06-10 Kanthal pizza

[Image above] Impatient for your pizza to finish cooking? With Kanthal’s prototype oven, your wait would be over in no time! Credit: August Dellert, Kanthal

Whenever I go to a pizzeria, I am continually impressed by how quickly the pizzas are made. It takes about 10 minutes for me to bake a Neapolitan pizza at home, but pizzerias can bake one in only 90 seconds!

The trick to baking Neapolitan pizzas so quickly is the oven. As an Inside Science article explains, “A pizza cooks simultaneously from above and below—the dough via thermal conduction from the bottom of the oven and the toppings by thermal radiation from the air.” For a pizza to bake quickly and evenly, then, requires an oven with even distribution of heat.

Traditionally, pizzerias use wood-fired ovens to bake their pizzas at temperatures of 800–900°F. Although electric ovens can reach those high temperatures as well, wood-fired brick ovens typically provide more even distribution of heat.

Many people simply accept this fact and move on. But for Björn Holmstedt, R&D engineer at Kanthal, it sounded like a challenge.

Kanthal is the trademark for a family of iron-chromium-aluminum (FeCrAl) alloys used in a wide range of industrial heating technologies. The brand is part of the Sandvik Group, a global engineering group specializing in mining and rock excavation, metal-cutting, and materials technology.

Sandvik has done unique publicity stunts in the past to showcase their technologies, such as building a “smash-proof” guitar using additive manufacturing. So it is no surprise Holmstedt saw pizza making as an opportunity to highlight the company’s heating technology.

“As our technology can produce heat up to 1850°C, hitting a high temperature wouldn’t be a problem,” he says in a Sandvik press release. “However, pizza making is a precision craft that requires care to get the perfect crust, so we needed to leverage our technology to provide a high and precise temperature that we could easily control.”

In Kanthal’s process lab located in Hallstahammar, Sweden, Holmstedt and his team constructed a prototype oven that included eight so-called porcupine elements made out of Kanthal AF alloy, four each in the upper and lower parts of the oven, and reflectors to help distribute the heat. (Check out the components in the video below.)

Credit: Kanthal, YouTube

To ensure the Neapolitan pizza was up to par, they partnered with Oskar Montano, co-owner of 800 Grader, a renowned pizza restaurant in Stockholm that specializes in Neapolitan pizza.

After a series of attempts, which you can see in the video below, the team succeeded in baking a Neapolitan pizza in only 37:55 seconds!

“I never thought this would be possible,” Montano says in the press release. “As a chef, I’m passionate about creating the perfect pizza, and I’m always looking to improve what I do. And together with the guys from Kanthal, I found a partner that was as stubborn as I am on the pursuit of perfection.”

Credit: Kanthal, YouTube