Author Topic: Fibrament not getting hot enough  (Read 3362 times)

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Offline pizzacommander

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Fibrament not getting hot enough
« on: June 18, 2010, 05:40:30 PM »
I have a fibrament stone (3/4" thick) that I have mixed feelings about-

Sure it hasn't cracked in half like my past three stones (though it does have a crack, only a few months old), but after preheating for over 2 hours at 550 it doesn't so much as darken let alone char the bottom of my pizza.

My past stones were significantly less thick but they gave my pies a great char on the bottom (before they broke of course), leaving me to believe they required less time to heat up-

Anyone have any insight into this? I preheat either on the bottom rack of my gas oven or directly on the bottom of the oven floor. Preheating a stone for 2 hours (especially in this summer heat!!) is already ridiculous, do I really have to preheat even longer?

Thx!
-brooks


Offline Jackie Tran

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2010, 05:48:40 PM »
I do not own a fibrament stone but from what I've read here on the forum, it's better for bread than pizza.  Member Scott123 I believe rates soapstones best, followed by cordierite.  Fibrament is lower on the list.  He hasn't steered me wrong yet, so I trust his word. 

I have been using firebricks with some success and I do like the way it bakes.  Cheap too.  I believe you can get a brick for a buck and some
change.  Just call around your local builder's material stores.  You can make a thick pizza stone with 5-6 bricks for under $10 that bakes great pizza. 

IMO, heating material more than an hour is a waste of time and energy.  If the stone won't heat up in an hour, it likely won't heat up in 2 or 3 hours.  If you are heating it in the hottest spot of your oven already (like the floor) and it won't get you desired temps, you won't have anymore luck heating it longer. 

I've also read that some members use them and like them, so I hope they will speak up as I hear it is a good product.

scott123

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2010, 07:38:38 PM »
Here's the scientific explanation as to why your fibrament stone isn't baking your pizza quickly enough:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,5645.0.html

Now as far as a thinner, more thermally fragile (fibrament is about as fragile as you can get) pizza stone giving you better results... cordierite (old stone, pampered chef, williams sonoma, etc.) is more conductive (browns faster), but, it's a lot sturdier and shouldn't be cracking with use (unless you dropped it or took it out of the oven while hot).  The really cheap thin walmart type stones will break on a dime, but have about the same thermal characteristics as fibrament (cast refractory as opposed to fired ceramic cordierite) AND because they're so thin, they lack thermal mass. Good browning is dependent both on conductivity and thermal mass. The thinner you go, generally speaking, the more poorly the stone performs.

In other words, I'm a little stumped by these mysterious previous stones that were not only thinner, but did a better job than your current fibrament but broke. I'm curious, were you stacking stones?

Anyway, 2 hours is way overkill for pre-heating fibrament.  I would say an hour would be sufficient, but if you want to play it safe, go with 80 minutes.  That being said, because of the nature of the material, though, it's not going to give you the browning/quick cooking time that you're looking for.

If you're looking for char and good oven spring in a 550 deg. environment, nothing touches  1 1/4" soapstone slab.  It can be hard to find and extremely expensive, though.

You're next best bet is cordierite.  Google ceramic supplier and find one in your area.  Get a 1" thick cordierite kiln shelf that will fit on your oven shelf with about 1/2" to spare on all sides.

Offline sear

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2010, 09:24:44 PM »
i will add that i just purchased a 16x16 piece of soap stone for a little less than 100 shipped
even at 500 degrees it browns the bottom of the pie quickly.
weighs about 40lbs heats up in an hour or less and has about zero recovery time needed between pies
my old stone from BBB would drop at least 200 degrees after the pie came off

scott123

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2010, 10:32:07 PM »
Sear, you got your stone from

http://www.soapstones.com/

right? I remember you got a quote for $78 for the stone.  Was the shipping really less than $22? Although I might recommend a larger stone if someone were to get into NY style (NY Style, imo, is good at 16", but truly sublime at 18"), 16 x 16 for $100 shipped is reasonable.  If 18 x 18 came in at around $140, I think that would be a pretty viable deal for people without local soapstone resources.

$140 is a pretty big chunk of change, but... when you consider that $140 converts your wimpy 550 oven to match/exceed the thermal capabilities (for the most part) of deck ovens that run into the thousands, it's really not a bad investment. Now, it can't do hundreds of pies a night, but I've done four 17" pies at one sitting, and it didn't seem to blink an eye.

As sear has found out, soapstone is so conductive, that, unlike all other stones, you don't have to crank your oven to full blast to get good color/spring.  With other materials, except, to an extent, with really thick cordierite, you're cranking the heat as far as it will go and crossing your fingers that it will be enough. With soapstone, you get that window/that ability to dial up the char/down the char (within NY constraints) as much as you want.

One thing to keep in mind, though, Pizzacommander, is that, with a 550 deg. oven, soapstone will give you as much bottom heat that you'll ever need (for NY style), but, it won't solve your gas/separate broiler issue.  To get the right top heat in a gas oven without a top broiler, you could be talking two stones. If you're going that route, then I think two $60 18 x 18 (or thereabout) kiln shelves would be a better deal than $280. That is just too much cabbage.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2010, 10:43:39 PM by scott123 »

Offline sear

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2010, 10:44:16 PM »
Yes i believe the total was 94. i am in NY and it came from NJ
i see they have other locations so maybe they have pretty good shipping across the US.
my oven just fits this stone with some clearance front to back. could have gone wider but didnt feel the need unless i start selling them

Offline pizzacommander

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2010, 03:42:15 PM »
Wow thanks everyone! Considering the absurd time and effort I put into my pies, I'm looking at soapstone now. I'm pretty tiffed about dropping $60 on a fibrament stone that is so poorly conductive, but I suppose I should have researched it more before buying : (

My old stones were made by Pampered Chef, were about 1/2" thick, conducted great, but both break in the same day after 3 years of use. I have been preheating stones on the oven floor then transfering down to my broiler drawer beneath the oven, so I think I combo of sitting on the oven floor and being pulled out at high heat caused the cracking.

Scott- just curious, is stacking stones detrimental? Occasionally I'll use old cracked stones to elevate my primary stone closer to the broiler. Bad idea?

Thanks!
-Brooks

scott123

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2010, 04:56:33 PM »
Yes, 1/2" cordierite will char slightly better than 3/4" fibrament. Both pale in comparison to soapstone and 1" cordierite, though.  As far as the cordierite pampered chef stones breaking on you... transferring hot stones causes substantial thermal stress (and is best to be avoided), so that probably was the culprit, but I still expect a little more longevity from cordierite than that.

As I mentioned before, the separate broiler setup definitely complicates things. You really don't want to be moving a blazingly hot 40ish pound soapstone slab around.  We've been dealing with single direction heating issues in the converted BBQ/Egg threads, and, it's extremely difficult to get the right dome/hearth heat ratio. With the heat coming from beneath, the hearth is invariably too hot and you don't get proper top browning. Out of every possible scenario, I think your best bet, although most expensive, would be two soapstone slabs. Even that doesn't guarantee you the proper ratio, though.  I think, though, that if the gap between the stones is small and if you preheat the stones and then turn the heat off for a bit for the heat to travel from the bottom to the top, you should be alright.

Another possibility- and this gets pretty experimental, is a steel slab ceiling.  Not a steel pan, something that can really hold a lot of heat (1/2" thick territory). In theory, a highly conductive steel slab should be able to radiate heat down towards the pie better than soapstone.  You might experience some slight recovery issues, because the high conductivity will cause the steel to lose heat quickly, but, that same conductivity should allow it to come back up to temp in a short amount of time with the door closed/heat cranked.

That's a lot of theory, there, though.  People have been using iron pans for hearths for ages, with, if they understand the material, good results, but I don't know anyone that's gone with a metal slab ceiling.  For all of the top heat handicapped, separate broiler, gas oven owners out there, though, this could be a viable solution.

Lastly, as I was typing this, one other potential top heat solution came to me. It's probably the least elegant of the bunch, but it's the cheapest.  In a single soapstone slab scenario, you're going to want the stone on the highest shelf possible to make use of the heat radiating off the top of the oven. That scenario will give you an undercooked top, but... you could start the pie in this position until you get a good char on the bottom and then transfer it to the shelf directly below the stone to brown the top, in effect 'doming' the pie against the bottom of the stone. The closer you get the pie to the stone, the better- if the position of the shelf gives you too much of a gap, use a metal peel and hold it in place.

Oh, and stacking stones- I think stacking is fine, although I think it's generally a good idea to match the dimensions of the bottom and the top layers so everything can heat evenly. Even heat makes for both even cooking and happier stones.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2010, 05:01:58 PM by scott123 »

Offline pizzacommander

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2010, 06:10:11 PM »
Thanks for the pointers, Scott!

Here's a question- how well would/does soapstone collect and retain heat if preheated solely beneath a broiler (i.e. no heat from under the stone)


Thx
-brooks

scott123

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2010, 06:34:56 PM »
If the soapstone is close enough (less than 5 inches), really well. Further than that... I can't make any promises. Broilers are all about radiative heat, the further you go, the less umph you're going to get.

You're also going to need the broiler on for a while so the heat penetrates the entire stone (or at least most of it).  During that time, the intense heat could trigger the thermostat and the broiler could turn off. If you keep the door open... the stone might heat up a little unevenly.  Soapstone is really good about even heat, so maybe a short rest between preheating and baking might even things out.

When I was using a gas oven, the broiler shelf was kind of like a drawer. I think, in order to get to what I was broiling, I had to pull out the shelf. Maybe, it was quite a few years ago.  Can you position your stone underneath your broiler, and, without moving the stone, launch and retrieve pies with a peel?

I also kind of recall my broiler shelf being much smaller in dimension than my oven shelves. Can your broiler shelf fit a nice big stone?


Offline pizzacommander

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2010, 09:24:34 PM »
Scott, that's exactly what I have in mind-

I have a shelf in my broiler compartment that, ideally, I would place a soapstone (15"x15"x1") directly beneath the broiler and never have to move. I just inquired about a custom-cut stone from the link above (soapstones.com) and I'm almost scared to hear- is this the go-to supplier?

Thanks again for all the advice!

-brooks

scott123

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2010, 11:14:06 PM »
Brooks, soapstones.com seems to be the go to supplier for the NY area.  In your profile, you mentioned being a fan of Paulie Gee's. Are you in/near NY or did you go there on a visit?

I think Sear's successful experience with soapstones.com experience was because he was in the area, so the shipping was very reasonable.  I haven't heard of anyone outside of NY pricing stones/shipping charges from there.

What are the exact dimensions of your broiler shelf?  How far does the shelf sit from the flame?

If you ever want to do justice to NY style pizza, a 15" stone won't cut it. The classic NY dimension is 16" and to launch it comfortably, you need at least a 17" stone. Can your boiler compartment not handle 17" on all sides?  Remember, unlike if the stone was in the main oven, you really don't need clearance for air flow coming from the below, because there will be none.  All you really need is to allow some slight clearance for heat expansion.  I think 1/8" should on all sides should be plenty.

Offline pizzacommander

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2010, 11:45:48 PM »
Thanks Scott!

Paulie is a good friend of mine, and I'm an on/off employee of his making pies and running the oven at his place. Have you been yet? Unbeatable in my book.

That being said I am a Brooklyner which may provide cheaper shipping fees, but the flip side is that my small apartment has an even smaller oven, and a 15" stone is all that will fit in the damn thing.

Do you know how the soapstone pizza "kit" (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/all-clad-pizza-stone-set/?pkey=x|4|1||4|all%20clad%20pizza%20set||0&cm_src=SCH) available at william sonoma, etc. holds up? Says it's an inch thick, but only 13"...

-b

scott123

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Re: Fibrament not getting hot enough
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2010, 12:52:09 AM »
Wow, you've worked for Paulie? I'm impressed :)

This may change in the future, but I'm a pretty hardcore NY style guy.  It's what I was weaned on :)  The soft puffy moist quality of Neapolitan pizza doesn't have a huge draw for me. Give me puffy chewy.  I also worship at the bubbled, slightly browned, dripping greasy cheese altar. Eventually I want to get to Amano, Ah'pizz, Paulie Gee's and Motorino, but I'm not chomping at the bit.

I'm actually not chomping at the bit to go anywhere, actually.  It seems like all the places that are getting the most press are the non NY style places- like the Neo-coal, Trenton, pub style and Neapolitan. NY style is really out of flavor at the moment. I'd love to find a place that's putting out a phenomenal traditional NY pie, but, unfortunately, I'm not hearing about them.  And my ear is to the ground.

I can't seem to find the link right now, but I'm pretty certain that the all clad stone is 3/4" and the tray adds another 1/4".  That's the identical type of stone you'd get from soapstones, except the one from soapstones will be almost twice the thickness, be 2" larger, and, will most likely cost one third less delivered.

A 15" oven? My heart truly goes out to you.  Do you have any sort of backyard where you could put a BBQ? There's some pretty inexpensive BBQ solutions out there, that, although probably not as cheap as a $90ish dollar stone, wouldn't be a great deal more and could yield a larger pie.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2010, 12:53:54 AM by scott123 »


 

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