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Pizza Screens

Published January 2011

How we tested

To produce great pizzeria-style crust at home—well browned, crisp, and just a bit chewy—we usually turn to the blasting heat of a pizza stone, which we place 3 to 5 inches from the top of the oven to ensure that both the top and bottom of the pie cook quickly. But when we heard raves about the thin, perforated metal disks called pizza screens, we wondered if using them would allow us to skip preheating the heavy slab as well as the always-tricky step of transferring the pie from the pizza peel into the oven. They certainly had price ($4 to $20) and lightweight convenience (a few ounces) going for them—but would they actually turn out a decent crust?

The short answer is no. Though the screen did ease a few pizza-making logistics—building the pie on the disk ensured a perfectly round circle, and moving it in and out of the oven was a breeze—the results were subpar. We ran two tests, baking the pies directly on the oven rack and on a preheated stone, but in both cases the screens prolonged the cooking time and the pizzas (while nicely browned) emerged unappealingly hard and crackerlike.

But if the perforations allow steam to escape so that the crust can crisp up, why were our pies baking up stiff and tough? The explanation was twofold: First, the screens simply didn’t get anywhere near the 500-degree mark of a stone, so the crust cooked slower and dried out. Second, the perforations allowed steam to escape from the dough, and the evaporating moisture prevented the crust from getting hotter than the boiling point of 212 degrees—a process called evaporative cooling. With that in mind, we’ll skip the screens and stick with our favorite pizza stone.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.