If you’re a serious at-home pizza maker, you may not have a wood-fired oven on hand — but you probably have a pizza stone.
However, one bread expert says there’s a better way to pizza perfection.
Scientist and serious foodie Nathan Myhrvold is a firm believer in the baking steel, which he first mentioned in his best-selling, multi-volume cookbook Modernist Cuisine. In his more recent baking behemoth (co-written with Francisco Migoya), the 2,500-page and $812 Modernist Bread (on sale for about $700 at Indigo), Myhrvold sings steel’s praises yet again.
“It just works a lot better [than a pizza stone]” says Myhrvold of this thick, completely flat baking sheet. Like a pizza stone, the baking steel is quite heavy and you need to preheat it for about 45 minute. As for cleanup, you can treat your steel like a cast iron skillet — simply scrub it down (but avoid using soap) and season it before putting it away.
The key to a thin, chewy Neapolitan-style pizza crust with tasty scorch marks on the bottom, Myhrvold explains, is baking it on a super-hot surface. It all comes down to science, and, since steel conducts heat better than ceramic (the material of choice for pizza stones), it gets the green light from the Modernist Cuisine team.
“It gets hot like the stone gets hot, but when you put the dough on it, it gives up heat more quickly because the conductivity of metal is higher. It dumps more of its heat into the dough more quickly and that what allows you to finish it faster.”
When Serious Eats’ chief food consultant J. Kenji López-Alt compared the pizza stone to the pizza steel, he also recommended the metal pan over the more easy-to-find ceramic slab, calling the original Baking Steel (which started out as a Kickstarter project) “the most impressive home pizza product I’ve ever tested.” (On Amazon, baking steels start at around $50.)
Best of all, you can use a baking steel for more than just pizza. Stick it on your stove top and use it as a griddle to make eggs and stacks of buttermilk pancakes.