When Adam briefly mentioned the Baking Steel a couple weeks ago, it sparked an interesting discussion over the relative merits of stone vs. steel. Discussion is all well and good, but we're in the business of testing here, not speculating, so that's just what we did.
The Baking Steel is a 1/4-inch steel plate designed to replace your baking stone. I spent all last night putting it through its paces, baking a couple dozen pies of different styles. You can expect a full report on how it fared compared to a traditional baking stone in various applications—New York-style pizza and Neapolitan pizza, amongst others—but I wanted to get a quick word in before the Baking Steel's Kickstarter campaign ends this week. They've already got well past their $3,000 goal, but you can still pledge to get your limited edition steels and other goodies.
I'll cut to the chase: This thing works, stunningly well. In nearly every test and by every measure I could think of, it handily surpasses my well-used, well-loved stone, producing supremely crisp crusts and wonderfully spotty browning in record times.
Like I said, more pics and a full-on review to come soon, but here's a quick snapshot of a New York-style pie I made using our basic New York-style Pizza Dough, some New York-style Pizza Sauce, and some grated dry mozzarella.
The pie baked in just under 4 minutes (a good 2 to 3 minutes faster than my typical stone-and-broiler bake for a NY pie), and had one of the finest crusts and hole structures I've seen come out of my crappy home oven.
Bonus: I found that the steel fit perfectly over two of my burners, and after seasoning, makes a great brunch griddle for frying eggs or making french toast. Just look out for drips.
If you're willing to spend $50 on a stone (and yadda yadda yadda cheap-o quarry stone blah blah), then I'd take the plunge and get a steel. It's even convinced me to revise the pizza chapter of my book.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.