Sonoma Chef John McReynolds and the Baking Steel

While searching through our customer database, I came upon a familiar name and looked into him a bit more. Chef John McReynolds is the Culinary Director at Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma, CA. Through our first few interactions, Chef told us that he has a Baking Steel in every one of his ovens and just loves it for the spur of moment flatbreads and pizzas. He's even more excited for the launch of our Griddle. So are we. Chef John has also written a cookbook called Stone Edge Farm Cookbook with hundreds of photos and recipes. Check out our interview with him below and try out one of his recipes too!

BakingSteel: How did you hear about the Baking Steel?

Chef John: My editor sent me a link to an article and I ordered one immediately.

BS: What was the first thing you cooked on the steel?

CJ: Pizza, of course. Then, other flat breads. I bought one for each of the kitchens. I just leave them in the oven. I find it useful for gratins and clay pot cooking. They just cook better on the Steel instead of resting on an oven rack.

BS: What's your favorite things to make on the steel?

CJ: Pizza, that is what I mainly got it for-and other flat breads.

BS: What are your plans for using the Baking Steel Griddle?

CJ: I do a lot of griddling both indoors and outdoors. Indoors, I use mostly Lodge cast iron round griddles. Outdoors, I use bigger conventional cast iron and aluminum griddles on the grate of a barbecue with oak coals. I use mostly Webers outside, so I can close the lid. This technique is a big part of my cooking-griddling over a wood fire.

BS: What food, if any, were you most happy with the result cooking on the steel?

CJ: Pizzas, followed by anything in a small pan or clay dish resting on the steel.

BS: What would you tell someone if they said, "Hey, I'm thinking of buying the Baking Steel, what makes it so good?"

CJ: Just do it. You will find many uses for it. It will transform even the wimpiest oven.

BS: Brief description of yourself and what you do at your position.

CJ: Culinary Director for Stone Edge Farm Winery. Cooking for guests in several locations, even out in the vineyards. I also do cooking classes, teach cooking in the schools in Sonoma Valley.

Thank you very much Chef John McReynolds! Below is one of his recipes, a take on a classic Alsacian Tarte.

Flammekueche (Savory Bacon and Onion Tart) Serves 4 as appetizer

In my version of this well-known Alsatian tart, I use a simple pizza dough and top it with lightly caramelized onions, fromage blanc, bacon, and Parmesan and serve it as an appetizer with white wine or champagne. The dough freezes beautifully, so I always make extra and keep it tucked away in freezer bags. The dough recipe makes enough for three tarts, but you will need only one for the Flammekueche. Making the dough and proofing it take some advance planning.


3 ounces bacon, diced

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons fromage blanc or ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraîche

1 5-ounce dough ball

Corn or semolina flour, if using a wooden pizza peel, or grapeseed oil for brushing

1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley



1. Preheat oven to 500F with the Baking Steel on the top rack.

2. Sauté the bacon in a small skillet until mostly rendered but not browned. Drain and reserve. In the same pan, melt the butter and sauté the onions until slightly softened and just beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Mix the fromage blanc or ricotta together with the crème fraîche or sour cream in a small bowl and reserve.

4. Working on a floured surface, form dough into a disc shape by hand and gently stretch out the dough to form a 10-inch circle. If cooking on a Baking Steel or in a pizza oven, transfer dough to a wooden pizza peel lightly sprinkled with corn flour or semolina. Otherwise transfer to a 10- inch pizza pan that has been lightly brushed with grapeseed oil. 

5. Place the onions evenly over the bottom of the dough. Using the back of a soup spoon, spread the fromage blanc mixture evenly on top of the onions almost to the edge of the dough. Sprinkle with the bacon, Parmesan cheese, and a little more salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling. Sprinkle with parsley before cutting.


Flammekueche on a Baking Steel

Check out the Baking Steel Test Kitchen's spin on Chef John's Beauty!

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