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The Baking Steel for Avid Bakers Only? Cooks Illustrated Thinks So.

CICoverWe think it's for everyone!

Back in March, America’s Test Kitchen contacted us to order a couple of Baking Steels.  We were thrilled at the opportunity to get the Baking Steel in the hands of respected professionals who would put it through a rigorous yet fair kitchen test.

Fast forward to May.  I grabbed a copy of Cooks Illustrated the day the May issue dropped.  Eager to read the results, I flipped to the feature article – a match up between Baking Steel and the trusty Old Stone Oven Baking Stone.  See online version here.

The Baking Steel equally battled the Stone head-to-head and in some cases outperformed the opposition.  We were pleased to read that “the Steel produced a tall, airy crust with large bubbles and a bottom surface that was crisper and more deeply browned than the stone-baked crust.”

However, I feel a few points need clarity to ensure Steel users have the total picture and a 100% accurate takeaway from the test.

1. Weight

At 15 pounds (5 pounds heavier than the stone), it took muscle to maneuver it in and out of the oven.

This, folks, is the secret behind the science! The weight is what makes Baking Steel work.  The thermal conductivity of steel is far greater than stone.  Steel will conduct and store heat better than stone, thus resulting in pizza that is light and airy, with a crisp crust. Steel also results in reduced bake times. The thicker the steel, the better it bakes.

2. Superheating Technique

We decided to see how the steel and stone would fare subjected to a new superheating technique that we recently developed for whole-wheat pizza, which features very wet dough. We preheated both steel and stone in ovens set to 500 degrees and then ran the broiler for 10 minutes before dropping the temperature back to 500 degrees and adding the pizzas. This worked well with the stone but not so well with the steel, which fully cooked the bottom of the crust before the top was done. So we tried it again, this time leaving the broiler on. It was perfect: After just 4 minutes, our pizza emerged with a deeply browned, crisp crust and a bubbly, crackly top surface. The superheated steel had matched the intensity of the broiler and cooked the pizza rapidly and evenly from top to bottom. (With pizza on the stone, however, leaving the broiler on is a no-go: Because the stone wasn’t able to match the heat of the broiler, the top of the pizza scorched before the bottom fully browned.)

The superheating technique is not necessary when using Baking Steel.  Even though  by using the broiler, a 4-minute pizza (60% reduction in bake time for pizza) was achieved, the product design inherently addresses bake time (it’s faster and crust is more consistent). However, if you chose to use this technique, bring on the heat, but respect the science. It’s going to cook fast so don’t stray far from the kitchen. Once you get a feel for the Steel in your oven, you’ll nail cook time down to the second.

3. Recommendation

Baking Steel is for the “Avid Baker” while the Stone is for “Most Bakers”

The Baking Steel is for anyone who wants to make a perfectly baked pizza, pure and simple. Yes, “avid” bakers are raving about our Steel everywhere online. But, the science behind the Steel makes up for lack of skill. With the Steel, you can go from pizza zero to pizza hero. And that’s something to get fired up about!

So, there you have it – the complete truth from the kitchen test.  Now, we want to hear from you.  What do Baking Steel users and enthusiasts out there think?

Baking Steel: For the Avid Baker or Everyone?  Please comment to let us know. 

 

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