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  • Pizza Baking Steel

    Anyone out there tried one of these?

    "http://"stoughtonsteel.com/shop/baking-steel/

    they are recommended in the new Modernist Cuisine book as the best way to cook pizza in the oven. The folks at "slice" website (dedicated to pizza) rave about it

    "http://"slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2012/09/the-pizza-lab-the-baking-steel-delivers.html

    I put the quotes around the http:// part of the links so I don't get in trouble for spamming...

    It looks like a pretty good advance in the oven cooking department. I am thinking about getting a 14" x 18" piece of steel from my local supplier as the poor mans version. But even that is $50, so I thought I'd ask here to see if anyone has tried this approach!

    Thx
    Dennis
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  • #2
    Re: Pizza Baking Steel

    Deejay,

    A guy at work said he had one of these and he quite like the performance. He is quite a good cook but he is also using this in a regular oven not a WFO so his max. temp in 500 degree F more or less. He said he like it better than his pizza stone. So since I have access to steel and plasma cutters I may try and make a proto type to try in my WFO.

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    • #3
      Re: Pizza Baking Steel

      Originally posted by UtahBeehiver View Post
      I may try and make a proto type to try in my WFO.
      Russell,

      Why would you do that in your WFO? When I saw the pictures of the crust it was disapointing until I read:

      "A traditional Neapolitan pie is baked in a wood-fired oven with a floor temperature of 700 to 800F, and an air temp that can push 1,000F near the dome. Pies cook in about 90 seconds. You need this kind of temp to get the supremely blistered, poofy, black-and-white beauties that the finest Neapolitan joints produce."

      They say it's better than the stone but it seems to me you are as good as it gets using brick.
      Last edited by Les; 12-27-2012, 07:58 PM.
      Check out my pictures here:
      http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/f8/les-build-4207.html

      If at first you don't succeed... Skydiving isn't for you.

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      • #4
        Re: Pizza Baking Steel

        Steel (and other conductive materials such as iron and soapstone) are bottom crust accelerators, specifically suitable for home ovens that can't match the bottom browning abilities of commercial deck ovens. In a non Neapolitan made WFO, where the heat balance almost always favors the bottom, steel is especially counterproductive. At typical Neapolitan temps and typical recipes, steel will give you a black undercrust and raw dough in the middle.

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        • #5
          Re: Pizza Baking Steel

          I was thinking about the steel as something to use in my inside oven, not the WFO. I agree with others that there doesn't seem to be much upside for using in the WFO.

          But for those days when I only want to cook one or two pizzas - I like to have an alternative to lighting up the oven.

          Russell - I've discovered that by using my broiler, I can get my oven much hotter. I set my stone on a rack about 6" from the broiler, and let the oven heat for 45 minutes or so. The stone will get up to 650-700 degrees. I can cook a pizza in 4 minutes or so and get nice leopard spotting on the crust/blistering on the crust. I leave the broiler on. I find it mimics the heat at the top of the dome. It's just a matter of finding the right distance from the broiler for your rack. I am thinking the steel will work even better than my existing stone.
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          • #6
            Re: Pizza Baking Steel

            Deejayoh, 1/2" steel's ideal role for the home baker is taking a 550 peak temp oven, in combination with a broiler, and getting 4 minute bakes from it. If you're exceeding 550 and getting 4 minute bakes already, I'm not sure what steel will buy you.

            As you drop below 4 minutes, it all really boils down to your broiler specs. Many broilers, because they cycle on and off, can't brown the top of the pizza in much faster than 3 minutes and some, especially on the gas side, can't do any better than 4 minutes. Moving the pizza closer to the broiler helps, to an extent, but breaking 3 minutes is a long shot. Only around 1 in 300 ovens has the necessary wattage to do Neapolitan leoparding in less than 2 minutes. We're talking a thick element with at least 10 passes.

            Personally, I don't find the jump from 4 minutes to 3 minutes that thrilling. It's sort of no man's land that's not Neapolitan, but not NY either and it tends to incorporate the worst features of both rather than the best. I can get down to 2.5 minutes with my broiler, but I still choose to work with 4-5- for NY style with malted flour.

            If you want to shoot for 3 minutes, and you're pretty sure you're broiler is up to it, steel will definitely get you there. I would go with 1/2" steel, though. Because of it's low thermal mass, 1/4" doesn't guarantee superior results to typical cordierite baking stones. In other words, 1/4" steel may not top stone you're using, which, by the bake times you're getting, sounds like a quality product. I don't know too many cordierite stones/kiln shelves that can do 4 minute bakes, even with broiler pre-heats.

            Let me guess, does your broiler stay on all the time when it's on?

            Buying steel yourself from a local supplier isn't the 'poor man's' version, it's the version of intelligent people who don't want to be ripped off by paying 2-3 times the price for the exact same thing.

            Stoughton Steel is not a reputable company. Beyond the inexcusable price gouging, they made specious claims on their website:

            Baking Steel - Create the Crust you Crave. by Andris Lagsdin — Kickstarter

            Create Neapolitan style pizza or artisan breads right at home, without investing in a brick oven.
            This is patently false. It is based upon a dated piece of information from the book Modernist Cuisine- information that Nathan Myhrvold has since corrected.

            Edit: Changed 'they make specious claims' to 'they made specious claims.' Andris has a new website where the claims have been removed. I still question the act of acquiring investment with misinformation, intentionally or not.
            Last edited by scott123; 12-29-2012, 12:19 PM.

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            • #7
              Re: Pizza Baking Steel

              Scott - good info, thanks. That is what I was looking for.

              Some background on my current process:

              - I am using cordierite stones from Sur La Table, which do work pretty well.
              - I have a gas broiler, which seems to get the oven a bit hotter than electric. And yes, it does stay on all the time.
              - I also turn on the convection blower to get the oven a bit hotter.

              I was thinking that the steel might hold heat better than the cordierite - but agree (now that you mention it) that it probably can't get any hotter. So the only real advantage might be heat holding. Which is not cheap - even if I order a raw piece of steel I think it still priced out at $40 or so. Probably not worth it as an upgrade. If I didn't already have the cordierite I think it's a cheaper way to go that may perform slightly better.
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              • #8
                Re: Pizza Baking Steel

                Yes, I believe the Sur La Table is a quality stone. A broiler that never kicks off is a huge plus as well. Consider yourself fortunate in that regard. And the convection fan will go a long way in decreasing top bake times. That's a very solid setup for NY.

                Other than investing in steel, you might want to try moving up the stone another shelf. If you can go from 6" to 3" that will allow you to pre-heat the stone hotter with the broiler and intensify the heat from above during the bake. The vertical space will be a bit cramped to launch into, but with a little practice, it shouldn't be too difficult.

                You really can't go too wrong with a 4 minute bake, though.

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                • #9
                  Re: Pizza Baking Steel

                  deejayoh,
                  I have a metal supply about 20 miles away and they sell the cut off, remainder, pieces at $0.89 so I decided to pickup a piece. My oven will handle 16" x 22" inches on a shelf and still allow an inch of space on all sides for air movement. I found a 16" by 19" piece of 1/4" sheet of steel and it weighed in at 21 lbs. This is not fancy stainless just plain old steel. I took my electric orbital sander and softened the edges and corners, threw it in the dishwasher on the heavily soiled program, scrubbed it with an abrasive pad to clear the rust and whatever else might have been left, dried it, oiled it, and baked it for several hours to season the oil into/onto the surface. I reheated a pepperoni pie for my son at 425F, but haven't pushed into the 500F+ zone with a fresh pie.

                  The steel and seasoning performed perfectly as far as I've gone. For $20 it may become a future Christmas item, I'll bet I can get the cost down to $15 retail. :-)

                  Chris

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                  • #10
                    Re: Pizza Baking Steel

                    I'm inspired to try this. I found a better metal shop (read, more industrial) than the one I have been going to which is more likely to sell this sort of cutoff. I'll be visiting because I am planning to weld the frame for a new patio table this spring.
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                    • #11
                      Re: Pizza Baking Steel

                      Sorry Deejayoh that I don't have pictures for you. I can say, the steel really pumps heat to pizza well over what my granite use to do.. I swapped out ovens so I can't compare it to the soapstone I use to have in the oven.. I've moved from the granite to a 1" Cordierite Kiln Shelf in anticipation of baking more baguettes and the Cordierite is more consistent with hearth breads. The steel plate really puts the heat to pizza and does a better job of browning the crust quickly, the Cordierite will delay the browning of the bread, at least this is the theory. I hope to do some baking and have photos this weekend.

                      Chris

                      PS I don't see the steel as any sort of replacement for the WFO and the 700F plus temps other than when you want to do a very limited number of pizzas and nothing else.
                      Last edited by SCChris; 03-28-2013, 09:58 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Pizza Baking Steel

                        Originally posted by SCChris View Post
                        PS I don't see the steel as any sort of replacement for the WFO and the 700F plus temps other than when you want to do a very limited number of pizzas and nothing else.
                        Yep. Leftover dough + No time to light oven = making pizza in the oven for me!
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                        • #13
                          Re: Pizza Baking Steel

                          Easter didn't afford me the time that I'd expected, sorry no update on the steel. :-(

                          Dejayoh, I had a thought regarding this though, two steel plates should provide even better results than the single steel. The idea is that a second plate placed over the pizza would cook the top better. I often run across the cooking protocol of "pre-heat the oven to its hottest setting with the pizza stone on the highest shelf, when the pizza is on the stone switch to the broiler to cook the pizza top while heat stored in the stone cooks the bottom. Some of the frankenweber style pizza devices run with a very low ceiling to promote cooking from the top. I’ll drop by my metal supply place and pickup another plate to test.

                          Chris

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                          • #14
                            Re: Pizza Baking Steel

                            With 2 balls of dough and a hungry son I had the opportunity to give the steel a go.

                            Chris
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                            • #15
                              Re: Pizza Baking Steel

                              Just subscribing...
                              "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

                              "Success isn't permanent and failure isn't fatal." -Mike Ditka
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