Most pizza steels are the same. But there’s one thing that can make the difference between good and amaing pizza. And that’s to use the right pizza steel thickness.
A pizza steel’s thickness typically range from 3/16 inch to 1/2 inch. The thickness of the steel determines the baking time and how many pizzas you can bake. But picking the right pizza steel thickness is a little more complicated. This article will give you an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of different thicknesses of pizza steels, and how you should use each of them.
How The Pizza Steel’s Thickness Affect Baking
The thickness of a pizza steel mainly affect two things: baking time, and how many pizzas you can bake after each other without reheating the steel.
Let’s first take a look at baking time. But to understand the role of a pizza steel, we need to discuss the factors that affects the baking time.
The Pizza Steel Is Only One of the Factors of Baking Time
In a pizza oven, the pizza is baked with a combination of a hot baking surface and radiating heat from the ceiling of the oven. And this is what we’re trying to achieve with a pizza steel too. It’s therefore important to understand that both baking of the top and the bottom have to happen at the same rate, so they are done at the same time.
This means that you don’t necessarily want your pizza steel to bake the pizza as fast as possible. (This will be important when we’re talking about baking times in the next section) There needs to be a balance between the temperature of the steel and the heat of the oven. Else you might end up with burnt pizza crust and cheese that’s not melted or raw dough and burnt toppings.
You probably want the pizza to bake as fast as possible, to get a result as close as possible to a Neapolitan pizza. A Neapolitan pizza is traditionally done in 60-90 seconds at 900°F (485°C). This is not possible in a normal home oven. But you want to get as close as possible and bake the pizza as hot and fast as you can.
If you have a pizza steel that bakes your pizza fast, you need to also have an oven that can bake the top of the pizza equally fast. One way to increase the temperature is to use a broiler. A heating element, usually placed at the top of your home oven. If your oven doesn’t have a broiler, you may not want the pizza steel that has the fastest baking time.
How Thickness Affect Baking Time
The thickness of the baking steel determines the baking time of the bottom of the pizzas. The reason is that the more heat the steel can retain, the more heat it has to transfer to the crust during baking. Steel tranfer heat fast, but if there is no heat to transfer, you will not get a fast bake.
It will therefore take less time to bake the same pizza on a thick pizza steel, compared to a thinner one.
Baking Time Examples for Different Thicknesses
Given the same pizza and the same oven temperature, the baking time can vary from 3-8 minutes. Here’s an example of baking times on preheated pizza steels with different thickness at 550°F (288°C):
|3/16 inch (4.8 mm)||6-8 minutes|
|1/4 inch (6.4 mm)||5-7 minutes|
|3/8 inch (9.5 mm)||4-6 minutes|
|1/2 inch (12.7 mm)||3-5 minutes|
If you’re baking pizza at a different temperature (higher is better!) the baking times will vary a little bit from the table. But this is a good indicator of what you can expect for pizza steels at different thicknesses.
Number of Pizzas
The thickness of the pizza steel also determines how many pizzas you can bake right after each other.
When you place a cold pizza (room temperature) on a hot pizza steel, the temperature will drop. And since the pizza is blocking re-heating of the surface, it will drop further for each pizza you bake. A thicker pizza steel retains more energy, and therefore also holds the temperature better than a thinner steel. The result is that a thick pizza steel can bake several pizzas right after each other.
For a 3/8 inch pizza steel, you can actually see the difference even after the first pizza. The second pizza will have less color, and not be as crispy as the first one. Though, I think baking 2 consecutive pizzas on a 3/8 inch steel is okay!
Preheating Time for Pizza Steels of Different Thickness
The thicker the pizza steel, the longer it needs to preheat. This is because to retain more energy, absorbing the heat takes more time. For a 3/16 pizza steel, I recommend preheating it 45 minutes. For a 3/8 inch pizza steel, 1 hour, and for a 1/2 inch steel, 90 minutes.
In the table below, you can see recommended preheating times for different thicknesses.
|3/16 inch (4.8 mm)||45 minutes|
|1/4 inch (6.4 mm)||45-60 minutes|
|3/8 inch (9.5 mm)||60-75 minutes|
|1/2 inch (12.7 mm)||90+ minutes|
Thick vs Thin Pizza Steel
To sum up the differences between a thick and a thin pizza steel, it’s mainly that a thick steel holds more heat, that reduces the baking time and increases the number of consecutive pizzas you can bake. The increased heat also makes the pizza crisper, and you’re more likely to find charring on your pizza. A thick pizza steel does however require a longer preheating time than a thin one. Thicker pizza steels are also heavier, and tend to cost more than thin ones.
How to Choose the Best Pizza Steel Thickness
When you’re considering a pizza steel, you don’t only want to look at how much heat it can retain. Then a thicker pizza steel would always have been the best choice. This is however not the case. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to make sure your oven can bake the top of the pizza as fast as the bottom is baked on the pizza steel. So if your oven only goes to 450°F (230°C), and doesn’t have a broiler, you may not want a 1/2 inch thick baking steel. The reason is that it will be very hard to bake pizza on it. And you’ll probably end up baking the bottom faster than the top of the pizza.
My recommendation is therefore to select a pizza steel that fits your oven temperature. If your oven doesn’t have a broiler, I recommend going for a 1/8 or 1/4 inch steel. But if your oven does has a broiler, it depends on the temperature your oven can reach. Here’s a table that show recommended pizza steel thickness based on maximum temperatures for different ovens (with broiler):
|Temperature °F||Temperature °C||Recommended pizza steel thickness|
As you can see, the hotter the oven goes, the faster we can bake the top of the pizza, and the faster we want to bake the bottom – therefore a thicker pizza steel.
The Best Pizza Steels
The Best All-Around Pizza Steel – Medium Thickness
An average home oven will typically reach 550°F (275°C). From the temperature table above, I recommend going for a 3/8-1/2 inch pizza stone for this temperature.
One of my favorite thicker pizza steels is the Conductive Cooking Square Pizza Steel. This is a high quality, US-made pizza steel that comes in both a 3/16 inch and a 3/8 inch version. It also comes in several different dimensions. The reason I recommend this is that it’s incredibly durable and solid pizza steel that makes perfectly crispy pizza.
I recommend the 3/8 inch version if you have a normal convection oven with a broiler. And that you place it on the top rack of your oven, as close to the broiler as possible. Preheat the oven for at least 60 minutes, and this steels should bake your pizza in around 4 minutes.
The Best 1/2 Pizza Steel
For a hot home oven, you need a thick pizza steel. The best thick pizza steel is the NerdChef Stone 1/2″, a solid, quality pizza steel that will make extremely crispy pizza!
If you have a home oven that can reach 550°F, or more, you also need a pizza steel that can keep up with the baking speed. To bake your pizza as fast as possible you need a 1/2 pizza steel This will create a hot baking surface that can make as crispy pizza as a wood-fired pizza oven.
Trying to bake pizza fast with a too thin pizza steel simply doesn’t work. The top of the pizza will finish much faster than the bottom, leaving the bottom soggy and under cooked. If you however have the right pizza steel for your oven, you can make amazing, Neapolitan-style pizza at home! A thick, 1/2″ pizza steel is what allows this bake
The NerdChef Steel Stone 1/2″ is an extremely sturdy, heavy-duty US-made pizza steel. It makes perfectly crispy pizza every time! I’ve been asked more than once how I’m able to make crispy Neapolitan-style pizza at home. And the short answer is the right pizza steel!
With proper care, this is a steel that will last you a lifetime. NerdChef also believes their product is good enough to last a lifetime, and that’s why they’re offering a lifetime guarantee.
If you want to know more about how to use a pizza steel, check out my in-depth step-by-step guide: How to Use a Pizza Steel
A thicker pizza steel is better, because it get’s hotter and hold heat better than a thin steel. This means that it bakes pizza faster, and you’ll end up with a crispier pizza. A thick pizza steel is also able to bake several pizzas right after each other without any re-heating. In addition to that it’s also more likely to char your pizza crust, and will make perfect Neapolitan pizza.
However, you need enough heat to bake the top of the pizza as the same rate as the bottom. So if your oven doesn’t get hot enough, a thinner pizza steel is a better choice.