Pizza is one of the most widely-consumed fast foods in the world. In America, especially, it has become somewhat of a staple food since the past century. If you too are a pizza-lover, you must spend a lot of time skimming through food books and Youtube channels, looking for that one perfect pizza recipe. Some spend hours making airy dough while others spend dollars on the ingredients for the sauce. However, if you’re a pizza connoisseur, you must know that the magic of a perfect pizza does not only lie in the recipe or ingredients, but also in the way you bake it as well. When baking the dough, the first and most important thing you need to ensure is that you choose the right surface to support your pizza in the oven.
The baking surface should not only be able to heat the bottom of your dough quickly but also distribute heat uniformly throughout the crust to ensure even cooking. So which one is better? A pizza stone, screen, or pan? All three serve the formerly mentioned purposes well, but their distinct characteristics set them apart.
Selecting the right pizza surface can prove to be a hectic task if you are a novice in culinary arts. However, with our help, you will be ready to bake a pizza crust that rivals those from Italy in no time! Keep reading this article to get a thorough guide on choosing the right baking surface for your pizza.
Pizza stones are stoneware slabs made of either ceramic or clay. They usually come in a round shape with dimensions varying from 8″ diameter up to 19″; however, the most widely used is 15″. Some pizza stones come in a rectangular shape as well; they also come in different sizes: from 14″ up to 20″.
With the help of its porous material, pizza stones let you savor a crispy crust synonymous with those baked in a wood-fired oven. Tiny holes are spread throughout the surface of the material. As the pizza stone is preheated, heat accumulates in these pores. When you place the dough on this preheated pizza stone, the pores absorb all the moisture from the dough and replace it with heat. The bottom of the dough is heated immediately, followed by an even distribution of heat throughout the crust. As a result, the pizza is cooked uniformly with a crispy crust and crunchy toppings.
However, a pizza stone requires extra care and attention. It is more difficult to use and operate than other traditional baking surfaces.
How to Use Pizza Stones
A pizza stone made of high-quality ceramic or clay will survive in your kitchen longer than any other utensil. A low-quality pizza stone, on the other hand, has a short life-span; it will crack, or worse, break when exposed to sudden temperature changes or dropped from a height. Therefore, make sure that you never put a cold stone in a preheated oven. You need to place the pizza stone in a cold oven and heat them together, or the stone will crack. Moreover, always put the pizza stone on the middle rack of the baking oven. Once the oven and stone are both hot and have reached the required temperature, it’s time to place the dough on top of the slab. However, make sure you place the dough on the pizza stone only once when it is hot and has reached the required temperature. Placing the dough on a cold stone and then heating it will lead to a rubbery crust with no crisp.
After the cooking part is over, do not remove the stone from the oven immediately. Taking out the stone from a hot oven could cause the stone to break because of sudden temperature changes.
How to Maintain and Care for a Pizza Stone
Once the oven and stone have cooled down to room temperature, remove the pizza stone and scrape off anything stuck on it. Since the pizza stones have a porous surface, abstain from using any soap or detergent to clean it. Just wash it with luke-warm water using a brush, cloth, or even your hands.
A thick layer of either aluminum, hard coat anodized aluminum, or cast iron is used to make pizza pans. These metals are good thermal conductors and, therefore, able to both accumulate and transfer heat to the bottom of the crisp in a short period. This way, uniform temperature spreads throughout the crust, ensuring a splendidly cooked pizza with no burned crust or uncooked toppings.
Pizza pans also come in an array of sizes and styles, such as coupe-tray, deep-dish, perforated, smooth, and nibbed. All these pizza pans are designed to serve different purposes. The coupe-style pan is the most commonly used pizza pan; it is essentially a flat tray with a rounded rim around it. The highlight of coupe-style pans is that they are very versatile. Thanks to their multifaceted functionality, the pizza can be baked, sliced, and even served on the same pan. Using a coupe-style pizza pan will save you both money and time. It is also easy to handle and prevents any potential injury during transferring pizza from the oven. Deep dished pans are best suited to make softer and chewier pizza crusts, while smooth pizza pans specialize in baking thick and bready-like crusts. Perforated pizza pans have tiny holes on the surface, which allow the heat to reach the bottom of the crust directly. These pans are widely popular among those who love a super crispy crust and want a faster baking process.
How to Use Pizza Pans
You can place a cold pizza pan in a hot oven as it is not sensitive to sudden changes in temperature. Whether you place the pan in the oven before or after heating it, the pan’s quality will remain intact. Furthermore, unlike stone, you can take the pan out of the hot oven after the pizza is cooked.
How to Maintain and Care for a Pizza Pan
Since the surface of a pizza pan is not porous, you can clean it with an aluminum-specific detergent. However, do not clean in a dishwasher or use an acidic detergent or coarse sponges as they can ruin the integrity of the pan and shorten its life. To maintain the quality of your pizza pan, hand wash it with a non-caustic detergent and properly wash off that detergent afterward.
A pizza screen is a lightweight last mesh disk which is best known for baking the crispiest pizza crusts. It is made of thin aluminum, which makes a pizza screen highly portable and easy to store. Pizza screens are usually available in a round shape with sizes ranging from 8″ diameter up to 30″.
The aluminum allows the uniform transfer of heat throughout the crust while the mesh network allows air to circulate beneath the crust, heating it quickly. The airflow further promotes even heat distribution and fastens the baking process. It also sustains the crispiness of the pizza long after it’s baked. Pizza screens will create the most finger-licking crispy pizzas even in convection ovens.
How to Use Pizza Screens
Once the pizza is cooked, it is best to transfer it from the pizza screen to a serving tray to avoid dirtying your table or the floor as toppings might fall through the mesh. For more details on the topic, take a look at our exclusive publication on tips for using pizza screens.
How to Maintain and Care for a Pizza Screen
Everything you bake a pizza, use a brush and detergent to scrub off any debris and prevent carbon buildup.
Pizza stones, pans, and screens are all suited to heating the bottom of the crust rapidly and providing even transfer throughout the crust. However, their designs and functionalities serve different purposes; therefore, it is necessary to choose a baking surface that best suits your needs and taste preference. If you wish to savor a mouth-watering crispy and thin pizza crust, pizza stones and screens are the top-choices for you. However, if you prefer a pizza with a softer and gooey crust, purchase deep-dished or smooth pizza pans to get the gist of a heavenly experience.