Burning Cornmeal on Screens

Hi all. New problem recently came up at one of our stores. We do a hand-tossed pizza stretched out over a layer of cornmeal on the table and place them onto pizza screens and into our conveyor oven.

However, it appears the cornmeal has been sticking to our oil seasoned screens and is becoming burned and charred from successive uses. This is imparting a sour after taste the the underside of our pizzas and leaving them rather brown and dark colored. I have not encountered this problem before at other stores with similar preparation methods.

Any ideas on how to prevent this from happening? Pizzas were horribly sticking to the screens prior to us treating them with an oil brush and running them through the oven a half dozen times. The pizzas no longer stick and the screens do not require any more oiling or PAM before screening the pizza, but the cornmeal deposits are remaining on the screens. Obviously washing the screens is not an option as it will ruin the seasoning of the screens. Suggestions?

  1. You need to bake your recently oiled screens several times b4 using them …

  2. Seriously consider using the new hardcoated disks now out…quite expensive, but far more durable and long lasting than screens…easy to maintain…

The screens were oiled and treated several months ago and were run through about half a dozen times before being used. They appear relatively dry now but still have encrusted cornmeal about the screens which is now beginning to become charred and burned.

We wash our screens every night. We don’t let them soak, but we wash them. I think your screens could probably just use a wash, and then run them through the oven again. It sounds like the screens had TOO much oil on them, and it really didn’t season, but just gunked up.

I’m thinking about getting a small wire or nylon “fingernail” brush and cleaning them with that. I think exposing them to water will make pizzas stick to them again.

So when you wash them you run them through the oven again? just one time through for drying?

Well, we clean them every night, mine are still black from the carbon build up. But we only clean them once a night. We let them air dry over night. But if you had to get them dry, I would run them through the oven (have done that) We are going to have to start seasoning some new screens… A lot of ours are getting football-ish in shape.

If you have goo that is sticking to the cornmeal, then your ‘film’ needs to be carbonized more. Just like good cast iron, the seasoning is a hard carbonized layer, and not gooey. I would think that the suggestion that the oil was either too heavy, or under seasoned would be close. Put them in the conveyor oven on a higher temp for a run or two, and see if that helps.

I just put mine into the deck oven for an hour or two, and they are goo free.

We ran all the screens through the conveyor at 600 for 30 minutes. Had quite a bit of smoke, just as we did when we first seasoned them. I realized the small screens were the worst because they became oily again due to us making cheesy bread on them. The smoke finally cleared when nothing was left to burn of. The screens came out of the oven and still had the cornmeal on them, but almost cemented to the screen now. Nothing came off after dropping the screens a few times. However, when you rub your hand across a screen it becomes covered in carbon soot. I think this may have made them worse. We tried washing one screen and it didn’t make much of an improvement.

We just cooked two pizzas, one on the washed screen and one on the unwashed screen and they both seemed to come out fine. No sticking and no notable unpleasant tastes. You can see the fine carbon powder on the underside of the pizzas but it didn’t seem strong enough to significantly detract from the taste of the pizza itself. And I’m assuming that after each screen is used a few times and more of the carbon soot is removed, it should improve.

Hummm, that’s a good one. I’ve not encountered a sour taste from burned corn meal, but there is a slight bitterness. Most operators don’t mind a bit of burned corn meal on the bottom of their pizza as it “comes with the territory”, and it adds an extra level of “crackle” to the pizza which gives the perception of additional crispiness to the crust. If you want to control the burning you might want to look into using one of the solid or perforated baking disks from Llodd Pand <www.lloydpans.com> AKA Pizza Tools <www.pizzatools.com>. The solid disk will totally contain the corn meal so you don’t end up with it all over the inside of the oven (you should be cleaning the fingers regularly when using corn meal on open screens). Depending upon your baking temperature, you might be able to reduce the temperature slightly while extending the baking time to see if that will reduce the charring of the corn meal. The disks from Lloyd Pans have an anodized finish so they don’t need to be seasoned, and they can be safely washed. The finish is also a non-stick finish so you won’t have a problem with corn meal sticking to the disks either.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Same here. We RINSE (no soap) our screens each night, then they’re dry in the AM.
No corn meal to deal with, but this prevents flour building up and burning off…

when you’re rich, the screens from Pizza Tools are real sweet…I used 2 use regular screens…had some problems like yours, plus the scrrens fell apart from time 2 time…

At CiCI’s the use the anodized screens…man are the bullet-proof!!!

When I left, I bought new disks…man, are they expensive, but no sticking pies, no mess, no fuss…

In the long haul, a very good investment…

Which ones are the “solid disks”? The non-perforated baking trays? The cutter pans?

The solid pans are the black, anodized finish pans without any holes. The “cutter” pans are normally a bright, spun aluminum without the black, anodized finish. They actually bake very well, and do a good job of controlling the corn meal in an air impingement oven.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor