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Baking Pizza on a Metal Plate/Baking Steel


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Maybe had I known prior to purchase, I would've gotten aluminum. But...

 

The steels I have both do double duty, with the smooth side functioning as a plancha/griddle. I think when Kenji wrote about the reversible steel/griddle product, that's what he was really excited about...https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/04/the-food-lab-the-new-reversible-baking-steelg.html

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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On 12/24/2020 at 7:57 AM, scott123 said:

 

Thick aluminum plate can match (and exceed) steel at about half the weight.  Your goal of trimming another minute off the bake time- aluminum can achieve that- with one hand tied behind it's back. 

 

On 12/24/2020 at 10:56 AM, shain said:

 

Very true. The reason being aluminum is more conductive, which leads to faster heat transfer.

 

On 12/24/2020 at 2:27 PM, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Just to add my vote, in my oven aluminum works better.

 

 

 

Could you recommend where to buy an aluminum plate which would fit in the Anova Precision Oven, please?

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1 hour ago, TdeV said:

 

 

 

 

Could you recommend where to buy an aluminum plate which would fit in the Anova Precision Oven, please?

 

https://www.mcmaster.com/7255K8-7255K18/

 

This is the aluminum plate that I have.  It fits in the APO but I would not use it in the APO.  For two reasons.  It seems a bit heavy for the racks, and I hesitate to mix aluminum with steam.

 

I use my aluminum plate for baking pizza in the regular kitchen oven which gets hotter than the APO.  I have a baking steel for use in the APO.

 

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The reason I use steal rather than aluminum is that I got it for almost free as scrap metal from an acquaintance that do large metal works. You may look for any metal workers nearby.

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~ Shai N.

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I'm confused, @JoNorvelleWalker.

I thought the steel was inferior - in general - than the aluminium? Also, isn't the steel heavier; why would it be too heavy for the racks? And didn't you upgrade your racks?

 

Also, there are many aluminium boats on  a lake, so why is this an issue?

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23 hours ago, TdeV said:

Could you recommend where to buy an aluminum plate which would fit in the Anova Precision Oven, please?

 

https://www.midweststeelsupply.com/store/6061aluminumplate

 

The link @JoNorvelleWalker provided is more than triple the price of Midwest.  Midwest isn't anodized, and while the right anodization can just about guarantee immortality, not all types of anodization are food safe, and just plain seasoning gives you plenty of durability.  

 

I've tracked probably close to 2K heavy steel plates in a vast variety of ovens, and I've never heard of an oven rack failing.  I'm sure that the Anova probably incorporates a very weak, lightweight shelf, but, because you're filling the oven with aluminum plate, you're putting the bulk of the weight on the shelf supports, not the shelf itself.  I've seen photos of pretty large birds in the Anova literature. If it can handle a large chicken, it'll be perfectly fine with 1" aluminum.

 

This being said, a 250C peak temp, even with aluminum, is super sketchy for great pizza.  Now, I've recommended 1" aluminum to countless Europeans with 250C home ovens, but that was the best they could get their hands on. If there's any chance you have a traditional oven that gets hotter, I second @JoNorvelleWalker's recommendation to use your aluminum plate in that.  The Anova's dimensions are also far from ideal.  An 11.5" pizza, the max you'd want to go in an Anova, is a postage stamp.  Adding insult to injury, with the wattage the Anova provides, you're talking about both very long preheats- easily 2 hours, and long recovery times between pizzas, effectively limiting you to one tiny pie per meal.  

 

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9 hours ago, TdeV said:

I'm confused, @JoNorvelleWalker.

I thought the steel was inferior - in general - than the aluminium? Also, isn't the steel heavier; why would it be too heavy for the racks? And didn't you upgrade your racks?

 

Also, there are many aluminium boats on  a lake, so why is this an issue?

 

The steel plate I use in the APO is only 1/4 inch thick and is lighter than either my aluminum plate or the 1/2 inch steel plate I used to use in the CSO.

 

No, I did not upgrade the racks in my APO.  The anova supplied racks seem perfectly adequate for the application.  However, like any racks, they bend if you place a heavy enough piece of metal in the center.  The heavier plate worked in the CSO because the CSO racks are narrower.

 

I may be overreacting in my concern about aluminum and steam.  Compared to pandemic, insurrection, and paying rent.  But if the oxide coating scratched and there was a spark things could go south quickly.

 

But for pizza why not use your regular kitchen oven?

 

 

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Our pizza steel is 3/8 inch. Yes, it's heavy, but certainly isn't a problem with racks in the regular oven. The biggest hazard or irritant is that I often forget to remove it before heating up the oven for whatever gets baked next. Getting it out while hot is no picnic. Hint: remove the whole oven rack with the steel on it to the stove top. We've never used aluminum, so can't comment on it. Love the steel, though.

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9 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

Our pizza steel is 3/8 inch. Yes, it's heavy, but certainly isn't a problem with racks in the regular oven. The biggest hazard or irritant is that I often forget to remove it before heating up the oven for whatever gets baked next. Getting it out while hot is no picnic. Hint: remove the whole oven rack with the steel on it to the stove top. We've never used aluminum, so can't comment on it. Love the steel, though.

Why remove it?

The steel currently in my oven weighs close to 25 lbs...it's annoying enough removing it when cold.

I baked cookies on a cookie sheet on it yesterday, and the new One Tin Bakes (eG-friendly Amazon.com link) book I just got suggests baking in the tin on a steel/brick/whatever.

So my top rack is on the 2nd highest level, and the steel stays on there permanently (I can hope).

 

IMG_3317.thumb.JPG.1819dba545631217cdc3d8de943c3662.JPG

 

Ignore the yellow Descoware; it's where I store it most of the time. You know, just in case I want to do a bread that way.

 

The nice thing about those top 2 shelves is that they are full extension, on glides. And they support (allegedly) 50 lbs.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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3 hours ago, weinoo said:

Why remove it?

The steel currently in my oven weighs close to 25 lbs...it's annoying enough removing it when cold.

I baked cookies on a cookie sheet on it yesterday, and the new One Tin Bakes (eG-friendly Amazon.com link) book I just got suggests baking in the tin on a steel/brick/whatever.

So my top rack is on the 2nd highest level, and the steel stays on there permanently (I can hope).

 

IMG_3317.thumb.JPG.1819dba545631217cdc3d8de943c3662.JPG

 

Ignore the yellow Descoware; it's where I store it most of the time. You know, just in case I want to do a bread that way.

 

The nice thing about those top 2 shelves is that they are full extension, on glides. And they support (allegedly) 50 lbs.

It never occurred to me to keep the steel in the oven. Does it affect the heat? If you put a cookie sheet directly on it do they bake hotter or faster? Does this qualify as a a stupid question? If so I've missed my opportunity to contribute to that thread.

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50 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

It never occurred to me to keep the steel in the oven. Does it affect the heat? If you put a cookie sheet directly on it do they bake hotter or faster? Does this qualify as a a stupid question? If so I've missed my opportunity to contribute to that thread.

 

I'm no food scientist or heat scientist (my mother thought I'd make a good vet), and I'm sure we'll hear from them...

 

I think the way the steel affects heat in the oven is that it keeps the heat more consistent.  Baking on top of the steel is I guess like baking on an oven floor, so I imagine some experimentation will be necessary, but I didn't find much difference with these cookies, and Edd (yes, that is how he spells his name) in the one tin baking book says that it helps some of what he bakes from getting a soggy bottom crust.

 

When I roasted chicken thighs underneath the steel (after it had heated properly), they crisped up quite beautifully.  My oven maintains quite accurate heat, according to the thermometers I have in there, and I would think if an oven is squirrely, the steel can only help.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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4 hours ago, weinoo said:

Why remove it?

The steel currently in my oven weighs close to 25 lbs...it's annoying enough removing it when cold.

I baked cookies on a cookie sheet on it yesterday, and the new One Tin Bakes (eG-friendly Amazon.com link) book I just got suggests baking in the tin on a steel/brick/whatever.

 

My steel is 41 lb, so I spent a great deal of effort trying to make leaving it in the oven work for other baked goods.  I couldn't do it.   Tall pots, like dutch ovens, stockpots, or large roasts wouldn't fit vertically with where my steel is placed. For things that could fit, like pies, cookies or lasagna, I could usually modify the baking technique to get the results I wanted, but, for every success, it would take at least 2 bakes to dial it in.  At the end of the day, it changes the thermodynamics so dramatically the futzing that it requires is not worth the trouble.  And there is no single trick to making every baked good work. Every item I baked required different tweaks to get it to bake the way I wanted.  


Another important facet to this equation is, until the steel is completely preheated, the cooler core is going to be actively drawing heat away from the hotter exterior, effectively acting like a heat sink and lowering the temp of the oven faster than normally.  Because of this, unless you fully preheat the steel every time you bake, your oven temp won't be consistent.  This turns (for me) a typical 12 minute preheat into an hour.  For thinner steels, you're still talking 40+ minutes.

 

A few caveats.  First, I'm working with an oven without convection.  If all your recipes utilize convection, and you're willing to live with the 40+ minute preheat, as long as you don't bake directly on the steel, you shouldn't have to alter your approach for existing recipes.  Second, this is for existing recipes, not new ones.  By their nature, new recipes tend to require some trial and error with regard to how they're baked.  Within that context, compensating for the steel is probably not that much extra bother.  But again, that 40+ minute preheat is brutal.

 

Not to sound like a broken record, but this is the beauty of aluminum.  Besides producing better bottom color and superior oven spring, aluminum with comparable heat capacity is a little more than 1/2 the weight of steel.  Better pizza, and your back breaking 23 lb plate becomes a much more manageable 14 lb piece of aluminum.  I don't normally recommend less than .75" aluminum, but that's for folks with cooler ovens. I'm also not a fan of anything less than 16" square (size is a huge factor in proper NY style pies). This all being said, your oven is really not that weak.  If you wanted to approach aluminum from primarily a back saving perspective, a 15" x 15" x .625" plate from the link I posted above would match the heat capacity you have now (with a slightly faster bake time), weigh 14 lb and run you $60 shipped.  If you wanted to approach the weight savings even more aggressively and increase performance, two 16" x 8" x .75" aluminum plates would blow your current steel out of the water, weigh 9 lb a piece, and run you about $75 shipped. 

 

Considerably better pizza AND lugging around 9 lb plates rather than 23 lb.  You have to be at least a little bit tempted :)

Edited by scott123 (log)
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4 minutes ago, scott123 said:

Not to sound like a broken record, but this is the beauty of aluminum

 

But...not to sound like a broken record, some of us have, and like, our steels. I am looking forward to flipping this sucker, slamming it under broiler, and cooking a steak on it...

 

https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/04/the-food-lab-the-new-reversible-baking-steelg.html

 

8 minutes ago, scott123 said:

If all your recipes utilize convection, and you're willing to live with the 40+ minute preheat, as long as you don't bake directly on the steel, you shouldn't have to alter your approach for existing recipes. 

 

I have no problem with the preheat, and so far no problem with baking directly on it.

 

6 minutes ago, scott123 said:

You have to be at least a little bit tempted

 

Nope - not tempted in the least.

 

6 minutes ago, scott123 said:

futzing that it requires is not worth the trouble

 

Without futzing, where would eGullet be?

 

And when I really, really, really want the near-perfect pizza...I go out.

 

 

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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1 hour ago, weinoo said:

I have no problem with the preheat, and so far no problem with baking directly on it.

 

If you're baking cookies on steel, with an oven set to, say, 300, then the bottom browning you see with a 10 minute preheat will be drastically different to a 20 minute one.  Now, if you time your preheat exactly every time, then that will give you consistency, but, baking on steel, with varying preheat times, is a complete crap shoot.

 

If you bake without contacting the steel, then the temperature evens out a bit, and things that don't require much precision, like chicken thighs, tend to be okay, but for things that need to be precise, like custards, pie crusts or cookies, you're going to have to end up checking them much more frequently, since the timing will be altered based on how much heat the core of the steel is soaking up.

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On 6/3/2020 at 10:51 PM, Duvel said:

@TdeV, my usual pizza is 250 g (63% hydration), aged 2 days in the fridge. Hand tossed to about 28-30 cm diameter.

 

I use a 1 cm thick pizza steel, 36 x 36 cm. Preheated with convection at maximum (250 oC) for 45 min, last 15 min with top broiler on. The broiler is 12 cm away from the steel. The broiler needs to be on, when loading (glowing red), otherwise the top doesn’t cook properly. IR thermometer reads of the pizza steel typically yield 310-320 oC.

 

Before I aquired the described setup, I used full fat dry mozzarella with some Parmigiano for flavor, as regular mozz left too much liquid. Now I can use brine-stored buffalo mozzarella without any issues. 
 

Pizza with above specifications and in my current setup will cook in about 3.5 to 4 min ...


8DCEE8EE-3342-4AAC-A9FE-FEB4D5A8449C.thumb.jpeg.739639c25d675134bd0b413a67325e5e.jpeg

 

F48619A4-FAA8-4BA8-BFDB-0E16492A5B21.thumb.jpeg.fa201d21ecd88b4ccbe39c4f60f478c7.jpeg

Wow well done! It looks perfect

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It sounds like I have two possible paths. The first is experiment with the steel in the oven while baking on it, under it or whatever. Science experiments take live synapses and concentration and organization. Like, yawn. The other path is the path of least resistance: check the oven to see if the steel is in there. Then ask pizza man husband to get it out.

 

I'll think about it for a few days.

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2 hours ago, scott123 said:

 

If you're baking cookies on steel, with an oven set to, say, 300, then the bottom browning you see with a 10 minute preheat will be drastically different to a 20 minute one.  Now, if you time your preheat exactly every time, then that will give you consistency, but, baking on steel, with varying preheat times, is a complete crap shoot.

 

If you bake without contacting the steel, then the temperature evens out a bit, and things that don't require much precision, like chicken thighs, tend to be okay, but for things that need to be precise, like custards, pie crusts or cookies, you're going to have to end up checking them much more frequently, since the timing will be altered based on how much heat the core of the steel is soaking up.

 

I'm fucking baking cookies for my wife and me - not for the Bocuse d'Or. And they seem to come out just fine. Though what do I know - my pastry teacher was Nick Malgieri, and I've been eating cookies for some 60 homina homina years.

 

It's obvious that some here are a bit anal about things; others like to proselytize, maybe about, I dunno, pizza? Aluminum? 

 

But I will get out my infra red thermometer, my laSer thermometer, my clock set to Greenwich Mean time, check the position of the sun and moon and the stars, scream at Nathan Myhrvold, and cook my no precision chicken thighs, which hopefully will be from Joyce Farms. And I'll keep my fingers crossed that they'll be "okay."

 

In the meantime, I'll also keep my fingers crossed that the world doesn't implode.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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21 hours ago, scott123 said:

things that don't require much precision, like chicken thighs,

I guess everyone here realizes that much of the cooking you're all doing (except, of course, one or two posters here with advanced degrees, and THEY BAKE!) doesn't require much precision.

 

What it does require, however, is the ability to adjust on the fly, to get a little creative in your kitchen, to understand YOUR equipment, and to express your love for whomever you're cooking for with the food you're making. 

 

Most of all - don't burn your fucking cookies!

 

IMG_3319.thumb.JPG.caa4afb6431251abcc801ebbc1eb4de7.JPG

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Thanks @scott123, @weinoo, @JoNorvelleWalker, @Katie Meadow and everyone for the replies. I have a 1/2" baking stone which lives in my GE oven. I've noticed that the GE varies wildily: I'm used to starting before pizza at 550F for an hour, but the oven will cycle on and off, and eventually I find that it has lowered to about 470F! So I have very unreliable pizzas.

 

Now that I'm getting an Anova Precision Oven (someday, date keeps slipping), I'm thinking about purchasing a slab of aluminium for the APO.

 

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3 hours ago, TdeV said:

Thanks @scott123, @weinoo, @JoNorvelleWalker, @Katie Meadow and everyone for the replies. I have a 1/2" baking stone which lives in my GE oven. I've noticed that the GE varies wildily: I'm used to starting before pizza at 550F for an hour, but the oven will cycle on and off, and eventually I find that it has lowered to about 470F! So I have very unreliable pizzas.

 

 

You set it to 550 and it ends up at 470?  Yeesh. May I ask what you're using to read the temp? Is this a keypad oven or dial? 

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44 minutes ago, teonzo said:

Out of curiosity, has anyone ever calculated how much money it costs to pre-heat an oven at maximum temperature for an hour and with a heavy stone / metal sheet inside?

 

 

https://www.chooseenergy.com/electricity-rates-by-state/

 

"the U.S. average is 13.6 cents per kilowatt hour"

My oven is 5.7 kW total (bake and broil), so the bake element is probably around 2.8 kW.  As the steel preheats, the oven cycles off and on- my best guess would be that it's on about 50% of the time.  If my math is correct, that's about 20 cents worth of electricity.  A gas oven should be even less.

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3 hours ago, scott123 said:

You set it to 550 and it ends up at 470?  Yeesh. May I ask what you're using to read the temp? Is this a keypad oven or dial? 

 

If the temperature of the oven is somehow cancelled, when restarted it shows what it thinks is the temperature inside the oven. I find it quite startling – often. Though I have not yet independently verified that the oven is capable of correctly taking a temperature. :(

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@weinoo, I kept my Baking Steel Griddle in the oven, and despite being seasoned, it rusted - I then found out gas ovens (which I have, or had...see below), release water vapor as a byproduct. Is your oven electric?

 

 

 

 

 

Also, using said baking steel as a griddle to make tortillas and cranking the heat fried my oven controls (that were right behind the steel)...and two technicians' trips later, I need a new oven! Definitely springing for electric.

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On 1/12/2021 at 6:58 PM, TdeV said:

 

If the temperature of the oven is somehow cancelled, when restarted it shows what it thinks is the temperature inside the oven. I find it quite startling – often. Though I have not yet independently verified that the oven is capable of correctly taking a temperature. :(

 

Three or four years ago when the landlord gave me a new GE electric oven I measured the temperature fluctuations.  They were not as severe as I would have thought.  However I cannot find the graph of temperature I made then, nor the thread in which these results were documented.

 

If your oven is that far off there may be something wrong with it.  In any event the thermal mass of the baking steel/aluminum will act as a flywheel to even out the oven's temperature fluctuations.

 

As far as pizza is concerned, the idea is to preheat the steel/aluminum as hot as humanly possible, then turn off the smoke detector, and switch the oven over to maximum broiler mode for a couple minutes before loading in the pie.

 

I don't see the APO as ideal technology for pizza.

 

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