Automating pizza toppings

by Laurie Gorton
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What’s a pizza without its toppings? What’s a pizza line without topping systems? Both are incomplete, and several manufacturers of pizza equipment now design their makeup lines with topping and dispensing units.

Moline Machinery, for example, recently acquired Tiefenthaler Machinery, allowing it to integrate the T-Topper with its sheeting lines. “It can sprinkle dry toppings like herbs and spices onto the dough,” said David Moline, sales and marketing manager, Moline Machinery, LLC. “These can also become inclusions in the crust via lamination.”

Ken Hagedorn, vice-president, sales, and partner, Naegele, Inc., noted that more pizza lines now feature checkweighers after topping operations. “Cheese is getting to be expensive and is the most used in volume amounts,” he said. “Weight control is no longer as casual as it was.” Such care is needed to meet legal requirements covering product weight and nutrient levels described on package labels and in the Nutrition Facts Panel. “If you’re under — or over — you’re in violation of the labeling rules.”

Some toppings can negatively affect overall product quality. Stephen Bloom, vice-president, Allied Bakery Equipment Co., explained that sauce put on raw dough can interfere with proper baking of the middle of the crust. “One thing to do is to pre-bake the crust to lightly toast it,” he recommended. “That way the sauce doesn’t penetrate the crust.

“Another aspect of topping, and a recent improvement, is how the sauce is applied,” Mr. Bloom continued. “Instead of a waterfall system, you can use a targeted applicator. It looks like a large showerhead and leaves a clear rim around the crust’s edge. It conserves ingredients.”

Line cleanability comes into the purchasing decision, too, Mr. Bloom noted. “It makes a difference at which stage you do pizza makeup, particularly the application of toppings,” he said. “If done after the oven as is normally the case, it has to be performed in a clean room that complies with USDA standards and regulations.”
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