Why New Jersey Bagels and Pizza are the Best in the Nation

Tucker Scott ‘26

Staff Writer

Throughout my life I have written about, researched, and studied the most controversial issues and topics of our time, from abortion to immigration to the size and scope of government, but nothing compared to my most controversial, and correct, opinion I hold. New Jersey bagels and pizza are the best in the nation, bar none. 

First off, New Jersey has a huge Italian population. According to the Italian Tribune, New Jersey has a total Italian population of around 1.5 million. Now, while New York may have an Italian population of around 3.1 million, you have to remember that that is only because New York has about double the population that New Jersey does, which is about 20 million people compared to about 10 million people. In actuality, a whole 17% of New Jersey’s population is Italian, compared to only 13.5% of New York’s population. Originally pizza came from Italy– thus, as the logic goes, Italians must make the best pizza. And, since pizza and bagels are made from the same dough, that must make their bagels just as good. 

Secondly, and most importantly, New Jersey’s water is the best suited for making bagels. NJ gets its water from the Catskill Mountains, which has very soft water, meaning it has low concentrations of calcium and magnesium. This soft water perfectly matches the high protein concentration of the bread flour. Bread flour, which has a higher concentration of proteins than all-purpose flour, is ideal for water absorption. This increases the elasticity of the proteins. Sugar not only enhances the taste, it feeds the yeast; and that metabolic activity generates CO2, forming tiny air bubbles that get trapped in the elastic strands of the dough, which is the foundation for what will become an airy, chewy delight. So in less scientific terms, this means that New Jersey bagels are soft, chewy, and delicious.

Thirdly, the process for making bagels in New Jersey is completely unique, and can be found nowhere else. One unique thing done is called proofing, where bakers will make about 100 pounds of dough, roll it into the bagel shape, and will then leave the bagel in the fridge for a few days. This allows the yeast to ferment and fully release all the different flavor components. Something else totally unique is the baking style. Before the bagel hits the oven it is first boiled. Boiling the dough before it enters the oven “pre-gelatinizes” the starch in the dough which lets water into the gluten. This in turn sets up for the perfect crunch for the bagel’s exterior.

Finally there is something no one takes into account: the community at bagel shops, especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I can’t think of one town without their beloved bagel joint. The one in my town was Grandma’s Bagels and one town over was Bagel Masters. Every morning you can be sure there will be lines out the door waiting for the perfect New Jersey bagel by people both young and old. Now what makes these places different from other states is the sheer fact that they specialize in bagels and only bagels. In order to get a “bagel” in almost any other state you go to a coffee shop, where they clearly specialize in coffee, not bagels. 

So, I guess some might call me a bagel snob, but if your bagel is fresh out of the oven and needs to be toasted, then you’re not eating a real bagel. And if you think there’s any shot that the soft water in New York makes a good bagel that even compares to New Jersey, you’re wrong. That’s all.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Categories: Opinions

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