Pizza in Oven : Bottom/Mid/Top
I make pizza in a baking tray in my oven. My question is where do I place my baking tray in the oven, the bottom top or middle?
The resources I have seen so far on the internet are far too ambiguous. For instance, Yahoo Answers have given many different answers to the same question.
Pretty Basic one. I can't find a specimen so I'll just give you details : 3 racks (top/mid/bottom), 250C max temperature and about 20 inches x 20inches.
I'd generally say bottom, because the dough should become slightly or moderately crusty while the cheese only melts and doesn't dry out. But, as others have said, it depends on the type of oven you use (gas, electric, with convection, without convection etc etc)
Another consideration is what you're cooking the pizza on ... a stone's going to release more heat to the pizza, but shouldn't be near a broiler; a dark sheet pan is going to absorb more energy than a shiny light-colored sheet pan so you want to place it closer to the top of the oven; I've never tried the 'baking screens' so I don't where to put one of those relative to other options.
Ideally, of course, you'd be baking your pizza on a baking stone, which you would heat to 500F for 1/2 hour before putting the pizza in the oven. However, you asked about baking a pizza in a metal pan.
In general, you want to get as much radiant heat into the bottom crust as possible in order to make sure the crust is fully cooked and not soggy. This means that in an oven with a bottom baking element (whether gas or electric) you want your oven rack in the bottom position. Again, make sure the oven is thouroughly heated to 500F (250C) (or more, if it'll go higher) before you put the pizza in.
If you have a top-heating oven, things get a bit more complicated. You'll need to somehow ensure that the bottom of the crust gets cooked, which won't happen if you just put the pizza in the oven, regardless of position. There's a couple of different ways to take care of this:
- Blind-bake the crust until halfway done, flip it, put the toppings on top and finish it,
- Do the pizza in a cast-iron pan first on the stove top, finishing in the oven.
In either case, with a top-heating oven, you want to put the rack close to the element ... in the middle or top position, so that the pizza is only about 2-3 inches (5-8cm) away from the element.
I've never heard of ovens with only one heating element. All the ones I have seen have both top and bottom elements, and they can be turned on and off separately. Are single-element ovens popular where you live? Also, wouldn't the top also risk to become soggy, seeing that there is wet sauce on it? I would bake it in the middle, at highest heat from both sides.
For gas ovens, bottom-burner only is quite common. Generally, though, there's also a separate broiler. The top-element only thing is actually new to me, but there were a couple questions on SA about cooking in them, from which I presume that top-element-only ovens are a common thing in cheap apartment ovens in some parts of the world. As are, apparently, ovens with no thermostat. If your oven does have a bottom element, that's what you want to use for pizza, even if there is a top element available as well.
Oh, I see what you're asking. No, you want the bottom of the crust to cook first. In general, pizza toppings tend to give off moisture as they cook, so you want the crust to be already rising before that happens. Hence, cooking from the bottom.
OK - I have seen gas stoves, but never gas ovens. I've never seen a real oven with a top element only (although I have seen a toasting/grilling mini-oven of this type, but it is too low to replace a real oven, it is meant to replace a broiler). I don't remember a question about an oven with a top element only, but maybe I have forgotten it.
Gas ovens are bad for baking anyways sinc burning the gas introduces loads of water into the oven which wont't make a great pizza regardless where you place it.
Serious Eats compared the results of cooking six of the same pizza crusts on different racks of the oven. The oven was set to 560F, with the heating element on the bottom. The pizza stone was preheated for 45 mins, and other precautions were taken to make sure that the results were not biased (ie: the stone was taken out of the oven between testings for 30 mins, to allow for temp differences between the different racks).
The results showed that: -Pizza's cooked on the highest rack will have over-cooked toppings- no good. -Pizza's cooked on the middle rack will have over-cooked bottoms- no good. -Pizza's cooked on the bottom rack will have burnt bottoms- very bad.
Generally, they concluded that the rack in-between the middle and top (known as the 'upper rack') will produce the best results.
Cook pizza on bottom rack, then check half-way before it is done. If it looks like the pizza crust is very close to being done, but the toppings are not, then move the pizza up a rack or two or more, so the crust will stop cooking and to allow more time for the toppings to finish cooking. You might even need to reduce your oven temp at this time too. For an example: If you have it set to 550F, reduce it to 450F until toppings are done.
Please note the question...You shouldn't have to be moving your pizza around in the oven or play with the heat! That's why people are asking this question, so they don't have to do this. Set oven to highest setting. Place on top rack and depending on fresh or par baked crust and amount of toppings, see how this works. At most, you might have to drop the next pizza down to the upper rack.(just below the top rack) Variables.....Amount of toppings, thickness of crust, type and style of oven. In short: Highest heat, start at top and work your way down till your pizza comes out to your liking.