A pizza steel is an effective heat conductor that allows you to create pizzas with a tasty and crispy base.
When this steel is preheated inside the oven it will collect the heat and then transfer it to the dough to cook the pizza alongside the radiation of the oven. As such, the pizza will then cook much faster.
As expected, a pizza steel boasts a high-quality construction that is deemed to be indestructible and because of this, it can see you through many uses without deteriorating even after frequent exposure to the intense heat.
Pizza steels are considered to be a better option than pizza stones. Pizza stones are typically made from ceramic material or clay and while they are effective heat conductors, they don't transfer the heat at the speed of steel.
Attempting to cook a pizza from it can be a challenge when trying to create a pizza of the same quality and standard as one that you would be served in a restaurant.
Of course, one of the main reasons being because most people's homes aren't equipped with a designated pizza oven. This is why you are going to require the use of a pizza steel as utilizing such product can help to create great-tasting, high-quality pizzas.
Most pizza steels have a thickness within the range of 3/16" to 1/2". The use of steel can have a significant effect on the baking time of your pizza.
Below, we have provided you with a complete guide to pizza steel thickness and how the thickness can impact the baking time. We have also assessed how the preheating time differs depending on the thickness of the steel.
How The Pizza Steel's Thickness Affects Baking
To create a pizza with a thin, but crispy and tasty base the use of a pizza steel is going to be essential.
As suggested by the name, a pizza steel is constructed from steel; a material that is known to be an excellent conductor of heat. Essentially the surface is going to transfer heat to whatever is placed on top of it almost immediately following the point of contact.
Steel is much tougher than ceramic, and because of this, it can withstand exposure to higher temperatures without becoming easily damaged. However, ceramic suffers at such intensities, and as such the build quality begins to deteriorate.
While the steel greatly affects the baking time, there are also numerous other factors to account for too. The model and power of your oven is one of the most prominent as different variations sport different capabilities when working at higher temperatures. It is also going to depend upon the number of pizzas that you are intending to cook.
The majority of steels can accommodate a single, generously sized pizza at once so if you want to cook multiple pizzas, you must remember that the temperature of the steel is going to drop during the process.
This is because each time the steel is taken out of the oven and has another pizza placed onto it, it is going to lose heat, particularly the case with a thinner steel, as it is constantly covered and doesn't have the exposure to retain these high temperatures.
If the steel is thicker this is less likely to be a concern because it has more depth to retain the heat for each pizza that is cooked. When cooking a run of pizzas on a thicker steel you are going to experience faster cooking times because a thicker steel is going to be better at retaining and absorbing the heat in comparison to a thin steel.
For this reason, you needn't worry that each time you open and close the oven door to insert the next pizza, that it is going to cause the temperature of the steel to drop.
While you are likely to experience such issues when using a thinner steel, a thick steel helps to minimize this issue by absorbing the heat that it has already collected and using this to cook the next pizzas as soon as the base touches the surface.
It is important to remember that the pizza and the steel need to work alongside one another to achieve the correct balance. While the heat from the steel is going to transfer to the base of the pizza, the top requires the same intensity of heat from the oven to cook.
If the functioning of the oven and the heat of the steel do not correlate, you will likely find that you are left with an unevenly cooked pizza. The heat of the steel and the heat of the oven must be of the same intensity to ensure that the pizza does not become burnt.
Although pizza steels cook at a faster pace, this speed must be matched by the radiation from the top of an oven. If your oven isn't able to keep up you are likely going to find that the top of the pizza is undercooked but the base is nice and crispy.
For this reason, you want to select your steel according to the performance of your oven. If your oven is going to struggle to work at the same level as the steel then you will benefit from opting for a steel with a longer baking time. This will give the oven longer to cook the top of the pizza.
Preheating Time For Pizza Steel of Different Thicknesses
Of course, as you would expect the preheating time is going to differ depending on the thickness of the steel. While thicker steels retain and absorb their heat better than a thin steel, they are going to take longer to reach this temperature.
There is a range of pizza steels available that range in thickness with the largest measuring 1/2 of an inch and the smallest measuring 3/16 of an inch.
Falling mid-range you will then find the 3/8" and the 1/4" option. Thick pizza steels require a decent amount of time to preheat. Once you have turned your oven on and set it to a temperature of around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, you can then insert the steel and allow it to heat up.
The thicker steels are going to take almost double the amount of time to reach temperature in comparison to a thin steel because there is more material for the heat to work through.
A thin pizza steel is going to take around 45 minutes to preheat while the thickest steel is going to take double this time. You should expect a steel with a thickness of 1/4" to take around an hour and a steel that is 3/8" to take around 10 minutes longer.
Although a thick steel is going to take a particularly long time to reach the temperature, once it has absorbed the heat and your pizza has been placed onto the surface and placed in the oven it is likely to take around 5 minutes to cook.
This is of course going to depend on the temperature of your oven, generally, you should maintain a temperature of 500-degrees Fahrenheit inside your oven.
Do I Need A Thin Pizza Steel Or Thick Pizza Steel?
The type of pizza steel that you require is going to depend on your cooking requirements.
If you are intending to cook one pizza, you are likely to find a thin steel sufficient as it is has a shorter preheat time and it is going to obtain this heat fairly well. A thick steel is composed of more material and it is going to be better at absorbing the heat although it has a longer preheat time.
One of the most influential factors regarding the type of steel that you require is going to be the number of pizzas that you intend to cook within succession of one another.
As mentioned, if you are only going to be cooking a single pizza, a thin steel is going to be adequate. However, if you are catering to a large group and you are going to be cooking several pizzas using the same steel you are going to need it to retain this heat even when the oven door is opening and closing.
Because of this, a thick steel is going to be the best option. While a thin steel would struggle, a thicker steel is denser and so it can maintain more heat, even when the surface is constantly covered by the pizza.
So long as you are prepared to wait a little longer for the steel to heat up, you are likely to find a thick steel effective in catering to your needs.
It is also important to remember that pizza steels can differ in weight and price regarding their thickness. As such, a thinner steel is going to be more lightweight and easier to handle which some may prefer when maneuvering the pizza in and out of the oven.
However, a thicker steel, particularly the thickest option, is going to have more weight to it.
Choosing The Right Pizza Steel Thickness For Your Needs
While it is important to select the thickness of your pizza steel according to the number of pizzas that you are going to be cooking and the amount of time that you want to wait for the steel to preheat, you should also make your selection according to the capabilities of your oven.
As we have mentioned previously in our guide, selecting a steel that heats faster than your oven is going to result in an inconsistently cooked pizza.
If the maximum temperature of your oven is much lower than the performance of the steel, you should opt for a thinner option as it is more likely to cook your pizza at the same standard.
If you have a more powerful oven you are likely to find that a thicker steel heats the base of your pizza at the same speed at which the ceiling of the oven radiates the heat onto the top of the pizza.
Is A Pizza Steel Worth It?
If you're a keen pizza eater you will likely benefit from investing in a pizza steel. As a great conductor of heat, the use of a pizza steel allows you to achieve restaurant standard results from the comfort of your own home.
A pizza steel boasts excellent durability, particularly when compared to other options like ceramic cookware. Steel is stronger and isn't going to deteriorate when exposed to higher temperatures.
With multiple different thicknesses of pizza steels available it can be difficult to know which option is best for your needs, however as we have covered throughout the guide the answer is dependent on many factors.
We would advise you to opt for a thicker steel as it is an excellent absorber of heat but it also retains this heat well too.
Because of its ability to retain more heat your pizza is going to cook much faster and it is going to reach a nice and tasty texture with a crispy base following contact with the heat of the steel surface from the time in which it is placed onto the steel.
It is important to remember that your oven and the steel need to perform well together to achieve restaurant standard results.