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My friend says that thin pizza crust is nothing but a cracker, but I think there are significant differences between the two products. For example, if you buy a store-bought cracker and add pizza sauce, toppings, and cheese to it, you won't get anything remotely like a pizza.

tl;dr: where do the ideas of pizza crust and cracker diverge?

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Two factors:

Leavening: pizza crust is generally made with a leavened, yeasted dough, that has risen for a hour or more before rolling out. Crackers are generally made with a "short" dough, which contains no leavening at all or only a tiny amount of chemical leavening. Even crackers that are made with a yeasted dough (e.g. sourdough crackers) are not given a long time to rise.

Texture: crackers are generally supposed to, well, crack. They should be crisp, crunchy, and/or flaky. Whereas pizza dough is supposed to be chewy and/or bready, and certainly not crunchy.

Now, there's obviously some room for overlap here. For example, if I roll out a sourdough pizza crust really thin and top it only with salt, and bake it until crunchy, it's not going to be particularly different from a sourdough cracker. However, most pizza crusts are very different from most crackers.

Hope that helps!

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  • If you're going to attempt to define classical categories for the two items (where there are specific requirements for inclusion to a category), I would say that 'cracker' is a starchy dough that's been cooked until dry for preservation purposes. So "pane carasau" (cooked like a large pita, then split and cooked again 'til dry) would be a cracker, even though it's yeasted and given time to rise. – Joe Oct 6 '20 at 13:51
  • But there are many dry, preserved breads that are not crackers, so I don't think that works. For example, "ship's biscuit" is definitely dried for preservation, but is not considered by any English-speakers to be a cracker. – FuzzyChef Oct 11 '20 at 17:35
  • You could argue that it needs to be eaten as-is, and not rehydrated before eating, or even that it needs to be thin (but then we have to define 'thin'), but this is an example of why classification, and particularly classical categories are a problem. (platypus being a mammal, even though it lays eggs, birds that don't fly, etc.) – Joe Oct 13 '20 at 14:47
  • Also, "Cracker" is the real problem here because it's a very vaguely defined category. I mean, a saltine is definitely a cracker, but plenty of people would argue that pane carasau is a flatbread and not a cracker at all. And a responder below calls bagel chips crackers, which I wouldn't. – FuzzyChef Oct 15 '20 at 4:53
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To me, this seems to be an issue of what we call 'prototypal classification' (sometimes called 'fuzzy classification' when it's computers doing the sorting). Basically, you have two groupings (pizza crust and cracker), and you have to decide how to sort a specific item (the crust on a thin crust pizza).

It's important to consider that crackers and pizza crusts are both rather wide categories, and what items we're most familiar with in that category will affect how we judge other items for inclusion.

Some examples of 'pizza' and pizza-like items:

  • New York thin-crust pizza
  • Chicago deep-dish pizza
  • Pizza bianco
  • Barbeque chicken pizza
  • Dessert pizza with mascarpone & fruit
  • French bread pizza
  • Pizza bagels
  • Lahmahjoon
  • Pannenkook met spek en kass

And some types of cracker and cracker like items:

  • Saltines
  • Oyster crackers
  • Triscuits
  • Graham crackers
  • Matzo
  • Hårdbröd
  • Zwieback
  • Bagel chips
  • Hardtack

People may only be familiar with some of those, and some may not consider all of those items to be part of the category. (Zwieback is a rusk, and therefore, a type of biscotti ... does that make it a cookie? Although technically, biscotti is a twice cooked, so it's a 'biscuit', but the term 'biscuit' has diverged in American English).

This is part of why we get disagreements on what a 'pizza' is. If you grew up with New York thin-crust pizza, and only that style of pizza, it's difficult to consider Chicago deep-dish pizza to be a part of your mental image of 'pizza'. It's closer to a casserole or a fruit buckle than a New York style pizza with its crisp crust and slightly charred top.

Likewise, to someone who's grown up with deep dish pizzas, a New York style pizza is missing the breadiness and chew of the pizza you're familiar with, and it's closer to a cracker with some sauce and cheese on top.

As for where the two diverge -- that's even more difficult to say, because it's entirely possible that we could find some cases where there's agreement that an item is in both categories.

If we can agree that tomato isn't integral to pizza, then a crust topped with olive oil, garlic and cheese is still a pizza. If the type of cheese doesn't matter, then we can use a hard grating cheese like parmesean or pecorino romano.

And if we can agree that crackers don't have to be bite sized, and to matzo is a cracker, and that crackers can be flavored (quite common now from Wheat Thins and Triscuits in the stores) then should you use those ingredients on a New York style crust, you would have something that would be exceedingly difficult to classify as either a pizza or a cracker and not both.

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  • This gets even messier when you have different or even just divergent languages, as categories are a function of culture, and how that culture thinks about those items. So a word might literally translate into another language and items with that name don't fall into the translated category (the biscotti / biscuit example, or my infamous (at least at my work) pancake question) – Joe Oct 6 '20 at 13:57
  • Matzoh pizza is definitely a thing. – FuzzyChef Oct 15 '20 at 4:50

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