When learning to make pizza at home it’s no secret that cooking pizza on a baking stone helps the home cook create pizzas that are reminiscent of great artisan pizza cooked in a fiery hot brick oven. The key to the baking stone’s success is their ability to hold and retain heat which is transferred back to the pizza consistently and evenly making a crust that is lighter, crispier and with a golden brown crust than using a pizza pan or pizza screen. The Baking Steel does just that but but better and more efficient; it literally brings the heat to your pie and will elevate the crust of your pizza to the next level.
How you ask? Simply, steel is about four times more dense than the material used in a baking stone. I was skeptical about how much of a difference it would make when I first heard of it and I was under a myth that a baking stone pulled moisture from the dough because it was stone / porous which the Baking Steel is smooth. However that logic seems to be false, it is really the heat that removes the moisture and a Baking Steel just simply holds and radiates more heat.
What is a Baking Steel?
The Baking Steel is a solid sheet of recycled steel that comes in ¼” and ½” versions with a dimension of 14″x16” (or 14″x14″ for the Sur La Table Baking Steel version). It is a simple but effective surface for baking pizzas and breads on that retains heat from your oven creating a hot surface to bake on. With steel being several times denser than typical baking stones the surface gets hot and stays hot creating a more airy rise to your pizza and better color to the crust. Baking Steel was created by Andris Lagsdin of Stoughton Steel and can be purchased online via Bakingsteel.com or through Amazon via Sur La Table branded version which is 14x14x0.25″ and slightly lighter.
Why is the Baking Steel better than a stone?
The baking steel retains more heat thus providing a contact heat that last longer and transfers more heat to your raw pizza when placed on it. This creates a baked pizza with a lighter and crispier crust. However more importantly than that it creates a crust with more color and without color to your crust it has little flavor.
Now for all of those of you who may whip out your James Bond surface thermometers and measure the surface temperature after preheating both; a baking stone will be hotter than the Baking Steel. Around 50-60°F hotter in fact when heated in an oven at 550°F. However heat is not all equal in this case just like 212°F boiling water is not the same as 212°F air temperature. The properties of steel causes it to want to give off radiative heat, to the air or pizza crust, where as a stone is more like a sponge absorbing it. Without getting into any complex science here its not apples to apples when it comes to the actual measured surface temperature and steel literally forces heat into your pizza.
Durable and will last multiple lifetimes
I love kitchen products that last and lets face it when you buy a Baking Steel you are going to be giving it to your children and they will give it to their children. It will still be around when all thats left is cockroaches, old IBM keyboards and Keith Richards. Aside from making great pizza one thing I love about the Baking Steel is it won’t break and will never have to be replaced. After having two baking stones break over the course of 7 years the Baking Steel is very economical over the long run (don’t tell Andris this though) . In a world that seems like everything is made to last 6 months you can’t help but love old world durability.
You may be wondering, what if after 10 years, 20 years or longer it becomes rough with baked on food or fat? Just like a cast iron skillets have lasted hundreds of years so will the Baking Steel. Below are a few tips on cleaning and keeping your Baking Steel in good working order.
Always remember its a piece of steel there is no reason for it to ever be unusable or discarded. I remember reading a review of a Lodge cast iron skillet and the user said since you can’t clean it with soap they had to toss it after a few months of use, very tragic. My heart seemed to stop for a few seconds when reading that.
Cleaning Your Baking Steel
Natural discoloration will occur with usage and the patina that forms on the surface after use means you have made some great pizza on it. (Which is why it breaks my heart when a baking stone cracks cause then you go right back to newbie status with a clean patina free baking surface.) The darker coloration is generally from baked on fat, which only enhances its non stick properties just like a cast iron skillet. However if you get some burned on cheese take a kitchen scraper and scrape off and chunks and wipe off with a damp sponge or towel. Do not use soap as it can possibly cause the light oil coating to come off. Remember the Baking Steel gets hot enough to sterilize itself when you preheat it, what you really need is a smooth surface for the pizza to slide onto.
Seasoning a Baking Steel / Bringing it Back to New
If for any reason, including rust (no issues with mine thus far but it is steel), you want to bring your Baking Steel back to a new look its as easy as sanding it smooth with a fine grit sanding block. Wipe clean of dust with damp cloth and dry. Coat the whole surface lightly with flax seed oil. Wipe it down with a dry paper towel to remove any excess, you want a super thin coating. Then bake in your oven for 90 minutes at 350°F allowing it to stay in your oven until cooled. The sanding will provide a smooth, like new surface and the baked on flax seed oil coating provides a thin protective coating to protect the steel from moisture in the air. This is essentially the same process for seasoning cast iron. Remember though, discoloration from use is normal and expected.
If you have a baking stone or Baking Steel make sure to check out our page on Preheating your Baking Stone or Baking Steel to learn why preheating is important as well as some suggestions on how long to preheat them for.
Disclaimer:The Home Pizzeria is not affiliated with Baking Steel nor was paid for this endorsement. I truly believe in this product and its ‘game changing’ ability for people making pizza at home. I also have not used my baking stone since getting my Baking Steel.