Modern Pizza Toppings: Beyond BBQ Chicken Pizza

Friday Aug 12, 2016

The modern pizza is known the world over for its hearty versatility both in the kitchen and on the table. With hundreds of dough and crust variations and thousands of toppings and sauces available, the pizza is a blank canvas that can become a culinary work of art with endless flavor possibilities.

It used to be that BBQ chicken pizza was considered exotic. But now, with the seemingly infinite vegetable, meat, and cheese combinations found on pizza menus, there are thousands of permutations available from the sublime to the extreme.

To make it easier on the casual pizza connoisseur, we've broken down the pizza toppings into a few categories. Just mix and match to find your perfect pairing.

Meats

Meats used as pizza toppings comprise a very diverse array of pork, poultry, beef, seafood, and even wild game. Options at most pizzerias include sausage, pepperoni, and ground beef, the more adventurous selections include chicken or ham. Sauces such as marinara, buffalo or BBQ complement and enhance the flavor of proteins.

For those who have a more exotic flavor palate, products such as wild rabbit, venison, elk, or salmon are options, although you probably won't find those on very many menus. And while most of the US is happy with toppings ranging from pepperoni to BBQ chicken, in Japan the most popular topping is either grilled or breaded squid.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices liven the sauce, cheeses, or even the doughs of many pizzas. Many common herbs are toppings in their own right, such as rosemary, oregano, basil, sage, and thyme, which are popular options on Neapolitan or flatbread pizzas.

Fresh herbs, either whole or lightly chopped, wilt when covered in olive oil and cooked in the oven. Chili, paprika, nutmeg, and exotic curry powders have all made their way onto a pizza or two.

Vegetables

Tomatoes are the most common vegetable found on pizza, beginning with the sauce and including chunks of tomatoes for a burst of extra flavor. Green peppers, mushrooms, onions, spinach, olives, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant – they’ve all been used as pizza toppings. Even veggies such as beets, Brussels sprouts, jalapenos, and radishes have graced the top of a pizza pie.

Cheese

And last but certainly not least, cheese. What is a pizza without cheese (not that great, I can verify, don’t ask)? Structurally, cheese is the glue that holds the sauce and toppings together. Traditional parmesan and mozzarella were chosen because these cheeses are firm binders that add texture and rich flavor to any pizza.

But, as we all know, in the evolution of pizza, anything goes. Soft, crumbly blue cheese adds tangy flavor while a three cheese mix of parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar goes well on a BBQ chicken pizza. Gourmet types may favor goat cheese or pungently aromatic Limburger.

Whatever your pizza pleasure, there's sure to be an option that suits your palate. Whether you prefer loaded with the works or deceptively simple, want to take a walk on the wild side with exotic ingredients such as squid or elk, or are in the mood for the comforting warmth of a BBQ chicken pizza, the options are endless.