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Comparing pizza baking steel and pizza stone: which is the better option for a perfect pizza?

The two items do the very same job.

They absorb and store the heat of your oven, then release it to the pizza and bake it perfectly. The logic behind the use of either a stone or a steel, is that you place your pizza on a surface that is already hot, as opposed to using a pan or a tray and put that in the oven.

Pizza gets a big boost from underneath, so we see more oven spring - the development of volume as a consequence of increasing temperature.

This is the common element. But there are actually several differences and I will try to highlight them. Hopefully I will help you make an informed decision in case you are thinking about buying a new toy.

This article has a video companion where I show two bakes, one on the stone and another one on the steel. Please check it out if you want to judge by yourself the different outcomes.

Let's crack on: pizza stone

I shouldn’t really mention cracks when I talk about pizza stones, they are probably the bigger downside because yes, they can break when subjected to a thermal shock, that is a sudden change in temperature, for example when you accidentally spill some cold beer on it (any resemblance to real persons or actual facts is purely coincidental).

It’s also true that a break is way less likely if you choose the right material for your stone. To be more precise cordierite. This is thermal shock resistant, which means that you can spill that cold beer, but anyway you will never be 100% safe, please be careful anyway.

Other baking stones are made of mullite, others of ceramic, but their conductivity (the ease with which heat can travel through a material)

doesn’t usually match that of cordierite. Besides, they are NOT thermal shock resistant and this is definitely relevant.

If you choose to buy a baking stone, then make sure it is cordierite.

One word about the thickness, the range is usually between one and two centimetre. This doesn't really matter: Just be aware that as a rule of thumb, the thicker the stone, the longer the heating time.

On the bright side, the more heat they absorb and the longer it takes to lose temperature - this could be useful if you plan on baking a fair amount of pizzas.

So this is a consideration I leave to you and your baking habits.

Baking steel

None other than a piece of steel cut to size, more or less thick, sealed with oil or wax so they don’t rust. They are pretty sturdy and heavy items, way heavier than a stone with the same thickness, because their density is higher.

And THIS leads to the main difference and I would say the main advantage for the home pizzaiolo: steels are much more conductive than any stone.

They will push the heat into the pizza more quickly than a stone, and you know that pizza likes it hot and quick - at least the kind of pizza I mostly talk about.

Steel’s higher conductivity also means that the heating time is definitely shorter.

The test

I turn on the oven and set it to its highest temperature as I have already explained in this article. The baking stone is 1 cm thick and it must stay in the oven while it pre-heats, on the highest shelf. The goal temperature is 300°C (572°F).

After 30 minutes, the stone reached 298°C (568.4°F) so I gave it another 10 minutes. At that point, the temperature was 316°C (600.8°F) so I baked my pizza: the dough was 66% hydration and the base was stretched reasonably thin, something in between 2 and 3 millimetres.

After exactly 3 minutes, the pizza was ready, the cornicione had a little crisp and the bottom was perfectly baked.

I have proceeded in exactly the same way with the baking steel.

The timings were shorter, though, and the steel reached 347°C (656.6°F) after 32 minutes. The bake took 2 minutes and 45 seconds, so slight less than the stone. Considering that my steel is only 0.5 cm thick, that's a great result.

Pizza base baked on baking steel
Pizza base baked on baking steel

In conclusion

The steel takes less time to get to temperature.

It bakes more quickly.

It allows a better oven spring so my cornicione becomes nice and puffy.

This is enough for me to make me lean toward baking steel. Before you ask me to recommend one, this is the one I would choose.

However, the more powerful your oven, the less convenient a baking steel becomes, because it can actually burn your pizza in very little time. I’m NOT saying you should't use a steel if your oven is more powerful than average, but for sure you will need to be way more careful.

It’s definitely no coincidence if all those fancy ovens like Ooni or Roccbox are equipped with a stone and not a steel.

Back to regular kitchen appliances, If I had an oven that goes above 300°C (572°F) then I’d choose a baking stone, in particular this one.

I hope you liked this article, if you have found some value in it and you feel like supporting me, keep scrolling down and you will see several ways to pat my back!

Ciao, see you next time 🍕


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🌾 You can simply buy me a bag of flour

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Photos by me and GIF by Giphy

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