Pizza holds a special place in my household. My husband, who grew up on ultra-charred New Haven pizza in his Connecticut hometown, has spent the last several years perfecting his dough, his sauce, his toppings. I wouldn’t dare give away his secrets lest he stop making pizza for me — except, that is, for this one: Get a baking steel.
I always feel a little weird raving about the Baking Steel: It’s really just a heavy piece of steel (16 pounds, if you get the original version, and a quarter inch thick). What’s the big deal? The big deal is that it can make your home oven behave as if it’s hotter, and when it comes to making pizza, hotter is better.
If you’re a fan of pizza styles like Neapolitan or New Haven, you know how important that kiss of char is. As Baking Steel founder Andris Lagsdin explains, steel conducts heat very quickly, which allows the dough to crisp up in minutes without losing its chewy interior. A pizza stone, by contrast, doesn’t transfer heat as quickly, leaving you with a longer cooking time and without the ideal crispy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside result. Plus, pizza stones can crack, but a hunk of steel is forever. If you put the Baking Steel in your oven, crank it up all the way to 500 F, preheat for an hour, and then cook your pizza on it, you’ll never go back to making pizza any other way.
I’ve heard you can make plenty more than just pizza with the Baking Steel — Lagsdin has a whole cookbook full of recipes, from cinnamon rolls to ice cream (yes, you can freeze the Baking Steel, too) — but in the six years I’ve had mine, I’ve only ventured away from pizza once or twice. Sure, “light and fluffy pancakes with Chinese sausage” sound fun, but in my household, the Baking Steel marked the beginning of a deep dive into pizza, and that’s pretty much its sole purpose. Now, pizza with a beautifully charred crust and light, airy texture is how we show love for friends; it’s how we celebrate the weather cooling down enough to want to turn the oven on again; it’s a blank canvas for endless experimentation.
I’m more than convinced that with a Baking Steel and a pizza peel, you too will become obsessed with the nuanced differences between a 48-hour and a 72-hour fermented pizza dough. Or, at the very least, you’ll have some of the best pizza ever to come out of your oven.