The original baking steel has been around since a successful Kickstarter crowd funding campaign in 2012 brought this cooking utensil to the forefront of pizza cooking. It has an array of baking benefits which beat a standard pizza stone in almost every aspect.
It conducts heat better, bakes crispier, heats up faster and has less down time between pizzas. It’s easier to clean, and doesn’t suffer from thermal shock so won’t break on you.
Now Pizzacraft, the brand specializing in home pizza cookery have a version of their own. The amazing thing? They’ve brought it to market at around half the price of the original baking steel, making it more accessible to the average home cook. They also have a few different variations for different budgets and oven sizes.
I bought a pizza steel from them and tested out a few pizzas in my home oven. I used a New York style pizza dough that had proofed for a few days.
The steel comes in 3 variations – a circular steel, a 14 inch square size and a larger 24 inch rectangular size. They are priced respectively lowest to highest.
I opted to not go circular as I had bought a circular pizza stone in the past and found the smaller shape difficult when loading the pizza. As the 14 inch square steel was out of stock online, I went for the 24 inch steel. When it arrived I realized my oven was too small so had to cut the steel down to fit into my oven. So my first advice: get your tape measure out and make sure your oven is large enough if going big.
As you can see, you can rest it on a wire rack or you can slide it into a rack compartment if it fits correctly.
I’ve read a few comments about the thickness of this steel – arguably the way they have brought down the cost of the product here. As a comparison, the original baking steel comes in at 1/4″ while this one is 1/8″.
For me, this hasn’t caused any problems – just look at the photos of my pizza crusts here, all baked on this steel. The size of the holes, the crispiness of the bottom and the fast cooking times make me think it couldn’t get much better in a home oven.
The high temperature conduction gives larger, lighter crusts than a pizza stone.
When heated up correctly, this steel produces the ultimate crispy bases so I presume any customers with different opinions haven’t allowed it to heat long enough.
This is a statement by Pizzacraft on their baking stone and I completely agree with it –
“We ended up with the current thickness of our steel after determining that there was a substantial improvement over thinner steel (ie. a cookie sheet). However, our testing also indicated only a minimal advantage to the thicker ¼” steel and therefore we were unable justify the overwhelming increase in price between the two thicknesses. We felt that a product that cooked at approximately 95% of the efficiency of steel twice as thick was the best value quotient for the consumer.”
The advantage of thinner steel is that it is much more manageable in the kitchen.
The steel heats up considerably faster than a stone – you can’t argue with the science that metal is simple a much better conductor of heat. I don’t own an infrared thermometer (yet) to measure the exact temperatures. But for the times that I’ve used it, 20-30 minutes gets hot enough to bake on, and a good hour really has made the best pizzas in terms of oven spring and browning.
The next great thing is the time between pizzas. The metal regains heat much faster so the down time between cooking is reduced to 5 minutes or so, and the subsequent pizza comes out just as good.
The Steel Material
The steel has an attractive appearance with a matte finish on the surface. It has a nice rough feel to it, so that it’s not too slippery, and it holds oil well when seasoned by rubbing oil into it. The edges have been rounded off with curves for aesthetic and less sharp edges, and it easily fits onto a shelf of the oven.
The steel comes pre-seasoned so you can use it straight away. As it’s a piece of bare metal, it is liable to rust if not looked after. I have had a few spots of water left on the surface which had created some orange colored rust. This can be wiped off easily with the kitchen towel and cooking oil and it’s as good as new. The guidance is that once you have washed it a few times and taken the pre-seasoned cover, you need to season it again by simply rubbing it with cooking oil before using.
There were also some claims that this product could warp. I’ve had this steel up to full heat for extended periods many times over the past few weeks and it is still very flat when put on a work top.
There will always be a few defected products out there, as with any item. It appears the Pizzacraft customers service are receptive to this. Judging by the positive reception, it appears to be an uncommon issue.
The Pizzacraft pizza steel is a great piece of kit and will bring your home oven pizza cooking to the next level. I think my pizza quality is as good as it gets from a home oven using this steel. I don’t see me investing double the money to buy the original version any time soon.
So for me, this is a 5 start review and I would highly recommend the product as it performs beautifully, is considerably cheaper than other steels available, and thinner so therefore lighter and easier to manage. Maybe the purist will disagree and back the original steel but for me, this is a great piece of kit. This is how pizzas on the steel bake: