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

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5 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

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. 

 

 

Have you ever measured the temperature of the steel?  I found that after an hour the temperature of mine was still increasing.

 

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1 minute ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

Have you ever measured the temperature of the steel?  I found that after an hour the temperature of mine was still increasing.

 

Never measured it. It is possible we could get it hotter with more time and shave off a minute or two in the oven. I have no doubt my husband would just say more time preheating would be a needless use of gas, but I'll suggest it!. If I wanted to measure the temp of the steel what would I use to do that?

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46 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

Never measured it. It is possible we could get it hotter with more time and shave off a minute or two in the oven. I have no doubt my husband would just say more time preheating would be a needless use of gas, but I'll suggest it!. If I wanted to measure the temp of the steel what would I use to do that?

 

Depends what measuring equipment you have.  If you don't already have a thermometer that takes thermocouple probes, an IR thermometer is probably the least expensive option, considering the temperatures involved.

 

That being said, as mentioned in the sales and bargain thread, the Thermoworks waterproof is currently on sale!

https://forums.egullet.org/topic/153880-current-sales-deals-and-bargains-part-2/?do=findComment&comment=2169034

 

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I should have explained that even though the Thermoworks waterproof is on sale, one would still need to purchase a surface probe to plug into it.  Such as the K-028 I linked above.

 

In addition to several surface probes, Thermoworks also offers the self contained surface Thermapen.  I have one.  Convenient for measuring the surface temperature of pans, but not suitable for measuring a steel in the oven.  I've tried.

 

Some IR thermometers also accept thermocouple probes.

 

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2 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

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.

 

 

When Raffaele Esposito made the first Margherita for the Queen consort in 1889, he certainly didn't take surface readings of his hearth with an in IR thermometer ;) but, since IR thermometers became affordable to home and professional pizza makers in the early aughts, they have served this purpose valiantly.  While I'm a little intrigued by the use of a surface thermocouple for this purpose, the track record for an IR thermometer in this role is so untarnished, I'm going to have to cast my vote in the 'if it isn't broke, don't fix it' column.

 

Are $10 (on Amazon) Chinese IR thermometers sexy? No. Are they super precise? Not really. But for this particular job, you cant' find a better tool, imo.

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32 minutes ago, scott123 said:

 

When Raffaele Esposito made the first Margherita for the Queen consort in 1889, he certainly didn't take surface readings of his hearth with an in IR thermometer ;) but, since IR thermometers became affordable to home and professional pizza makers in the early aughts, they have served this purpose valiantly.  While I'm a little intrigued by the use of a surface thermocouple for this purpose, the track record for an IR thermometer in this role is so untarnished, I'm going to have to cast my vote in the 'if it isn't broke, don't fix it' column.

 

Are $10 (on Amazon) Chinese IR thermometers sexy? No. Are they super precise? Not really. But for this particular job, you cant' find a better tool, imo.

 

Yes, but which would Elizabeth of Windsor use?

 

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3 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

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. 

 

 

While I fiercely disagreed/disagree with Nathan and Kenji on particular aspects regarding steel, we all agree on one thing.  Steel's primary purpose for the home pizza maker is reducing bake times.  Heat is leavening, so a faster bake produces a puffier crust.  Within this paradigm, 7-8 minutes is really not that fast.

 

I used to talk about how, out of the (at the time) hundreds of people I knew who had used steel, not one, when they successfully achieved a 4-5 minute bake, ever went back to the 7 minute bakes they were getting on stone. And then a couple people went back :) Still, though, 99% of the folks that achieved that elusive 4-5 minute bake continued on that path.

 

You sound extraordinarily pleased with your current pizzas, but, should you ever get the itch and ask yourself "where do I go from here?", assuming you have a broiler in the main compartment of your oven, you can hit that magic 4-5 minute bake with thick aluminum plate.

 

Aluminum is going to be the next stage in home pizza making.  The modernist team's days of trailblazing faster bakes appear to be over, and without their stamp of approval, Kenji won't go anywhere near it, so it might take as long as a decade to match steel's ubiquity, but any entrepreneurs reading this might want to get their hands on the bakingaluminum.com domain now ;) Also, the bakingaluminum.uk and bakingaluminum.de addresses as well, as aluminum is poised to explode in Europe where 250C (482F) is a very common peak temp- and where interest in making better pizza at home is on the rise.

 


Edited by scott123 (log)

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19 minutes ago, scott123 said:

 

 

You sound extraordinarily pleased with your current pizzas, but, should you ever get the itch and ask yourself "where do I go from here?", assuming you have a broiler in the main compartment of your oven, you can hit that magic 4-5 minute bake with thick aluminum plate.

 

 

I am pleased with our pizzas. And if I get the itch to ask myself "where do I go from here?" it probably won't be about pizza. I'm just crossing my fingers that it won't be about how to get back home from the market, either. But if, as I get older, I want those three minutes for something other than waiting for my dinner I will revisit the matter and consider your advice! 

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1 hour ago, scott123 said:

 

While I fiercely disagreed/disagree with Nathan and Kenji on particular aspects regarding steel, we all agree on one thing.  Steel's primary purpose for the home pizza maker is reducing bake times.  Heat is leavening, so a faster bake produces a puffier crust.  Within this paradigm, 7-8 minutes is really not that fast.

 

I used to talk about how, out of the (at the time) hundreds of people I knew who had used steel, not one, when they successfully achieved a 4-5 minute bake, ever went back to the 7 minute bakes they were getting on stone. And then a couple people went back :) Still, though, 99% of the folks that achieved that elusive 4-5 minute bake continued on that path.

 

You sound extraordinarily pleased with your current pizzas, but, should you ever get the itch and ask yourself "where do I go from here?", assuming you have a broiler in the main compartment of your oven, you can hit that magic 4-5 minute bake with thick aluminum plate.

 

Aluminum is going to be the next stage in home pizza making.  The modernist team's days of trailblazing faster bakes appear to be over, and without their stamp of approval, Kenji won't go anywhere near it, so it might take as long as a decade to match steel's ubiquity, but any entrepreneurs reading this might want to get their hands on the bakingaluminum.com domain now ;) Also, the bakingaluminum.uk and bakingaluminum.de addresses as well, as aluminum is poised to explode in Europe where 250C (482F) is a very common peak temp- and where interest in making better pizza at home is on the rise.

 

 

 

OK, I'll bite.  How will aluminum (that despised element, unsuitable as a food contact surface) help me achieve a faster bake?

 

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7 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

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.

 No reason to be sorry.   I completely understand.  Some things are truly “a bargain at any price” if you want them enough.  I just don’t make pizza.:D

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4 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

OK, I'll bite.  How will aluminum (that despised element, unsuitable as a food contact surface) help me achieve a faster bake?

 

 

It's all about conductivity. Steel plate is able to transfer heat at a faster rate than stone, and aluminum is able to transfer heat at a faster rate than steel.  So, while the bottom of the pizza might cook in about 11 minutes on a stone @ 500, and 7 minutes on steel plate @ 500, aluminum plate can, at that same 500 degree temp, achieve a 4 minute bake.

Aluminum is considerably less dense than steel, but it has a higher specific heat.  A little less than 1/2" of steel plate (.47) matches the heat capacity of 3/4" aluminum. This is why I generally recommend 3/4" aluminum.  It's low density is a big plus.  16" x 16" x .5" of steel weighs 30 pounds, where 16" x 16" x .75" of aluminum weighs 10 pounds. That's going to be a lot easier to get in and out of the oven.

 

Lastly, I should point out that I was recommending aluminum to Katie in the context of her 500F oven, as well as European ovens that can reach 250C/482F. It was not in the context of 450F, so aluminum is not the answer to your Cuisinart Steam Oven.  It also wouldn't be buying you anything in your main oven either, since, although it might very well take you down to 90 seconds @ 585 on the base of the pizza, it's almost guaranteed that you won't have the necessary broiler strength to bake the top of the pizza at the same rate.

 

Aluminum plate, right now, is extremely application specific- 4-5 minute NY style pizza @ 482-500F.  You're not in this group. You might be able to hit 6 minutes with the CSO, maybe, but that's completely uncharted territory.

 


Edited by scott123 (log)

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Feeling a bit peckish, and since this is the coolest day we are forecast in a week I decided to take some measurements.  I fitted an air probe in the oven and have been graphing the temperatures over the last two hours and a half at thirty second intervals.  For one thing I learned the oven's temperature calibration firmware does not work exactly as I'd thought.  At least not at the maximum oven setting of 550F.

 

Supposedly the calibration adjustment allows the oven temperature to be increased or decreased by as much as 35F.  Well, the decrease part works but I did not measure any difference between plus 35F and zero offset.  The maximum air temperature I've hit in almost three hours is 560F, with the temperature oscillating around 553F or so.  My dreams of hitting 585F are dashed.

 

Meanwhile the steel in said oven is not getting all that hot.  Just like the other day.  I compared two of my surface thermometers on the stovetop and they read within a degree.  Thus I don't think the surface probe is faulty.

 

Anyway, off to bake the pizza.

 

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Somehow I was thinking that my steel was 15 pounds.  I don't have a scale that goes up that high, so I never measured it.  But after mildly injuring myself yesterday I (re)calculated the weight from the density.  I came out with 20.8 pounds.  Then I did the calculation correctly and got 14.45.

 

Maybe I should consider aluminum?  Or maybe I should just act my age.

 

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3 minutes ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Or maybe I should just act my age.

Don’t do it!

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After baking three loaves of bread this evening I'm considering just to leave the steel sitting in the CSO.  It's not worth my life.  When I can afford it I'll look into purchasing an aluminum plate for baking pizza in the big oven.  (OK, I've already been looking into it.)

 

Have any of us besides @scott123 experimented with aluminum?  Thickness of 3/4 inch sounds doable but I don't want to buy a copy of Modernist Pizza in a few years time only to learn 2 cm is the absolute bare minimum.

 

I'm still having a mystery about how my steel heats up.  With the CSO set to 450F convection bake, after an hour the steel measured only 328F.  After an hour and a half the steel measured only 350F.  By this time the dough was getting overproofed and I didn't take another data point.

 

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Has anyone found a 1/2" aluminum slab for pizza, or priced one from a metal yard? Seems like a good idea. You'd need the slab to be at least thick as your steel (ideally thicker, if you're trying to match the heat capacity) but it would still be lighter.

 

You'd want to season the thing like cast iron, to blacken it and increase its emissivity. Kenji's test of of copper vs. steel showed the copper to be inferior despite much higher conductivity. Uncharacteristically, Kenji made a dubious analysis of what was going on, but if you dig into the comments thread, you'll find some physics-minded people who correctly posit that the difference is in emissivity, and that a pizza steel / stone / oven deck heats primarily by radiation and not by conduction.


Edited by paulraphael (log)

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9 hours ago, paulraphael said:

Has anyone found a 1/2" aluminum slab for pizza, or priced one from a metal yard? Seems like a good idea. You'd need the slab to be at least thick as your steel (ideally thicker, if you're trying to match the heat capacity) but it would still be lighter.

 

You'd want to season the thing like cast iron, to blacken it and increase its emissivity. Kenji's test of of copper vs. steel showed the copper to be inferior despite much higher conductivity. Uncharacteristically, Kenji made a dubious analysis of what was going on, but if you dig into the comments thread, you'll find some physics-minded people who correctly posit that the difference is in emissivity, and that a pizza steel / stone / oven deck heats primarily by radiation and not by conduction.

 

 

My local metal supplier has a good selection.  I'm still doing research.  I'm not convinced radiation is what's important.  I'm not saying it is not -- just that I am not convinced.  Modernist Bread (p 3-282, 3-307) says the floor of a deck oven heats the base of the loaf by conduction.

 

As a side note I see MB has a picture of my lovely long handled Exo peel on p 3-336.  They call it an "individual loaf loader".

 

But back to aluminum -- one should consider the alloy carefully.  From what I've read many of the wrought alloys cannot take heat.  I am leaning toward Alcoa MIC-6, a cast alloy that I understand can be used up to 800F.

 

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OK, actually MB (p 1-323) says a dark (not shiny) half inch steel plate produces the best pizza crust.  They do not say why.  "Although it is staggeringly heavy."  Ask me how I know.

 

I've been keeping my steel shiny.  Maybe I should let it blacken.

 

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17 hours ago, paulraphael said:

Kenji made a dubious analysis of what was going on, but if you dig into the comments thread, you'll find some physics-minded people who correctly posit that the difference is in emissivity, and that a pizza steel / stone / oven deck heats primarily by radiation and not by conduction. 

 

I resonate a bit more with the comment from this guy ;)

 

"I’m betting the steel just got hotter than the copper. Most of the heating in an oven is by radiant heat, and materials that absorb more IR will heat up much faster."

 

I'm sure you recognize that comment, but, just in case you don't, it's your comment from the comment section of Kenji's post. I guarantee you that the copper was at a lower temp than the steel.  It's mind boggling that Kenji would compare two different materials for baking pizza without an infrared thermometer. 

 

While I think that emissivity plays a role with shiny materials like aluminum and copper, I don't think radiation is the 'primary' player over conduction. 

 

https://forums.egullet.org/topic/136959-cooking-with-modernist-cuisine-part-1/?page=6&tab=comments#comment-1791987

 

"3. Once the pizza is in contact with the metal plate, heat will be primarily by conduction, not radiation, so the heat transfer to the pizza will be pretty much the same regardless of whether the aluminum is shiny or not."

 

Nathan is erring in the other direction by downplaying radiation completely, but I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Radiation does play a trivial role, and this impact typically results in greater contrast in longer bakes with shiny aluminum.  Contrast isn't necessarily a bad thing (see Neapolitan), but, to level the playing field, I do feel that seasoning aluminum is important.

 

So I agree 100% about the need for seasoning, but I feel very strongly that it's primarily a conduction game, not a radiative one.

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On 9/3/2018 at 11:43 PM, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Have any of us besides @scott123 experimented with aluminum?  Thickness of 3/4 inch sounds doable but I don't want to buy a copy of Modernist Pizza in a few years time only to learn 2 cm is the absolute bare minimum.

 

Nathan and Chris's mistreatment of Neapolitan pizza in MC has been the focus of my attention for many years.  I focused so much on the misinformation, I lost sight of the useful information in the book. I was doing some digging today, and remembered this:

 

From Volume 2, Page 26 of Modernist Cuisine:

 

"Buy a metal plate (not shown). A piece of metal 2cm/3/4 in thick and large enough to just fit in the oven is ideal- and surprisingly inexpensive.  Either steel or aluminum works, but the latter is much easier to lift."

 

So, as you can see, the Modernist folks have already recommended 3/4" aluminum plate for pizza. I do not agree with their blanket recommendation for all ovens and all types of pizza, but, as I've said, in the right setting and the right application, thick aluminum can be invaluable.

 

Here's some experimentation with aluminum:


https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=51228.0

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=21951.0

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=25758.0

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=30572.0

https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=21951.0

https://forums.egullet.org/topic/152882-diy-crispy-pizza-crust/?tab=comments#comment-2048144

https://stefangourmet.com/2012/06/27/real-pizza-in-a-domestic-oven-using-an-aluminum-plate/

https://www.reddit.com/r/Pizza/comments/190jhp/pizza_cooked_on_a_200mm_thick_aluminium_slab_in_2/

 

It took a few years, but the pizza community figured out that 3/4" steel couldn't produce a faster bake than 1/2".  Basically, the heat can't travel from the bottom 1/4" during the time the pizza bakes.  Aluminum, though, is different.  We haven't determined the thickness of aluminum that produces the fastest bake- and with it's incredibly high conductivity and cost, we may never reach that point.  With this in mind, if you are dead set for getting aluminum for your CSO, I'd go with an inch- or even thicker.  1" aluminum at 450 might actually give you the coveted 4 minute bake.

 

And don't worry about a special alloy.  6061 is the cheapest, it's what everyone uses for pizza, and it's perfectly fine to use at the temps you'll be using it at.

 

As has been mentioned, you will want to season it. I would take a page out of the teflon coating handbook and rough up the surface a bit with sandpaper prior to seasoning.  That will help the seasoning stick (aluminum is a bit harder to season).

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5 hours ago, scott123 said:

I would take a page out of the teflon coating handbook and rough up the surface a bit with sandpaper prior to seasoning.  That will help the seasoning stick (aluminum is a bit harder to season).

 

I'd be interested in people's experience with surface treatments. I have an old aluminum griddle that I've seasoned like cast iron, with no special surface treatment. As could be expected, the seasoning flakes off pretty easily. A griddle gets rougher treatment than a pizza steel, but I'd still be curious about ways to improve the durability, either physical or chemical. 

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On 9/5/2018 at 11:22 AM, paulraphael said:

 

I'd be interested in people's experience with surface treatments. I have an old aluminum griddle that I've seasoned like cast iron, with no special surface treatment. As could be expected, the seasoning flakes off pretty easily. A griddle gets rougher treatment than a pizza steel, but I'd still be curious about ways to improve the durability, either physical or chemical. 

 

 
This particular process uses sodium hydroxide to prep the surface, which basically corrodes it.  I've seen sandblasting as a prep as well.
 
 
 

 

I have this vintage sunbeam waffle iron with irons that swap out for flat griddles.  For as long as I can remember, at least 40 years, the waffle iron has been seasoned dark black, without a single flake. I attribute this longevity to both the nooks and crannies of the iron itself and the surface imperfections of the cast aluminum.  Ive tried seasoning the flat griddles with little success, but this was years ago, before I started watching videos on teflon pans.  I may give them a try with sandpaper.  I think the major issue with the griddles, though, is that they tend to give a bit. Flexibility is the kiss of death for seasoning.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by Smithy Reformatted per poster's request (log)

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On 9/5/2018 at 5:51 AM, scott123 said:

It took a few years, but the pizza community figured out that 3/4" steel couldn't produce a faster bake than 1/2".  Basically, the heat can't travel from the bottom 1/4" during the time the pizza bakes.  Aluminum, though, is different.  We haven't determined the thickness of aluminum that produces the fastest bake- and with it's incredibly high conductivity and cost, we may never reach that point.  With this in mind, if you are dead set for getting aluminum for your CSO, I'd go with an inch- or even thicker.  1" aluminum at 450 might actually give you the coveted 4 minute bake.

 

And don't worry about a special alloy.  6061 is the cheapest, it's what everyone uses for pizza, and it's perfectly fine to use at the temps you'll be using it at.

 

As has been mentioned, you will want to season it. I would take a page out of the teflon coating handbook and rough up the surface a bit with sandpaper prior to seasoning.  That will help the seasoning stick (aluminum is a bit harder to season).

 

Thanks again for the information and the links.  I am not thinking of using aluminum in the CSO.  Aluminum sitting on a steel rack in a hot steam oven seems asking for trouble.  Meanwhile my 1/2 inch steel in the CSO is great for baking bread.  If I get an aluminum plate I intend it for the big oven for baking pizza.

 

I wouldn't say 6061 is what everyone is using for pizza, since a few posts up I read that @Syzygies is using MIC-6.  But if you are sure 6061 can take the heat, I will consider it.  Cost difference between alloys is not much of an issue.

 

Weight is a much bigger issue.  I understand aluminum alloys are all approximately the same density, and what I can lift limits the thickness of the plate.

 

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OK, I just took one for the team.  One inch 6061.  The expression on the UPS driver's face should be worth it.  Maybe some pizza results next week.  Perhaps a squad of eGullet operatives would like to come over and help me lift it in the oven.

 

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9 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

Thanks again for the information and the links.  I am not thinking of using aluminum in the CSO.  Aluminum sitting on a steel rack in a hot steam oven seems asking for trouble.  Meanwhile my 1/2 inch steel in the CSO is great for baking bread.  If I get an aluminum plate I intend it for the big oven for baking pizza.

 

 

As I mentioned before, with the temps your main oven can reach, aluminum isn't buying you anything in terms of a reduction in bake time, because you'll be limited by the strength of your broiler, but it will be considerably lighter to work with. Even at a whopping 1 inch, it should still be relatively easy to take in and out of the oven.

 

What size did you get?

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