Author Topic: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?  (Read 1352 times)

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Offline Doughboy20

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Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« on: March 01, 2014, 02:54:22 AM »
So I just got one of these a while ago.  From some of the post I have read, some say put that thing on the bottom rack because in an electric oven which I have, that is closet to the heating element.  Yet others say right under the broiler to super heat it up and create a mini pizza oven.  What  school of though do most of you fall into?    I did try the bottom once so far and I have to say the steel did a great char but it took almost 7 minutes for the top to cook.  Im afraid to to the broiler method since I fear the reverse might happen.  Any suggestion or tips?  My oven is electric, newer goes to 550f with heating on both top and bottom but the bottom element is hidden as its done in most newer ovens.


Offline deb415611

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2014, 07:30:35 AM »
I have mine on the second to top rack, preheat for  at least an hour at 550 and put the broiler on either when I launch or right after.  My oven is gas but I'm not sure how much different it would make.  I think you have to test to find your sweet spot but up higher with a broiler combo seems to get the best results.

Here is my thread from when I first got my steel, there is some discussion between Scott & I while I was testing on what might or might not work etc.
http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=22826.0

There is another thread I'm going to try to find that might be helpful too. 

Offline Kale dog

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2014, 11:31:20 PM »
Middle - Perfect crispness on bottom
*Sigh*

Offline JD

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2014, 10:49:34 AM »
There is no right answer, it depends on the thickness/size of the plate.  You need to determine which location gives you the best balance of top & bottom cooking. I use a 1/2" steel, and it takes my broiler 4-5 minutes to cook on the top shelf. My broiler is weak, so for other ovens the 2nd shelf may be better, or top shelf with less broiler time.

It's a balancing act of oven temp, broiler strength & distance from broiler. Of course this always assumes you have a top mounted broiler, not one in the drawer.
Josh

Offline quixoteQ

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2014, 09:21:39 AM »
I've had my 3/8" in my 500* max gas oven for a month now, and I have made pizzas after pre-heating the thing for 1.5hrs on the top rack with broiler, second-to-top and second-to-bottom with max 500*, with absolutely no luck.  Yesterday, I did a 2 hour trial with an infrared thermometer and no pizza: steel on the very bottom of my oven, no rack.  The temp on the steel got up to 490* which is about 50 degrees better than any of my other trials.

I'm going to bake two pizzas tonight using that method: four or five minutes on the steel lying on the oven bottom, and then one or two minutes on a pan directly under the broiler.
Josh

Offline JD

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2014, 11:51:34 AM »
If your steel reads 450 in a 500 degree oven, you need to re-calibrate your oven in the worst way. Try to find a manual online for your oven and see if it can be calibrated hotter.

Josh

Offline quixoteQ

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2014, 12:26:47 PM »
If your steel reads 450 in a 500 degree oven, you need to re-calibrate your oven in the worst way. Try to find a manual online for your oven and see if it can be calibrated hotter.

Man, that would be nice.
Josh

scott123

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2014, 01:33:33 PM »
Josh (Q), while there are quite a few ovens out there that have 500 as the peak temp on the dial, in my experience, usually these ovens can hit at least 525. You happen to belong to an especially unlucky group of oven owners who's ovens fall short of the 500 on the dial. Had I been aware of this prior to your steel purchase, I definitely would have dissuaded you from buying steel, because, at those temps, there's not much you can do.

Since it's a little late for that, and steel is what you have to work with, here's what I'd do...

Place your steel in a shelf about 6" from the broiler.  Cover almost the entire rest of that shelf with either aluminum foil (good) or a combination of aluminum foil and quarry tiles (better).  You want to leave about a 1/4" gap on one side for the gases to flow through to maintain proper combustion.  The position of the gap will correspond to where your temperature probe is located in the top of the oven.  If the probe is on the left, put the gap on the right. If it's on the right, then gap left. If the probe is in the middle, it doesn't really matter that much.

The probe is what turns your oven off when it hits the temp on the dial.  By covering almost the entire shelf, you're isolating the heat in the bottom of the oven, and delaying the time it takes for the probe in the top to reach it's max temp and shut the oven down.

This will give you a fast bake.  The catch, though, is that it will most likely be only one or two fast bakes, because the heat, over time, will eventually flow to the top of the oven and even out, and, you'll be using the broiler during the bake and heating the upper chamber as well. You're basically creating an imbalanced heat scenario, that, over time, will balance.

It's going to take a little trial and error to see how long of a pre-heat will give you the hottest steel. I would turn the oven on full blast and do IR readings of the top and the bottom of the steel every 20 minutes (skipping the first 20).  Try to take the readings quickly and in a similar fashion so that the heat loss is both minimal and consistent.

Covering the shelf should trap enough heat in the bottom chamber that, for a period, your steel should spike to at least 525, which is the magic temp for fast NY style bakes.

Offline dmckean44

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2014, 02:02:51 PM »
You can also preheat your baking steel on the oven floor and then flip it over and move it up to a rack right underneath the broiler before you bake. Wear welder's gloves and move quickly when you do this.

scott123

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2014, 03:45:51 PM »
Yes, you could pre-heat it on the floor, and move it, although I'd be careful not to cover the floor vents, and, even with welder's gloves, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable moving a 500ish degree steel plate. For those that are a bit more daring, then, sure.

If you do go this route, beyond making sure the vents aren't covered, I'd also grab the hot plate for a few seconds with the gloves to make sure you can grip it for a while without your hands getting hot, before actually lifting it.  I've owned cheap welder's gloves that didn't provide much heat protection.  The worst thing you could do is figure out that your gloves aren't up to the task with the steel off the shelf/mid move.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2014, 05:12:24 PM by scott123 »


Offline quixoteQ

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2014, 05:10:29 PM »
Yes, you could pre-heat it on the floor, and move it, although I'd be careful not to cover the floor vents, and, even with welder's gloves, I'm not sure I'd be comfortable moving a 500ish degree steel plate. For those that are bit more daring, then, sure.

If you do go this route, beyond making sure the vents aren't covered, I'd also grab the hot plate for a few seconds with the gloves to make sure you can grip it for a while without your hands getting hot, before actually lifting it.  I've owned cheap welder's gloves that didn't provide much heat protection.  The worst thing you could do is figure out that your gloves aren't up to the task with the steel off the shelf/mid move.

I was actually thinking about cooking the pie at the bottom of my oven for four minutes, then transferring the pie to a pan or something on the top rack, and hitting with the broiler.  How crazy am I?
Josh

scott123

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2014, 05:23:10 PM »
Not that crazy  ;D I've seen people do that before.

Personally, I feel pretty strongly that the goal of home pizza making is to match the thermodynamics of a commercial deck oven, and, if a deck oven bakes the bottom while the top is baking, then I think you should strive for this at home. Bear in mind, as the pizza bakes, the heat from below is causing the gases to expand, puffing the crust and the heat from above is causing expansion as well, and, if the thermodynamics are ideal, the heat from above is setting the proteins in the dough at the right time so that the crust it captured at it's peak for the best possible oven spring.

Now, broilers tend to be strong enough that they don't need to be on for the entire bake, and I've played around with changing up the point at which I turn the broiler on- with the end of the bake showing promising results, but I always broil while the pizza is on the steel.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2014, 05:27:15 PM by scott123 »

Offline quixoteQ

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2014, 05:31:40 PM »
Not that crazy  ;D I've seen people do that before.

Personally, I feel pretty strongly that the goal of home pizza making is to match the thermodynamics of a commercial deck oven, and, if a deck oven bakes the bottom while the top is baking, then I think you should strive for this at home. Bear in mind, as the pizza bakes, the heat from below is causing the gases to expand, puffing the crust and the heat from above is causing expansion as well, and, if the thermodynamics are ideal, the heat from above is setting the proteins in the dough at the right time so that the crust it captured at it's peak for the best possible oven spring.

Now, broilers tend to be strong enough that they don't need to be on for the entire bake, and I've played around with changing up the point at which I turn the broiler on- with the end of the bake showing promising results, but I always broil while the pizza is on the steel.

My original idea when I got the steel--which, sadly, was slightly before I discovered this site--was to get both a steel and a stone of some kind, thinking that might be the way to maximize heat from all angles.  Well, after getting the steel and an infrared, I was a bit surprised at how low my max. steel temperature was getting, regardless of broiler and max oven temps.

ETA in response to your earlier post, I have seen several foil and tile solutions here.  If my current attempt doesn't work, I'll go with your idea (I have a couple extra dough balls in the fridge) tomorrow or Sunday.

Incidentally, perhaps, I was able to calibrate my oven in a way that will supposedly pump it up an additional 30*.  Whether that will work or not, or whether 30* matters or not, I'll find out in two hours. :-\

ETA again (I'm mastering the art of missing posts quicker than the art of making pizza), welder's gloves and some more pullups in my non-pizza baking days, maybe.  Regardless of temp, that thing is heavy . . . and also difficult to scoot off the floor of my oven.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2014, 05:43:12 PM by quixoteQ »
Josh

scott123

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2014, 08:23:17 PM »
Josh, that's great news about your calibration. If you can go from 490 to 520, that should make a considerable difference.

Offline JD

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2014, 10:46:13 PM »
One more thing I noticed using my steel...  When I first got it, I ground the finish off so it was very clean, bare metal. My Ir gun does not have an adjustable emissivity and it did not work well on the new steel. As time went on and my steel became seasoned, the Ir gun started to work correctly.

Not saying it happens a lot, I may be the only one actually, but it's a thought.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2014, 05:47:19 PM by JD »
Josh

Offline quixoteQ

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2014, 09:42:21 AM »
I thought I'd do a follow-up here because of all the people who were very helpful.  Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures.  I used my strategery with the steel resting on the bottom of the oven, a large cookie pan resting on nearly-completely-foiled middle rack, and a pizza pan about four inches under the broiler.  The oven/steel was pre-heated to 500* for over 2 hours.

I cooked both of my pies the same way: five minutes on the steel, then transferred to the pizza pan for 2 minutes of broiling.  The broiler didn't want to cooperate, and I had to pull out some choice curse words in order to get it to turn on.  So, basically: 5 minutes on the steel at 500*, 2 minutes near the top with the broiler not on, and 2 minutes near the top with the broiler finally on. 

Both pies cooked similarly--there didn't seem to be any significant loss of steel heat between bakes (say 5 minutes).  I was following Kenji's Neapolitan style dough and work flow, which may be a mistake with my oven; however, since I enjoy Neapolitan pizza and Kenji's review of the baking steel was really the reason I purchased the thing in the first place, I figured I would stick with his recipe until I made it work.

Anyway, the dough had a better crunch this time, and had a bit of spring to it as well, but the inside wasn't soft and pillowy. There was very little browning on the bottom or top of the pizza, probably due to the use of 00 flour at sub-optimal temperatures.  I have two more of the Kenji dough balls in the fridge at the moment, so I'll cook those up tomorrow, but afterward I may try a New York style recipe I found here.

Thanks again for all the help.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2014, 09:44:52 AM by quixoteQ »
Josh

Offline dmckean44

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2014, 02:04:59 PM »
I don't think you'll get the results you want unless you come up with a way to do the entire bake underneath the broiler. Scott123's or my method will both work.

If you don't want to do that you can go for more of a NY style dough but top it like a Neapolitan.

Offline dmcavanagh

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #17 on: March 22, 2014, 04:47:35 PM »
I don't expect anyone to rush out to buy a new oven, but if somewhere down the road you are in need, I absolutely love my dual chamber oven. The top chamber is very small, 9 inches, and you get a very even bake top and bottom. There are two possible shelf placements within that 9 inch opening for fine tuning, but the small confined space makes a great set up for pizza baking.

Offline quixoteQ

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Re: Baking Steel -Top, Bottom or Middle?
« Reply #18 on: March 22, 2014, 05:35:17 PM »
I don't expect anyone to rush out to buy a new oven, but if somewhere down the road you are in need, I absolutely love my dual chamber oven. The top chamber is very small, 9 inches, and you get a very even bake top and bottom. There are two possible shelf placements within that 9 inch opening for fine tuning, but the small confined space makes a great set up for pizza baking.

As much as I would love a new oven, I'm not sure it fits into my budget.  If you have a model number or a link, there's no harm in a little looky-look, as I've told my wife several times.
Josh

Offline dmcavanagh

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