The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Want Steam?

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edroid's picture
edroid

Want Steam?

This takes the "SFBI" steam method to the next level. 

There are two changes to the standard SFBI method: first is the use of a half inch round steel plate instead of lava rocks or bolts. This allows the second change: heat the steel plate and the skillet on the stovetop to whatever temp you want. I took the temp up to 550° with great results. The steel plate weighs 5.75 pounds and holds an incredible amount of heat.

The advantages are that the round steel plate has far more thermal mass than lava rocks or nuts and bolts, you can bring the whole thing to a much hotter temperature by heating directly on the stovetop, and by heating the steel to higher temperature you have less heat loss in the oven. The plates heat quickly on the stove, so my guess is that it is more energy efficient also. 

You can have a local metal shop cut the round plate for fairly minimal cost, or probably order one from BakingSteel Co. The skillet is standard 9" Lodge cast iron. The perforated pie plate is made by Chicago Metallic and is available on Amazon. 

An infrared thermometer is recommended to get a temperature reading of the steel on the stovetop. 

BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL WITH THIS STUFF! USE HIGH QUALITY MITTS!

DONT PLACE ICE ON SKILLET UNTIL AFTER THE HOT SKILLET IS PLACED IN THE OVEN! 

DON'T USE THIS TECHNIQUE IF YOU AREN'T CAPABLE OF BEING SAFE! 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Ed,  just wanted to make sure I understand you.  You heat up the metal disk on the stovetop at the same time as you heat up the cast iron pan, then I guess you use hotpads to pick up the metal disk and put that in the cast iron pan, then put both of those in the oven, then load a separate pan that has ice in it on top of the metal disk in the cast iron pan, right?  

edroid's picture
edroid

Yes, that is exactly right! 

You have to be very careful with the super hot disk and the skillet. I use well made silicone mitts rated to 600°. 

The way my stove is built, I am able to just slide the disk into the skillet, then carry to the oven.  

VERY IMPORTANT to put the pie pan with ice on the skillet AFTER the hot skillet is placed in the oven. 

The reason you use ice on the perforated pie pan is that it melts when the door is closed, so all steam stays in the oven and you don't get sprayed with steam. 

Everyone needs to use common sense and be extremely careful with this stuff. 

metropical's picture
metropical

seems like just the skillet and ice pan would do pretty nicely.

edroid's picture
edroid

The purpose of the 5 3/4 pound plate is to add thermal capacity, which it does beautifully. Many people use rocks, nuts and bolts, or chain to add thermal capacity. The plate is cleaner, has far more thermal capacity, and has the advantage of being able to be heated on the stovetop. 

Just using the skillet will work, but the skillet by itself will cool to below 212 rather quickly, and you have a skillet full of water sitting in your oven, which will slowly turn to steam. If starting at 500°, the skillet has enough thermal capacity to steam 1/4 cup of water. 

With the metal plate, you get a lot more steam before everything cools to below 212. It makes a bigger cloud of steam faster. With the plate added to the skillet and heated to 500°, there is enough thermal capacity to steam almost a full cup of water. 

Another advantage of this method is that most steaming schemes will cause the oven temperature to plummet, by heating the plate up hotter than the oven, less oven heat is lost. 

Note different ovens have different amounts of venting, so need different amounts of steam generation. Some ovens work fine to just toss a bit of water on the oven floor when loading the oven; others require extreme measures! 

I used to have an old gas fired Viking oven that was huge, the door didn't close completely, and it seemed to have more vents than insulation. I think with that oven even this technique would barely make enough steam. Might have had to go to a 12" skillet and 3/4" plate!