A baking steel will take your home made pizza to wood-fired-oven pizzeria quality!
We have all learned that we need to bake our pizzas on a pizza stone that has been preheated in the oven.
The baking steel technique was developed by Andris Lagsdin who has made an entire business around it. The basic premise is metal conducts heat better, faster and more evenly that stone. Purpose made baking steels are fairly expensive, although you can use them to cook meat, eggs etc like you would cook with a griddle.
But don't despaire - that griddle that came with your new stove will work just as well and may change your life!
Heat that griddle in a very hot oven - 550 degrees F or the hottest our oven will go - for about an hour and then broil your pizza for only a few minutes. The griddle is so hot the pizza bottom starts to cook the minute it hits the griddle.
I put the griddle on the second level from the broiler. It will come out with a bit of char here and there which adds to the rustic charm of the whole thing.
They cook so fast you need to watch them carefully. In that same vein I precooked my bacon bits to ensure they were cooked through since I was concerned the time in the oven is not enough to cook them.
I made thin crust pizza from this 72 Hour Pizza Dough, which is amazing! Because of the thin crust I made sure that the toppings were not too thick or heavy to be sure we could pick up the pizza without it buckling. The bottom is fairly sturdy though so buckling has not really been a problem.
I made smaller pizzas - about 6" X 8" and cooked 2 at a time. So you kind of have your own personal pizza thing going on. By the time we had munched through the first 2 the second two were ready. So you have piping hot pizza all the time and lots of opportunity to vary the toppings.
A Word About Pizza Peels
Pizza peels for sliding a pizza in to the hot oven and for removing the cooked pizza have different qualities. So don't be surprised if you can't complete both operations with the same pee.
Parchment paper can stand in for a pizza peel. I have a round metal pizza peel but I never had any success at getting a raw pizza to slide off of it! So after a few attempts where it ended up with a 'slumped', squished pizza that I had to try to stretch back to its original shape I gave up and prepped the pizzas on parchment paper and slid the parchment paper and all onto the piping hot baking steel, using the biggest spatula I have. (It is a big one about a foot wide!) Parchment paper works. The oven and steel are very hot but they are not in the oven for long so it worked out ok. Just be sure to watch the parchment doesn't burn. It will scorch but you don't want flames!
Wooden Pizza Peels
Since I have fallen in love with this cooking method I decided to invest in a wooden pizza peel. I chose this Frederica bamboo one based on Amazon reviews and I am happy with it. The prepped pizza, raw dough slid off of it like a dream.
It is important that you flour the pizza peel with semolina flour. All purpose flour or cormeal burn faster than semolina. Since you are working with very high heat here, other flours that end up on the baking steel from the pizza peel tend to burn and risk giving your pizza base a burnt taste.
Peel to Remove Cooked Pizza
Experienced pizza chefs will also tell you - you may need one kind of peel to slide the pizza in to the oven but often the lip is not thin enough to be able to scoop the cooked pizza out of the oven. In this case you will need the assistance of a large spatula or long tool to help slide the pizza back on to the peel to remove it, or a second peel designed for removing the pizza. My afore-mentioned metal peel works for this but my BBQ long handle spatula is just as easy to work with.
Cooking the Pizza
You are working with a very hot metal base in a very hot oven so you need to be very careful. Don't assume your regular oven mitts are going to protect you here. Ideally you will have tool to manipulate your pizzas so you don't have to touch them or the pans. Asbestos BBQ mitts might be up to the task but I have not used them so you would have to check their specs carefully before assuming you are good to go with them.
Do not attempt to move the hot steel after it has come to temperature in the oven. You can slide the rack in and out carefully as necessay but leave the baking steel undisturbed.
Cooking Mulitple Pizzas
If you are only cooking one pizza at a time you will broil it for 2 minutes on the baking steel then reduce the oven to 500 degrees for the 2nd two minutes. When the pizza is done remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes before cutting.
But who is only going to make 2 smallish pizzas? You can prep multiple pizza bases ahead of time. When you are ready to start cooking make sure you have a baking sheet in the bottom half of the oven to transfer your pizza to after the initial 2 minute Broil.
After the 2 minute broil for the first pizza, transfer it to the baking sheet in the bottom of the oven. Don't turn the oven down, leave it on broil. Immediately slide the 2nd pizza onto the baking steel. After 2 minutes broiling you will need to transfer it to the lower rack along with the first. Ideally you will want each pizza to sit in a single layer. You may be able to move the first one on to the rack directly and put the 2nd one on the baking sheet. This will all depend on the size of your pizzas and the size of your oven/baking sheets. The lower pizzas will hold nice and warm for several minutes while the new pizzas broil on the upper rack baking steel. Don't forget the pizza needs to sit a minute or two before slicing so you can remove one or two from the oven to prepare for slicing while the last one or two do their time on the lower rack.
You can switch up the toppings to suit your tastes. Just watch the toppings are not so heavy that they buckle the base. You also don't want overly wet toppings - ex. if you use fresh tomatos let them drain so the excess water doesn't soak in to your crust.
- pizza sauce, tomato base, mushroom ragu sauce or white garlic sauce
- any soft, meltable cheese like mozzarella, fontina, goat cheese, Monterey Jack
- Pepperoni, bacon, meatballs, ham, cooked chicken or sausage
- Red or green sweet peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes (drained of excess tomato water), pineapple chunks (drained of excess moisture), broccoli, roasted garlic
- Garnishes - grated Parmesan, fresh herbs like Basil or oregano, microgreens
Ensure all toppings are very thinly cut because they don't have a lot of oven time. You may consider pre-cooking raw bacon to ensure it is thoroughly done by the time the pizza is done.
Wine Pairing for Baking Steel Pizza
Just pick your favourite pizza wine. For pepperoni/bacon style pizzas a Sangiovese, Merlot or medium body red blend will be fine.
Vegetarian, Pizza Bianca or Hawaiian Pizza go well with a Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Baking Steel Pizza
- 1 baking steel I used the griddle that came with my oven.
- baking sheet
- semolina flour for pizza peel
- Pizza Peel
- or parchment paper
- large spatula to transfer the cooked or semi-cooked pizza
- 4 10" pizza thin crust dough bases I used 72 Hour Pizza Dough
- 1 14 oz crushed tomatoes see Note 1
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 16 oz shredded mozzarella or soft cheese of choice, like fontina See Note 2.
- ½ medium onion sliced thin or diced
- ½ cup sliced olives
- 4 strips bacon
- ½ cup thinly sliced mushrooms
- 4 tablespoon fresh basil chopped up, optional
- grated fresh parmesan cheese for garnish optional
- semolina for dusting pizza peel if using all purpose flour or cornmeal tend to burn at these high temperatures
- parchment paper if not using a pizza peel
- Position oven rack 6" from broiler. Preheat oven to 550° or as high as your oven will go. Add the baking steel on the rack under the broiler. Heat baking steel 60 minutes. Position a baking sheet on the lower rack (bottom half of the oven).
- If using a pizza peel, flour it generously with semolina flour. Keep extra flour handy to re-flour the peel as necessary for each pizza. Position your pizza base on the peel and shake periodically as you prep the toppings to ensure the pizza slides and stays loose.
- If using parchment paper instead of a pizza peel, cut paper to the correct size with a couple of inches excess around the edges of the pizza for each base. Position a pizza base on the parchment paper. Proceed with toppings.
- Mix the tomato, oregano and salt together. Divide evenly over the 4 pizza bases to within 1" of the outer edge.
- Chop bacon into ½" pieces. Microwave on medium high about 2 minutes.
- Divide the cheese into 4 equal portions and distribute evenly over the pizza bases.
- Divide onion, olive, bacon and mushrooms into 4 portions and spread evenly over bases.
- Turn the oven to Broil setting. Carefully transfer the prepared pizza onto the baking steel.
- Broil about 2 minutes. Top will have some char and bottom should be dry and firm. Using a large spatula or thin edged pizza peel transfer the pizza to the baking sheet in the lower portion of your oven. See Note 3. Turn oven to 500 ° and allow pizza to remain on baking sheet another 2-3 minutes. See Note 4 if cooking more than 1 pizza immediately.
- Remove pizza from oven and garnish with fresh parmesan and basil. Allow to sit a couple of minutes before slicing in to quarters.