Great and tasty pizza comes in many different forms – from thick doughy pies to thin, crispy crusts. To achieve different textures and pizza thicknesses, pizzerias use different types of pizza pans and screens to make pizza pies that are appealing to everyone.
But if you’re a lover of thin-crust pizza, pizza screens are an essential baking tool. If you own a pizza oven because your household loves pizza so much, you probably would also like to invest in pizza screens. These metal plates with holes let hot air circulate better, allowing moisture to escape easier.
What are Pizza Screens?
Pizza screens, also known as pizza disks, are alternatives to the typical pizza pans, and they are meant for cooking pizzas with crispy crusts when pizza stones are impractical or unavailable to use. These are lightweight cooking tools made of thin aluminum mesh, making them easy to store and stack.
Pizza screens are commonly used for making an evenly baked, crispy crust pizza due to the amount of hot air transfer between the crust and the oven chamber. The gaps in the mesh enable airflow to reach the crust. It’s ideal for use in a conveyor oven, and the seamless construction means no rivets may come undone.
Since it offers much air circulation with its mesh-like construction, pizza screens cook pizza much faster. It also prevents soggy crusts while the hot pizza is resting. The ventilation it provides helps keep the crust crispy after baking, and the holes avoid condensation buildup. Moisture needs somewhere else to go, so pizzerias also use the screen as a cooling rack for fresh pies from the oven.
Most pizza screens are round, available in diameters ranging from 6-28 inches. Rectangular pizza screens are less common but available in sizes as wide as 24 inches.
Why Use a Pizza Screen?
If you are cooking pizza at home using a pizza screen, you must expect the pie crust to be crispier and the total baking time shorter. For example, metal plates hold a lot of heat, making the entire baking process slower. They also concentrate heat underneath, which increases the possibility of burns on the bottom of the crust. But with aluminum pizza screens, your whole pizza will get in contact with hot air more directly.
Pizza screens would help you make a crispier crust, especially for your yummy, homemade thin-crust pizzas. The holes in the screen allow the heat to circulate more evenly, creating a nicely browned crust.
It also helps you cook pizza quicker, as the holes allow heat to travel to the toppings more directly, so the pizza won’t need to spend a long time inside the oven.
Lastly, pizzas made on a pizza screen tend to look better. The evenly-cooked crust and the well-done toppings make a beautifully impressive finished product.
However, pizza screens may not be suitable for every pizza-baking project. It can handle thin crusts well, but if you like a pizza with soft dough or a deep-dish pizza, this is not the right tool to use. Also, once the pizza crust sticks to the mesh material and gets baked on, it would be harder to clean.
- Lightweight and easy to store in your cupboard.
- Available in different sizes to cater to different pizza sizes.
- Not fragile – it can fall, but it won’t get cracked or damaged.
- Made of non-toxic materials
- More affordable than pizza pans and stones.
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Bakes pizza in less time due to more efficient heat transfer
- Great for making crispy, thin crusts
- Makes pizza look more aesthetically pleasing and well-done
- Won’t be affected by thermal shocks, so you can set it in the oven at whatever temperature you prefer
- When pizza crusts stick to it, it’s going to be harder to clean
- It gets burnt if you don’t check it frequently
- It would not give a soft dough
How to Use a Pizza Screen
For best results, here’s how to properly use a pizza screen:
1. Choose the right size
The process of using a pizza screen starts with selecting the correct size. Measure the oven area or the cooking surface to decide what size will be appropriate. If you have a small cooking surface, then a 12-inch pizza screen will be suitable. However, if the cooking surface area is large, then a 16-inch will suit better.
2. Knead the dough
Then, it is time to knead the dough. Kneading the dough takes time; therefore, you will have to be patient. You can knead dough anytime you want, but don’t leave it in a warm place if you’re not going to bake it within 30 minutes. If you intend to prepare the dough for an event the next day, store it inside a plastic container by adding a bit of flour at the bottom to prevent sticking.
3. Keep it squishy
While preparing the dough, be careful about the hydration of the flour. The dough should be squishy enough for shaping but should not be sticking to the surfaces as well. If you observe that the dough is dry, add water to it but make sure not to add excessive water. If you achieved the desired consistency, cut it into pieces of the needed weight, put them in a container, or start baking it right away.
4. Prepare the pizza balls
This is where you get to decide the thickness of the pizza; therefore, you need to make pizza balls of the same weight. If you want a thick pizza, make heavier pizza balls; otherwise, if you prefer a thin pizza, make lighter pizza balls.
If you want to make a thin-crust pizza, you may want to take 180 grams of dough for 10-12-inch pies, 220-250 grams for 14-inch, 280 grams for a 14-inch pizza, and 300-320 grams for a thin 16-inch pizza. If you like thicker pies, you may want to increase the dough weight to about 40%, but be ready for slightly longer baking.
5. Preheat the oven
The preheating time depends on your oven. If it is an old version, then it might require a bit of time, whereas if it is a newer model, then 10-15 minutes would be sufficient. Just make sure to preheat the oven up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit or at least 430 degrees if it’s not powerful enough. Start preheating about an hour before baking.
6. Cover the screen with a thin layer of olive oil (optional)
Slather a bit of olive oil over the cover screen. This will prevent the pizza from sticking to the screen, as it adds a bit of sogginess to the bottom. You can skip this step if you don’t want to add extra fats to your pizza or if you don’t want olive oil.
7. Prepare circles of dough
Now, start creating dough circles in your preferred thickness and gently lay them over the pizza screen. If you are a beginner, you might observe some warped edges – don’t be afraid to fix them. However, make sure that you do not rip the dough.
8. Add the toppings
Now for the fun part! Once the dough is ready, you can now add the pizza sauce and toppings and put the pizza inside the hot stove. Do it as fast as possible so that the dough will not “sweat” and stick to the metal. Once the pie is inside, keep a close look to keep it from burning.
When the pizza is already baked, pull it out with a peel and relocate it to a warm plate to serve. Don’t leave the screen inside the oven, and keep it cool on a tabletop surface. You can reuse it only when it’s cool enough to handle with bare hands.
Pizza Screen vs. Pizza Pan
It’s easy to differentiate a pizza screen from a pizza pan, considering its appearance. The pizza screen is flat and has a mesh construction so that it can cook a crispy crust. Meanwhile, a pizza pan is good for cooking soft and doughy pizza where the crust is bread-like.
Pizza Screen vs. Pizza Stone
One of the most significant advantages of using a pizza screen or a pizza stone is that they can make crusty pizzas. They use different concepts to attain almost the same results. Here are the ways they differ from one another:
1. Cooking time
The screen with a mesh surface will cook much faster, and if you want a crispy brown pizza cooked in less time, then it’s better to use a pizza screen. But if you don’t mind the time and you want to achieve a traditional pizza flavor, then it’s best to use a pizza stone.
The excellent thermal conductivity you can achieve using a pizza screen lets you save time and energy because it can bake your pizza faster.
Pizza stones are surely more durable than a pizza screen. Pizza screens can be flimsy, making them less durable than a pizza stone. However, a pizza stone is fragile – you must keep them from falling since ceramics are breakable. Also, you can’t pour water on a hot pizza stone because it may crack.
Pizza screens are easier to handle than other pizza-cooking tools. When you cook pizza at home, you can quickly put raw pizza on the screen by hand while being quick and careful to avoid getting burned. The smooth surface of the screen lets the pie slide off the peel without additional flour. But if you want to bake on the stone without a screen, you have to put flour on the peel first and practice learning the proper technique to prevent tearing the dough while trying to put the pizza on the shovel and making it slide without warping. You don’t have to worry about having a floured peel with pizza screens.
4. Ability to bake focaccia
The huge disadvantage of screens over pizza stones is that it’s hard to bake focaccia on them. Unlike stones, screens can’t prevent the focaccia center from burning, so you have to be very careful to make it even without making the thin dough super dry.
5. Heat retention
Pizza stones can double as a hot plate for serving your pizza without needing to cool it. On the other hand, pizza screens cannot retain heat for a long time.
You can clean pizza stone plates with a spatula without worrying about scratches. Even if the entire pizza gets burnt, the crust and grease won’t stick to it too hard. However, you can’t achieve the same results with pizza screens – any burnt food will get baked on the mesh, and it would need the effort to remove.