The other day a good friend of mine and I discussed baking on steel vs stone for bread which one is better he wondered. I shared with him my experience of working with both oven plates. Here are the facts:
Baking bread on a stone surface will generate high heat spread evenly for a perfect bake. However, if you bake bread in your home oven baking on a steel plate will be a better choice. A steel plate can reach higher temperatures and maintain the heat longer.
After we got that out of the way and before I list all the reasons why baking stone or steel surface is an excellent choice for baking bread, you should know they are not the only good choice available for you.
During my years as a baker, I was exposed to many creative and great alternatives for a baking stone. If you want to check out these additional options including DIY ones, you are welcome to read the following post.
When baking in a home oven you need to take into account that when you open the oven door to insert the bread you lose a lot of heat which is crucial to the first couple minutes of baking. The steel surface is a better heat conductor and can hold a high temperature for longer when the oven door is open. This will help in the rise of the bread as you need that high temperature in the initial stage of baking
This is especially true if you’re a beginner and loading the bread dough into the oven might take you longer or even a few tries. ( it won’t take you long to master loading bread, I promise. )
Industrial ovens in most bakeries are larger and therefore can hold the heat longer. Stone is usually a better choice for these kinds of ovens as steel plates can warp with the cooling and heating.
How to decide which surface to bake on. Steel or Stone?
When deciding which plate to use for your ultimate baking bread experience there are a few elements to take into consideration:
Heat retention, maintenance, and cost.
- Can achieve high temperature – higher than stone plates
- Stand up to any amount of heat you subject it to
- Heat up immediately. With a steel surface, there is no need to wait until the surface will get warm. The steel reaction to the heat is immediate and you can go about baking your bread in no time.
- Allow baking several loaves one after the other with minimal reheating between bakes. To the serial bakers in us, this is a big plus. The steel surface will barely lose heat while you open the oven and will allow you to be quick and efficient while making a few loaves at a time.
- Unbreakable – no risk of breaking if dropped on the ground
- Need to be seasoned from time to time to prevent rust.
- The cost will vary according to the size of the plate and the thickness of it. However, a steel plate will be more expensive than stone. Steel plates will range between 60-150$ but the better steel plates will cost you around 100-150$.
We have tested and reviewed many steel surfaces or plates if you may on the market. Click here to read the full review
- A Baking stone can retain high heat evenly. This will be a huge plus during the baking process as you would like to get an even bake/ browning on your loaf. The stone surface will reduce the number of times you need to move or move the bread around. As it happens most ovens, especially home ovens are not evenly heated. They have cold and hot spots that affect the food cooking or baking inside.
- A stone plate will require extra time to heat up. You will have to wait longer for the stone to reach the right temperature before you can start baking.
- If handled properly baking stones can last for many years. (A friend of mine just celebrated his stone 20th birthday a few months back ) however…
- Baking stones can chip or crack
- It can also crack if you put a cold stone into a hot oven. That means you need to remember to put the stone in the oven before you preheat it.
- Oven stone is usually much cheaper than their steel counterparts (about 50% less in most cases). They come in a variety shapes and sizes: In a square shape or round for the pizza-loving bakers among us. they usually go for about 20$- 60$.
Clean up steel vs stone:
Now that we have gone through the major factors of each baking surface let’s cut to the chase to one of the most important factors. How do you clean up the mess after the bake?
Each surface needs different cleaning methods but in the end, after all, is said and done both surfaces will get stained or darkened over time. Accept it like old age. You earned every stain with pride.
Cleaning your oven stone- guidelines:
- Let it cool down. The last thing you need is to burn yourself while cleaning your stone so before you prepare for the big clean up let it cool down completely. Even 24 hours wait if needed.
- Gently scrub the stuck-on pieces with steel wool – don’t use a metal spatula to avoid any deep scratches on your beloved stone. Apply more pressure if needed to get off those pesky stuck on pieces that remain on the stone.
- Burn the rest away- if there is some debris that you can’t take off with scrubbing, just put it back in the oven and cook it to death. Meaning: Turn the heat up to 500 F or 260 C or as high as your oven can go and burn whatever is left on the stone. Cooking it for an hour in this temperature will do the trick. Once you are done you should be able to knock off any debris with a brush.
- Wipe with a cloth- take a dry cloth and wipe the stone from any leftovers. Or as mentioned in step 3 you can use a brush. Using a brush is best to get off all that burnt on flour. Don’t use a wet cloth. Try to avoid any water from encountering your stone unless it is called for ( see next step )
- Baking soda paste- if there are some stubborn pieces that refuse to come out even after burning it then it is time to bring out the big guns. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with water and make a paste. then apply it with a brush ( a toothbrush can work just fine) and scrub it in a circular motion. Wipe it off again- this time with a slightly wet cloth and make sure you got everything off and then use a dry cloth to get all that moister out as soon as possible. ( only use this method if you REALLY have to).
Cleaning your steel plate guidelines:
- As a rule – don’t use soap and water on your baking steel surface. Coldwater can cause thermal shock which will cause the metal to warp
- Make sure to let the steel cool down before you clean it for an hour or two
- For stuck-on dough that won’t come off using a grill stone cleaning block and scrape it clean. Just make sure to be careful and not apply too much pressure and take off the seasoning.
- Wipe the remaining debris away with a paper towel or a dry cloth and you’re set!
- If you still have pesky burnt on dough that won’t come off and you are afraid to use too much pressure, just put the steel plate back in the oven, turn it on full blast and burn it to the ground. You should be able to get everything off now. Just go over that debris with the grill stone once again.
What about rust?
In some cases when working on a steel surface, rust spots appear. Make sure to scrub them off with sandpaper on steel wool. Now I know I said do not use soap and water but in this case and only this case it’s allowed.
Rinse the steel in hot water and soap and let it dry.
After its completely dry apply a bit of vegetable oil and use a paper towel to coat it on both sides of the steel. Then bake it to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 205 Celsius for about an hour. It should take off the rust and be good as new.
Where can I buy plates for my stove?
There are many options online. Here are some of my picks for the steel and stone plates that I have found. There are many reviews you can look at which will help you decide. There is always the DIY approach that can cut the cost down if you happen to know a blacksmith in your area that has access to steel plates and can cut them for you it will save you some money. Ask for an A36 Steel Plate.
If money is no object or you can write it in your birthday registry ;P a steel plate is the better choice. I personally like the idea that stone is a more natural product and just feels right to use stone for my artisan bread.