I have used baking stones for years. I actually have two… one I use strictly for breads and the other for pizzas, calzones and crostatas. They worked wonderful and I was happy with the end result of my bread and crusts of my pizza. There was one problem. If my pizza happened to ooze out some of the cheese onto the stone, the oils from the cheese would forever make my stone smoke. When I say smoke, I mean toxic, super nasty smelling smoke. My house would smell like the nasty smoke for at least the day after as well. And to make matters worst, once you get oil or grease on your stone, it is impossible to get it out. So I would eventually have to throw out my $50.00 baking stone and replace it with a new one. Now you know why I have one I only use for baking breads!
Well, one day when I was in Sur La Table (click on picture for link), I saw this…..
They came out with a baking steel. This immediately piqued my curiousity! It was supposed to perform better and guess what? If cheese or anything else greasy got on the steel there wouldn’t be any damage to the steel or nasty smoke! This baking steel costs $79.95 but I thought, “it will last forever” so I had to buy it and give it a try. First of all, the steel is about one third of the thickness of the stone so it takes up much less space, but is not as large as the stone I used and is much heavier than the stone.
I decided to make some loaves of my french bread and take the steel out for a test run. The directions say to preheat the steel first for 45 minutes. Really?! I would never preheat my oven for 45 minutes.. let’s get real here. So I preheated my oven for the usual 10-15 minutes and slid the bread onto the very hot steel.
The result? Because the steel gets much hotter than the stone, the baking time was shorter by about 4 minutes (what would normally take 20 minutes, took 16 minutes) and the crust of the bread was even crustier… in a very good way. I was sold immediately! The steel will turn your regular oven as close to a brick pizza oven as is possible. You will notice the difference!
Another benefit… you can chill the steel and serve cold items on it that you want to stay chilled. It comes pre seasoned, so all I do is wipe it off with a dry kitchen towel (once it has cooled off) and put it away ( you can also keep it in your oven).
In the long run, I will save money with this baking steel and get much better results from the food and bread I bake on it. Win/ win!