Friday, December 12, 2014

Kitchen Item Review: Pizza Steel

On the final day of Kitchen Item Review Week, I bring you the Pizza Steel.  Like many good things in life, we have King Arthur Flour to thank for this one.  They didn't invent the pizza steel, but they got behind it and have sold it in their catalog.  My Competent Wife gave me a pizza steel as my big birthday present this year.  To hit the basics: yes, it's like a pizza stone, but it's made of heavy gauge 1/4" steel instead.  Also, the people who make it call it a baking steel, but it's highest calling in life is pizza, so that's what I call it.  The guy who created my version works for a garden variety modern company but also really loves pizza and had pursued the perfect crust.  Eccentric and overly-fussy Nathan Myhrvold posited that hot steel would be the best thing to bake pizza on, and our regular Joe went out to the plant to test the theory.

first effort with the steel
We briefly owned a pizza stone, and it impressed me by feeling heavy and cumbersome and fragile all at the same time.  The steel is heavy but feels easier to wield and far less fragile.  I can't think of many things that are less fragile.  Slide this baby in the oven and preheat, and you essentially create the bottom of a pizza oven right there on your rack.  The crust turns out fantastic, but I'm really pleased about the cheese.  I've never been able to get my pizza cheese browned like the pros do, and it turns out what I have been lacking is massive heat from below.  Who knew?  An interesting point for home pizza bakers: traditionally, I've baked pizza as low in my oven as possible.  The Steel instructs you to put it on a high rack, creating a small hot box in which your pizza bakes.  I really do think of it as sectioning off a portion of my oven as a pizza oven.

Competent Wife would like me to inform you that once I got the steel, I also needed a

pizza peel for the first time.  You bake right on this puppy, and it gets mucho hot in a 500-degree oven.  [Parenthetical to Pittsburgh foodies: I bought a peel at In the Kitchen in the Strip before walking down to Pennsylvania Macaroni Company and finding a 90% identical peel for half the price.  I marched right back and returned the more expensive one.  Save yourself the trouble; start at Penn Mac.]  

She would also like me to mention the pizza-specific cutting board I have purchased but not yet used.  [That came off the half-price rack at In the Kitchen.]  These accessory purchases are not as ridiculous as they sound.  I'm fond of the flesh on my fingers and therefore needed the peel.  We've traditionally made pizza on a pan (aluminum, I assume) on which we could cut it.  When you bake right on the steel, the pizza a) is not necessarily completely round - I assemble it on the peel now and b) needs to be cut somewhere.  We don't actually own a cutting board completely big enough, so I bought a cutting board with slicing guide grooves and a nifty rack to keep it off the table.  Completely necessary and sane.  I have not yet used it.

If I have one complaint about the steel, it's that owning one makes me want to own two, so I can bake two pies at a time for my growing family.  But that's insane.  Until my next birthday, anyway.  


Lauren Jackson said...

Wow. All these look fantastic and prove your total commitment to pizza excellence. I expect you to bring all of them to the beach next summer.

Anne H. said...

I volunteer for taste testing. Oh boy!