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The Difference Between Slices and Pies

February 21, 2018

The Tour de Slice is coming. We’ve got a date. The floor is open to nominations. People are sharing their thoughts.

Burnt My Fingers is one of those people, and he brought up an interesting point regarding slices, and his concerns about the entire venture:

It is as if, when we had the Italian sub tour last summer, you had restricted it to establishments that had pre-made sandwiches wrapped in the deli case.

Would you not agree that a slice is a convenience product, and likely inferior to a custom made pie? If so, why not just order and taste whole pies?

Steve N. came to the defense of the slice, and did a great job at succinctly getting to the heart of the matter. But I wanted to take a few more minutes to talk more about pies versus slices and the elevation of convenience foods in general.

Without a doubt pizza sold by the slice is a convenience food.

It’s fast, it’s cheap, and can be eaten on the go. There’s a bigger question about the New York style pizza slice and its foldability. For me, folding a slice is a necessity when walking with it down a New York City street. However, since I typically stop for a few minutes to enjoy my slice, I almost never fold. That said, I do not begrudge those who do.

That’s an entirely different post.

Burnt My Fingers makes a reasonable argument. Wouldn’t it be better to eat a pie that is fresh, hot, and made to order instead of a piece of one that has been sitting around for an unknown amount of time and reheated before serving? There is just one flaw to his argument.

Pizza that is produced for slices is often different than pizza made for whole pies. The biggest difference is its thickness. Or rather, I should say its thinness.

Because pizza made for slices will need to be heated up quickly, thin is a necessity.

I’ve been to pizza shops where you can look at the pies going out the door for delivery and the pies sitting in the display case for slices, and they look as if they have come from two completely different pizzerias. Which isn’t to say this is always the case. It’s a big world. There are lots of notable exceptions.

On the issue of freshness, I’ve learned a hard truth over the years. Every now and again you’ll walk into a slice shop and a cheese pie has just come out of the oven. Invariably the clerk behind the counter will cut you a slice, tell you it’s hot, and serve it straight from the platter.

I’ve heard a pizza maker suggest the gold standard of slice shops is to be constantly churning out pies, so that everyone can have a slice from a hot fresh pie.

Maybe there are some people who prefer their slices this way, but I am not among them.

When I encounter such a situation, I very politely ask that my hot fresh slice be thrown back into the oven to crisp the bottom crust. Occasionally I’ll get a funny look from whoever is working the counter. But that’s of little concern. We just think about pizza slices differently.

As Steve N. wrote in defense of slices, when the slice is cut off a hot pie, it does not go into the oven for a second heating. And as a result, the bottom crust loses out on the chance to get a double toasting. Gone will be that characteristic crispness which is absolutely required for a proper fold. Something gets lost. Nothing is gained.

Instead of thinking of slices as reheated leftovers, I prefer to think of them along the lines of french fries. French fries are fried, and then they are fried again. Can you single fry fries? I mean, you could. But they just aren’t the same.

Slices should be thought of as something distinct from whole pizzas. When done right, it’s an entirely different food. Sure, it’s one made from the same ingredients, with just a few minor stylistic differences.

Consider the egg and cheese sandwich. It’s an entirely different experience if you have it on toast, a hard roll, or a bagel. The texture of the bread that contains the sandwich is a critical component to the end product. The same is true with pizza. And that’s what makes New York style slices so unique and special.

It’s that thin and crisp bottom crust, and you can only get that one way. Reheating.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2018 11:45 am

    Ok, you and Steve have convinced me to at least reserve judgment on the slice issue. Would it be possible to slip into Marino’s during the tour, and get a fresh pizza for comparison?

    Also, I will point out that many slice shops serve a “Sicilian” or “Grandma-Style” slice which is a square of more substantial material, unlikely to fall apart as you are strolling through NYC. Where does that fit in your slice universe?

  2. February 21, 2018 11:51 am

    Recently in an interview, Scott Weiner of Scott”s Pizza Tous gave a great general description of a NY slice.

    “a New York-style pizza is a large-format pizza. It’s cut into eight even wedge slices. The whole diameter of the pizza is somewhere between 18 and 22 inches, and it’s made with a low-moisture mozzarella, baked in a gas-fueled deck oven at about 550 degrees, for somewhere between seven and ten minutes. When it’s served to the public, it’s available either fresh, or if you’re there ten minutes late, as a reheat slice. And the slice is always larger than the plate upon which it is served. This is a New York slice.”

    The reheated slices are definitely different beasts. The second cook changes the crust. At popular NY slice shops in the city, I don’t think they could keep up with demand at peak times if every slice was a reheat though.

  3. -R. permalink
    February 21, 2018 1:48 pm

    I completely agree about the distinction between the slice pie and the whole pie – two totally different animals. However, while plain cheese makes for a great slice pie, I would argue that some meats don’t fair well as a slice pie – meatball, chicken and sometimes sausage being the prime offenders for me. They often don’t survive the reheat all that well, tending to dry out if the slice is even slightly overheated (pepperoni on the other hand is bomb-proof). I’m curious if you or anyone else has any topping combos that don’t make the slice cut?

  4. RogerK permalink
    February 21, 2018 7:59 pm

    As everyone has demonstrated already, there are 4 different ways to eat pizza.
    1. A slice from a slice-seller right out of the oven.
    2. A slice from a slice-seller reheated in the oven.
    3. A slice from a whole pizza served for on-premises eating.
    4. A slice from a whole pizza brought home.

    Each one has it’s benefit and own characteristics. Just be consistent and don’t compare apples with oranges. Each one has to be judged separately.

  5. Nick Lewis permalink
    February 22, 2018 1:38 am

    can i buy your xbox gamer tag “Chewy”

    • Nick Lewis permalink
      February 22, 2018 1:39 am

      if not thats fine, just wondering because im assuming you dont use the account anymore. thanks

      • February 22, 2018 1:44 am

        Thanks for the inquiry, but it’s not for sale.

      • Nick Lewis permalink
        February 22, 2018 2:04 am

        not trying to bug you but do you still play? just curious

      • February 22, 2018 2:33 am

        Should I ever part with the tag, I’ll pass it along to one of my kids. I’m sentimental that way.

      • Nick Lewis permalink
        February 22, 2018 5:35 pm

        makes sence. thanks

  6. Benjamin Maggi permalink
    February 23, 2018 4:19 pm

    I think you/we should only rate places that sell by the slice. Honestly, most of us probably want to know where to go for a quick slice (not a whole pizza) when we have some time free for lunch in Schenectady. Isn’t that what this tour is about?

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