Pizza Boxes Are Once Again Under Intense Scrutiny

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If you were to order 12 pizzas for delivery, each from a different restaurant, you would be greeted with a dozen variations of the same universally familiar parcel. Before you would even have time to weigh the pros and cons of these custom-made boxes, your hungry reptile brain would take stock of their sensory delights. First, you would notice the warmth of the boxes, appreciating how they serve as space heaters for your forearms. Then, you might catch the subtle wisp of steam escaping from them, taking in the aroma of tomato sauce, melted cheese, and an ever-so-sour yeasted crust that teases at the delicious pies within.

But if you ask The Atlantic's Saahil Desai, there are many, many things wrong with the humble pizza box. In a paean to his Ooni Koda 12-inch gas-powered outdoor pizza oven, Desai admits that to-go pies from his local pizza spots just don't hit the same anymore. The main culprit of their inferiority? The boxes they come in.

A soggy sacrifice

Before he started making pizza at home, Saahil Desai was just as oblivious to the shortcomings of pizza boxes as the rest of us. "For the first time, after opening up a pizza box and bringing a slice to my mouth, I am hyperaware of a limp sogginess to each bite, a rubbery grossness to the cheese," writes Desai, noting that the pies made in his outdoor pizza oven taste fresher than box-bound slices, even after they've been sitting out for a considerable amount of time. According to the owner and namesake of Andrew Bellucci's Pizzeria in New York City, putting hot pizza in a box accelerates its degradation process. While the box is meant to keep the pie hot, it also traps the heat, causing the crispiness of the pizza dough to give in to excess moisture caused by steam.

The multinational pizza chain Domino's was the first to sling its pies in specially made "corrugated" cardboard contraptions, which were built to let that steam escape while keeping the pie warm (and, according to the brand, are made from 70% recycled materials). Desai says these boxes are better than most, but they're still not perfect. Luckily, one India-based brand might be on to something.

VENTiT is 'the world's first breathing pizza box'

Saahil Desai is certainly not the only pizza lover who's disappointed by the stagnancy of pizza-box innovation. Scott Wiener of Scott's Pizza Tours has made it his life's mission to change the game for pizza delivery by tracking down a box that actually keeps pizza hot and crispy. He finally found it in India, after collecting 650 boxes from 45 countries, and wrote about it in his book "Viva La Pizza!: The Art of the Pizza Box."

It's called the VENTiT, and Wiener says it's even better than the ones from the much-ballyhooed Italian market chain Eataly, which boast an "aluminum-coated polyester lining," per Wired. Unlike a standard Domino's-inspired pizza box, which is fitted with vents after the corrugated cardboard is already assembled, the VENTiT cutes vents in the middle and inner layers of cardboard are cut together before they're fused with the outer layer. This way, steam can escape from the box without actually touching the pizza and making it soggy. "You're taking the exact same box but reorganizing how it's put together so it creates better movement for steam," says Wiener.

Until the majority of pizza purveyors catch on to this ingenious method of pizza boxes, you might want to make it like Desai and invest in an outdoor pizza oven.