They call it the holy grail of ready-to-eat meals for soldiers: a pizza that can stay on the shelf for as long as three years and still remain good to eat. Now researchers at a US military lab in Massachusetts are closing in on a recipe that doesn't require any refrigeration or freezing. "You can basically take the pizza, leave it on the counter, packaged, for three years and it'd still be edible," says an Army food scientist. Researchers' efforts were long thwarted because moisture in tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings migrated to the dough over time, resulting in soggy pizza that provided the perfect conditions for mold and disease-causing bacteria to grow.
But on-and-off research over the past few years helped them figure out ways to prevent moisture from migrating. That includes using ingredients called humectants—sugar, salt, and syrups can do the trick—that bind to water and keep it from getting to the dough. Most soldiers haven't tried the new recipe because it's still being developed, but the early taste tests are promising. "It pretty much tastes just like a typical pan pizza that you would make at home and take out of the oven or the toaster oven," says another scientist at the lab.