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Offline RHawthorne

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Stone vs. Steel
« on: May 08, 2020, 02:03:49 AM »
I apologize in advance if this topic has already been brought up 1,000 times before (probably), but I am very curious. I should probably start a poll instead of a post, but here goes anyway: I got a baking steel this last Christmas, and after using it a few times, I have to say that I am not at all impressed with the results I'm getting from it vs. my trusty old baking stone that I've had for about 8 years now. It just doesn't give my pizzas the same crisp that I get from my stone, unless it's preheated for a ridiculously long time and placed near the bottom of the oven, and even then, the flavor of the crust is definitely inferior to what I get from my stone. I'm somewhat surprised, because I've been hearing other pizza geeks talk these things up for years, like they're way better than stones, but I'm also kind of not surprised, because I love my stone. What gives? Does anybody else have this same experience? Who else likes their stone better? I can't be the only one, right?
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Offline scott r

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2020, 05:21:58 AM »
I dont think there is anything wrong with this opinion at all.   The steel allows you to make a different style of pizza that once was impossible to make in a home oven without modifying it and requiring it to work outside of its designed temperature range.  Before the steel came around that style of pizza was only available to people with wood or coal burning ovens.   These days there are many types of smaller backyard ovens that can allow you to make a pizza faster than 6 minutes.  We have lots of choices as home pizza makers now that we never had before, but in the end, if you prefer a 6 minute pizza or a 10 minute pizza, a stone in a home oven is the right tool for your preferred pizza. 

It is absolutely possible to make an authentic NY style pizza in your home oven with a stone, and NY pizza is probably the most popular style out there.   Of course there are many other styles that dont require a sub 6 minute bake. There is a point where a pizza is too fast for each of us... for me I dont love a pizza cooked faster than about 2.5 minutes... that's just me.   For me, at home, the steel is a huge step up because it allows me to achieve a 3 minute bake which is my preferred speed/stye.  Now I dont have to deal with an outdoor oven to make a pizza just like the pizza I make at work in my wood burning oven.  It should be noted, though, that my 3 minute bake does require a different dough than I would use for a 6 minute bake.

One thing that you mentioned does surprise me. For the same reason steel gives up heat faster than stone, it also preheats faster than stone (thermal conductivity).   You should be able to preheat your steel faster than your stone.  Also, I have to mention this only because I want to make sure that you are getting the most out of your steel.  Are you compensating somehow for the fact that the bottom of your pizza is cooking so quickly by using the broiler or by using convection?   If I were to just use my steel the way I use a pizza stone without using a broiler or convection (AFTER the pie goes in the oven) I would have an unbalanced bake with a pale top and a well done bottom.  Im sure I wouldn't prefer that to a balanced slower bake, which a stone easily achieves.

If your looking for a really crispy pizza that stays crispy for a long time out of the oven, a pizza steel is not the tool for you, as that can only be achieved with a slower bake.   The advantage of a faster bake is a potential for a lighter fluffier crust and a higher moisture content along with char... but that always comes at the expense of some crispiness. That is probably not a tradeoff that is worth it to you. Also, some people do not like the flavor of char or the flavor of fast baked toppings (it is different).   I say embrace your love of a slower bake and never look back.   It will certainly be easier on your back! :)
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 05:51:05 AM by scott r »

Offline RHawthorne

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2020, 05:49:20 AM »
I dont think there is anything wrong with this opinion at all.   The steel allows you to make a different style of pizza that once was impossible to make in a home oven without modifying it and requiring it to work outside of its designed temperature range.  Before the steel came around that style of pizza was only available to people with wood or coal burning ovens.   These days there are many types of smaller backyard ovens that can allow you to make a pizza faster than 6 minutes.  We have lots of choices as home pizza makers now that we never had before, but in the end, if you prefer a 6 minute pizza or a 10 minute pizza, a stone in a home oven is the right tool for your preferred pizza. 

It is absolutely possible to make an authentic NY style pizza in your home oven with a stone, and NY pizza is probably the most popular style out there.   Of course there are many other styles that dont require a sub 6 minute bake.  Also, some home ovens are just hotter than others (regardless of what their temperature knob shows) again providing a faster than 6 minute bake for a thin crust pizza.  If yo happen to have an oven like that a steel is probably not important. 

There is a point where a pizza is too fast for each of us... for me I dont love a pizza cooked faster than about 2.5 minutes... that's just me.   For me, at home, the steel is a huge step up because it allows me to achieve a 3 minute bake, which is my preferred speed/stye.  Now I dont have to deal with an outdoor oven to make a pizza just like the pizza I make at work in my wood burning oven.

One thing that you mentioned does surprise me, though. For the same reason steel gives up heat faster than stone, it also preheats faster than stone (thermal conductivity).   You should be able to preheat your steel faster than your stone.  Also, I have to mention this only because I want to make sure that you are getting the most out of your steel.  Are you compensating somehow for the fact that the bottom of your pizza is cooking so quickly by using the broiler or by using convection?   If I were to just use my steel the way I use a pizza stone without using a broiler or convection (AFTER the pie goes in the oven) I would have an unbalanced bake with a pale top and a well done bottom.  Im sure I wouldn't prefer that to a balanced slower bake, which a stone easily achieves.

If your looking for a really crispy pizza that stays crispy for a long time out of the oven, a pizza steel is not the tool for you, as that can only be achieved with a slower bake.   The advantage of a faster bake is a potential for a lighter fluffier crust and a higher moisture content along with char... but that always comes at the expense of some crispiness.

Hi. The oven I'm using now is a conventional oven, and it's one of those that has it's broiler on the bottom , and I've never taken the time to actually pull a pizza out and place it into the lower chamber to try it out. And I have no idea why my steel takes so long to heat up. Thankfully my stone still delivers great results, even without using a broiler. I was just curious about how a steel might work anyway; I didn't have my heart set on using it when I'm already getting very satisfactory pies with my stone. I got it for a gift and I'll still keep playing around with it every so often, but it's not like I'm really disappointed that I don't really get good results with it. I'm just mystified more than anything.
Having said all that, I will say that a few weeks ago, I did a side-by-side comparison of the steel vs. stone (which I posted about here, under the title "New Jersey style tomato pies", or something like that), with both in the oven at the same time, cooking pizzas from the same batch of dough, and the results in that one instance were definitely different. I had the steel towards the bottom of the oven and the stone higher. The pizza made on the steel was definitely quite crisp in that instance, and I don't think I preheated it any longer than normal. There's only one apparent explanation, and that's one that I have never bought into: the stone was radiating heat from above, into the steel. I say I don't buy into this idea, because it makes no sense to me. I have heard this technique talked about numerous times, but I don't see how it holds water.  We all know that neither a stone nor a steel will ever even absorb all the radiant heat it's exposed to, so how could it possibly radiate heat that's any higher than the air around it? I don't get it, and yet I can't ignore the empirical results that I've seen.
Anyway, I'll be interested in hearing all the responses to my question. Thanks for yours.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 05:56:25 AM by RHawthorne »
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Offline scott r

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2020, 06:29:30 AM »
Your welcome!  The pizza steel was designed to be used with a broiler.  You need strong top heat to compensate for the high thermal conductivity of the steel that is giving up the heat so easily from underneath the pizza.  I know that without being able to turn on convection or my broiler I wouldn't be able to make a balanced pizza in my oven with a steel.  Without a broiler I would for sure prefer a stone to a steel every time.

One thing that might help a little is putting the steel all the way to the top of your oven on its highest shelf.  The top of the oven provides the most top heat even without a broiler, as heat rises.  Its also possible that you could get the steel to work as designed using the smaller underneath broiler section of your oven.  While I have never tried this, ill bet there are people on this forum that have that will hopefully chime in.  The good news is that the preheat will be fast since broilers in such a close proximity are HOT.   

Beware, with the close proximity of the steel to the broiler, the temp of the steel could easily go higher than what you would would want to produce a crisp pizza. If the bake temp is left at the same place as the preheat temp I could see you easily back to having an unbalanced pie again (and a really fast pie with no crisp at all).  Its going to take some experimentation, but I think the way to make this work would be to find the ultimate preheat temperature, watch a clock for preheat times, and then turn your oven all the way up after the pizza is launched.  A rough starting point to try might be a 450 degree preheat for 40 minutes, and then turning the oven all the way up two minutes into the bake. Hopefully others with your same style of oven will chime in to help with more exact times and temps that work for them. 

One more thing to think about is that as the bake time gets shorter, which is what the steel allows and was designed to provide, you are probably going to want to use a dryer dough and less or no oil. For this reason its not really fair to compare the same dough on a steel and on a stone at the same temperature. 

Good luck, and keep us posted on your progress/findings.  Always remember that it is ok to prefer a slower pizza!  I really think that with the appropriate dough, a great pizza can be made at just about any temperature.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 06:41:39 AM by scott r »

Offline Pizza_Not_War

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2020, 11:42:14 AM »
NY pizza from my childhood was always in a steel decked oven. Maybe it's different now? If I get my steel up to 650F I don't need to use the broiler. Last pie was 5 minutes and perfect for me top/bottom.

In your case have you tried to heat the steel in the bottom broiler only?

I have two Fibrament stones, never use them since getting the steel.

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Offline RHawthorne

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2020, 04:19:19 PM »
NY pizza from my childhood was always in a steel decked oven. Maybe it's different now? If I get my steel up to 650F I don't need to use the broiler. Last pie was 5 minutes and perfect for me top/bottom.

In your case have you tried to heat the steel in the bottom broiler only?

I have two Fibrament stones, never use them since getting the steel.

No, I've never done anything with the broiler in this oven. I hate that design. But I guess I should try eventually.
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2020, 10:30:53 AM »
There are definitely two camps: stone and steel. A number of people here have both and there is no clear winner. It's steel for me. I've never been able to bake a NYish pizza I'm really happy with on stone in my home oven, but on steel I find it fairly easy to make the pizza I want to make. Likewise, I've never been able to get a crisp bottom on stone. On steel, not a problem. Here is one from a couple nights ago. 585F for about 5.5 minutes. 1/2" steel. 18" pizza baked on a steel that's only 17" deep  ;D
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2020, 10:39:03 AM »
One thing that you mentioned does surprise me. For the same reason steel gives up heat faster than stone, it also preheats faster than stone (thermal conductivity).   You should be able to preheat your steel faster than your stone.

One reason why steel takes longer to heat is that it's 4x as dense as cordierite, so for the same size, you're having to pre-heat 400% more mass, though his is somewhat offset by steel's lower specific heat. During pre-heating, the conductivity really only relates to how quickly the heat at the surface is moved to the center of the stone/steel. Since you're pre-heating via IR and convection rather than conduction, I'm not sure that the difference in conductivity makes a significant difference in the pre-heating.
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Offline scott r

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2020, 01:43:29 PM »
Great looking pie and good point Craig, I had never thought about the mass difference. I had always just assumed that my faster preheats were mostly because of the thermal conductivity working in both directions (faster absorption and release of heat)

I definitely have noticed a faster preheat for the steel in my oven, im sure that's helped by the fact that my baking steel is 1/4 inch and my stone is a 3/4 inch thick fibrament-D.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2020, 01:56:51 PM by scott r »

Offline RHawthorne

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2020, 07:49:41 PM »
There are definitely two camps: stone and steel. A number of people here have both and there is no clear winner. It's steel for me. I've never been able to bake a NYish pizza I'm really happy with on stone in my home oven, but on steel I find it fairly easy to make the pizza I want to make. Likewise, I've never been able to get a crisp bottom on stone. On steel, not a problem. Here is one from a couple nights ago. 585F for about 5.5 minutes. 1/2" steel. 18" pizza baked on a steel that's only 17" deep  ;D

That's really surprising, because NY pizzas are traditionally made on the stone floors of gas ovens (as I'm sure you know). I can see no reason why you're not getting satisfactory results. Whatever the case, those pies look awesome, and I can see why you're happy with your steel if that's the kind of results you're getting from it. Go with whatever works, right?
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Offline jkb

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2020, 12:14:01 AM »
Fibrament

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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2020, 08:06:05 AM »
That's really surprising, because NY pizzas are traditionally made on the stone floors of gas ovens (as I'm sure you know). I can see no reason why you're not getting satisfactory results. Whatever the case, those pies look awesome, and I can see why you're happy with your steel if that's the kind of results you're getting from it. Go with whatever works, right?

I like a faster bake and a more well-done pizza, and I'm not a fan of 10-12 minute pies. That's probably why the steel works best for me.
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Offline jkb

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2020, 12:43:44 AM »
I like a faster bake and a more well-done pizza, and I'm not a fan of 10-12 minute pies. That's probably why the steel works best for me.

The pic above was a 7 minute pie.  You don't like NY pizza.  That's fine. 
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2020, 07:36:57 AM »
The pic above was a 7 minute pie.  You don't like NY pizza.  That's fine.
At what temp?
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Offline Bert

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2020, 09:27:01 AM »
Craig /JKB what did use in your dough?
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #15 on: May 11, 2020, 09:29:42 AM »
Mine was pretty much a 3-2-1.

HEB bread flour
61% water
3% veg oil.
2% salt
1% sugar
0.5% IDY
0.2% LDMP

24 hours in the fridge.
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Offline tree_washer

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2020, 04:17:24 PM »
First, a disclaimer: I haven't done a proper back-to-back comparison between a stone and a steel plate. By 'proper' I mean using the same recipe, same flour, and same oven. What led me to initially choosing steel was a bit absurd: Since I've been so nomadic (pre-SARS-CoV-2), I sought the best baking surface that was also fairly thin and relatively light.

In every single case I found a benefit with using steel. Granted, I'd have to experiment with its placement in a given oven (as well as each oven's settings), but unless the oven was particularly hopeless, its use has helped to produce some excellent crusts.


Offline RHawthorne

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2020, 02:51:03 AM »
Mine was pretty much a 3-2-1.

HEB bread flour
61% water
3% veg oil.
2% salt
1% sugar
0.5% IDY
0.2% LDMP

24 hours in the fridge.

I'm just curious- why so little malt powder? That's practically nothing. Have you ever considered using just malt powder, and no sugar? I've done that numerous times with good results.
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Offline TXCraig1

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2020, 07:52:37 AM »
I'm just curious- why so little malt powder? That's practically nothing. Have you ever considered using just malt powder, and no sugar? I've done that numerous times with good results.

Note that this is diastatic malt - not the sweetening kind.

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Offline quietdesperation

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Re: Stone vs. Steel
« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2020, 10:06:35 AM »
The pizza steel was designed to be used with a broiler. 

ls that true scott? I'd never heard that but wasn't around the forum when steel was introduced. In any case, I don't like to use the broiler, I know hot and fast baking was something scott123 pushed but a number of us have moved to baking 500-515F for 8-9 minutes and enjoy the results. I believe this is more in line with the way it's baked in NYC but of course, it's not an apples to apples comparison since the equipment is different. I've found grande east coast works well with this type of bake, I do aim for a faster bake with other cheese.

Mine was pretty much a 3-2-1.

HEB bread flour
61% water
3% veg oil.
2% salt
1% sugar
0.5% IDY
0.2% LDMP

24 hours in the fridge.

craig, have you moved away from same-day bakes?
jeff

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