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New toy - Baking Steel

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I got a bonus at work (a lot more than I expected, woot!) and I ordered me a Baking Steel. It is about 1/4" thick plate steel, and it is supposed to be great for making pizza. Tonight I put it to the test.


Grill: Kamado Joe Classic III

Charcoal: Lazzari Fuel Lump Mesquite (I used to use this when I was a professional chef, cooks clean and HOT)

Dough: Ken Forbish's Overnight Pizza, from Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast.

Sauce: fresh Maranzano tomatoes, some EVOO, with salt, pepper, and some basil and oregano.


Topping - Pizza 1: Whole Milk Mozz, Sausage and Pepperoni

Topping  - Pizza 2: Buffalo Mozz, Proscuitto


Cook temp 650F


The first pizza burnt a bit on the bottom. The steel cooks hotter than a pizza stone, so I am chastised. As a pro, I used to cook in a pizza oven at 625, but it was a standard pizza oven with a refractory brick baking surface. Not ruined, but not perfect.


The second pizza was perfect. After a minute or two on the grill, I added a pizza pan under it to prevent the heat of the steel burning the bottom.


Both pizza's: The crust was chewy, with great open crumb. Cheese melty and delicious, and awesome.


Dinner: Success. 






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Nice dough and toppings.  I would be interested to hear from a thermal/materials engineer(is there such a thing?) to understand the difference in heat absorption and retention of ceramic pizza stones vs steel.  My instinct tells me the steel is getting hotter faster and the ceramic releases its' heat at a different rate.  Pure speculation - engineers/scientists?

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7 hours ago, Family_cook said:

Nice dough and toppings.  I would be interested to hear from a thermal/materials engineer(is there such a thing?) to understand the difference in heat absorption and retention of ceramic pizza stones vs steel.  My instinct tells me the steel is getting hotter faster and the ceramic releases its' heat at a different rate.  Pure speculation - engineers/scientists?


My days of being able to solve the 3d diffusion equation to model and map heat distribution and the radiative heat from the materials are long gone (I did pull my degree in physics), but looking at the heat conductivity of the two materials is not too difficult to get at.


I presume that the ceramics of a pizza stone are probably lowish thermal conductivity, and that their benefit is in the mass of the stone being a reservoir of heat. Add to that the porosity, and moisture is wicked out of the dough when it is first placed on the hot stone, leading to a "drier" bottom crust. (note: this is the same thermal properties as refractory bricks, hence the presumption of the pizza stone as a modest conductor of thermal energy.)


The steel is a much better conductor of heat, and it weights considerably more than my pizza stone. (note I only have a large rectangular pizza stone, so I have no experience with it in my kamado) The tables I checked showed that an Alumina ceramic (and since I assume that pizza stones are similar in composition to refractory bricks, or about 30% alumina) is about 1/4 the thermal conductivity of steel.


One of the challenges in cooking in my ordinary oven is that even with the stone, opening the door, and placing the pizza on the stone, there is a significant drop in oven temperature. The stone helps with this but it is still a factor. The much more massive steel will hold more heat, and then impart it onto the pie when it is placed. Additionally, since the heat conduction is tied to the mobility of free electrons in the metal, the steel will impart more of its heat to the dough.


Side note: I was asked once how come those stove top griddles don't make pancakes as good as you get at Denny's or IHOP. The truth is two fold. First the batter is different, it is made in larger batches, and can rest. Home cooks don't have that luxury. But the real reason is the commercial griddle with 1.5" (or greater) thick steel that has a huge amount of BTU's pumped into it, and a well seasoned surface. Can't compete with that.


What I do need is an IR temperature gauge so that I can tell what the surface temperature of the steel is before I slide the pie on it. I guess a trip to the local Harbor Freight is in store for me.

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