SEATTLE, May 29, 2014 – Most of us have been on that home-cooked pizza struggle for years now, trying to figure out why our pizza stones simply aren’t cutting it when it comes to giving us that wood-fired oven texture.
The thought of giving up and surrendering to the notion that it’ll simply “never happen” unless we come into a large pile of cash to build a brick wood-fired oven, means that we’ll live a life of home-made pizza mediocrity.
Fortunately for those of us who have found the religion of great pizza and know that it really is all about the crust, we have an ally and the force is strong with this company.
Baking Steel is a small, family-owned company based in Hanover, Massachusetts and has created what is perhaps the best thing to happen to pizza since, well, forever.
(click on images to enlarge)
Getting its launch from Kickstarter, back in September of 2012, with the lofty goal of raising only $3,000 dollars, it ended up raising over $38,000 dollars – which underscores the interest so many of us pizza-at-home fans have in a product like this.
Its founder, Andris Lagsdin, was reading the book, Modernist Cuisine, by Nathan Myhrvold when he had his “ah-ha” moment.
He picked up some scrap steal from his family’s Stoughton Steel company and the rest is history.
Of course it’s easy to be a bit skeptical about any produce that can claim to help give us a slice of heaven at home but after seeing many videos of the final results of what this steel could yield, this food lover had to put it through its paces.
One of the bigger challenges for any kind of pizza “stone / surface” is to hold the heat well and not drop temperature from the oven door opening while launching the pizza and pulling it out.
The secret to this is that steel offers a far more conductive surface than a stone can dream of and its sheer density means that the heat won’t be dropping out any time soon. It weights a hair over 22 pounds and has no issues at all holding the heat.
In fact, it takes over an hour for the steel to cool off to the point where you can take it out of the oven.
Baking Steel recommends to pre-heat the steel for 45-minutes at 500-degrees to ensure it’s nice and hot. Doing this, allowed us to see near-perfect crust in roughly 6-8 minutes, depending on the kind of toppings – those with more “wet ingredients” took a bit more time to cook through.
Additionally, because of its ability to stay hot, you have the option of turning on your broiler for the last couple of minutes to really help give your pizza that “rustic look”.
Although I’ve been cooking for over 15 years now, baking is still an area which is as much science as anything so the pizzas here used the “Jim Lahey’s no-knead” dough recipe from Baking Steel’s website.
- 500 grams (17 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour plus more for shaping
- 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- 16 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
- 350 grams (1 1/2 cup) water
1. In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk the flour, yeast, salt. Add water, and with a wooden spoon or your hands, mix thoroughly.
2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and allow it to rise at room temperature (about 72F) for 18 hours, or until it has more than doubled. It will take longer in a chilly room and less time in a very warm one.
3. Flour work surface and scrape out the dough. Divide it into 4 equal parts and shape them. For each portion, start with the right side of the dough and pull it toward the center; then do the same with the left, then the top, then the bottom (the order doesn’t matter, what you want is four folds).
Shape each portion into a round and turn seam side down. Mold the dough into a neat circular mound. The mounds should not be sticky; if they are, dust with more flour.
4. If you don’t intend to use the dough right away, wrap the balls individually in plastic wrap or store in plastic cylinders for up to 3 days. Return to room temp by leaving them out on the counter, covered in a damp cloth, for 2 to 3 hours before needed.
We made four different kinds of pizzas using this dough recipe:
– Classic Neapolitan (tomato, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil)
– Double-smoked Italian sausage with goat cheese, fire-roasted bell pepper and fresh arugula
– Chicken, bacon and artichoke
As you can see from the pictures, the crust turned out to be sublime; far better than my expectation and is better than 90% of the pizza restaurants I’ve ever been to.
The old, cracked, pizza stone went into the trash as there’s clearly no need to keep it around – perhaps a paper-weight? Our pizzas were all cooked in a convection oven with convection mode, on.
You can use this steel on your grill as well but the primary issue most grills have is that their relatively thin hoods don’t hold in the heat as well as most conventional ovens can.
The crust was amazing, had the perfect amount of texture on the outside while still retaining the perfect amount of softness inside. The results of using the Modernist Cuisine baking steel were amazing.
It does come pre-seasoned right out of the box and should be treated much in the same way you’d keep a cast-iron pan. It should clean off rather well with hot water and a nylon sponge and you can even use some kosher salt to help in the cleaning process.
Discoloration is normal after its first use and is nothing to worry about.
If you crave a great pizza and are tired of being on that pizza-struggle bandwagon, then you really should snag one of these steels, your taste buds will thank you and your friends will be jealous.
Of course you can use this steel for good results with baked bread, tarts and other tasty treats but that’s for another day. Right now, it’s all about the pizza.
Company website: www.bakingsteel.com