Homemade pizza starts with a yeast-based dough and fresh toppings. Once you've got these bases covered, it's time to think about the equipment. A pizza stone or pizza peel is the traditional equipment for baking pizzas, but metal pans with holes work almost as well. In addition to their low cost and ease of maintenance, these pans can play double duty. Use them for breads and cookies, as well as pizzas.
Pizza Pans 101
Most professional pizza-makers use pizza stones or pizza screens to bake pizzas. Pizza stones wick moisture from the dough, creating a crisp, but tender crust. Unfortunately they are somewhat expensive and they need special care and storage. Pizza screens are sheets of metal with tiny grids. A pizza cooked on a pizza screen browns evenly on both the top and bottom, but pizza screens aren't generally available to home bakers. Enter the perforated pizza pan. These pans are usually round and made of aluminum or aluminum-coated steel. They're lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to clean and store, yet they offer many of the advantages of a pizza screen. The holes allow moisture to escape so the bottom of the pizza cooks evenly.
Using a Perforated Pizza Pan
To use a perforated pizza pan to make homemade pizza, spray the pan with nonstick spray before you place the dough on the pan. Hold the pan over the sink when you do this because some of the oil will go through the holes, misting floors and surfaces. Sprinkle flour or cornmeal on the countertop and roll the dough out before you put it in the pan. If the dough shrinks back, cover it with a towel and let it rest an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully peel the dough off the counter top and lay it on the pizza pan. Don't stretch it out on the pan because it will shrink back during cooking and the dough will get stuck in the holes. Add the sauce and toppings and you're ready to bake it.
Bake It Up
Pizza restaurants have special ovens heated to 700 degrees Fahrenheit or more, but at home, the best you can do is probably 450 or 500 F. This temperature may seem high, but it cooks the crust quickly so pizzas turns out crisp and chewy. Preheat the oven for at least 20 to 30 minutes before you put the pizza in and watch it closely. Pizzas baked on perforated pans cook quickly. Place the pizza on the lowest rack to brown the bottom of the pizza and set the timer for eight to 10 minutes. At this point, you can move the pizza to the top rack to brown the cheese, but watch it closely so it doesn't burn. Perforated pizza pans are made for high heat and won't warp or crack.
Time to Eat
Once the pizza's done, remove it from the oven and set the pan on a cooling rack. Allow the pizza to cool for 10 minutes so the cheese sets up. In most cases, you can slice the pizza directly on the pan. If the pan is a nonstick type, though, transfer the pizza to a large cutting board so you don't damage the pan's surface.
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Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."