Dear Slice: Is There a Good Metal Surface for Cooking Pizza On?

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[Photograph: Lodge Cast Iron]

Dear Slice, Letters from Slice'rsDear Adam,
I have been reading your website. I found out about it recently, so I am quite new to it, but I love it. [Awww, thanks! —AK] Of everything I cook, pizzas are my favourite, which I have been doing for around eight years now, though until last year, I just was trying things in my own, just for fun, and this year, I decided I wanted to look for tips in the internet and books. That's when I found out about your blog.

Three months ago I started thinking that I needed to increase the heat transfer under the pizza, then I decided maybe putting a granite tile under and preheating the oven would be a good idea because hot air was too slow transfering heat to the pizza. Then I found out, half of the world who cooks pizzas at home already does that. I was pleased and surprised and happy to see that the idea I had was, in fact, good. My granite tile is 40 centimeters square by 3 centimeters high [16 inches square by 1.2 inches high].

The problem is, my pizza oven heats up to 250ºC (about 500ºF, I think). And the pizza does not get any char or black spots at the bottom, while the borders get too hard when cooked, like hard old bread. Which makes me think that the problem is that for when the bottom gets cooked enough, it was too long for the top. So the idea I am having now, would be to increase it even more, with a material, the same thickness but with better heat-conducting capabilities, like a metal. Some ideas would be iron, stainless steel, or aluminum, of about an inch thick. But to buy a tile like this, made of one of these metals, can be expensive, and I am not sure if anybody has done that before, and if the idea is just silly. Before investing, I would like to know what is your opinion about that.

Best regards,
Jorge R.

------------------------------------------------------------ Dear Jorge,

Thanks for writing in! Wow, someone from Spain reads Slice? ¡Que bueno!

Yes, I think you discovered on your own the problem that plagues many at-home pizzamakers — the disparity in getting adequate temperature to the bottom and top of the pizza simultaneously.

Regarding the metal surface, we have a few Slice'rs who swear by the cast-iron pizza pan made by Lodge (pictured above).

I think they preheat it in the oven for 30 to 60 minutes and then cook on that. I've never invested in one (but should) so I can't say from experience whether it will get you where you need to be, but perhaps folks here can chime in. I'm also not sure if it's available in Spain, but look around — maybe Amazon will ship there.

Additionally, there are some methods we've tried to better or lesser effect: The Cast-Iron Pizza Hack has you turning a large cast iron skillet upside down and heating it under the broiler, using its bottom as the cooking surface. Your pies will necessarily have to be smallish, and you'll have to worry about placing it carefully on the surface.

The Skillet-Broiler Method is also a great hack. I've used this to good effect — some of my best pizzas have come from this method.

Just some ideas for you.

And, remember, we do a weekly series called My Pie Monday, in which we invite Slice'rs to send in a photo of their best recent homemade pizza. Consider sending one in when you get one you're happy with!

Hasta la pizza, Adam