I've been making pizzas at home for a really long time. To be honest, I thought my pizzas were pretty good. I enjoyed throwing down all kinds of pizza styles; thin crust, Neapolitan, pizza bianca, pies with dough made with fall honey, and even deep dish Chicago styles. However, I never really thought my pizzas were great, no matter how quickly they got eaten. It's pizza after all.
In the persuit of great pizza, I've bought all kinds of tools for making pies at home, from stones in all shapes and sizes to an interesting mod to a Weber Kettle Grill called the KettlePizza; a tool that has potential, but is difficult to use. Recently I saw a review of a new product called the Baking Steel on the pizza-centric site Slice, and the results Kenji Lopez-Alt was getting in his home oven was enough to motivate me to contribute to a Kickstarter Campaign the makers of the Baking Steel were holding (now closed) to get my hands on a half inch thick model, a massive slab of steel that weighs in at 30 pounds.
The idea behind the Baking Steel originates from a mention in the epic cookbook set Modernist Cuisine, where it was suggested that a baking pizzas at home on a slab of metal would produce a superior product to pizzas baked on stone. It makes sense if you think about it. Stone heated by fire in a wood oven does an amazing job baking pies, because of the temperatures - ranging from 600 to 900 degrees - they are able to reach. A home oven though will typically max out around 500, so while a stone in your oven might turn out a decent pizza, you will be hard pressed to replicate the product that a wood fired oven will produce. Swapping out your stone for metal - in this case steel - ups the firepower (or more specifically energy in the form of heat) a home pizza maker can direct at their pies.
So far, my experience with the switch from stone to steel has been excellent. My pies are baking 25% faster. Thes have crisper and well chared collars and skirts, and are approaching the chewy texture that I've been trying to create at home for years. Truth be told, I'm nowhere near the end of my experiment with the Baking Stone, but I think enough of the product so far to say, if you want to make better pizzas at home, it's worth looking into.
Check out these photos of some recent pies I baked on a Baking Steel, provided by Jonathan Pollack. The proof, it would seem, is in the pizza:
I received no compensation or consideration for this post. This is not intended to be an advertisement. I just love great pizza. When I find a tool that helps me make great pizza, I want other folks to know about it. If you have used the Baking Steel, tell me about it in the comments section of this post. I've love to hear from you.