Since a baking steel heats the bottom of a pizza crust faster, in some ovens this can be a problem: The top of the pizza can emerge undercooked. Ceramic stones’ (such as our favorite from Outset) slower baking allows the top and bottom of the pizza to emerge evenly browned, but the crust can come out a bit too dry and crackery rather than chewy. We love the oven spring and airy, crisp crust we get with baking steels, so our test cooks have come up with multiple ways of compensating for the faster heat transfer of steel.
STEP 1: Use Your Broiler
First, we switch the oven to “broil” as soon as the pizza goes into the oven. That directs more intense heat at the top of the pizza, so the cheese and toppings are ready at the same time as the bottom of the crust. This isn’t necessary in every oven, but if you find you’re getting uneven cooking on the top and bottom of your pizza, it’s worth trying.
STEP 2: Adjust Rack Placement and Oven Temp
If this technique doesn’t help, we sometimes move the steel to a lower rack nearer the center of the oven after switching to “broil” and set the oven to 450 degrees instead of 500 to slow down the cooking a bit and to direct heat at the top of the pizza.
There’s a bit of trial and error involved, but we think the long-term results are worth the effort. For baking bread, that speed is also there, so be mindful that you may need to manage it. Again, that could mean turning down the oven temperature called for in your recipe to keep the bottom of the loaf from overbrowning while waiting for the top to turn perfectly browned.