A few weeks back, I tried to buy a pizza screen with visions of being able to make my pizzas larger (they do not shrink up when made on a screen like they do when prepped on a peel). I purchased an 18 inch pizza screen from The Restaurant Store, a local restaurant supply store. To my dismay, the screen did not fit in my oven! Discouraged, I put the screen away and waited for a chance to go back for a smaller one.
Last weekend, I went back to The Restaurant Store and purchased a 16 inch pizza screen, which I knew would fit. Tonight was the first batch of dough I had the opportunity to try it with! I stretched out a normal sized dough ball on the counter. To achieve 16 inches, I actually had to get things pretty thinned out. I had read that you don’t have to season newer screens, so I simply sprayed it with cooking spray and lifted the dough blank onto the screen. Pressing down lightly on the edges of the screen, I was able to get a very nice even, round base with a bit of a lip for the crust.
To digress for a moment, I should mention that I used yet another brand of tomato product for the Neapolitan sauce today. I thought I would try Contadina brand tomato puree since the sauce I made from their paste worked out so well. The flavor was not the same as it is when I use Furmano’s. The consistency was more runny as well. I think it’s back to Furmano’s for next time.
I had removed my pizza stone from the oven earlier. After topping the pizza with half triple cheese, half pepperoni, I placed the screen with pizza directly onto the middle rack. I set the timer for about 7 minutes and watched through the window of the oven. At about 6 minutes, it looked like the toppings were cooking too fast. I opened the oven and checked the crust to see that the bottom was still not brown. At that point, I moved the pizza to the lower rack for about 2 more minutes.
When I pulled it out, it looked wonderful! There’s something awesome about seeing a 16 inch pie in your own oven! The pizza came right off the screen with my peel and I transferred it to a 16 inch serving tray. After the first bite I was very relieved to find that it tasted quite good. As I have said before, I’m not big on thinner slices, but it had a great texture and a good, chewy bite. The flavor was there and I only missed the cornmeal flavor a little bit. I would call this first experiment a smashing success!
My general opinion of the screen is quite positive. The lack of cornmeal meant that my work area and oven bottom were much cleaner than usual (my wife was happy about that). I loved being able to get a huge pizza and lots of toppings on the screen without worrying about it flopping off of the peel. The cooking process was painless and the taste was outstanding. My only regret was the flavor that is added by cornmeal. I may experiment with ways to add meal while using the screen. I also plan to use more dough next time to get my pizza back to my preferred thickness. I would recommend this method to anyone for great, easy pizza baking!