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I wondered the same thing, how would Soapstone, or Granite for that matter, work as a hearth in a kitchen oven. I read James info on his kiln shelf, I wondered if this shelf was denser so it took more time to heat but then inversely would hold temps in the oven longer. I've seen an ad in craigslist locally for cut-to-fit Granite pizza stones for ovens, $25. I don't know if the lack of porosity of the stone would work against pizza and breads.
Enquiring minds want to know.
PS I also have been thinking about using a few stones for passive warming of prepaired food at the table, hot plates if you will. After all these ovens have plenty of space to heat a few stone pads.
I have generally heard that granite will cause trouble (you don't want to bite into a piece of it), but I have no knowledge either way on that.
Soapstone has been used for cookware for centuries, and is generally regarded as a superlative choice for pizza stones. (I believe All-Clad's stupidly expensive pizza stone is just a 13" round of soapstone with a fancy tray). I've considered getting a piece cut down for my electric oven, but recently found a local place that stocks kiln shelves, and price concerns tipped me that way.
I believe it's been well-documented that granite chips and spalls when subjected to brick oven temps making it an unsuitable floor material. I would guess that a piece of granite subjected to normal gas-oven temps ($500F) would work fine for an indeterminate time.
Chris - In my search for soapstone cutoffs, I came across a local shop selling granite and marble remnants as well as standard slabs for countertop fabrication. (He had one piece of soapstone, too small to consider). He told me it was his son who was selling the $25 granite 'pizza stones' on Craigslist.
I found a place on on the south side of Ball road just West of College. He had a cutoff just right for 2 3cm oven stones. $50 total and cut to size.. I'll bake a batch of bread or two this weekend and report back. In the conversation with the folks at the shop, I was told that the darker more homogenious stones hold up better in ovens. It was explained that the lighter veining is talc and the darker stone is serpentine, because of the differences in expansion the vein will open up over time where a stone without veins will holdup much longer.. Makes sense to me.. The serpentine is much harder than the talc..
What I ended up with was 2 20" by 16" stones. I also included in the photos a 20" by 12.5 "sink cutout" of Marble, that I use as the work surface to stretch and fold the bread dough, $0. The Marble is a nice cold surface that helps to keep the dough temps down during the initual S&F work period before transfering it to the fridge.
Nice work, Chris. Both your SS pieces can only enhance the functionality of your oven not to mention the appearance. My current plan is to procure enough soapstone (one piece?) to cover the floor of my oven prior to starting my build and incorporate a marble prep surface just like yours into the adjoining countertop. My biggest question now is whether to pay for a single floor piece or go with separate pieces in case one of them eventually cracks, separates, etc.
If you decide to go SStone in your WFO I recomend pieces rather than a single piece. This stuff is heavy! I'm wondering how long it'll take to heat the stone to temp.. Like I said, I'll keep you advised.. If I got serious about adding more insulation to the oven base, an easy way to do it would be to pull the firebrick floor, add an inch of rigid insulation to the inside of the dome and the entry and put SStone over the top. I think if you try you might be able to get all of your floor in SStone for $200 or so, if you piece it.
Good advice, Chris. I'm going to see the SS guy next week and would be thrilled to pick up some 'planks' roughly 50x12". I don't care if they don't match, but will try to get pieces without fissures, irregularities, etc. I wonder how 3/4" SS vs 1 1/4" will differ in performance. My floor insulation is 2" of Insblok 19 on top of 3 1/2" of 8:1 vermicrete so my plan is to place the SS directly on top of my 2 2/12" firebrick floor. $200 is what I expected to pay.
I like the 3cm size over the 2cm, I'm sure the 3cm stuff will float over support and still be tough enough to deal with a log thrown on the fire. Additionally, if the SStone is your floor directly over insulation I think you'll be happier with 50% more thermal mass than the 2cm will provide. I'd hate to have you put in 2cm and find it breaks up with normal wear and tear or not have the TMass that you want...
Pay attention to your 63% oven entry height.
PS I do like the way it works in my oven.. For additional Soapstone / Firebrick info look at "http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/soapstone-vs-firebrick-13110.html"
I ran the WFO for the third and ended up with extra dough, so I ramped up the inside oven to 500F and cooked off the rest of the dough as Calzones. Sorry no pictures.. The Calzones are easy to make up and freeze. Easy left-overs! I do love the soapstone surface in the oven. It's easy to clean and holds the heat up in the oven through the opening and closing of the door. The inside oven is a whole new tool in a really good way.
John, I think you're going to love the soapstone surface. I'm still resolved to try a 20 by 16 piece in the WFO just to see where it takes me. I don't really know if I had the WFO fitted out in SStone if I'd really find it a problem with bread. When I do bread in the kitchen oven I preheat to the temp that I want and skip the pre-heat to a higher temp and turn down the oven thing. The Reinheart hearthbread recipe would want me to pre-heat the oven up to 500 and then turn down to 450 after putting in the dough. I'm finding that I'm happier preheating to 450 and not adjusting. The IR thermometer shows the stone spot on at 450 :-) and the oven doesn't swing much from this. I guess its the thermal mass regulating things.
Ah-hah! Given the heat-absorbing qualities of your SS, your gas oven management sounds pretty efficient. I think a next logical test could involve an upper tray full of firebrick (splits?), both walls and rear vertically covered with splits, and soapstone on the bottom rack. Think this would make a difference in oven spring?