Author Topic: BakingSteel?  (Read 3356 times)

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Online JD

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #20 on: June 01, 2013, 05:12:18 PM »
I'm not trying to be the contrarian here but the baking steel has not blown me away. I recently bought the new 3/8th inch "Modernist Cuisine" model, and although it does a nice job, it hasn't been earth changing on the difference in my pies. Perhaps my stone was a very high quality one, it came from Williams-Sonoma, but I have only reduced the bake time of my NY style by about a minute, and it comes with the very real risk of the bottom of the pie burning. I will continue to use the steel but my advice to anyone who owns a good stone is to continue to use it until it cracks before rushing out to buy a steel.

I went from stone to steel as well, but I used 1/2" A36, not baking steel. I went from 9-10 minutes bakes with the stone @550 to 4 minutes if I wanted no sweat. My broiler is the only thing holding me back if I wanted to do any faster. My 1/2" steel is 18" x 22", so I have a lot of extra stored heat if needed so that may contribute to my faster bakes as well.

I guess my point is the 3/8" baking steel may not be the best example of what steel can really do.
 

Josh


Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #21 on: June 01, 2013, 05:17:29 PM »
I went from stone to steel as well, but I used 1/2" A36, not baking steel. I went from 9-10 minutes bakes with the stone @550 to 4 minutes if I wanted no sweat. My broiler is the only thing holding me back if I wanted to do any faster. My 1/2" steel is 18" x 22", so I have a lot of extra stored heat if needed so that may contribute to my faster bakes as well.

I guess my point is the 3/8" baking steel may not be the best example of what steel can really do.
Not much difference between 3/8ths and 4/8ths there JD. But you make a good point...all ovens vary and I think that can be the limiting factor. I've seen some pretty nice pies baked on 1/4in plate too.  :chef:
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Offline Essen1

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2013, 05:51:28 PM »
I'm not trying to be the contrarian here but the baking steel has not blown me away. I recently bought the new 3/8th inch "Modernist Cuisine" model, and although it does a nice job, it hasn't been earth changing on the difference in my pies. Perhaps my stone was a very high quality one, it came from Williams-Sonoma, but I have only reduced the bake time of my NY style by about a minute, and it comes with the very real risk of the bottom of the pie burning. I will continue to use the steel but my advice to anyone who owns a good stone is to continue to use it until it cracks before rushing out to buy a steel.

I second that.

I use mainly my kiln shelf for pizza but have also worked with my steel plate and so far the kiln shelf produces better results, more even results, imho.

However, I might have to go back to the steel and really put it through its paces.
Mike

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Offline scott123

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #23 on: June 01, 2013, 11:46:25 PM »
I'm not trying to be the contrarian here but the baking steel has not blown me away. I recently bought the new 3/8th inch "Modernist Cuisine" model, and although it does a nice job, it hasn't been earth changing on the difference in my pies. Perhaps my stone was a very high quality one, it came from Williams-Sonoma, but I have only reduced the bake time of my NY style by about a minute, and it comes with the very real risk of the bottom of the pie burning.

Dave, contrary to what you might read on Slice, steel is not a one size fits all solution.  It is only suitable for very particular oven owners with very particular goals. For these people, steel is a godsend, but, for anyone else, steel, at best, is unnecessary, and, at worse, counterproductive.

First off, you have to have a preference for 4 minute NY style pizza.  It's puffy, but generally not that crispy.  Very few people have tasted 4 minute pies, and, generally speaking, most love them when they try them, but, with some people, the conditioning towards golden brown and crispy is so strong, that 4 minutes doesn't thrill them.  For this group, steel is a complete waste of time.

Secondly, if your oven doesn't have a broiler in the main compartment do not buy steel.  Steel is a bottom browning accelerator.  The only way of matching the faster rate of bottom browning is by using the broiler at the same time (and positioning the stone close to the broiler so the broiler has plenty of impact).

Third,  your oven MUST hit 550 for that mystical 4 minute bake.  Mark (Communist) does his magic at 530, but, I think, just to be safe, 550 is about as low as you want to go. Kenji's 4 minute bakes at 450 have absolutely no correlation to the results members have seen on this forum. I think his non traditional formula might be part of the outlier equation, but there has to be more than that.  I definitely don't think he's stretching the truth or misrepresenting his equipment/results (he thought I was), but the bottom line is that his results are quite possibly the worst barometer for judging the effectiveness of steel at lower temps and lighter gauges.

Fourth, steel is only as good as the thickness you buy.  Unless one has an oven that can hit 600 (1 in 50 maybe?), 1/4" steel is garbage (and no better than less expensive cordierite).  3/8" is really cutting it close.  I've never recommended either thickness. 1/2" can be heavy, but if you cut it in half, it's far more manageable (thanks JD!).

Kenji has done the beginning pizzamaking community a tremendous disservice by implying that steel is for everyone.  It's not. It's miraculous for some, but not for all.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 04:13:44 AM by scott123 »

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #24 on: June 02, 2013, 06:22:45 AM »
Thanks Scott. Kenji is certainly not the one who influences my pizzamaking endeavors, I just had to try the steel for myself after hearing all the hype. At 22 pounds the 3/8" is as much weight as my oven rack can handle, as it is , the rack suffers a little bit of sag under the weight. I was a bit leary of the possibility of steel burning the bottom crust, as I have had the same experience with cast iron, and sure enough that is one of the biggest drawbacks of steel in a home oven. I'm not a fan of the broiler as in my case it is so unpredictable as to the timing of it's cycle. I overcome the lack of using a broiler for the most part, because I bake in the very small upper chamber of a dual oven, the heat is confined in a very small space, much like in a commercial deck oven. The final word, " buyer beware"!

Offline deb415611

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #25 on: June 02, 2013, 06:38:09 AM »


Secondly, if your oven doesn't have a broiler in the main compartment do not buy steel.  Steel is a bottom browning accelerator.  The only way of matching the faster rate of bottom browning is by using the broiler at the same time (and positioning the stone close to the broiler so the broiler has plenty of impact).

Third,  your oven MUST hit 550 for that mystical 4 minute bake.  Mark (Communist) does his magic at 530, but, I think, just to be safe, 550 is about as low as you want to go.

I found that in my oven I need to preheat at 550 and then use broil during the bake (the broil setting is also 550),  I have had some luck with switching to broil after a minute or so but for ease just switch to broil a few minutes before the first launch and leave it there

I played around with temps and 550 is key.  I tried some lower temps and wasn't happy,

I also tried playing around with convection and it did not work for me.  My oven max is 550 and it automatically changes to 525.  With this I also calibrated the oven to add 35 degrees - so convection would have been at 560 and that did not work without the broil.   


Scott - looking through my thread I just realized I never posted the Scott special comparison bake.  I'll see if I still have the notes and can find the pics,  if not I'll redo because I think it will be helpful to show the difference of convection vs. bake/broil

Offline deb415611

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #26 on: June 02, 2013, 06:39:48 AM »
Dave,

we were typing at the same time and I imagine the smaller upper oven is a huge variable. 

Deb

Offline scott123

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #27 on: June 02, 2013, 06:42:45 AM »
Thanks Scott. Kenji is certainly not the one who influences my pizzamaking endeavors, I just had to try the steel for myself after hearing all the hype. At 22 pounds the 3/8" is as much weight as my oven rack can handle, as it is , the rack suffers a little bit of sag under the weight. I was a bit leary of the possibility of steel burning the bottom crust, as I have had the same experience with cast iron, and sure enough that is one of the biggest drawbacks of steel in a home oven. I'm not a fan of the broiler as in my case it is so unpredictable as to the timing of it's cycle. I overcome the lack of using a broiler for the most part, because I bake in the very small upper chamber of a dual oven, the heat is confined in a very small space, much like in a commercial deck oven. The final word, " buyer beware"!

FWIW, oven shelves are generally engineered to handle Thanksgiving turkeys and fixings, and those can exceed 22 lb by a considerable amount. The shelves can and do sag as you move up on the scale, but they don't break and the sag, so far, never appears to be permanent. 40 lb. plates are the norm for this forum, and, so far, there's never been a problem.

It takes a bit of practice to master, but, one of these days, please try using the steel with the broiler.  Generally speaking, you want to crank the steel to the highest your dial will go for about an hour, then turn it off for about 5 minute prior to baking to let the oven cool just enough so that the broiler goes on.  Everybody approaches broiling a bit differently, but, for my 4.5 minute bake, I turn on the broil after a minute has passed and turn it off with about a minute left.

If it gets too hot and the broiler cuts off, leaving the door cracked is not the end of the world, as long as you compensate for the lack of front heat with the occasional rotation.

Steel's hype, as I said, revolves entirely around the coveted 4 minute bake. I'm not 100% you can hit that with 3/8", but, if you've gone through all the expense to obtain steel, you might as well play around with the broiler a little bit and see how low you can get before you dismiss steel entirely.

I'm curious, you said the steel shaved a minute off your bake time? What did it trim it to and at what temp are you using it at?

Offline scott123

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #28 on: June 02, 2013, 06:45:53 AM »
Scott - looking through my thread I just realized I never posted the Scott special comparison bake.  I'll see if I still have the notes and can find the pics,  if not I'll redo because I think it will be helpful to show the difference of convection vs. bake/broil

Deb, if the information is easily accessible, I'd love to see it, but don't go through too much trouble.  I think we got the data we needed.  I believe convection relies, to a great extent, on BTU/Wattage, so I'm not ready to write it off completely for top browning, but your experiment was definitely invaluable. Thanks.

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #29 on: June 02, 2013, 06:56:05 AM »
My oven temp is 550, I can do a 7-8 minute bake on stone, a 6-7 minute on steel. On stone I never have to worry about the bottom burning, but on steel I have to be very aware of the possibility of the bottom burning anytime past about the 6 minute mark.


Offline scott123

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #30 on: June 02, 2013, 07:14:22 AM »
Dave, you know the old joke about the guy who goes to the doctor and says "Doc, it hurts when I move my arm like this" and the doctor tells him "well, don't move your arm like that" :) Well, if your pizzas are overcooking on the bottom in 6 minutes (which is perfectly normal behavior for 1/2" steel, and, most likely normal for 3/8" at 550), then don't leave the pizza in the oven that long :)

Play with the broiler, speed up the top bake so it matches the undercrust and take it out in 4 or 5.  Using the broiler, you should see a noticeable difference in oven spring between a 4-5 minute bake on steel and a 7 minute bake on the old WS stone.

Try it. Just once  >:D
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 07:19:49 AM by scott123 »

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #31 on: June 02, 2013, 08:51:24 AM »
  :angel:   Well, I don't let them burn, but I do like my pizza cooked to a slightly greater degree than most people do. I like my crust to be kinda dark like an artisan bread, not pale and light like some NY styles I've seen. I'll play around with the broiler/steel combo to see if I can get dialed in a little better, or, I may have a steel for sale! :-D

Online JD

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #32 on: June 02, 2013, 11:16:48 AM »
  :angel:   Well, I don't let them burn, but I do like my pizza cooked to a slightly greater degree than most people do. I like my crust to be kinda dark like an artisan bread, not pale and light like some NY styles I've seen. I'll play around with the broiler/steel combo to see if I can get dialed in a little better, or, I may have a steel for sale! :-D


I promise I'm not in a mood  to argue ;)  I had a bit of a hard time getting used to the steel, but once I understood it, I started to love it.

At 550*, the bottom will burn after 4-5 minutes. That means if you want the top done as well, you don't have any choice but to use the broiler (as Scott politely said).

I know Scott cringes every time I make this recommendation, but I tend to like my NY style more GBD like I'm guessing you do dmc. I've settled on 8 minutes using steel. 450* oven preheated for an hour, 4 minutes no broiler, 4 minutes with broiler, and it comes out far more brown and even without any burnt spots on the bottom. The reason I keep making this recommendation is because I still get great oven spring at 450* and I attribute that completely to the thermodynamic properties of the steel.

A 450* oven as opposed to a 550* is:
1) A much cooler kitchen, especially in the summer
2) More economic by using less gas (although probably marginal)
3) Faster pre-heat

Last night I made 7 pizzas, all at 450* & using the broiler. It's a bit of a pain to cycle the broiler on and off, but having steel gives me a lot of flexibility, and counter to what Scott is saying I think Steel has more uses than a 4 minute pie, although that's where it excels.

Proof is in the pictures... this is when I first made the realization about 450* using steel: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,23608.msg239730.html#msg239730

Josh

Offline scott123

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #33 on: June 02, 2013, 11:30:51 AM »
I'm not cringing JD...

too much  :-D

Seriously, though, it's important to be aware that steel's only special property is it's conductivity.  Like Mark pointed out, 1/2" steel is like having an oven that goes 100 degrees higher. A pizza that's baked for 8 minutes on 450 deg. steel will be identical to a pizza that's finished in the same amount of time at 550ish deg. on cordierite. There's no other magic involved.

By recommending 450 deg./8 minute bakes to Dave, you're basically telling him to go back to his old pies baked on cordierite- which is absolutely fine. Dave makes some phenomenal 7-8 minute pizzas.

Dave, JD brings up a good point.  I've been pushing you try 4 because that's what people buy steel for, but if you want to go back to the comfort of your Williams Sonoma results, it's just a matter of dialing down the temp low enough.  475-500 should give you the intense color that you prefer in 7 minutes.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 11:41:50 AM by scott123 »

Online JD

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #34 on: June 02, 2013, 11:41:25 AM »

By recommending 450 deg./8 minute bakes to Dave, you're basically telling him to go back to his old pies baked on cordierite- which is absolutely fine. Dave makes some phenomenal 7-8 minute pizzas.


The reason I like recommending it is because with Steel, I can get both GBD and 4min pies. With any other stone, you're only limited to GBD with most (not all) materials. I like that flexibility and I'm certainly going to give 4 min pizza's another shot in the future. I need to get back to NY and try the style so I know what I'm after though.

I agree with Dave that if GBD is all you're after, steel isn't worth any additional investment. I just don't want people to think it's not a good material for GBD, because I'm very happy with it at 450.
Josh

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #35 on: June 02, 2013, 11:54:51 AM »
I'm always open to giving anything a try, so I'll do some playing around with several methods and see how things turn out. When steel was first becoming popular, I made a comment somewhere that there was sure to be a learning curve when you move to steel, and that sure holds true for me. I just got the steel a short time ago and I haven't really taken the training wheels off yet. Summer is not a time when I do a lot of pizza making, but when I do I'll try all the options you guys have mentioned. I will say that I do prefer my pies a darker color than many, but without the black often termed "char"! Sometimes the journey is more fun than the destination! :-\

Offline BenLee

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #36 on: June 12, 2013, 10:22:02 PM »
With regard to all the baking steel hoopla, I think Andris bought some good press with Serious Eats.  Serious Eats seems to do this subtle advertising at times.  The same thing was going on when Lahey introduced his book.  Serious Eats kept profiling pies inside the book and even did a video with him.  After some criticism, Kenji seemed pretty desperate to defend Lahey at all costs as if he were protecting some advertising dollars.  I'm not a fan of the baking steel.  Tiles from Home Depot are lighter, better, and much more economical.

Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #37 on: June 12, 2013, 10:29:43 PM »
With regard to all the baking steel hoopla, I think Andris bought some good press with Serious Eats.  Serious Eats seems to do this subtle advertising at times.  The same thing was going on when Lahey introduced his book.  Serious Eats kept profiling pies inside the book and even did a video with him.  After some criticism, Kenji seemed pretty desperate to defend Lahey at all costs as if he were protecting some advertising dollars. I'm not a fan of the baking steel.  Tiles from Home Depot are lighter, better, and much more economical.
Kenji "Alt-Lopez" is always doing propaganda weak a$$ stuff man.  ::)
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Offline Corsocompanion

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Re: BakingSteel?
« Reply #38 on: June 19, 2013, 09:53:58 PM »
Hi everyone,
I work in a steel shop. We trip over small pieces all the time. I grabbed some leftover rem and put it in my oven. It works great. I say this because occasionally someone comes into my shop and wants some small pieces. I have no problem giving them some. So look in your phone book and bring a pie to your local steel shop you might be surprised!


 

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