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Heavy perforated pizza pans?

I'm looking at the various thick steel plates, a few aluminum ones, and similar things on the various "start up" websites and got to wondering about users experiences in this forum. Who cooks on 1/4 inch steel or really thick aluminum? What is your experience? FWIW, the common pizza stones aren't crisping the way I want so, one of those 1/2" baker specialty stones is an option too.

What I am considering is taking a Lodge cast iron pizza pan and drilling holes in it to vent steam to get a nice thin crust pizza that isn't soggy from trapped steam. Using just the rack and thick dough crusts, they sag and droop between the wire runners but, freezing it lets the dough crisp on the bottom first. This will not work with a thin crust dough and I want more heat to crisp the crust when the dough first goes in then I get from the slower warm up on an open grate.

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  1. drilling through cast iron? sounds pretty labourous.

    have you tried:
    1) turning up the oven temp;
    2) reducing liquid ratio if you make your own crusts;
    3) dusting the bottom of the crust with flour; or
    4) dusting your current surface with corn meal?

    1 Reply
    1. re: filtered

      <drilling through cast iron? sounds pretty laborious.>

      I have access to a drill press so, it's not that hard or time consuming.

      <have you tried:>
      1) not really an option on a weak apartment stove, I'm trying to make due with what I currently have
      2) I'm new to bread making so, my crusts could probably use some tweaking
      3&4) I'm more inclined to use corn meal with my pizza peel

    2. Sprinkling a bit of corn meal on your pizza pan helps... I haven't really had an issue with soggy crust on my Lodge pan. Ideally, the pizza is slid from a peel onto a pre-heated pan, but I have gotten away with laying out the pizza on a room temp pan.

      1. I use the 1/4" steel. It is amazing. I can actually get 4-5min pizzas in my oven that have great open crumb and crisp, spotted crusts.

        My pizzas actually look like this (I put the oven on max, preheat for 30 mins, then turn the broiler on full and preheat another 15 mins, then slide the pizza in):
        http://slice.seriouseats.com/images/2...

        You may be interested in this review:
        http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...

        My pizza dough is about 74% hydration.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Sirrith

          Sirrith,

          <... then turn the broiler on full and preheat another 15 mins, then slide the pizza in):>

          Do you place your steel up near the broiler? I'm preheating a stone for 45 minutes at 550º and get 8-10 minute pizzas. Dude's been eyeing the steels. Why, I'm not sure, as his idea of baking pizza is calling our local Marco's.

          Hey! I know! A steel (it's manly) on the grill (even more manly) might be enough to get him to bake a pie. Excuse me. A PIZZA. ;)

          1. re: DuffyH

            Yes, I put it on the highest shelf which gives me about 1.5" clearance between the toppings and the heating element! I'm going to try placing it on the 2nd shelf tonight to see if I can get a darker bottom without burning the top.

            8-10 minutes with stone in a 550F oven would probably translate to 6-7 minutes or so on the steel, but I guess that depends on your dough and how much toppings etc...

            It does make pizza baking a lot more fun knowing you can get results that look and taste as good as or better than many professional kitchens :)

            1. re: DuffyH

              A bit depends on the oven...I have an older style where there is a broiler drawer way on the bottom. In any event, if there is an issue with crusts not browning, I have found it makes sense to set the pan as LOW as possible.

            2. re: Sirrith

              Thanks Sirrith! Those links are really great.

              1. re: Sid Post

                No problem, I'll see if I can get a picture of my pizza tonight with the steel, unless it gets eaten before I get the chance.

                1. re: Sirrith

                  Here's the before and after shots. 5 minutes exactly from sliding it into the oven (2nd rack from top this time) to taking it out. I measured the steel at 538F this time round, slightly lower than last time as expected.

                   
                   
                  1. re: Sirrith

                    And that's with the broiler running, yes?

                    1. re: DuffyH

                      Yes, broiler running throughout. If I just use the regular oven (I place my old pizza stone on the shelf above the steel to provide heat from above when doing this), the steel stabilizes at around 460F and I don't get the lovely dark spotting on the crust, I just get golden-brown spots and a pale crust after 7m30s.

                      The broiler (mine is electric) adds almost 100F to the max temperature of the steel and cuts baking time by just over 2 and a half minutes.

                      1. re: Sirrith

                        Thanks for the tip. I'll try it with the broiler next time.

                          1. re: Sirrith

                            Yesterday I purchased some low moisture Mozzarella which I think may be part of my problem. With this new cheese and a tweak or two to my bread making, I should be getting a crisper crust with my future pizza attempts.

                            1. re: Sid Post

                              I've never had to use low moisture mozzarella in my pizza, I always use fresh mozzarella (the ball type stored in liquid). What I've found is that I need to go easy on the sauce, too much and the dough under the sauce doesn't cook through before the edges get over-done.

                              What is your dough recipe if you don't mind my asking?

                              1. re: Sirrith

                                Just an update... managed to get my steel up to 630F now, just need to use the broiler to preheat from the start and preheat for 45 mins on max instead of going oven first then broiler. May be a useful tip if you are using an electric broiler, no idea if it works the same with gas.

                                Now my pizza gets done in under 4 minutes!

                          2. re: DuffyH

                            I've used the preheat-then-broil method with my Lodge Pizza Pan. I used to use cornmeal and a pizza peel, but switched to parchment paper. Crisp crust and good char. Highly recommended.

              2. How hot is your stone? The stone should be preheated for 30 minutes as hot as you oven will get.

                Don't bother with cast iron. A cast iron pan will never get hot enough to crisp the crust before the top is done. A cast iron pizza pan is as useless as a cast iron wok.

                The secret to a crispy crust is to get the pizza out of the pan as soon as possible so the crust is directly on the 500+° stone.

                I form and top my pizza on a cheap steel pan, but I remove it after about 1 minute in the oven so the pizza bakes directly on the hot stone. If the pan is correctly seasoned the pizza should slide right off as soon as the moisture between the crust and pan evaporates.

                11 Replies
                1. re: Kelli2006

                  With respect, that is wrong. Cast iron will definitely get hot enough to crisp the crust, many will attest to that, and this review also shows it (and indeed they think the cast iron pan is better than the stones):
                  http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...

                  1. re: Sirrith

                    Although aluminum pans turn out a perfectly respectable pie, the best deep-dish pizzas I've ever had came from cast iron. Über-crispy crust.

                    1. re: Sirrith

                      Oh, I forgot to add that the Chinese have been using cast iron woks for centuries...

                      1. re: Sirrith

                        The Chinese use hammered steel woks. Cast iron is thicker and doesn't give you the same temperature control as thinner carbon steel.

                        The thinner steel heats and cools much quicker, unlike cast iron which takes much longer to heat up and does not cool down as fast.

                        1. re: Kelli2006

                          No, we (I am half Chinese) do indeed use cast iron woks. We also use hammered steel, but definitely also cast iron. Chinese cast iron is much thinner than "western" cast iron (in fact I just bought a new cast iron wok last weekend) and is quite responsive.

                          I agree that western style cast iron woks (e.g. that lodge monster) are completely useless since they are just big skillets and are impossible to manoeuvre along with having bad response time.

                          Yes, if you prep the pizza on the cold pan then put it in the oven, you are completely correct, it won't get hot enough. I thought you meant it would not get hot enough if you preheated it in the oven before putting the pizza onto it!

                          My oven doesn't have a self-cleaning cycle, so I can't try that, but I'm not sure I would feel comfortable doing it anyway as I'd worry about flakes of burnt crud falling on my pizza (my oven is quite dirty :P ). I didn't really have much of a choice as to thickness, ideally I would love to use a 3/8" steel, but that particular thickness is only offered in 14x16 and is just slightly too big for my oven. I could get it custom cut, but that would add to the cost, and the shipping all the way to Hong Kong would be very painful. So I use the 14x14 Sur La Table version which I managed to get shipped for very cheap luckily.

                          1. re: Sirrith

                            Thank you Sirrith! Your posts have been very helpful to me.

                            Yesterday I stopped by a steel shop and found some circular steel in various thicknesses. I think I might pick up a 12" round that is either 1/2 or 5/8ths thick. The edge is painted so, I'm not sure how I will remove that. If I have to, I guess I could always get a file or heavy wire brush

                            1. re: Sid Post

                              Liquid paint stripper should work as long as it is powder coat. Make sure to wash it well before using it after you use paint remover.

                              1. re: Sid Post

                                No problem Sid :)

                                I know nothing about paint removal, but just want to add that there have been comments on various reviews of the baking steel to just get a steel slab from metal shops, and other comments relating to food grade steel and mill scale stuff, whatever that is.

                                1. re: Sirrith

                                  Mill scale is iron oxide that forms on hot steel as it is being hot rolled. You can grind it off.

                        2. re: Sirrith

                          An iron pan would be a good replacement for a stone, but if you prep the pizza on an iron pan then it will not get hot enough in the 10 minutes that it is in the oven to give you the crisp crust that you desire.

                          I do like your idea of using a piece of 1/4" steel in place of a stone. 3/8' steel sheet would give you even more thermal mass, if you oven rack will support the weight.

                          Have you tried the trick to disable the oven safety and allow you to use the self-cleaning oven feature to preheat your stone/sheet?

                          If you want to use the iron pan then you would be better to prep the pizza on parchment and slide it into the pre-heated cast iron pan that is already in the oven or on a grill.

                          1. re: Sirrith

                            Back in the day, before pizza stones were readily available to the home cook, we always used cast iron skillets. I can't remember if we preheated them, though, I'm thinking not because I definitely would have burned myself getting the crust into the pan. And THAT I would remember!

                        3. Heston Blumenthal heated a cast iron pan for 30 minutes then flipped it over, put the pizza on and slid it under a pre-heated grill on high in order to replicate the 450 degrees C (860F) required.

                          he also did lots of other mental stuff.

                          if you cant be arsed just use a very this flatbread you have pre-crisped and a small amount of topping http://www.mybodega.co.uk/appreciate-...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pecandanish

                            You can make crispy cookies this way too. Not as high of heat, but an inverted cast iron pan can be used instead of baking sheet. I learned this trick in college I had limited funds for cooking implements and a shared kitchen.

                          2. Geez I must be fick! Anytime I make a pizza I use my trusty aluminium tray and a non-stick tray, heat my smeg oven to 210c and when ready I put my pizzas in and in no time they're done. Why are we burying ourselves in so much techno dribble about what to use. My base is nice and crispy and everything is cooked. KISS.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Robj

                              The point is to get as close as possible to the type of pies you get in professional pizza kitchens.

                              Sure its possible to bake a very nice pizza in a 210C oven on an aluminium baking sheet. But that is not the result we are after if we're discussing the use of stones and other such things.

                              And if I may ask, what is complicated about a big slab of steel or stone?

                              1. re: Robj

                                Robj,I agree with you. I used to have an aluminum perforated pizza pan that I used in the oven in cold weather and on the barbecue in summer. It got lost in a move and now I have a stone. Not much of a difference to me between the two, in fact I prefer the perforated one. It was just as good pizza I have had in good pizza places.

                                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                  I've also gotten good crispy crusts with those mesh pizza screens that pizzerias uses. No stone needed. Just put it directly on the oven rack.

                                  http://www.amazon.com/Winware-16-Inch...

                              2. I hope I am not being too obvious and naive here, but to me (born and raised Italian, making my own pizza since I was 6) there are just few very simple rules:
                                1) preheated stone, if possible, but I have used perforated aluminum too
                                2) high temp oven
                                3) bake the dough for the first 3-4 min without the toppings, just the tomato: do not use "tomato sauce" but preferably chopped san marzano canned tomatoes, drained, seasoned with good olive oil, salt and pepper and oregano, garlic if you like. Just sprinkle randomly the pieces and then just lightly brush their juice on the pizza, also on the edges. I traditionally use the back of a spoon for this, but that's because I've always done it this way :-) The lack of other toppings with allow the moisture to evaporate better and the crust to get a good color while staying crispier even if you like a lot of stuff on it (like my American family does ;-) I love my super-basic margherita! :-) )
                                4) after the first few minutes add the remaining toppings and put it back in the oven for finishing.
                                With the home oven at the right temp (as hot as you can get it) it should not take longer than 8-10 min total and the crust should be nice and crispy.
                                I hope that helps you and I apologize if I have been too basic, as a home cook, but I believe in simplicity, when possible, and I've always had pretty good results!
                                Ciao!
                                Daniela

                                 
                                 
                                 
                                16 Replies
                                1. re: damo267

                                  Also (I forgot to mention) Mozzarella is a big issue! For as much as I ADORE great quality fresh mozzarella, this is not your best choice for home made pizza. The best, to me, is the one that you get in logs, without the liquid. Dice up that one and add it towards the end! Hope that helps :)
                                  Ciao

                                  1. re: damo267

                                    I don't do the double bake myself, but I agree with the tomato tip! Plain tomatoes taste much better than "pizza sauce" in my opinion. I prefer using crushed tomatoes as they seem to contain less water and don't make the dough soggy like diced/chopped ones do if you don't drain them well. They're also easier to spread (I also use the back of a spoon, simple and effective)

                                    1. re: damo267

                                      I've had great success using a recipe that requires heating a baking stone in a 500 degree oven for a minimum of 30 minutes. I place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cooking sheet, place the dough on the paper, cover with plastic wrap and roll very thin. Remove the plastic and slide/pull the pizza with the parchment paper directly onto the stone.

                                      The paper will darken but doesn't burn as long as there isn't too much excess around the pizza. Usually bakes for 8-9 mins. at 500, then reduce to 480 for another 5-6 mins. Crispy, thin crunchy crust every time, whatever toppings I use.

                                      I do salt veggies and let them sit between a couple paper towels for a few mins. to remove extra moisture.

                                      Hope that helps everyone!

                                      1. re: jaspersbest

                                        I long ago abandoned parchment because any little overhang would burn in my 550º oven. Trimming it to fit was a royal pain. I finally bought "permanent" parchment and cut it into a circle to fit my stone. It hasn't even darkened after countless pizzas, and never needs cleaning.

                                        http://www.amazon.com/Kitchen-Supply-...

                                        1. re: DuffyH

                                          I've used parchment under my pizzas in my Weber Genesis and Kamado at 800+ degrees with no burning issues. The trick is the cut the paper first then fit the pizza to the paper. No overhang.

                                          http://www.thekitchn.com/quick-tip-ho...

                                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                                            Sure, and I did that. But it had to be done every time I made pizza. It made a lot more sense (to me) to pay the $6 and be done with it. No muss, no fuss, it's just there when I want it. For $6? No-brainer.

                                        2. re: jaspersbest

                                          I wonder if using a thin perforated aluminum pan to prep the pie and setting this on the preheated stone or steel would work. It seems like the aluminum would conduct the heat well and be easy to handle.

                                          1. re: InspectorJon

                                            In that case why not just use baking paper?

                                            1. re: Sirrith

                                              You can pick up the aluminum pan, no sliding.

                                            2. re: InspectorJon

                                              I've gone back to using mesh pizza screens on preheated stones on my Weber gas grill. The trick is to cover the screen with enough flour so it doesn't stick and to keep the toppings light. Corn meal never worked too well for me since it burns too easily and at 750+ degrees, the parchment paper was starting to ash. The silicone sheets are only rated for 500 degrees.

                                               
                                              1. re: InspectorJon

                                                Seven minutes at 700 degrees using a pizza screen on a pizza stone on a Weber gas grill.

                                                 
                                            3. re: damo267

                                              Would you mind sharing your pizza dough recipe? Honestly, every time I try to make it, (usually after I see the commercial where the guys singing and throwing the dough in the air haha), I am so 'into it' and it never turns out even close! I have tried a few recipes, the latest one was the one on the Fleishman's Yeast jar...If you have a moment to post your recipe, that would be great. It sounds like you know what you are doing!! :)

                                              1. re: yakittyyak

                                                Sure, here it is. I know I found this on the internet many years ago, but have searched and searched for the original and cannot find. Let me know how yours turns out!

                                                1 3/4 C Flour
                                                1 tsp Salt
                                                3/4 tsp active yeast
                                                3/4 C Water
                                                2 TB Olive Oil

                                                Mix dry ingredients, stir olive oil into water continue stirring as you pour into flour mixture. Stir until moistened. Will be wet and shaggy. Cover with saran wrap for 20 mins. Put dough on floured counter, turn over on itself 2 or 3 times. Back in bowl and cover for 2 hours, deflate gently after one hour. You can refrigerate for a day or so or freeze at this point.

                                                Put a piece of parchment paper on counter larger by a couple inches than your stone. Put dough on paper, then cover with two pieces of saran wrap to cover dough and parchment paper. Roll out dough under saran wrap. Hold parchment paper down and pull off wrap in one direction. Let dough rest for 15 - 30 mins. Slide rimless cookie sheet under and top how you like.

                                                Preheat oven to 500 degrees with stone for at least 30 mins. Slide pizza off cookie sheet, with parchment paper still under pizza, onto stone. Bake at 500 for 8 mins., then reduce to 480 and bake for 6 - 8 more mins. Keep an eye on it during that time. My oven seems particularly hot so it doesn’t always take that long. When done, pull back onto cookie sheet by grabbing the parchment paper.

                                                1. re: yakittyyak

                                                  You know, I believe it's about finding the one that pleases you. Personally, I set long ago for the combination of little yeast/long resting time. It is a long but very easy process and gives ME what I am looking for. Plus, the recipe I use makes 4-6 balls of dough (large or medium size) and it is very practical for me to make it and freeze it for future use.
                                                  Here it is, in case anyone can find it useful. Please forgive my English if it's not always correct and if I take too many words to express a concept (this is what my husband always says! ;-) )It's actually much easier for me to make it than to describe it!

                                                  Ingredients:
                                                  7cups flour (I use half all purpose and half bread flour)
                                                  2 teaspoon dry yeast
                                                  2 teaspoon sugar
                                                  2 and ½cup water
                                                  1/3cup olive oil
                                                  1 tablespoon salt

                                                  Key steps:
                                                  1- Activate the yeast
                                                  2- Make and knead the dough
                                                  3- Let rise (at least 4 hours, but overnight is ok too!)
                                                  4- Divide in portions
                                                  ***5- Freeze (this, of course, is an optional step: if not needed, skip to #6). Thaw at room temperature when needed. ***
                                                  6-Let rest another half an hour or more before stretching

                                                  Preparation:
                                                  In a plastic bowl that has a lid, mix the yeast with the sugar, about a couple tablespoon of the flour and enough lukewarm water to make a smooth cream. Leave it there for about half an hour to start the rising process. Get the rest of the flour, make some sort of a volcano, put the yeast mixture from the bowl in the middle, as well as the rest of the ingredient and knead with energy for at least 15 minutes (no cheating). Of course it's much easier if you have a mixer and let it do the job.
                                                  You must get a soft, elastic dough, still a little sticky. If you are using the mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom. Add little flour or water if needed to achieve that texture.
                                                  Let it rise for a few hours (I do it overnight) in the oven (oven must be off, needless to say) in a big bowl, preferably with a lid, or covering the dough with a kitchen towel. You can punch it down with your hands every now and then if it tends to come out of the bowl. Then take the dough and divide it in 6 portions, giving then a ball shape. If you are going to use the dough the same day, let the balls rest for at least another half an hour. If not, just roll them in flour and put them in separate Ziploc bags to freeze them. Once you need them, just thaw them at room temperature (you can take them out of the freezer at lunchtime to be ready for dinner).
                                                  Make the pizzas stretching the dough, not pushing it down to stick to the pan. Definitely do not use a rolling pin. Keep dusting both your hands and the dough with flour.

                                                  I am sure all of you will have your own recipe that works for you. This one is simply my favorite one, the one I've used for many years. I'll be happy if it can be of help to any of you! Buon Appetito! :)

                                                  1. re: yakittyyak

                                                    Here is a link to a site with a lot of good info.

                                                    http://www.fornobravo.com/pizza/index...

                                                    Their recommendation is weighing the dough ingredients rather than measuring. I did that and got much more consistant results. Also, I find that making the dough a day before made the dough more manageable.

                                                    I was able to get a really good thin crust using Forno Bravo's recipe, a cheap aluminum pizza pan, and an electric oven set to 500.

                                                    1. re: bluiewest1

                                                      Great site, thanks! Some interesting tips, like not using a rolling pin.

                                                      I preheat my pizza stone for a minimum of 30 minutes, better an hour. I also put it on the top rack of the oven.

                                                2. I'm new to this forum, but not to perfectly home-made pizza (Italian/NY style). It comes down to the stone, preheated at 500 F. for 30 minutes, on the bottom rack of the oven, and using a pizza peel. I use 4 unglazed quarry tiles and they have turned into a beautifully seasoned staple of hardware in my kitchen.

                                                  I stretch the dough by hand (pulling while rotating, just like in the pizza parlors, except I don't toss them...if only my ceilings were 15 feet high..sigh).

                                                  A key trick is to not overload the pie. Just enough sauce and cheese, and additional ingredients. Raw veggies are a no-no. Sautee them off to get rid of the moisture, or else you might end up with a small puddle of water on your pie, a soggy ick.

                                                  After you master peeling your pie onto the stone (which is not difficult), the next thing is to make sure that after a few minutes you move the pizza one more time to let the initial steam escape. After that, your job is done.

                                                  Mine cook in about 7-9 minutes at around 475. It's a rustic treat with a crisp, chewy dough. This is all making me hungry.