"White" Crust When Using New Steel


I got a new pizza steel yesterday and tried it for the first time last night. I preheated the steel in the oven for well over an hour at 550 F.

After the hour of pre-heating, I checked the surface temp of the steel, and the dead-center temp came in about 637 F.

The steel was positioned on the shelf second down from the top.
About 20 minutes prior to putting the pizza in the oven, I switched from 'bake' to 'broil', and I left the oven door open a bit to keep the broiler elements going without a power cycle. I also left the door open a little bit while cooking the pizza.

I put my pizza in the oven and set the timer for about 1 minute.
After the first minute, I checked the pizza and it still didn't seem like it cooked very much. There was absolute NO browning of the crust
(top or bottom). So, I gave it another minute, and then checked it again. Still, no browning. The oven was going. The broiler coils were going, but the pizza just wasn't seeming to cook.

All in all, it took about 5 minutes before the crust showed any signs of browning.

I find this very strange because I've been using a stone for several years and have gotten much better (and faster) cooking results using the stone than I did with this steel.

When using the stone, I usually keep it positioned on the top shelf, which is about 3" away from the broiler elements, but I can't imagine that the steel being one more inch away from the broiler would make such a difference.

The pizza dough was made using KAF Bread flour @ 65% hydration, and fermented for about two hours.
As I mentioned, this is how I usually do this and have seen much better results using a stone.

So, maybe some of you can offer some insight as to why the pizza would take longer to bake with a steel than with a stone.

Tory Glenn
posted almost 2 years ago

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Hey Tony,

A couple of questions:

Do you know what the steel temp was after opening the door/right before starting your bake?

Also, just to make sure, are you using the same dough formulation?

Raj

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Raj Irukulla admin
posted almost 2 years ago


Hi, Raj,
Thanks for the reply. The steel temp just prior to putting the pizza in was at 650 F.
The door was open a small bit just before putting the pizza in, but that was to keep the broiler coils from power cycling.

The temp in the center of the steel is going to be a little lower than the outer areas of the steel because the broiler coils are sort of a U shape (a small u inside a bigger U, if that makes sense). So the concentration of heat is not dead center, but even then, the center temp was at 650 F.

Yeah, I was using the same dough formula.

Tory Glenn
posted almost 2 years ago


Hi Tory,

I'm stumped unfortunately. All other things being equal, the steel should outperform the stone because it's a far better conductor of heat.

If you're not doing so already, I'd consider using oil, sugar or and/or malt to help with the browning. I realize that you didn't need it with the stone, so really, you shouldn't with the steel either.

Was there anything noticeably different with the dough itself this time around?

Raj

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Raj Irukulla admin
posted almost 2 years ago


Only two hours of fermentation will not produce significant browning, imo, regardless whether malt or sugar used.

Raj is correct regarding that steel is a better conductor of heat but the thickness also plays a role. The thicker the stone or steel the more heat/energy will be stored. If your stone is let's say 3/4" thick and your steel only 1/4" the stone will store much more heat and energy than the steel.

That said, I experimented with steel before at great length and tossed it out because both of my kiln shelves produced a superior pizza than the steel I used.

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Mike K.
posted almost 2 years ago


I missed the part about the two hour fermentation! Definitely increase that.

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Raj Irukulla admin
posted almost 2 years ago


Here's a photo of one of my pizzas that was cooked on a stone using the same recipe and baking conditions I used when I used the steel.

Medium img 0207

Tory Glenn
posted almost 2 years ago


Well, the photo of the pizza is from a two hour ferment. I do use either honey or sugar with the yeast. But the crust does brown very nicely using the stone.

Here's another photo of another pizza. Again, using the same dough recipe, fermenting time, and baking time with stone.

Medium dscf0644

Tory Glenn
posted almost 2 years ago


I have discovered that if I increase the fermentation time, the dough comes out less browned rather than more browned. Even when using a stone.
It will look raw top and bottom.

Tory Glenn
posted almost 2 years ago


Same dough recipe, same ferment time, same baking method (stone with broiler).

Medium img 0393

Tory Glenn
posted almost 2 years ago


Tory,

You might direct your question directly to Anders at bakingsteel.com, but I have two thoughts:

(1) Moving the pizza from 3 inches from the broiler to 4 inches can actually make a pretty big difference. While the calculation is probably fairly complicated, the general rule of thumb is that radiant heat from a point is an inverse square function. So moving the pizza from 3 inches away to 4 inches away might nearly double the time you need to bake the top of the pizza (in other words, the heat at the closer distance is roughly 1/(3*3) the source heat as opposed to 1/(4*4)). You have coils and there are other factors in play, so that's not the exact calculation, but small changes in distance from a heat source make a bigger difference than is intuitive. In the photos you posted, the degree to which the toppings on the pizzas have been cooked looks very different, and the conducted heat from the stone or steel aren't affecting that part of the bake so much as the direct radiant heat from the broiler. It would be interesting to see how the bottoms of the two pizzas compared, and I'd expect that they'd be pretty similar. So, try the bake with the steel at the same distance as the stone.

(2) Someone who knows ovens could address this better, and I know you left the oven door open a bit to deal with cycling, but the broiler coils might function differently when you have the extreme heat from the steel as opposed to the very high heat from the stone.

Another point that Anders could address is thermal conductivity, but I suspect that in a 5 or 6 minute bake, a 1/4 inch steel will transfer more heat to a pizza than a very thick stone if both the stone and steel are heated properly to the same temperature.

Good luck!

Adam

Adam Sachs
posted almost 2 years ago


Ok, thanks for the info, Adam. I'll give that a try.

Tory Glenn
posted almost 2 years ago


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