If you haven't seen one up close and personal, a pizza screen is just what it sounds like. Mine is exactly 14 inches in diameter, and is made from expanded aluminum with a solid aluminum rim. The theory is that the screen allows the heat of the oven to hit the dough directly. I've made pizzas on a grill (directly on the grates) and I liked the result. I figured this would be similar.
As usual, I preheated the oven for an hour before baking, and I baked the pizza for exactly 8 minutes. When I took it out, I smelled a slight burning odor. When I peeked under the pizza, I saw a bit of char.
I sliced the pizza and didn't hear the distinct crunch that I'd grown used to with my most recent tests. The bottom of the pizza wasn't soggy, but it wasn't crisp, either. Slices were just a little limp.
When I turned over the first slice for a photo, it was evenly browned, but lighter than I expected based on my earlier peeking.
But of course, the pizza cooked unevenly because the heat was so direct from the heating element. There were some slices that were much darker on the bottom.
I've got to say that this wasn't terrible pizza. the crust wasn't crisp, but it was well cooked, not doughy. It reminded me of leftover pizza where the crust had lost its crunch and gone soft. Some people prefer a softer crust, so this might be the best option for them.
On the plus side, a screen makes pizza handling easy since there's no need to shuffle a pizza off of a peel. You place the dough on the screen, top it, and slide the whole thing into the oven. The other plus is that screens are cheap.
While I used the screen as the sole cooking surface, there's no reason why you couldn't use a screen to contain and transport the pizza, but place the screen on a heated stone for cooking. Gee, I wonder what I should test next?
Similar screens sell for under $10.
About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.