I don’t know about you, but I live in a city. I’m fortunate enough to have a backyard, but I’m far away from such luxuries as wood-fired ovens. So I’m unfortunately deprived of the ability to bake excellent, wood-fired pizzas, and usually have to go out to Little Italy to find something suitable when the mood strikes me. That was, until I learned about pizza steels and stones.
A pizza steel is superior to a pizza stone in a few areas. Pizza steels tend to win out when it comes to durability, and they also offer superior heat conduction. This means that a pizza steel will be able to absorb heat quicker than a stone and it will also transfer it to your pizza quicker.
As with many other things in the kitchen, whether you use a pizza steel or a pizza stone is largely a matter of personal preference and based on the kind of pizza that you’re trying to cook. In this post, I’ll go over the pros and cons of both items and see how they stack up.
Is a Pizza Steel Better Than a Stone?
Essentially, steels are made from steel. Steel is incredibly adept at conducting and retaining heat, which means your pizza will cook faster than on a stone. It also means that you won’t have to heat your oven as high as with a stone. Usually, you’re good to cook at 450, while a stone can often need as high as 550 – something some home ovens can’t even reach.
As they’re made of steel, they’re fairly indestructible, which means they’ll last a lifetime. But steel can be treated like a cast iron skillet, meaning it’ll only work better if you season it occasionally. It can also be a multi-purpose tool, doubling as a griddle on the stove if you’re out of options.
But, as previously mentioned, they’re pricier than traditional stones. The cost tends to be worth it, considering they’ll last indefinitely.
Pizza stones conduct heat very well, but they don’t transfer it to the dough as quickly as steels, so your pizza will take slightly longer to bake.
A major problem with stones is that they can crack or break fairly easily, depending on where they’re made. If they get wet, that moisture will collect in their porous surface, weakening the stone.
They can also experience thermal shock if they’re suddenly exposed to a different temperature rapidly. But the tradeoff comes with cost. Stones are a fraction of what a steel will run you. I personally recommend a rectangular one, as they give you more freedom to work when dressing your pizza.
I cooked a pizza on a steel and one on a friend’s stone. While both were good, the crust of the steel came out almost exactly as I’d desired: crispy, mottled, with light brown and dark brown spots up and down. You don’t get that with a stone.
So Which is Better?
If you can afford it, I’d go with a steel. I threw my stone out over a year ago and converted fully and couldn’t be happier.
First, steels are much easier to store than stones. Steels are heavier, no question there – usually around 12 to 15 pounds. But they are also much slimmer. That means they can easily slide in the oven, and out of the way when you’ve finished cleaning them.
Secondly, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a stone break on you, but it’s heartbreaking. They’re not too expensive to replace, but usually, you’ve become accustomed to working with a particular stone over a long period of time. You’ve gotten to know it, you’ve even seasoned it some and carefully cleaned it – never getting it wet.
Then you hear the deafening “crack” and know it’s over. All that hard work over the years, all the memorable pizzas you’ve cooked are gone forever now. Steels don’t do that to you. Steels won’t break your heart.
Finally, when I’m cooking pizza, it’s usually a bit of a party. That means I want to make more than one pizza at a time. My steel is 11 inches by 17 inches, about the size of any good baking sheet. That means I am able to cook multiple pizzas at once.
And I mentioned earlier that you can use it to cook other things, but I didn’t realize how often I’d actually do it. The extra space means you can use it to bake bread, cookies, cook a steak and just about anything you can imagine.
You’re not limited to just pizza with a steel, but that’s mostly what you’ll use it for. And you’ll find yourself making the best pizza of your life.