Author Topic: Is steel really worth it?  (Read 4097 times)

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Offline spazster

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Is steel really worth it?
« on: January 10, 2013, 03:29:48 PM »
I am conflicted on whether to get a steel plate or this pizza-stone. With tax, the 16X16X 1/2" plate is going to cost about 73$.  After shipping and tax, I'd imagine that it will be about $20 less than the steel.

I already have six 6x6x1/2" clay stones that I use, but they are too small for the pizzas that I make on my 16" pizza screen and the pizza tends to tear when I try to adjust it on the stone after I remove it from the screen.

One factor in making my decision is how well it will complement my pizza screen.  Currently, I bake with the screen on the last rung and the stone on the rung directly above. After 2 1/2 minutes I take the pizza off the screen and put it on the stones. Is this a good idea or should the screen be placed on the stone? Does it make a difference which technique I use whether it is with the steel plate or the stone? Will the plate or stone radiate heat to my pizza, or will it just absorb the heat? If I use a plate, should I always have it on the top rung for the broiler?  Does the Communist's plate heating technique described in this thread work with the stone or does the stone not absorb head fast enough for the this to be effective?

EDIT: Fixed link
« Last Edit: January 10, 2013, 05:22:23 PM by spazster »


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2013, 05:58:48 PM »
spazster,

If possible, you might want to investigate whether the American Metalcraft stone is actually a full 7/8" thick. Some time ago, as I noted at Reply 6 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,5645.msg47917/topicseen.html#msg47917, I looked into an AM stone and found that it had feet or pedestals that effectively reduced the stone thickness to something closer to 5/8". You can see the stones currently made by AM at http://www.amnow.com/Pizza-Supplies/Pizza-Stones/Deluxe-Pizza-Stones.

The above matter aside, I have played around with using the combination of a pizza stone and a screen. Each oven arrangement is different but you can see some of the possible options using a standard home electric oven at Reply 45 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2223.msg20965.html#msg20965. I believe it should also be possible to reverse the positions of the stone and screen from what I discussed in Reply 45.

If you are primarily interested in making a NY style pizza that can be baked in about 4-5 minutes (as opposed to around 6-8 minutes for the methods referenced above), that is where the benefits of the steel plate comes into play. I will leave to others with experience in that area to help you decide which method might work best for you. When I composed Reply 45, the steel plate method was not one that was known to me at the time.

Peter

scott123

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2013, 06:31:00 PM »
Peter (Spaz), pizza styles are all very bake time specific.  The ingredients play a role in defining them, but bake times play an important role as well.  Neapolitan pizza is baked very quickly.  If you bake Neapolitan pizza longer than 2 minutes, it no longer has the characteristics of Neapolitan style pizza.  NY style is very similar, except, with NY, the range is larger (4 minutes to 10 minutes) with some members of this forum preferring 4-5 minutes.  The usual trend is that whenever someone breaks the 5 minute bake barrier for NY style, they tend not to go back to longer bakes.  American style tends to be longer baked, but, when choosing oven materials, you still have to be aware of thermodynamics/potential bake times.  Baking with just a screen can push the bake time well north of 15 minutes, and, while Chicago thin crust might do well in this area, American might suffer.

I bring all of this up because, in your profile, you have your favorite style listed as 'American.'  If you expect to always be striving towards a Papa Johns-ish high oil long-ish bake time pizza, then you have a lot more flexibility when stone shopping. If, on the other hand, you think you might, at some point, try your hand at NY, and want the best NY style pizza possible, then you should probably think about steel. The advantage to 1/2" steel (in a 550 degree oven w/ a broiler) is that you can bake any NY style bake time, and, if necessary, turn down the temp and bake any American bake time as well. As you go the cordierite route, like the link you posted, you're pretty much stuck with American style bake times.

If you are perfectly content with American, then, rather than get the stone you linked to, I'd get this instead, as it should be less expensive:

http://www.axner.com/cordierite-shelf-16x16x34square.aspx

This is a bit contingent on peak oven temp, though. How high does your oven dial go to? Pete-zaa has considerable experience with American style and a relatively weaker oven, so perhaps he could shed some light to this subject, but screens/crispers are bake time extenders.  Cordierite stones generally don't produce lightning fast bakes.  If your oven runs on the weak side (500 or less), then the combination of a cordierite stone and the bake time extending effects of screens/crispers could push you a little past the American style comfort zone.

If you can hit 550, then the axner stone I linked to and a screen should work well for American as long as the screen is set directly on the stone.  Just to be clear, though, when I say 'screen,' I'm talking about one of these:

http://www.webstaurantstore.com/16-aluminum-pizza-screen/12418716.html

not your Mainstay crisper. This issue I have the crisper is that, at some point, it's almost guaranteed to warp, and, when it does, it won't sit flat on the stone and you'll get uneven baking.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2013, 06:51:24 PM by scott123 »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2013, 06:55:53 PM »
scott123,

Thank you for filling in a lot of the blanks. Maybe Peter (Spaz) will give greater guidance on what he is after but in his introductory post at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,22517.msg228881.html#msg228881 it wasn't clear whether he was getting away from Papa John's pizzas entirely or just deciding to start making his own versions or clones, or possibly trying an entirely new style of pizza. If he is committed to the American style, there is a lot of material on the forum to help him.

Peter

Offline spazster

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2013, 07:18:10 PM »
Thanks Scott and Pete, you've been very helpful. It is good to know that the stone isn't as thick as it claims.

The reason I put American Style as my favorite is primarily because other than frozen pizza, fast-food chain restaurant style is the only kind of pizza I've ever had.  The last time I had Pizza Hut was when I was about 10 years old and since then I've only had Little Caesars and Papa Johns.  I basically want diversity when it comes to making pizza, and some day I'd like to tryout the fast bake times as I have never had Neapolitan or NY style before. I am also a little superstitious about having high hydration dough (at least 70%).

Also, I was very much considering getting a shelf from Axner, but I'm too afraid that it might have additional toxic materials on it.  I'd like the peace of mind of it being FDA approved.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2013, 07:34:05 PM »
Spaz,

When I did all of my work on the Papa John's clones, as described in the thread at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6758.0.html, I used a pizza screen since that is what PJ was using at the time (they have been migrating to perforated disks over the past couple of years). I found the bake time to run from about 7 minutes to about 11 minutes depending on the amount of toppings. Some members used pizza stones for the PJ clones but one has to be careful in doing that since American style pizzas, such as the PJ pizzas, tend to have a lot of sugar in the dough that can result in premature bottom browning or even burning if one is not careful to monitor the bottom bake.

Whatever you decide to do, I do not think I would worry about the Axner stones. There are quite a few of the forum members who are safely using the Axner stones.

Peter

Offline spazster

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2013, 11:51:49 PM »
After thinking about it for a while, I'm not sure steal is going to be that safe.  I'm afraid that the cut of steel that I get will be contaminated with small lead fragments.

I'm looking for a 16 inch round pizza stone.  Could either of you recommend a good one for the fastest possible bake times in a 550 oven?

scott123

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2013, 12:11:41 AM »
DJ, there is absolutely no lead in a36 steel. The kind of steel you use, a36, is used for thousands of griddles in diners and restaurants across the U.S. It is perfectly safe to eat off of.

You're are very close to reproducing the pizzas of your dreams.  Why initiate another learning curve with a ceramic stone?
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 06:31:43 PM by scott123 »

Offline spazster

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2013, 12:33:14 AM »
DJ, there is absolutely no lead in steel. The kind of steel you use, a36, is used for thousands of griddles in diners and restaurants across the U.S. It is perfectly safe to eat off of.

You're are very close to reproducing the pizzas of your dreams.  Why initiate another learning curve with a ceramic stone?

You are probably right, but I'm kind of a massive pussy.  What is to stop small lead particles from getting mixed in when it is being smelted? Forgive my ignorance, but I know next to nothing about how steel is manufactured. Is it very easy to prevent this kind of contamination?  Does the EPA allow a certain level of contamination as long as it is not being sold specifically for preparing food?  
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 12:41:32 AM by spazster »

scott123

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2013, 12:47:39 AM »
Griddle

Quote
The vast majority of commercial grade griddles are made from A36 steel

There is no such thing as 'food grade' a36 steel.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 06:48:51 PM by scott123 »


Offline spazster

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2013, 01:08:37 PM »
I decided to bite the bullet today and just get the steel plate.  When I got the the still fabrication place, it turned out the total price including tax was only $48.  Over $20 less than what they said over the phone. They were also able to cut it out for me in 20 minutes.  It is pretty heavy, but it isn't as heavy as I thought it would be. I'm wondering if maybe I should have gotten a 3/4 inch thick one instead to experiment with that.

Anyway, I won't be using it until Saturday. Hopefully I'll get some awesome pizza out of it to enjoy while watching Ultimate Fighting.

Offline corkd

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2013, 03:48:21 PM »
that's a great price-- i paid much more. 1/2" is perfect thickness. i think 3/4" would be way too heavy (you have to think about putting in & taking it out, & where you're going to store it) plus it would take too long to heat up. In my gas oven, it takes almost an hour for the 1/2" to come up to 525, which is what you want....you will really enjoy baking on it! Don't drop it on your toes! :'(
-clay
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 03:50:31 PM by corkd »

Offline Ev

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2013, 04:24:56 PM »
Don't drop it on your toes! :'(
-clay

 Yes, because then, you'd have to call a toe truck! :-D

Enjoy your new toy!

Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2013, 12:55:53 AM »
Yes, because then, you'd have to call a toe truck! :-D

Enjoy your new toy!
Cut in half an then you will only need risking a toe.... nail.... ;D
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Offline CIZ28

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2013, 09:10:25 AM »
I must ask a question.

I've spent alot of time around pizzerias in the NE. I keep reading about these 4-5 minute bake times. That is nearly coal oven bake time. Even the original Patsy's coal oven pie is about 3-4 minutes. I've almost never seen a deck oven pizzeria cook a pizza in anything less than 10-12 minutes. The doughs are almost never high hydration and usually have a moderate amount of oil also. When I went to Varasano's favorite pizzeria, (some of the best pizza I've ever had out, sauce on top and very crispy) it was the fastest deck pie I've ever seen and it was definitely longer than 4-5 minutes. More like 6-7, and that is FAST for a Bakers Pride Y-600 style cordierite or firebrick deck oven. That is a super rare exception. DiFara's seems to be about the same though from what I gather. Just out of curiosity, where are some of these pizzerias churning out correctly cooked pies in 4-5 minutes regularly??
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 09:34:08 AM by CIZ28 »
"If it's not well done, it ain't done well."

scott123

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2013, 09:58:14 AM »
CIZ28, with all due respect, I'm not sure where in the NE you're spending your time, because, in the NY area, 10-12 minutes is definitely not the norm. As you travel further South to Trenton and Philly, then perhaps the bake times increase, but in the outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Staten Island, Western areas of Long Island, Queens, Bronx and NE NJ), you're going to have a hard time finding bake times longer than 8 minutes.  I've been timing bakes in NE NJ for the last two years, and, out of, maybe 20 places, no one's exceeded 8 minutes, with the majority coming in around 6- and these are the mediocre, completely non descript, run of the mill places.  Even in the pizza wasteland that is Manhattan (where you will find an empty pizzeria or two selling 12-15 minute pies), Joe's still comes in under 7 minutes, and, while Joe's is okay, most of the members here who have tried it weren't blown away. Also, I wouldn't give these to my worst enemy, but all the crappy dollar slice places in Manhattan are doing less than 8 minute bakes.  They wouldn't be able to do the kind of volume they do with any slower of a bake time.

The list of 4 minute slices, is, unfortunately, not a long one.   Historically, there were a lot more 4 minute options, but the chains crept in, started taking business away, and in an effort to compete, the independents started increasing thickness factors to accommodate more toppings and extended their bake times. The demise of the 4 minute slice has been tragic.  It isn't completely dead though.  Here are some of the better known places:

Pizza Town (Elmwood Park, NJ)
Best Pizza (Brooklyn)
Williamsburg Pizza (Brooklyn)
New Park Pizza (Brooklyn)

These are the owners that understand the explosive quality that's achieved with fast bakes.  Now, I will point out that these, for the most part are puffy chewy pizzas and generally not crispy. Unless you're working with the dry heat of a coal oven, you won't get crispy in 4 minutes. The traditional NY slice was never that crispy. I will also point out that, as far as I know, none of these are Baker's Prides. I do know, for a fact, though, that the brick ceiling Marsal MBs can go as low as a 3 minute bake, and, until recently, BP was offering a brick ceiling option with the same BTUs on the Y-600 that could have matched that bake time. I don't know how many minutes get tacked on without the bricks, but, I'm sure that out of the 20 or so places that I've timed, at least 12 were Baker's Prides.

For a typical gas deck oven, 6 minute bakes are no problem. 6-7 minute bakes generally don't produce the oven spring you see with 4 minute pies, but you find them all over the outer boroughs.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 10:09:02 AM by scott123 »

Offline CIZ28

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2013, 02:09:27 AM »
Thanks for the reply. :)

I've had pizza from NY, NJ, and very eastern PA, or "NJ-lite" lol. Ranging from true Neapolitan, coal, and deck ovens. I know the owners of a few places very good and have been behind the counters in the back and near the ovens when things are happening. I'm in agreement that 10-12 minutes is a little long for a deck oven pie. I prefer around 7-8 myself, but most of what I've seen in some of the "better rated" places in central NJ all ring in at about that same time running ovens at about 450-550 degrees, often around 10 minutes for a pizza. But it really depends when you go to a place. On a busy night the ovens usually have to be turned up for the volume and they cook faster, especially if the pizzamaker stays aware of the hot and cold spots on the floor. Sometimes if you go before or after a rush you'll see them screen a pie half way through to stop the stones from overcooking the bottom because of the extra heat. I think it's unintentional for alot of places and just business. I've also had some of the crispiest pizza from a faster bake time, not the opposite. I think Joe's isn't that highly regarded because it seems to be very plain pizza compared to Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, DiFara's, and many others. You are correct that 6 minute bakes are capable for a Bakers Pride style oven, depending on the dough and hearth type especially. Most people don't do that though. The regular blah standard is 475-500 degrees with sugar and a good amount of oil in the dough which makes it nearly impossible to properly cook a pie decently fast without having an uneven bottom bake, even with the vents open to increase the top heat.

My next question is do you sit in and eat whole pies right out of the oven at these 4-5 minute places, do you take them home in a box, or are you just asking for reheated slices? Do you have any idea what kind of ovens they had?
« Last Edit: January 26, 2013, 07:03:18 AM by CIZ28 »
"If it's not well done, it ain't done well."

scott123

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2013, 12:28:57 PM »
Pizza Town (Elmswood Park, NJ)

No label on the oven. Here's a video I shot



Best Pizza (Brooklyn)

Barrel vault wood oven, which I believe was originally used for bread (It's somewhere around 8 feet deep).  

Williamsburg Pizza (Brooklyn)

http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2012/11/williamsburg-pizza-a-cause-for-celebration.html

Quote
The pizza here is made in an Italian-manufactured Vero Forno triple-decker gas-powered oven. It cooks pizzas in four minutes at 570 degrees.

New Park Pizza (Brooklyn)

Homegrown gas oven.


On my first trip to Pizza Town I asked for a re-heated slice, and, while it was good enough to prompt me to get a whole pie, it wasn't good enough to ever order again.  Best slices don't hang around long, and thus rarely need to be re-heated. These days, I almost always buy whole pies, and, if I can, I eat them there, but I've gotten quite a few of Pizza Town pies boxed.  They travel well.

Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #18 on: January 26, 2013, 12:49:44 PM »
I always enjoy watching your vid of Pizza Town....that lady is a pizza machine man!  8)
I like those cheese shavings but it looks like they skimp on the amount. Does that leave you ordering x-cheese there Scott or does it turn out just right the way she is doing it?
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scott123

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Re: Is steel really worth it?
« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2013, 04:38:43 PM »
Bob, this is Michele's brother, Bruce. Bruce is a nice guy (good at busting balls :) ) but Michele makes a better pie.



00:38 "We brought the first Brooklyn Pizza to New Jersey"

"What's does that mean?"

"It means it's more of a sauce pie...

...very little cheese"

There was a time when I thought 'Brooklyn Pizza' was just marketing speak for "We're cheap, stingy-on-the-cheese bastards," but I think there might be some merit to the minimal cheese pie.  One of my absolute favorite pies of all time was Joe's circa 1992 and that was less cheese than Pizza Town.  You'd never get a cold slice there because they couldn't make the pizzas fast enough. Spiderman didn't film there by chance.  They filmed there because the pizza had established the location as a Village fixture.

While I've pondered getting extra cheese on a Pizza Town, I'm hesitant. Whenever I change the cheese on my own pies, it changes them dramatically, and I invariably have to mess with the bake time and/or other factors to make it work.  With their 4 minute bake, extra cheese might not melt completely, and, for me, cheese that hasn't melted completely is the kiss of death. I don't mind partially melted cheese on Neapolitan, but I can't tolerate it on NY. It's bland, tasteless and a choking hazard.


 

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