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Black Steel Pizza Pans
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IndyRob



Joined: 17 Dec 2006
Posts: 77

PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:35 am    Post subject: Black Steel Pizza Pans Reply with quote

Years ago, when I was first trying to make pan pizza, my biggest problem was getting the bottom to brown. I beat my head against the wall for years trying different things. Nothing seemed to work well enough. Then, I found a KMart that was being liquidated (fixtures and all). It had a Little Caesars in it they were selling off all of that equipment as well. I could've bought the pizza oven - if I could've figured out how to explain a $6,000, 10 foot long unitasker to my wife. But I immediately grabbed 5 or 6 of their pizza pans for $4 a piece.

When I tried them at home, the problem was immediately solved. I don't know if these are "black steel" or not since some are scratched and I can see shiny metal underneath the black finish. I've seen black steel pans referred to in many pizza recipes but the only source I've ever found seemed to be a wholesaler.

I still use my pans often, but only have 18" round and 10" square pans. Besides the fact that these already commercially-used pans are getting beat up, I'd like some more size options.

So, what are these things and where do they come from? What makes them superior? I saw the pan pizza recipe here and no special pan seemed to be used. This encouraged me to try again with a normal sheet pan and the results were predictably pale underneath. I know I can get, say, a dinner roll, to brown on the bottom on a normal pan. But these pans are doing something more. I don't know why.
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2007 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fact that they are black means they not only get hot by virtue of being in a hot oven, but they also readily absorb radiant (IR) energy. That's what makes them good for browning the crust. You would not want this in a cake pan because a cake shouldn't have a hard crust, but a pizza should.
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IndyRob



Joined: 17 Dec 2006
Posts: 77

PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before I found the real pans, I reasoned that black would absorb more heat. So I bought some flat black engine paint and painted the bottoms of a few small cheap, but heavy gauge aluminum pans.

I didn't want to paint the insides for obvious reasons, but figured that the black on the outside would absorb heat, while the raw aluminum on the inside would reflect/radiate the heat into the crust. But no dice. There really was no discernable difference.

I'm willing to allow that black on both sides might be the difference, but it seems to me that a pan with black on the outside and a (theoretical) mirror finish on the inside should radiate the most heat to the crust.
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Howard



Joined: 21 Nov 2005
Posts: 64

PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 2:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What temperature are you baking the pizzas at?
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IndyRob



Joined: 17 Dec 2006
Posts: 77

PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 11:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Typically 550 degrees.

I'm finding that I can nicely brown the bottom of a bun-type piece of dough in a normal sheet pan at as low as 425. There's something significant about that, I feel. I think there's some sort of thermal inertia at work here. But I don't know if it's due to the weight of the pizza, or the much larger surface area. I guess I should try a naked pizza crust.
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pj_rage



Joined: 07 Feb 2007
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm having trouble getting my pizzas to have a crispy bottom as well. I've been using pizza stones, as I thought these were supposed to achieve this goal, but to no avail.

What gives?

I've tried 475*, 450*, 425*, 400*, and 375*. The only difference I've noticed was a shorter cooking time with higher temp, but the same crust results.

I typically preheat the stone for 30 mins. Granted it is a cheap target stone, but I would imagine it would still work?

Is there some other secret to brown the bottom? I have good results on the crust (it is crispy), but not the bottom.

Do I need these black steel pans and 550* (my oven only goes to 500* ?)
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IndyRob



Joined: 17 Dec 2006
Posts: 77

PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've always had pretty good results with pizza stones. Its pans I've had a problem with.

My only problem with the stones is that I'm cursed when it comes to sliding the pizza off the board and onto the stone. The dough always seems to stick and I wind up slinging pepperoni from the top of the pizza directly onto the stone while the rest of the pizza stays on the board laughing at me - Whence ensues much smoking meat and frustrated wails.

But you should put the stone on the lowest rack of your oven and set it on 'kill' (the highest temp. setting your oven has). 30 minutes should be good, but an hour would be better. This should do it.

If you're concerned about the effect of a cheap stone, you might try doing some small six inch pizzas. This would relate to my aforementioned thermal inertia hypothesis. I recall a post here from someone using a real wood-fired pizza oven that said that once a spot had been used for a pizza, you'd avoid that spot until it had time to come back up to temp. If you get success with a smaller pizza, then yeah, you may need a beefier stone (or need to leave it longer to get more heat into it).

If none of this works, then perhaps some more details about the oven, stone and dough might help a diagnosis.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

IndyRob wrote:
My only problem with the stones is that I'm cursed when it comes to sliding the pizza off the board and onto the stone. The dough always seems to stick and I wind up slinging pepperoni from the top of the pizza directly onto the stone while the rest of the pizza stays on the board laughing at me - Whence ensues much smoking meat and frustrated wails.

I've taken to using a round piece of parchment paper under the pizza dough (I assemble the pizza on the parchment on the peel and then trim the excess parchment away). The pizza on the parchment keeps the parchment from burning (if you don't trim away the excess, they will burn or even light on fire) and it slides off the peel onto the stone and back onto the peel without a problem. Since I have an oven that sits on the floor (under my range) and not in a wall cabinet, it's difficult to get the right angles with my pizza peel, so the parchment is a life saver...
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pj_rage



Joined: 07 Feb 2007
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I just checked my oven and it does in fact go to 550*, not 500* like I thought. I never had the guts to take her to 500*, but I'm bypassing all my common sense and taking her to 550* with the stone on the lowest rack for my next trial. If this doesn't work, I'm ordering a 3/4" thick stone I found online.

As far as transferring the pizza from peel to stone, I've never had a problem. Are you using a peel and cornmeal? This is how I do it and it is easy and perfect every time. Once I more or less shape the crust on my counter, I sprinkle some cornmeal on the pizza peel, spread/rub it by hand, transfer my pizza dough crust onto the peel and give the peel a shake to make sure it slides very easy. I then proceed to sauce/cheese/topping the pizza, then I give her one last shake to make sure she is still loose (usually is if you cornmealed properly), open the oven, lightly sprinkle cornmeal on the stone, and then I tilt the pizza peel and slide the pizza off smooth and easy onto the stone. When it is done, I slide the pizza peel between the pizza and the stone, use a spatula on the backside to assist, and it comes right off the stone. It has never stuck to the stone for me. I really haven't had any trouble doing it this way!
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Howard



Joined: 21 Nov 2005
Posts: 64

PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe you should preheat your stone for a longer period. 1 hour isn't uncommon.
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pj_rage



Joined: 07 Feb 2007
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My friend who also bakes pizzas (we are both trying to find the perfect combo to make the crispy crust) went with 500* last night, but the oil in his stone was burning off like crazy.

I worry that mine will do the same at 500+.

How does everyone avoid this?
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pj_rage wrote:
My friend who also bakes pizzas (we are both trying to find the perfect combo to make the crispy crust) went with 500* last night, but the oil in his stone was burning off like crazy.

OIL? Was this accidental spillage from before or did the stone naturally have oil in it? If so, was this intended to be a pizza stone when you stuck it in the oven?
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IndyRob



Joined: 17 Dec 2006
Posts: 77

PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought parchment paper might do the trick for me, but it baked right into the bottom of the crust (definitely not Good Eats). Perhaps my dough is looser, or my temps higher than most.

But I think my problem with 'the slide' is more about nerves than anything else. If you fear something might happen, then it probably will.

Or, maybe it's the 25 pounds of cheese I put on my pizzas Wink.

As to oil on the stone, there's something amiss here. Having any sort of liquid on or in the stone is an invitation for the heat to crack it. Let that oil smoke off completely.
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pj_rage



Joined: 07 Feb 2007
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We typically brush the crusts with an olive oil / garlic powder / cornmeal / etc mixture when the pizza is about half done. This makes an unbelievably delicious crust. It also allows for some oil to drip down onto the stone.

I also think that his pizza stone (and mine for that matter) said to "season" them by putting olive oil on them and baking them for like an hour. I didn't do this, but I know he did.

At any rate, I did a pizza the other night at 550*. I let the stone preheat for an hour during half of which it decided to smoke pretty good. It stopped smoking after about 30 mins. I don't know if it was leftover cornmeal and cheese that was baked in, or oil that was on there somehow, but either way, it was smoking! The pizza crust I made wasn't condusive to being crispy, so that is why it wasn't, but it would have been if I had made the crust like I normally did. For some reason I decided to add ALOT more sugar than usual and less yeast. It did blacken the bottom in areas, so the hotter temp and/or preheat did the trick.

Thanks for your suggestions! I'm hoping that next time I won't have as much smoke.

Do you guys season your stones somehow? When/if I get my new one, I'm curious if/how I should season it?
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 1:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you like to put a lot of toppings on your pizza or like a crispy crust, pre-cook your crust a while first. That will stiffen it up so heavy toppings won't warp or wrinkle your pie and it will keep a nice round shape. Plus, the extra baking cycle or half cycle will make your crust more supportive for when you pick up and devour a two pound slice of pizza, rather than elegantly eating it with a knife and fork. Smile
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