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Substitute for MC's 1/2"-Thick Pizza Steel

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Franci,  nice oven.  It depends on what type of pizza you want.   If all you want is a crispy crust, good heat from the bottom will do that - your oven bottom may work fine.  For many, the main issue is balancing top and bottom heat - and as Scott pointed out, get high heat to both the top and bottom will get a pizza that is light and airy, with a puffy crust.  If you add just high heat from on top, with no extra boost from the bottom, the top will get burned before the bottom is done.  The other example, which is your case, is that the bottom will get nice and crispy, but by the time the top starts to brown, the bottom will be black.  

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I contacted a few metal fabricators / scrapyards in the NYC area, and was quoted outrageous prices every time. So that led to shopping for the pre-packaged solutions. I decided to go for a 1/2" steel based on the slight thermal advantages, and since my back is ok. It came to a choice between ones by Dough Joe and by Nerd Chef. With shipping they each come to about $100, either from Amazon or direct from the companies. The Dough Joe is 15" square and would be ideal for using in charcoal grill or kamado. I went with the slightly more rectangular Nerd Chef because it has a couple of big finger holes to make it easier to handle. I assume there would be zero performance difference. 

 

In a trial run with my stove (one of those very cheap NYC apartment gas ranges that has a broiler compartment below the oven and no electronics). On the top shelf the steel got to about 510F in 1 hour. It might have gone higher but I ran out of time. More interestingly, the broiler rack down below got up to 640F. These cheap ranges use the same heating element for the oven and for the broiler, which might make them ideal.

 

So for pizza test 1 today, I'm going to try the broiler shelf. I'm not sure if I'll leave the broiler element on for the whole duration of the cook ... that seems like it might set things on fire. Unfortunately there's no way to watch, so it will take some winging it.

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After breaking my second pizza stone, I went to a local metal fabricator that I first went to for a custom heat shield for my wood stove. I had them cut me a 1/4" steel plate 16" X 17" to fit the rack in the small top oven of my twin oven range. They cut it while I waited and it cost about $20. With the oven and plate preheated to 550 F, it does a fine job with most pizzas in 11 minutes and I could not be happier. I estimate the plate to be about 20 pounds and care must be taken when moving it as it would do a number on anything it was dropped on.

 

HC


Edited by HungryChris (log)

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We just made our first two pizzas on the 1/2" steel in the broiler. Results were ok for a first try, but a fail if comparing to a couple of the wood oven places within 20 minute's walking distance, and embarrassment compared to the best Brooklyn has to offer. I think we can get in the ballpark of the former; probably not the latter.

 

I made the mistake of dropping the broiler rack to the 2nd position, out of fear that the pizza would combust if any closer to the fire (I once sent a ball of flame all the way to the ceiling from the nachos I pulled out of a similar broiler. Made me shy). Because of the added distance, the stone only got up to 540°F or so, and the pizzas took a full 6 minutes. I'd like to get it under 4 minutes.

 

I also cooked the pizzas on parchment, which I find necessary when working with very high hydration doughs. These crusts were about 75% hydration before any added bench flour, and were like glue. It's beyond my art to slide this kind of dough off a peel. I suspect that if we can get the temperatures above 600F and the time down significantly, we'll be able to use lower hydration and then dispense with the parchment. All together this might help get some char on the bottom.

 

Right now we're working with commercial yeast and delayed fermentation (to get some flavor). Once we get the mechanics down we'll get a sourdough starter going. Our favorite pizzas are quite sour.

 

Raphaelson-5.thumb.jpg.60f7c8d28a06a93a7

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paulraphael

Why does the time it takes to bake a pizza seem so important? If you can get a great pie out of the oven, that should be what you want. Looked great, tasted great, but didn't cook in four minutes? I don't get it. I do admit that I plan on building a wood fired brick oven outdoors in the future that I expect will get much hotter than my electric range can, but still, it's what comes out of the oven that I'm most interested in rather than how much time it spent in there.

HC


Edited by HungryChris (log)
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HC

 

I look forward to following you experience w a wood fired oven.  is it going to be a dome ?

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paulraphael - Your pizza looks wonderful. Question for you though .. you can't even slide your pizzas off a peel if you 'grease' the peel first with a bit of cornmeal?

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4 hours ago, Deryn said:

paulraphael - Your pizza looks wonderful. Question for you though .. you can't even slide your pizzas off a peel if you 'grease' the peel first with a bit of cornmeal?

 

Thank you ... I agree it looks pretty good, but the eating was only so-so.  

 

And yeah, this dough is sticky beyond what you can solve with cornmeal. It's like a gelatinous blob of glue. For my next batch with 65% or so hydration I'll try sliding it.

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On ‎3‎/‎6‎/‎2016 at 7:19 AM, rotuts said:

HC

 

I look forward to following you experience w a wood fired oven.  is it going to be a dome ?

rotus,

My plan is to build a fenced in patio for outdoor cooking, eating and entertaining in the warmer months and I want this wood burning oven to be a center piece that is both effective and aesthetically pleasing. I am thinking that it will be a half barrel type, but squared off to look like a small brick structure. Kind of along these lines, but with more muted colored bricks this one is by Hearth Masters Inc, Kansas City, Missouri, who's president, Marge Padgitt is the host on Wood Fired Radio http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/8/prweb9824205.htm :

  •  

 cropped.jpg


Edited by HungryChris Added source from Wood Fired Radio (log)
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@paulraphael I also have a great deal of difficulty getting raw pizza off of my peel. I build it and slide it onto my stone on parchment. When it is abut 1/2 way cooked I use the parchment to rotate it 180 degrees then slide the peel between the parchment and dough, remove the parchment and slide the pizza onto back onto the stone without the parchment. Works for me.   

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HC

 

looks great

 

re : a half barrel type

 

look into conical as the wood in the back circulated do to the dome better Im told.

 

don't have one myself, just lots of opinions.

 

:huh:

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22 hours ago, paulraphael said:

 

Thank you ... I agree it looks pretty good, but the eating was only so-so.  

 

And yeah, this dough is sticky beyond what you can solve with cornmeal. It's like a gelatinous blob of glue. For my next batch with 65% or so hydration I'll try sliding it.

65%? Why? 60% is plenty, even with Caputo. 3-4 day cold ferment and go.

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I'm experimenting with 65% on the next batch.

 

Today I used the second half of my my batch of glue dough. While preheating, I figured out that my temperature readings have been wrong. The IR thermometer was picking radiant heat reflected off the broiler, and was telling me the steel was 200F high. If I pulled out the broiler drawer and took a reading, it wouldn't get above 450F or so, even long past an hour. So I took the hot, 32lb steel and stuck it on a rack 7" from the top of the oven (not recommended!). Here with the oven on full blast it got to about 560F in the middle. 

 

I managed to get the dough proofed more thoroughly this time. And with an extra 3 days of retarding in the fridge, the flavors intensified. This round was a big improvement. The pies still took 6 minutes, but they developed nice char on the bottom, even through the parchment, and puffed up with more oven spring than I'd been able to get in previous years with a stone. The crust was airy and moist, with good chew.

 

Next time I'll try moving the steel a notch up to the highest position. And I'll see if I can get the same airiness with a lower hydration dough.

 

7.thumb.jpg.484080444eede78efbce78448d74

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This one I tried baking on foil instead of parchment. Bad idea. Char was a bit odd and the foil glued itself to the bottom, even though it had been oiled.

 

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I've been using an 1/2 inch steel and have been getting good results at three to four minutes.  Tonight I took temperature measurements directly on the steel as the oven heated:

 

30 minutes 198F.

60 minutes 364F.

90 minutes 427F.

120 minutes 450F.

150 minutes 477F.

180 minutes 477F.

 

The temperature never went above 477.  I did not attempt to measure after running the broiler for fear of my safety.  The pie was pretty blackened after four minutes*.  Three and a half minutes seems like a good compromise.

 

Still trying to figure this out, I may have gotten the oven calibration backwards.  Next time I will try measuring oven air temperature.  It should have been around 585F.  My air probe goes up to 662F.  Thoughts welcome.

 

 

*though I was using leftover bread dough, not pizza dough.

 

 

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I've been sliding pizzas onto the steel with parchment paper,  then as the dough par bakes whip the parchment out from underneath and finishing the baking with the pizza directly on the steel.

 

this works..... but overall I've never been thrilled with any of my experiments and I've been doing it for almost 2 years.... Naan breads however are great.

 

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2 hours ago, adey73 said:

I've been sliding pizzas onto the steel with parchment paper,  then as the dough par bakes whip the parchment out from underneath and finishing the baking with the pizza directly on the steel.

 

this works..... but overall I've never been thrilled with any of my experiments and I've been doing it for almost 2 years.... Naan breads however are great.

 

 

I've been using an Exo Super Peel for transferring the pizza from a Silpat to the steel.

 

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12 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

I've been using an 1/2 inch steel and have been getting good results at three to four minutes.  Tonight I took temperature measurements directly on the steel as the oven heated:

 

30 minutes 198F.

60 minutes 364F.

90 minutes 427F.

120 minutes 450F.

150 minutes 477F.

180 minutes 477F.

 

The temperature never went above 477.  I did not attempt to measure after running the broiler for fear of my safety.  The pie was pretty blackened after four minutes*.  Three and a half minutes seems like a good compromise.

 

Still trying to figure this out, I may have gotten the oven calibration backwards.  Next time I will try measuring oven air temperature.  It should have been around 585F.  My air probe goes up to 662F.  Thoughts welcome.

 

 

*though I was using leftover bread dough, not pizza dough.

 

 

 

It looks like your infrared thermometer isn't working properly.  477F can't blacken the bottom of a pizza in 4 minutes.  585F- now that will produce what you're experiencing.

 

Have you tested your IR thermometer with boiling water?

 


Edited by scott123 (log)

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5 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

I've been using an Exo Super Peel for transferring the pizza from a Silpat to the steel.

 

 

that Peel is a 106 of the Queens pounds on Amazon uk !!!

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1 hour ago, adey73 said:

 

that Peel is a 106 of the Queens pounds on Amazon uk !!!

It is almost $120 on Amazon.ca.  Not that I want one but curiosity sent me to look.  

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4 hours ago, scott123 said:

 

It looks like your infrared thermometer isn't working properly.  477F can't blacken the bottom of a pizza in 4 minutes.  585F- now that will produce what you're experiencing.

 

Have you tested your IR thermometer with boiling water?

 

 

More likely that the emissivity of the steel doesn't match what the instrument expects. 

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8 hours ago, scott123 said:

 

It looks like your infrared thermometer isn't working properly.  477F can't blacken the bottom of a pizza in 4 minutes.  585F- now that will produce what you're experiencing.

 

Have you tested your IR thermometer with boiling water?

 

 

 

I don't have an IR thermometer.  I was using a thermocouple:

https://www.thermoworks.com/PRB-K-028

 

I have another surface probe and another surface thermometer I could compare it with.  Nonetheless the air temperature reading should be interesting.

 

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5 hours ago, Anna N said:

It is almost $120 on Amazon.ca.  Not that I want one but curiosity sent me to look.  

 

Sorry.  I see the peel cost has gone up substantially.  With shipping I paid $103 US.  Now on amazon it's listed as $120 US.  A bargain at any price.  I hadn't been able to get my pizza in the oven properly by any method.  Now I can hit the steel without even needing oven mitts.

 

The problem was storing it.  I was running out of room in the bed.  Finally found a wrought iron wall hook the right size and have the peel hanging proudly in the dining room.  A friend who came over this evening remarked I don't waste any space.  Don't ask about my four other peels.

 

 

Edit:  all the reviews are 5 star -- as will be mine when I get around to writing it.

 


Edited by JoNorvelleWalker (log)
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7 hours ago, adey73 said:

 

that Peel is a 106 of the Queens pounds on Amazon uk !!!

 

And if the Queen is into baking pizza I'm sure she has one in each castle.

 

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We purchased the Dough Joe steel a year ago and couldn't be happier. We got the 3/8 inch thick (it measures 15 inches square) and the Amazon price is $59. We preheat the oven with the steel in it for close to an hour. Our max temp on the dial is 500 degrees. I certainly don't feel like I should have gotten the 1/2 inch thick. We like a thin crispy crust with a little char on the bottom, and this works like a charm.

 

Oh, it cooks about 7 or 8 minutes. 


Edited by Katie Meadow (log)

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