January 1, 2016 |

The Dough Doctor talks pizza pans and mixers

By Tom Lehmann

It’ll All Pan Out

round pizza pan

Q: I’m beginning to put my business plan together for opening a pizzeria sometime next year and I have a question regarding which pans and screens you would recommend using.

A: When it comes to pans you have options of steel or aluminum. My preference tends to lean more towards the aluminum option (14-gauge) because it is sufficiently durable and doesn’t have the propensity to rust as the steel pans do. With that said, there are some blued steel pans available that seem to resist rusting quite well if properly cared for. Then there is the decision of dark anodized finish or bright finish. In almost all cases I think you will be better served by the dark, anodized finish pans. They will provide a better and faster bake than the bright finish pans. Sure, you can season the bright finish pans to give them a dark finish, but the seasoning can be messy to apply/develop as it involves literally baking oil onto the pans, and it sure isn’t very durable. The biggest enemy of seasoned pans is water. If the seasoned pans are allowed soak in hot, soapy water the seasoned finish will soon begin to peel off like a bad sunburn and the only solution is to then strip off all of the old seasoning and start all over again with pre-seasoning the pan(s), giving you a mix of darker, more aged seasoned pans and light golden colored, recently seasoned pans with different baking properties. The dark anodized finish pans are all but immune to hot soapy water so there is little chance of damage to the finish if the pans are allowed to soak for an extended period of time.


Q: What do you think of the spiral mixers for use in a pizzeria?

A: Actually, I couldn’t think of a better mixer for use in a pizzeria for mixing dough. The operative words being “for mixing dough.” While spiral design mixers are great mixers, having a rather large capacity with a small foot print means they can mix doughs down to as small as 25 percent of bowl capacity. They seem to do their work effortlessly and with minimal maintenance.

What is there not to like about a spiral mixer, then? Well, for starters they don’t have an attachment head, so the mixer cannot double as a cheese shredder, meat grinder or vegetable slicer. They do just one thing: mix dough. If you like to use your planetary mixer to blend your sauce, the spiral mixer will need to sit that one out, too, since they don’t come with a flat beater.

Also, on many of the smaller spiral mixers, the bowl is permanently attached to the mixer. It has to be cleaned in place, scrubbed out, bailed out, sanitized, bailed out, and wiped dry at the end of each day. This is not a deal breaker, but something you need to be aware of.

So, it all boils down to what do you want to use your dough mixer for? Like I said, it is hard to beat a spiral mixer, but it does have its limitations. Now, if I were going to upgrade my existing planetary design mixer I would be highly tempted to keep my planetary mixer for all the tasks except for dough mixing, and then get a spiral design mixer just for dough mixing. I might go so far as to say that that would be the best of both worlds as far as mixers in a pizzeria are concerned. On the other hand, if I were working with a prepared sauce, and pre-shredded/diced/sliced cheese, I might be highly tempted to look very closely at a spiral design mixer.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad: unless you are going to spring for a new mixer, spiral design mixers might be a bit more difficult to find on the used/rebuilt equipment market. Planetary mixers, on the other hand, are so wide spread and have been used in so many different applications that they are down-right plentiful on the used equipment market.

You can’t go wrong with either type of mixer, but you do need to know their advantages and limitations to determine how each will fit into your kitchen operation.

Tom Lehmann  is a former director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas and Pizza Today’s resident dough expert.