I hope this isn't too egregious a case of necroposting, but here goes...
As a quick update, my steel has been serving me well. Until recently I had been making mostly NY-range pizzas (bake time of maybe 3-5 minutes). But I decided I wanted to give NP another shot. I tried it with the steel on self-clean, and while it cooked well on the bottom it was severely lacking on the top as the broiler doesn't come on during self-clean in my oven.
So, the next option was the frozen paper towel trick. This would allow me to heat the steel past the oven's usual limit *and* kick in the broiler as necessary. I finally gave this a shot, and it seems to work well! Today's pizza spent no more than 90 seconds in the oven. (Probably close to 75-80, actually.) As Scott pointed out earlier, my broiler isn't powerful enough to really get the kind of colour we want on the crust on top, but I had no complaints when it comes to how well-cooked it was or its texture. In fact, the texture was exactly what I had been seeking: a beautiful, delicate crispness on the outside with soft, moist-but-not-wet inside. And I could mostly fold a slice without any cracks appearing in the crust, something which was definitely not the case with my NY-range pizzas.
I'll start another thread for pictures and comments about the pizza itself, as I do need some work on technique and will be experimenting with different doughs, but what would be most appropriate for this thread (and potentially useful to others trying to do the same) is the workflow. So:
- I've got a 0.5" steel plate
- I put the steel in the oven and turned it on to bake @ 550 and waited for it to equilibrate. This usually takes at least an hour, and the stone temperature stabilizes around 570, as read with an IR thermometer with emissivity set to 0.95 (which might be wrong for this plate, but who cares).
- After equilibrium is reached, I slide the frozen paper towel (with aluminium foil around) onto the thermometer and wait for the steel to read ~620.
- Now I turn the broiler on HI and start prepping the pizza. Opening up the ball, topping, etc.
- Once the steel reads in the ~680-700 range, I am good to launch.
- Bake for ~30 seconds, take it out and rotate 180 degrees (this isn't strictly necessary, I don't think), and back in until it's done. Total bake time comes to around ~80s.
- If necessary, the pizza can be held up closer to the broiler for a bit. I don't find this necessary, and it never did anything to colour the cornicione (only the toppings).
I'm curious to hear what you guys think!