The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Anyone tried switching from stone to steel for sourdough BREAD?

mikewasinnyc's picture

Anyone tried switching from stone to steel for sourdough BREAD?

My wife bought me a 3/8" baking steel to replace my umpteenth broken stone, and I'm still trying to dial it in as my loaves are coming out with slightly burned bottoms. Using all the same techniques as I did with the stone (ie steel is on bottom shelf, no change in temps, parchment to transfer from peel to stone). Has anyone found a way to make this work?

I'd like to stick with the steel but don't want to sacrifice bread quality for it.

Also curious to hear if there are other differences that I can expect, ie crumb or crust quality. I know that metal transfers heat much more quickly than stone.

Thanks ..

DanAyo's picture

I tried a baking steel after using a stone for many years. It didn’t work for me. I also got burnt bottoms. Some of the bakers have used a peice of granite from a left over counter top and it seems to work well. You could probably pickup a peice from a counter top store and have them cut it for you to size. Alfanso uses granite and likes it...

I have baked with stone for years and have never had one crack. I presently use a custom cut Fibrement stone and like it a lot.

But before you ditch the steel, you could try placing it on a middle shelf. That might solve your problem.


barryvabeach's picture

Mike,  I would not use the steel the same way you used the stone - steel conducts heat much more efficiently. If you preheated your stone for 45 minutes, you might try preheating the steel for 10 to 15 minutes and see how that works, then decrease or add to get the amount of browning that you want.  If you still want that initial burst of heat on the bottom when you load the loaf, you can try baking it on steel for part of the bake, then move it to a wire rack, or insert a pizza screen for the remaining part of the bake.   The good news, is that it will be hard for you to crack the steel.  

mikewasinnyc's picture

Good suggestions and comments, thanks Dan and Barry. I guess I'd seen a few overly promotional ads for these baking steels. I'll play around with it for a bit and post what I learn here, but suspect that I'll be back to stones soon enough.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

so the steel is not as hot as the stone was previously.  Pay attention to those baking in iron pots and their temps. Think iron pans and pancakes.  :)

leemid51's picture

I changed nothing. I had a 3/4" slab of black marble before I learned about baking on steel. I made myself a 3/8" slab of steel and began using it with wonderful success for both bread and pizza. However, I wouldn't put it on the bottom rack. I bake in the middle of the oven. I preheat a little shorter time, only because steel transfers heat better and therefore is hot sooner. It can't get hotter than stone in an oven of the same temperature. If you left both in the oven for 5 hours they would be the same temperature. I do find my bread is done sooner by a few minutes but even if I go long the bottoms are not burned.

I bake at 450F so it's not like I'm cooler than your oven unless you are cooking really hot. I find I get excellent results in both a regular and a convection oven. I have also found that my focaccia won't darken up decently without the steel. 

I made two steels when I made mine and gave the other to a chef friend. He says he just leaves his in the oven and bake everything on it. He loves it too.

Is that two cents worth?

mikewasinnyc's picture

First, thanks again for all of the helpful suggestion here, including Lee's commentary (hmm, it's been a while since I baked foccacia ...)

Not long after I posted this I tried reaching out to Peter Reinhart, whose Bread Baker's Apprentice has been a standby in my kitchen. Peter wins another gold star in my estimation for his quick and helpful reply - summarized as follows:

- Try placing an empty pan on the shelf under the steel to deflect some of the direct radiant heat.

- Preheat for full hour

- A slightly lower temp setting could do the job, depending on the oven

In my case (old school gas fired oven) he suggested raising the baking shelf up a notch and experimenting with dropping the temp about 25 degrees. 

Overall he said it might take some adjustments but he was supportive of using steel for bread because of its durability and conductivity.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Should have mentioned that earlier.  There is another simple trick. Takes longer to write it than to do it.  Instead of the empty pan under the steel, try making a reflector.  Evenly crunch up a large sheet of foil on a flat surface until it approximates slightly smaller size than the steel. (With an open flame, ev. try double layer.)  Then press the steel onto the wrinkled foil to flatten somewhat making a wafer about a quarter inch (1cm) thick sheet.  Place it on a rack between the bottom of the oven and the steel.  

mikewasinnyc's picture

so this last comment intrigued me enough that I called a PHD engineer friend who once worked in product testing to get his thoughts. Apparently it either depends or requires testing with thermocouples to be sure ... no ambiguity there ;) in any case I think I get the point - deflect heat which is likely higher than my target oven temp ? Would be great to see how this looks with an IR tester 

dabrownman's picture

and assume that I will have to do the same thing I do with DO's to not get a too dark bottom.  I take the bread off the combo cooker bottom 5-8 minutes after the lid comes off an finish it on a stone or the directly on the racks.  I assume I will have to move the bread off the steel about 25 minutes into the bake and onto the racks above to finish and keep the bottoms from burning.  I only have 1 stone left that isn't broken too!