I’m going to deviate a bit from talking about home improvements….
I like pizza, I like cooking, therefore I decided I should try making pizza. Specifically, I wanted to make a neapolitan style pizza like Tutta Bella. Neapolitan pizzas have strict rules about how they can be made. In particular, I like the crust on these pizzas. They’re thin, gooey and delicious.
Making the crust on a Neapolitan pizza requires the use of only a handful of ingredients: Flour, Salt, Water and Yeast. My favorite crust recipe is the Modernist Cuisine variant. The hard part is that they need to be cooked in a wood fire oven. This is not a post on how to build your own wood fire oven. I’m determined, but not that determined! Wood fire ovens get hot, really hot, 700+ degrees. In a wood fired oven, the pizza cooks in less than three minutes.
Like I said, I didn’t build a wood fire oven, so I had to find another option. Home ovens don’t get anywhere near hot enough. To mimic the behavior of a wood fire oven you need to use something that can create even heat and quickly transfer the heat to the pizza. Normally, people use a pizza stone to do this at home. While looking into baking stones I ran across the Modernist Cuisine pizza steel. Modernist Cuisine does a lot of cool stuff, if I had a larger kitchen pantry and a bigger budget, I’d have all of the gadgets they recommend. I think playing with an antigrill would be fun.
The folks at Modernist Cuisine recommend using a pizza steel over a stone because it works better. If making your own seems like too much work, go to Amazon and buy one from them.
They sell theirs for $99, and it has their name engraved on it. It’s pretty and made in the USA.
$99 seemed steep to me for something I’m not going to use all that often, I made my own for $49 ($45 in steel and $4 in supplies).
Since this blog post first launched, a lot of other people have started making baking steels. There are lots of options on Amazon. I think it’s going to be hard to beat the price to effort ratio of this one for example.
How to make a baking steel
I bought a 14″x16″x3/8″ steel plate from Eddie at Exor Ironworks. Eddie ground the edges so that they’d be smooth. He sold me the steel plate for $45. If you don’t live in Seattle, find a local blacksmith and ask for an “A36 Steel Plate”. A36 is the alloy. Keep in mind that Steel has a weight of .284 pounds per cubic inch. That means that my baking steel is nearly 24 lbs!
|Eddie grinding the edges of my steel plate|
The steel plate from your local blacksmith will be coated in a rust like material called “mill scale”. Before you use the steel, you need to get the mill scale off. The easiest way to do that is with white vinegar.
|The steel plate comes dirty and coated in mill scale|
I used an old storage container I had and submersed my plate for 48 hours in the bucket. If you don’t have a bucket handy, a garbage bag will work just fine too.
|Soaking in vinegar|
After 48 hours in the vinegar soak, hit the plate with a garden hose and the gunk will come right off. I scrubbed mine with baking soda to neutralize the vinegar (I’m pretty sure this is overkill), and then with soap and water to get any remaining gunk off. The steel should be a nice light grey color at this point
|I did two plates at once, they’re in the oven to dry after the vinegar bath|
|My steel after three coats of flax seed oil seasoning|
How to use the baking steel
|Pizza on the steel, the steel was at 700 degrees when I measured it|
To get the pizza on and off of the steel, you’re going to want a pizza peel.
How well does it work?
Summary of Instructions for Making a Baking Steel
- Buy a 14″x16″x3/8″ A36 Steel Plate
- Soak plate in vinegar for 48 hours.
- Clean thoroughly
- Dry thoroughly in the oven
- Season steel
- Apply a thin coat of flax seed oil to all 6 edges
- Rub off as much as you can
- Place in oven at oven’s max temperature for an hour
- Allow to cool in oven
- Repeat three times
78 Replies to “DIY Baking Steel”
Excellent article. I have 1/2" A36 stock, saved me $80.
Thanks for the post.
I'd purchased a piece of scrap steel this week for the same reason. Scrubbed it with Comet, washed with soap and water, and then ran it through the dishwasher. It still didn't look clean; when I found your post I did what you suggested. After just 20 minutes I'm amazed at what's coming off of the sheet.
Glad I could help!
Hi Koz, A couple of questions/ comments:
1) I'm about to get a steel myself after years of working on tiles/stones. Do you have any reason to have concerns about lead in A36 steel or any evidence that explains why I *shouldn't* be concerned about lead transferring to food?
2) If you are still struggling with dough let me know and I can point you to some great resources (email@example.com)
3) I'm trying to make good New York style as without the wood and without the temp there's no duplicating Neopolitan. Someday: wood burning oven in back yard!!
1. I have no knowledge as to why you should or shouldn't be concerned about lead in A36 steel.
2. Thanks but I figured out my challenge! I found switching to mass based measurements helped a ton.
3. Can't help you, I'm not a fan of the New York style 🙂
Hi is it ok to use any other oil in seasoning the steel plate? I don’t have flax seed oil in my area right now. Thanks.
I did this with two full-oven sized 3/8″ steels, seasoned it about 6 times, until it’s a dark brown amberish color. I had the steel company put a hole in the end, thinking I’d want to take it out and hang it. I think it’s about 45#, and I’ve decided against removing it, thank you… I didn’t season the bottom more than once; please dont’ tell my public. I have two steels, one on the top. I’ve not made pizzas yet; but, my breads come out excellent.
No lead in A36.
There is not any lead in steel. It is made from iron.
There is no lead in steel, so rest easy! This is the composition of A36 steel:
Iron (Fe) 99%
Carbon (C) 0.26%
Manganese (Mn) 0.75%
Thank you for posting this. Being in Canada, the cost would be even higher to purchase a pre-made baking steel and have it shipped here from the USA. I'm having the metal cut now and will be following your instructions.
So happy to find your blog! Purchased a 14 x 19 piece of A36 3/8" steel for $26 CDN. Rounded the corners with a plasma cutter and used a grinding disk to smooth & sand the entire piece clean, so no vinegar soak was necessary. The seasoning instruction are great and the baking steel looks perfect! This weekend I'll be baking lots of bread. Thank you!
Glad I could help! That's an incredible price for the steel. A grinding disk works too but most people don't have a grinding disk or plasma cutter at home which is why I recommend vinegar 🙂
Sandra, would you be able to share with me where you bought your piece of steel from? I'm located in Toronto and this would save me some research on where to get a piece!
Hi Sandra, I live in Canada and would appreciate any tips around how to source the steel plate. I have no idea where to start…
Koz, can your steel plate be used on a stove top, too? I got a quote on a 16" x 18" x 1/2" plate for $136 Canadian (rounded corners and cleaned.) is there a reason you chose your particular dimension? Thanks for your help.
You can! They make a very heavy duty griddle too!
I picked the size because it was bigger than the pizzas that I make. The size gave me room to work without crowding.
hey sandra, where did you get the steel from. i live in the gta ontario
Hi Sandra. So happy to have found someone in Canada who found the steel sheet. I've been going around to find A36 steel but was unsuccessful. Would you kindly direct me to the right place.
A36 steel is US the equivalent in Canada is 44W.
where in Canada did you find this Sandra (hope you see this)
I cant find any steel shops around me yet
hi Sandra where were you able to get this steel in Canada. I’m beginning to think of going the DIY route myself. I’m in the Toronto GTA area.
Hey Sandra! Great to hear you found this in Canada! Not sure where you are exactly but I’m in Calgary Alberta. Any info on where to get this steel would be helpful. I want a couple customers ones cut to fit my oven so I can make multiple artisan loaves of bread at a time. Thanks in advance. Chuck
Hello fellow Canadian, where did you find your A36 steel?
Hello, in Canada it’s called W44 steel. Same deal. You can find it at metalsupermarkets.ca. They will cut it for you.
It’s about $50+tax for the 14×16, 1/4″ thickness A36 at Metal Supermarket. It was very clean too, almost no mill scale!
Thanks for the tips. Any idea if I can use this on the gas stovetop as well like the baking steel griddle?
I don’t see why not.
do you think that having more than one baking steel ie. having a baking steel on each rack of the oven would work so that each pizza would receive heat from top and bottom. thinking out loud commercially.
I don’t think so. I think the reality is that you need the direct heat of the broiler to get the steel hot enough. The bottom one just won’t get the same impact.
I have a purchased baking steel well actually a pizza craft baking steel. I had great success using in my oven at 500 degrees preheated for an hour, just down from the broiler. Baked 7 minutes. Then turned on broiler for about a minute. Perfect. Very happy.
Also just baked baguette on it. Amazing results.
You inspired me to seek out a baking steel! Thanks for the instructions!
You inspired me to seek out a piece of steel! Thank you for the great instructions. The first pizza will be baked in your honor.
Thanks for the inspiration! Have my two pieces of steel soaking right now. For me, DIY adds a "coolness" factor that lends immeasurable satisfaction to the process.
I used your plan. I found a local recycling center that also sells new steel. I bought a 16X18" torch cut (hot rolled steel) for under 15.00. I have a grinder etc. I only put the steel in the vinegar bath for 24 hours and the mill scale was all gone. I didn't use soda, however, I did use a sander (after grinding the edges smooth) on the surface just to clean it up. I used 40 grit with a palm sander and finished with 220. The steel has a polished quality to it. It's now in the oven for it's first seasoning. Thanks for the information. I have a 16X18" steel for under 20 bucks.
I used your plan and it turned out great. I found new steel at a local steel recycling center. I bought a 16X18" .25" A-36 piece that was torch cut for less than 15.00. I have a grinder/sander so did my own edge work after soaking the steel in vinegar for 24 hours. Hose it off, you don't need soda as it's a mild acid. I did sand the surface of mine to polish it. It's in the oven for it's first seasoning. Will be interesting to see how it works for pizza. Again, thanks for the info. I got a 16X18" steel for under 20 bucks including the gas to go get it, etc. (I wanted a little larger surface to be able to bake 2 loaves of artisan bread at a time).
What do you think about using aluminum sheet, similar dimensions?
I don’t know the answer to your question. The specific heat capacity of aluminum is nearly twice that of steel. It will probably work!
I put the steel in the oven and now there’s rust on both of them. They’re dry but rusty. What do I do now?
Don’t worry, just season it.
First, loved the post. Just made some of my best pizza ever!
For the aluminum, remember that the density is about a third, so much less mass to hold onto the heat. I would also imagine the thermal conductivity is much less than A36, so slower to transfer heat to the crust.
For those looking for where to buy A36 plate in Toronto, I used the Metal Supermarket.
Why is the steel in the bottom right photo with the caption “Round is overrated” different to the rest of the steels in your pictures? It seems to be engraved and has a hole in one of the corners, none of the other steels look like that.
That’s not a steel, that’s a cutting board: https://amzn.to/2Obdkz3
Some really nice stuff on this internet site, I enjoy it.
My brother is building one for me, but against my request, purchased a 3/8 stainless plate instead of A36 Steel. I realize that it’s less than a third the conductivity, but mass/thermal mass are about the same. I know over a stove that stainless heats unevenly, (hence being clad with alumnimum and/or copper), but in oven where it can heat evenly, will this reduced conductivity noticeably impact the browning of the pizza?
i get s37 plate .. after 6 hour in vinegar i see black stuff cumming out to my hand when i try to move it .. i think its “black oxid”
do i need anything else to remove it rather than 2 day in vinegar ?
I have a question, I’m new at baking anything and I need a lot to learn. Would my pizza get stuck to the steel pan? I’ve had other experiences where my food gets stuck to steel pan on stove top. Also would it be a good idea to use the steel for bread baking?
I don’t find my pizza gets stuck to the steel. I use a metal peel and move quickly and it comes off fast.
A steel is great for baking bread!
How do you remove grease/oils and etc… Other things than the mill scaling.
Loved your article. I made a pizza steel too using mostly the same process as you described. I got a piece of steel from a friend of mine who repairs railroad cars and gave it to me. Its about 16″x15″ x3/8″. I soaked it in white vinegar for couple days, used baking soda to neutralize the stink (wear rubber gloves!) and cleaned it with soap & water. Then I seasoned it with grape seed oil twice in my oven. It cooks great on my bar-b-q where I can heat it to 600 C with ease. Here’s my question: After cooking a night of pizza (~6), there’s a few spots of caked and blackened cornmeal (used on the pizza peel). I don’t want to scrape it off with anything since it will removed the seasoning of the steel. Does this happen with your steels also and how do you deal with it?
Great information on this thread!
I have a question, I bought a 16×15 x 1/4 “ steel plate, soaking it in vinegar at the moment, Is it necessary to sand/polish the steel before seasoning? I don’t have any equipment nor experience with sanding .
Thanks for the blog that was loaded full of information.
I just picked up a plate from a local supplier and it’s way more scratched and has a few deep gouges in it. I’m not sure if that was to be expected or not…I sure didn’t expect it. Is this a problem?
Other than being harder to clean, I don’t think the goughes should make much difference if the plate is mostly level. The plates I received did not have any gouges or scratches in it.
Thanks for the info! U went out and got myself a plate. I soaked the plate in vinegar for 48hrs and noticed a lot of black flaky stuff washed off. Does all the black flaky stuff need to come off?
Yes, that’s the “mill scale” and you want all of it off. When you’re done the piece of steel should be a uniform grey color.
do you know if its dangerous if you fail to get all of it off, mine has a scaled/splotchy pattern but none seems to be coming off to my pies
wow thank you for your post, in my country, if i have to buy baking steel from america is soo damn expensive, so i have to make it myself. and you know what? i bought 20mmx300mmx300mm (maximum for my oven size) a36 for just only 12 usd. it is soo cheap if i compare to buy it from bakingsteel.com. you’re a life saver mate,
thanks a lot
Did you use home, cooking-grade vinegar (i.e. 5%)? Did you dilute the vinegar in some water or no? I have 30% full strength vinegar and would like to know if I should dilute it first to a lower %.
Also how is the smell when soaking in the vinegar? Can it be left inside or not a good idea?
I used 5% and did it outside. I’m sure 30% will be fine.
When I remove from Vinegar bath and then wash with soap and water , it rusts within seconds. Even before I can fully dry it.
Any suggestions ? Should I try and get the rust off with sand paper before seasoning it?
I just bought a low cost pizza Iron plate 16 inch, it is heavy but didn’t state it is a carbon steel . May I ask if there is any lead or impure unwanted components that would be harmful to human . Do I follow the stainless steel process of cleaning And seasoning before use.?
Canadian here. Hamilton, Ontario area. I went to a Metal Supermarket shop nearby Ange they cut me a 3/8 11×14 for under 20 bucks (this was 3 years ago). I used a handheld grinder to smooth the edges and corner, and followed all the other instructions here. It’s been making killer pizza and baked stuff ever since. As for sticking worries, some people sprinkle corn meal but for pizza at least, I just use oven parchment paper. Put the dough right on a piece of parchment and build it there.
Slip a peek under it when assembled and pop it in. I cook at 450 (no broiler) after about 30 min warmup. The paper will brown and even crumble a bit at the edges, but it’s still easy the easiest to handle things and cleanup is almost nothing. 10 min usually does it for me. Nice brown leopard spots, crisp crust skin.
If you do go the DIY route, good luck — and great pizza!
I got my steel plate last summer. I soaked it in vinegar then. All the mill scale came off, but the plate has been waiting for me since for the seasoning. Just now I’m getting to it.
I just washed the plate again with water and vinegar and put it in a 300 F oven to dry it. However, the plate came out with more rust than before. Can I still proceed to seasoning with flax oil or do I have to do something to get rid of the rust just popped up? Thank you.
this was great, thanks. Question for the group. I did this recently, 24 hour vinegar bath, then scrubbed with soap and water and a green scrubby. I think I got all the mill scale off. I kept testing by rubbing a clean paper towel on it and went until i couldn’t really get any more discoloration on the towel. but to be honest with myself it went on and on and in the end there was still the tiniest bit of discoloration. I said enough is enough and moved on to drying and seasoning. Now I am worried I did not get it all off. So the question is, if I did not, is the tiny residue that is left dangerous? like heavy metal poisoning-dangerous? I have made maybe ten pies on the thing and not noticed any weird taste. My steel is not uniform grey, it has a mottled pattern. Thanks
Does the weight of the steel warp the oven rack?
Not in my case, but I don’t know your oven.
I know, I know … comm’d with Baking Steel … great folks and great product, too small for me. Bought .25″x21″x18″ & .188″x12″x12″ for toaster oven – frozen pizza improvement.
Did the lady’s Flax seed oil – 8 seasonings. Would love to post the pics .. so beautiful. So, dummy that I are, I forgot to start the 72 hour dough (bought tipo 00 – 1st time). But, a basic Red Devil frozen pizza. Available in AZ anyhows.
I have a custom pizza stone that has never been as I’d hoped. Holy Cow and a Wow ,,, what this little 12″ square pizza steel did to that frozen pizza, in a toaster oven only to 450 F, was amazing. I can’t say it was in half the time (pizza was only 10 of 22 min recommended) but steel heated for 30 min (yes, not an hour). And the time was worth it.
Typically, my experience with frozen, has been that the toppings are overly done by the time the crust has anything one might call crisp. Or, frozen pizza is not considered a look foward to meal. It’s an EH! Not any more.
The crust was crispy and the topping just right. The dough was criped and brown nicely on the bottom but the interior was chewy, airy … not a frozen I’d ever had. Candidly, I got a deal on the 12″ so what the heck. Glad I did. I would do a frozen on the steel before wasting my time doing fresh on that stone again.
Now, I can’t wait until tomorrow for the 16″ pie on my newly seasoned steel. Oh, learned “launch” and I have replaced corn meal with semolina/flour. I launched the frozen with the semolina ball bearings but didn’t need. I thought the thaw would stick the pizza to the steel. No thaw. Instant CRISP.
Thanks for learning of the steel and your sharing of how to!!! thanks.
Forgot to include above: for seasoning, use the Blue shop towels instsead of just paper towels . They are more absorbent for oil and it leaves a beautiful coat for the seasonings: no splotches from uneven wiping.
Reading comments above I can only recommend to some: read what the man wrote and he did it step by step. Now, what I learned following the steps: Triple quadruple bag for the vinegar soak and do the full 48 if not more. Preheat oven to hottttt. The minute the steel comes out of the vinegar, hit it with a hard hose (you are doing this outside …right?) on both sides, be ready with baking soda and a quick soap and rinse and dry with clean cloth. THE TO THE OVEN for only a minute or two then hit with the oil. too long and you will have an orange plate. ONLY finalize DRY the steel then coat … don’t heat the steel too high. As one wrote above, it turned to rust. Yup. I did a redo on the vinegar. Quick dry and oil. The steel is so virgin it is rusting like crazy … stop the air getting to it. Oh, I had never had to grind anything. Bought a cheapo grinder at Harbor freight … easy peasy. This has been an adventure on the journey to great pizza!
All said and done, I have about $170 involved (steel, flax oil, grinder+, blue towels, vinegar, plastic bags (jumbo plate – not storage bin), tax & S&H. I also have many hours (most waiting for heat and cooling) invested. If the frozen is any example … yup!
Thanks so much for your post. One of the best posts that I have ever tried!
I went to a small metal shop in my town and asked about the A36 steel. He told me $20.00 for one. I said great and went to pick it up 3 days later. Imagine my surprise when I got two 16×16 3/8 steel plates for $20.00. Yes that’s $10.00 a piece. He laughed when I asked why 2 and he said it was a 2 for 1 day. Needless to say, I was beyond delighted. My friend put a 1 inch hole in the corner of each one so it is a lot easier to pick up. We scrubbed both and then I got some flax seed oil and did 3 coats of it in the oven as you instructed. Came out great.
I have made pizza 3 different times and the results are fantastic. I found a recipe for pizza crust that I love and another recipe for the sauce that is so simple and delicious.
All of the effort to clean and season this pizza peel was well worth it.
Thanks again for such a great post!
Wow! I think you owe that metal
shop a pizza! Glad the instructions worked out for you!
Wow I would like to buy two for that price as well. Even one for 20.00. Which state are you in?
I live in New York state. The metal shop has done work for my friend before so that might be why he gave me such a good deal.
Do you recommend placing the steel in the oven over a regular pizza stone or just the steel by itself on the oven rack?
The steel by itself is fine. The pizza stone won’t make a difference.