Should You Leave A Pizza Steel In The Oven? Why I Wouldn’t Recommend It
A pizza steel is an essential part of making truly authentic pizza in a home oven, but they’re also quite big and heavy. As a result, many want to know if they can leave it in the oven when cooking other things. In the following post, I’ll explain why you may or may not want to leave your pizza steel in the oven indefinitely.
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Leaving a pizza steel in the oven will not degrade or harm the pizza steel in any way, but it will negatively affect how well the oven conducts heat. A pizza steel (when preheated) can help to balance out hot and cold zones within the oven, giving it a more consistent temperature from back to front. However, a pizza steel will significantly slow down how long it takes to preheat your oven as well as block heating elements (or burners) from directly heating food.
Bottom Line: You can leave a pizza steel in the oven (it won’t damage it), but you probably don’t want to. A pizza steel will make your oven take longer to preheat, affect cooking times, and prevent heating elements from directly searing or charring for many foods.
What Is A Pizza Steel?
A pizza steel is a large, flat slab of steel that gets extremely hot when preheated in a home oven. In most cases, a pizza steel is treated and seasoned with oil to prevent dough from sticking to it.
There are several major benefits to using a pizza steel instead of a pizza pan or a baking sheet. For starters, a pizza steel is incredibly efficient at conducting heat, which makes it perfect for developing a crispy, fluffy crust.
Another benefit to using a pizza steel is it’s large, flat surface similar to the kind found in professional pizza ovens. This allows you to slide your raw pizza dough directly onto the hottest surface of the oven, as compared to a cold baking pan or sheet that blocks the underside of the crust from cooking until after several minutes of being in the oven.
Tip: If you need a good pizza steel, check out the Original Baking Steel. It’s the pizza steel I use and I highly recommend it.
Can A Pizza Steel Be Left In The Oven?
When people ask if their pizza steel can be left in the oven, they’re usually wondering if the pizza steel will be damaged if it gets heated repeatedly while not actually in use. Thankfully, due to the dense nature of steel, a pizza steel is almost indestructible and will not be damaged at all if kept in the oven.
At worst, the pizza steel will eventually need to be re-seasoned with flax seed oil to maintain the non-stick surface. But in terms of the pizza steel itself, there is no risk of damage.
That said, there are other reasons why you may or may not want to keep your pizza steel in the oven when not in use that have nothing to do with damaging the steel.
A Pizza Steel Blocks And Absorbs Heat
A pizza steel, by nature, is a large slab of metal that absorbs heat. This is great when you want to cook a pizza or bake bread on it, but if it’s just sitting in the oven while roasting a chicken (for example), it will be absorbing heat that would otherwise be cooking the chicken.
This is especially true during the preheating stage when the cold steel is still sucking up all the heat produced by the oven. In fact, even when the pizza steel is completely saturated with heat, it can still prevent other foods from cooking properly.
For example, imagine you’re roasting a chicken and want to broil the skin during the final stages. If a pizza steel is in the oven, especially on the top rack, it will block heat from the heating elements and prevent it from directly cooking the food.
Likewise, if the pizza steel is on the bottom rack, the bottom heating element will not be able to directly cook food from the bottom. The oven will still be extremely hot, and the food will still cook, but it will take longer and searing won’t be possible in the same way.
A Pizza Steel Balances Oven Temperature
If you’re not concerned about blocking direct heat from the heating elements, or the increased preheating time, there are some benefits to leaving your pizza steel in the oven.
Most conventional home ovens, especially less expensive models, have hot and cold zones. This means the back right side of the oven (for example) might be hotter than the front left side due to how the oven was manufactured. When a pizza steel is completely preheated, it can help to balance out these small differences in temperature.
This might be useful for some people if they find that their food cooks unevenly, as long they’re OK with the increased preheating and cooking times.
I’ve devised a small experiment to see how much a pizza steel affects the heating times of other food in the oven. To do this, I preheated a baking pan to its maximum temperature both with and without a pizza steel in the oven and made a note of how long it took.
This is not quite the same as cooking food, but it should give a good idea of how much (if at all) a pizza steel affects the transfer of heat from the heating elements to whatever food or pans you’re trying to cook with.
|Time||Temp With Pizza Steel||Temp Without Pizza Steel|
|0 mins||75F (24C)||75F (24C)|
|5 mins||168F (76C)||338F (170C)|
|10 mins||293F (145C)||482F (250C)|
|15 mins||392F (200C)||527F (275C)|
|20 mins||437F (225C)||527F (275C)|
|25 mins||491F (257C)||527F (275C)|
|30 mins||495F (255C)||…|
|35 mins||500F (260C)||…|
|40 mins||510F (265C)||…|
|45 mins||518F (270C)||…|
What It Means:
Without a doubt, the pizza steel negatively affected how long it took for the baking pan to reach its maximum temperature. In fact, it actually took twice as long for the baking pan to reach over 500F with the pizza steel than without it.
This confirms what most of us already knew–that leaving a pizza steel in the oven (when not in use) increases preheating and cooking times by a significant amount.
For these reasons, outside of extreme circumstances, it’s always better to keep your pizza steel safely stored away outside of the oven when not in use.
Pros And Cons
Leave Steel In – Pros:
- More convenient
- No risk of damage to the steel
- Can potentially balance the temperature of the oven
Leave Steel In – Cons:
- Oven will take longer to preheat
- Pizza steel will block direct heat from heating elements (like the broiler)
- Foods will generally take longer to cook as steel absorbs heat
Take Steel Out – Pros:
- No affect on oven performance
- No need to re-season prematurely
- Food will cook normally within the normal time frame
Take Steel Out – Cons:
- Less convenient
- Heavy to bring back and forth to the oven
How To Store A Pizza Steel
Thankfully, as we’ve discussed, a pizza steel is virtually indestructible. In fact, the only real threat to a pizza steel is rust.
For this reason, I always make sure to keep my pizza steel in a place that’s completely dry and free of moisture or dampness. In most cases, the kitchen is among the driest places in the house and also the logical spot to store a baking tool.
In addition to moisture, I also consider safety when storing my pizza steel. Pizza steels are incredibly heavy for their size due to the density of solid steel. The last thing you want is for a child or a pet to accidentally knock it from a high place and be struck by it—potentially fatally. This is why I always store my pizza steel down low where it can’t fall and hit someone’s head.
Finally, consider the damage your pizza steel might do to other kitchen tools and utensils. As an extremely heavy and hard object, a pizza steel can easily crush or break other valuable items. For this reason, you should never place your pizza steel on top of something else that might get smashed, scratched, or broken.
What Pizza Steel Do I Use?
The pizza steel I use is the Original Baking Steel by the Baking Steel brand. It works great, it’s reasonably priced, and shipped quickly from one of their several warehouses around the world.
There are no doubt other great companies selling pizza steels as well, but I have no trouble recommending one of Baking Steel’s pizza steel models to anyone in the market for one.
Can I Leave A Pizza Steel In The Oven
Leaving your pizza steel in the oven will not damage or break it, but doing so will affect how efficiently your oven works. Your oven will take longer to preheat and food will take longer to cook with a pizza steel present due to its ability to absorb heat. A pizza steel will also block heating elements from directly cooking food, possibly preventing searing and charring from taking place. For this reason, it’s best to leave your pizza steel out of the oven when not in use.
How Do You Store A Baking Steel?
The best place to store a baking/pizza steel is somewhere dry (to avoid rust) and low enough off the ground to prevent it accidentally falling and hurting someone. Never store your pizza steel on top of other delicate, easily scratched items and always keep it out of reach of pets and children.
How Long Should I Preheat A Pizza Steel?
In a normal 500F home oven, an average pizza steel will reach its maximum temperature within 60-90 minutes. However, most pizza steels will reach approximately 90% of their maximum temperature within the first 30 minutes, which is still quite usable. The best solution is to purchase an infrared thermometer and start cooking when the middle of the pizza steel reaches a temperature of 500F or more.
Do You Oil A Pizza Steel?
A pizza steel needs to be seasoned with a thin layer of oil (often flax seed) in order to maintain a non-stick surface. However, most pizza steels (like the ones sold by Baking Steel) come pre-seasoned and only need to be re-seasoned periodically, if at all.