While pizza stones are pretty popular, not everyone has one. Meanwhile, a lot of different pizza pans are sold in stores, so it's worth testing at least one to see how it compares to baking directly on a stone.
I pulled out an aluminum pizza pan for this test. The pan is 14 inches in diameter and has a bit of raised edge, but otherwise is nothing special. It's made from the same sort of aluminum that many cookie sheets are made from, and I bought it from a restaurant supply store.
I never cooked pizza on this pan before this test - I'd used it for serving, though. So I didn't know what to expect before I started.
I preheated the oven empty, assuming that most folks who use aluminum pizza pans wouldn't preheat the pan. I let the oven preheat at 550 degrees for 1 hour, and then I slid the pan - and pizza - into the oven.
At the eight-minute mark the top of the pizza was obviously undercooked, cheese just beginning to melt in the center.
The underside of the pizza was pale. It was pretty obviously underdone, so I snapped a few photos and popped it back into the oven.
Two minutes later, a quick peek showed that it was still underdone. Another two minutes and the crust was a dark brown and there were some spots of charred toppings. The underside was mottled brown. Still pale, but it looked like an edible color.
The outer edges of the crust weren't bad, but beyond that, the pizza was a little bit doughy. The bottom was crisper than I expected - not at all soggy - but that wasn't enough to make the crust a complete success. It could have been a lot better.
I can see why pizza pans might have gained some popularity in terms of ease of use. Since you build the pizza in the pan that you bake on, the new baker doesn't have to worry about the pizza sticking to the peel. You can also cut the pizza in the pan (if it's sturdy enough - some scratch and dent easily) and you can serve in the pan, which is handy. Cleanup is easy, too - no peel to dust off, no cornmeal on the pizza stone, and unless your pizza is seriously messy, all drips are contained on the pan.
Despite the ease of use, the crust wasn't as good when the same recipe was baked on a cheap, thin pizza stone we tested last week. However, this pan might be more successful for other types of pizzas or different baking techniques. And it does make a nice serving tray, even for things other than pizza.
Similar pans sell for $10-$15.
If you're following along, here was Part 1.