Let me preface this discussion by saying the scope is home pizza
making - not commercial. So brick ovens, conveyor belts, and electric
deck ovens are not discussed.
A pizza pan's purpose in life is to hold your master creation and transfer heat to it. The outcome is supposed to be a crisp crust on the bottom and is cooked through. Sounds simple, but is difficult to achieve in reality.
The venerable pizza pan comes in several flavors: steel, aluminum,
cast iron, and nonstick. We have found that the nonstick eventually
disappears and cannot stand up to metal spatulas and pizza cutters.
Another way pizza pans are constructed is they are two pieces of metal
held together with an air gap in between. The idea is better (i.e. more
even) heat distribution. Some are made with aluminum coated steel which
heats more evenly. Some pans are anodized aluminum which is aluminum
with a hard protective coating.
The pan’s surface is smooth, perforated, or nubbed. The claim with perforated pans is the holes release moisture under the crust, allowing it to bake crisper. We have not seen a noticeable difference between perforated and non perforated. One problem with perforated pans is that cheese and sauce drip off sliced pizza and clogs up in the holes. A toothpick makes short work of the clogs. The pizza can be removed to a cutting board without any adverse effects.
Perforated pizza pan
One style of pan surface has raised bumps (called nibbles) that allow
the pizza dough air gaps underneath to let out steam and make the crust
crisper. The solution is self-defeating: in order to get a crisp crust
it must be in contact with a hot surface!
pizza pan with nubs
Aside from flat pizza pans, a deep dish pan has a few inch side on them. It is best to remove the pizza from the pan before cutting it, especially nonstick.
deep dish pizza pan
The color generally comes in silver or black. We prefer black since
it absorbs heat better.
Though most pizza pans are round, rectangular pans exist for making Sicilian pizza.
Sicilian pizza pan
A cookie sheet may be a tempting substitute for a pizza pan. Don't do it - you will be disappointed.
An iron skillet works wonders for homemade pizza.
Pizza in iron skillet
- Measure your oven to make sure the pizza pan you purchase will fit in it! Some pans are more than 16 inches in diameter which do not fit in some ovens.
- Dusting the pan with cornmeal will help keep the dough from sticking.
- Most pizza pans are dishwasher safe.
- Prick thick dough several times with a fork to let the steam out when cooking.
- Some cooks roll their dough on parchment paper then place it on the pizza pan to facilitate easy removal.