Author Topic: Why use pizza screens??  (Read 9191 times)

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Offline IRHusker

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Why use pizza screens??
« on: May 11, 2006, 09:38:34 AM »
Hello all!  I've been reading this forum for a while now and decided to participate as I am not sure of purpose of screens.  I read where they will help cook the bottom of the crust better but are they use with a stone?  It seems that they wouldn't be needed if you are placing the pizza directly on a stone.  Am I missing something? 

Sorry for the lame question, I'm very much a beginner at making pizzas.

Thanks!


Offline Fio

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2006, 10:20:30 AM »
If you use a stone, then you don't cook with the screen.  However, I always use screens for letting the pizzas cool.  If you take a hot pizza from the oven and put it on a pan, then the crust will soften due to the "sweat" that condenses on the pan.  This does not happen if you cool the pizza on a screen.   Actually, the BEST way to do it is place the screen on top of a cake cooling rack (small 9X9 wire rack) which will put the screen 1/2" off the floor and allow more air circulation as the pizza cools.  Result: Less loss of crispiness.   :chef:

The only time I cook with a screen is if I'm making a BIG pizza that's bigger than my stone.  I rarely do this, because the screen is so big that I can barely fit it into my oven.  :o
Since joining this forum, I've begun using words like "autolyze" and have become anal about baker's percents.  My dough is forever changed.

Offline Ratowns

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2006, 11:55:08 AM »
Thanks Fio. That makes a lot of sense to me. I was wondering the same thing but had never asked. I'm a newbie at pizza making having only made 6 pizza's in my life. This website is so helpful. I have purchased a stone and my peel was delivered today. I'm cocked, locked and ready to rock.
Thanks to ALL who's articles I have read. Your help is muchly appreciated.
 :chef:

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2006, 12:12:09 PM »
IRHusker,

I very frequently use a combination of screen and stone to make pizzas, especially in making pizzas that are larger than my stone. I dress the pizza on the screen, bake the pizza for several minutes on the center or upper oven rack position until the top crust starts to brown and the cheeses start to bubble, and then transfer the pizza from the screen onto the pizza stone, which is preheated at high oven temperature for about an hour.  The pizza remains on the stone for few minutes, or until the pizza is done. This final step increases the bottom crust browning and crisping, and since the pizza is firm and rigid at this point it doesn't matter that it is larger than the stone. Using this approach, I have made pizzas up to 18", the largest my oven can accommodate.

Some pizza operators also use a combination of screen and stone--such as the deck of an oven. The pizza is baked mostly on the screen, which is directly on the stone, and then the pizza is moved onto the stone of the deck oven for a final few minutes. This is called "decking" the pizza. Using a screen in this instance also reduces the likelihood of mishaps getting the pizzas into the oven. An additional advantage of using the screen/deck oven combination is that it allows the pizza operator to use some sugar in the dough. Otherwise, the sugar can cause the crust to brown excessively or prematurely before the rest of the pizza is done. Using the screen imposes a barrier between the pizza and stone and mitigates or prevents excessive or premature browning. I have tested this approach in my home oven and it works. Most pizza operators who use screens use them in impingement conveyor ovens. With proper control of the top and bottom bake parameters, they can often produce results that are similar to pizzas baked in deck ovens, especially crisping up the bottom crust. In a home setting, it is more difficult to get exactly comparable results, although by playing with the bottom heating element it is possible to get reasonably close.

Using a screen also allows you to bake a pizza faster than on a stone because it is only necessary to heat the oven air to the desired bake temperature, which takes only minutes to do. For a stone, you usually need to preheat the stone for about an hour. The shorter bake time using the screen can be an advantage in the summer when most people do not want to crank up the oven and stone to make pizzas. With the screen, the oven also cools off faster than when a stone is used.

I might add that screens are far cheaper than stones, or even tiles. A 16" screen costs only a few dollars and it can be used to make pizzas 16" or less in size. Ideally, one should own both a stone (or tiles) and one or more screens.

Peter
« Last Edit: May 23, 2006, 10:12:53 AM by Pete-zza »

Offline IRHusker

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2006, 01:28:50 PM »
IRHusker,

which is preheated at high oven temperature for about an hour. 

Pete - I think that is one of the problems that I am having.  I'm preheating for only about 20 minutes to 500 and the crust just doesn't get cripsy and everything(cheese) else seems to be more then done.  What happens if I preheat for an hour then turn the oven temp down to lower the air temp?  Would that help to cook the crust and not over cook the toppings?

Pete - I tried to use your same day Nea recipe for the dough.  The problem I had was that there didn't seem to be enough water and olive oil to absorb the flour.  I think it was roughly 1 1/4 c flour and 3/8 c water with a bit of EVOO.  I use a bread maker to mix it and I must be doing something wrong.  I'm also unclear as to how the percentages work.  Flour was shwon at 100%.  Is that always the case and everything else is listed as a percentage of the flour content?  If I remember right the water was listed as 56% but it didn't seem right(becasue I have no idea what I'm doing).  56% of what?   The 3/8 c of water is not 56% of the 1 1/4 cup flour.   If there is a post that covers this can someone please direct me to it.  It seems like good info to know.

Offline billneild

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2006, 02:00:33 PM »
Pete is the king, but I will stick my 2 cents in...

The percentages refer to weight where the flour is 100% and everything else is worked off that.  For example, if you had 10oz. of flour and were making a dough with a 63% hydration (water) factor, then you would use 6.3 oz. of water.  If you get a cheap digital scale you can be very precise about this and it will let you become very consistent in your measurements.  If you go by volume you will have a problem since flour can be all over the place in terms of volume.  People who bake a lot can tell by the feel if the amount of water is correct in making the dough, but that takes quite a bit of experience.

As to the preheating time you are not letting the stone get hot enough.  The stone has significant thermal mass.  Think of an adobe house with thick walls.  The sun bakes it all day so it can release the heat at night.  Your stone has to absorb the oven heat and it takes signifcant time.  However, once hot it will tend to stay hot and provide that "baked from the bottom effect.  That's why hearth baked breads have that crunchy crust.  If you do not let it get hot in the first place it simply wicks the heat away from the pizza and defeats teh whole purpose of the stone.  If you don't let it get hot you would be better off not using a stone at all.  I have used the following successfully.  1. Turn your oven on as high as you can get it, having positioned the stone in the lower third.  2.  Allow the oven to get all the way to its top temp.  3.  Wait at least 30 min. to 1 hour more.  4.  THEN Bake the pizza directly on the stone.  Depending on your oven and how thick your pizza is it should cook in 5-8 minutes.  Check the bottom after 4 minutes using your peel.  I look for a mottled brown to dark brown.  Use cornmeal to allow the pizza to slide off the peel if you want a stinking mess or use parchment paper if you want it to go easy.  If you use a pizza screen the bottom will not get as crispy or brown, but that's a matter of taste.

Good luck.

Bill

Offline enchant

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2006, 03:11:25 PM »
Would that help to cook the crust and not over cook the toppings?

I think that if you preheat the stone sufficiently, you'll find that the pizza crust cooks a lot faster, and you'll be able to take the pizza out before the toppings overcook.

Fio,

When my pizza is finished and I take it off the stone, I put it directly onto an oak cutting board.  Might I be getting the same sweating problem?  I typically put it on the board, slice it up, and serve it.  Should I be giving it some "drying out" time?  If so, how long?

I don't have a screen that I could use for it, but I wonder if I could just put it on my stove top.  I have an extra set of grates in the center of the stove that are level with the cooking grates (see below).
« Last Edit: May 11, 2006, 03:20:14 PM by enchant »
--pat--

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2006, 04:25:36 PM »
IRHusker,

Bill has correctly addressed the issues you raised in your earlier post. Working with volumes and converting weights to volumes always poses problems until you get to the point where you can tell by "feel" whether the dough is "right", or you start using a scale. Even I, with an accurate digital scale, constantly tweak the ingredients (mainly flour and water) to compensate for all the factors that influence the final results. Slavishly following instructions may get you close to where you want to be but you often have to make modifications to get to the precise place. Once you get there, it becomes much easier thereafter.

If you need help with baker's percents, let me know. There is a fair amount of information on and off of the forum on that topic.

Peter

Offline Fio

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2006, 10:11:30 AM »

Fio,

When my pizza is finished and I take it off the stone, I put it directly onto an oak cutting board.  Might I be getting the same sweating problem?  I typically put it on the board, slice it up, and serve it.  Should I be giving it some "drying out" time?  If so, how long?

I don't have a screen that I could use for it, but I wonder if I could just put it on my stove top.  I have an extra set of grates in the center of the stove that are level with the cooking grates (see below).

The stove top would work better than nothing; I would invest in a couple screens.  They're cheap and very useful.

As for drying time, I would give them 5-10 minutes to both cool and dry.
Since joining this forum, I've begun using words like "autolyze" and have become anal about baker's percents.  My dough is forever changed.

Offline enchant

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2006, 10:15:18 AM »
The stove top would work better than nothing; I would invest in a couple screens.  They're cheap and very useful.

As for drying time, I would give them 5-10 minutes to both cool and dry.

Damn... Just yesterday I journeyed to a kitchen warehouse place for some crushed tomatoes.  I noticed that they had a good selection of pizza screens, but I didn't think to pick one up.  Oh well...  Next time.

But I'll try the stove top method anyways.  Thanks!
--pat--


Offline Jack

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2006, 11:48:30 AM »
The shorter bake time using the screen can be an advantage in the summer when most people do not want to crank up the oven and stone to make pizzas. With the screen, the oven also cools off faster than when a stone is used.

In the summer, I place some foil on the bottom of my pizza stone and drop it right on the gas barbeque grill, then cook it the same as indoors.  I only use the foil to keep the grill's grease, etc., off the bottom of the stone.  While not as controlled an environment as a kitchen oven, it works well enough to make great pizza. 

I have done this many times at our Swim and Tennis club, making 2-3 times as many pies as my family can eat and have never gone home with leftovers. <grin>

Jack

Offline billneild

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2006, 12:03:58 PM »
Jack - I'm curious. Do you only use the pizza stone or do you put tiles on the upper rack to increase thermal mass.  Also, how long do you allow the stone to heat?

Thanks for any reply.

Bill

Offline enchant

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2006, 01:26:58 PM »
Jack - I'm curious. Do you only use the pizza stone or do you put tiles on the upper rack to increase thermal mass.

Upper rack?  I've got three gas grills (one waiting to be taken to the dump), and none of them have an "upper rack".  Is this a common feature?  Two of my grills have mini-racks attached to the cover that I use to warm up hamburger buns, but nothing that would support a stone of any kind.
--pat--

Offline Jack

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2006, 01:36:22 PM »
Bill,

I only use a pizza stone, with no additional mass, just as I do in my home oven.  I guess I should have mentioned that the grills I use are the large, rectangular covered type, so they hold the heat pretty well.  I’m sure there is a major air temperature swing when I open the cover, but I doubt it affects the stone or cooking much.

Ideally, the stone would see the same warm up time on the grill as it does in the oven, maybe longer due to the aluminum foil, but with the high demand for the grills at the pool, sometimes I start as quickly as 30 minutes.  At home I allow 45-60 minutes.   My stone is a 16 inch (overpriced & bought at a “party”) Magic Chef Pizza stone.  Using more mass would require more warm up time.  Now you have me wondering.  I may just have to use a thermocouple to verify the stone temperature in the oven versus the grill, to confirm warm up times.  Yes, I am an Enginerd!

enchant - some of the Pool's grills do have racks substantial enough to support a stone.  They pivot back with the cover, but are attached to and are of the same construction as the main grill rack.  Most that I've seen are as you describe; a warming rack hung from the cover.

Jack

Offline billneild

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2006, 09:33:45 PM »
Jack & Enchant - The warming rack was what I was referring to.  I purchased a couple of 10 inch quarry tiles to put up there, but have not had a chance to try the whole gas grill pizza thing yet.  It was 40 degrees yesterday!  We live a few miles from Lake Ontario - next stop Canada!  This weekend may be pleasant enough to give it a whirl, or a twirl in pizza speak.  I like the idea of aluminum foil on the bottom of the stone.  It's funny, when I first asked about the idea of pizza on a grill all the reponses were "No way!" "Can't be done!"  But now I've seen several posts that say it can be done and done well.

Offline enchant

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2006, 06:51:56 AM »
Here's a picture of my grill.  There is just the warming rack at the back - maybe 5" deep.

There are holes in the enclosure for attaching a rotisserie.  It's possible I could put some sort of metal rod through there to use as a support for quarry tiles, but it would be barely two inches over the pizza.  I can't imagine being able to get it off the peel.
--pat--

Offline deb415611

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2006, 07:02:33 AM »
Enchant,

Check this thread out    http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3035.0.html

there was a grill that had been modified with a larger rack.  I know I always take the smalll racks off because they always rust & I never use but am thinking about seeing if I can find one that will fit in the holes on my grill to try this out.  I bought some quarry tiles last week. 

Deb

Offline enchant

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2006, 07:17:22 AM »
Thanks, Deb. I could probably make the mods to do something like that, but I'm curious...

What happens if you simply omit the overhead tiles?  Isn't the casing of the grill enclosure enough?
--pat--

Offline billneild

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2006, 09:08:33 AM »
Enchant - My grill's warming rack is hinged to the top in a way that swings it out over the center, more or less, of the grilling surface when the lid is closed and swings back as the lid is opened.  I intend to try making pies with and without the tiles.  If there is essentially no difference I will omit them.  The theory on the additional mass is that the lid will allow too much heat to escape for purposes of cooking the top of the pizza unless you add some sort of stored heat above the pizza.  From what this thread reveals this may not be the case.  Some of the gas grills have double walled lids that might keep more heat in than a single wall grill.  It's the same idea as double-paned windows I suppose.  In any event, we should all try this experiment and report back with results.  Keep track of your variables; warm up time, cooking time, type of grill, etc.

Bill

Offline enchant

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Re: Why use pizza screens??
« Reply #19 on: May 25, 2006, 09:25:17 AM »
My brother rescued a discarded grill from the dump for me that I'm going to modify to fit over my campfire.  It's got a window in the front so I can keep an eye on the pizza.  I figure that would be a better idea than to open the top and let the heat out.  There's another thread dedicated to that, and I'll be posting my experiment results there.
--pat--