy to hold. Plus, it’s one of those situations where math comes to life, a geometric dancing equation you can eat.
But, triangles aren’t the only way to cut a pizza. There are such things as squares and strips as well. However, recent research shows there’s another shape alternative to produce more slices out of a pie that are even and balanced. Yet it really doesn’t matter what shape slices can come in, the triangle is king.
Purpose of Triangles
The main reason to why is pizza cut into triangles is due to how early 19th century Italians introduced it to the American public. So, this triangular sliced shape has been synonymous with pizza since immigration on Ellis Island.
But the triangle has long associations with pizza slices everywhere Italians settled in the world. From Britain to Sweden and throughout North America to Asia, pizza slices often come in a triangle.
Since almost everywhere in the world serves a pizza slice in triangle form, this shows there are more pragmatic explanations too. First, it’s the most symmetrical way to do it. It ensures equal proportions, it’s easy to do and the fastest method for cutting through the crust and hot, gooey toppings. Every resulting cut is identical to one another.
Plus, it’s the most efficient way to slice up a pie. You control the size while ensuring there’s enough for everyone to have some. To illustrate, a typical eight to 10 inch pizza will feed about five people. However, if you have younger children, then you can slice the pizza so that it feeds up to 10 children.
Triangles are also easier to conceptualize when you’re planning on feeding several people and you need to calculate how many pizzas to buy or make. You can estimate how hungry you think everyone will be in conjunction with the number of slices in a single pie.
Downsides to Triangles
Of course, there are some inconveniences when dealing with a triangle-shaped pizza slice. The foremost one of these is how, unless you’re a genius mathematician, you can’t really control the size of each slice. They usually end up lopsided and uneven. While this isn’t usually too important for homemade pies, it’s critical for dining establishments.
Also, if you have a slice as big as your head, then it can be difficult to manage. This includes holding the slice as well as attempting to eat it. It’s not very convenient for dipping into sauces either. But, believe it or not, triangles are not the most economical or resourceful way to slice a pizza.
Other Pizza Slice Shapes
While triangles are the most popular and identifiable shape connected to pizza, it’s not the only shape available. You can cut it into strips and squares too. But, recently, researchers from the University of Liverpool discovered you can slice it in equidistant triangle-like slices in lines or waves.
Cutting pizza into strips is quick and effortless. This is because you can cut thick to thin strips, which can feed many people at once. So, strips are handy for several pizza variations to feed more than 10 people that range between children and adults. It’s also good for dipping sauces like butter garlic or extra tomato sauce.
A potential pitfall to strips is how flimsy it can be if the crust isn’t crispy enough on the bottom. This can make eating it a bit clumsy at times. Also, these range in size greatly and are not the most even or perfect form of slicing a pizza. But, it is quick and economical in a way.
From St. Louis, Missouri to Detroit, Michigan, you’ll find most circular pizzas cut into squares. These are often with a cracker thin crust and it comes as something of a culture shock to people from NYC, San Francisco or even Florida. But, it is a preferable way to cut a pizza.
More than triangles, square cuts allow for greater portion control, albeit the slices aren’t even. Regardless, there are more pieces available to feed a range of adults and children, which makes it convenient. The capacity to feed a mix of 10 individuals on an eight-inch pizza is entirely doable.
The smaller sizes are perfect for handling and eating along with none of the crust going to waste. Plus, the little triangles, also called “corners,” that result are perfect for dipping or giving to children.
For Geometric Purists
While a classic triangle is a geometric purist’s dream, there’s a new way to cut it that will really rile the most pristine mathematician. Researchers at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom published a paper, “Infinite families of monohedral disk tilings.”
They have found the best way to get the most coverage of pizza with even, perfect slices using a precise mathematical method. Here, they detail the following steps for cutting an eight-inch pizza:
- Create six initial slices (or more depending on the circumference) to create triangles as you would with any pie
- Starting at the right side corner of the crust, divide each piece in half. This will start at the corner of the initial piece and end about midway, thereby turning the first piece into two. You can also use wavy lines to create what the researchers term, “shields.”
- The result will appear almost like a flower or a snowflake, depending on if you use wavy or straight lines.
Cutting a pizza in this way isn’t the most practical, but it is the most economical. You can get 12 slices, which are completely even and you can feed up to 12 people with it. But it is a crazy way to cut pizza, where your success entirely relies on the cutting implement. So, it’s probably more doable in theory than practice.
Therefore, if you have a dull pizza wheel, it’ll be more of a journey into frustration. The likelihood that toppings will clump together with cheese ripped off at sections is high. To execute this technique successfully, you will have to ensure your cutting tool is razor sharp.
So, as you can see, there are many reasons why is pizza cut into triangles. Of course, it’s the shape most synonymous when thinking of a slice. It’s been the shape for centuries and it’s the most convenient way to get the most out of a pizza.
But, it’s not the only way to slice a pizza. There are strips and squares as well as the newer discovery of “shields,” as mentioned above. Regardless, the triangle is the most favored and typical since it provides enough food to enjoy with others.