NerdChef 3/8" Steel Stone Review
Pros: Affordable, designed for a normal range oven, fast bake times
Cons: Heat profile depends on oven, heavyweight
Compare to Similar Products
NerdChef 3/8" Steel Stone
$109.99 at Amazon
$499 at Amazon
|$250 List||$300 List|
$299.99 at Amazon
$53.89 at Amazon
|Pros||Affordable, designed for a normal range oven, fast bake times||Unbelievable heat retention, quick baking time, accurate integrated thermometer, multi-fuel system||Reasonably priced, large capacity, heavily insulated firebox, transformable design improves versatility||High-fire temperatures, amazing airflow, multi-fuel option||Affordable, small foot-print, easy to use|
|Cons||Heat profile depends on oven, heavyweight||Expensive, heavy, wood-fire box is small||Bulky, heavy, slow to preheat||Dangerous flame blowback, awkward attachment of the gas adaptor||Long bake times, sub-par quality pizza|
|Bottom Line||A heavy-duty carbon steel slab capable of serious heat transfer to make the best pizza you've ever experienced out of a normal oven||Superior design precedes superior performance in this professional-grade oven made for the common cook||Top-notch cooking performance, output power, and versatility, all at a fraction of the cost of direct competitors||A powerful pizza oven with the special capability to cook with gas and wood simultaneously||This oven is reminiscent of a hot-plate and is user-friendly but does not provide particularly quality results|
|Rating Categories||NerdChef 3/8" Steel...||Gozney Roccbox||BakerStone Original||Bertello Outdoor||Presto Pizzazz Plus|
|Cooking Performance (30%)|
|Output Power (30%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||NerdChef 3/8" Steel...||Gozney Roccbox||BakerStone Original||Bertello Outdoor||Presto Pizzazz Plus|
|Fuel Type||n/a||Gas, Wood (w/ conversion)||Gas||Gas, Wood (w/ conversion)||Electric|
|Power Output||n/a||14,330 BTU||25,000 BTU||Not listed||1235 watts|
|Size of Firebox||n/a||156 cu. in.||n/a||97.5 cu. in.||n/a|
|Average Stone Temperature||686°F||748°F||732°F||777°F||300°F|
|Footprint||228 sq. in.||299 sq. in.||345 sq. in.||301 sq. in.
441 sq. in. (w/ gas attachment)
|229 sq. in.|
|Maximum Pizza Diameter||14"||12"||13"||12"||12'"|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Compared to the complex design of other pizza ovens featured in our review, the NerdChef is exceptional based on its simple design, making it much more affordable and therefore much more accessible to many home chefs. We tested the 3/8"-thick (listed as 0.375"-thick) steel, capable of baking up to 14" pies — though it is much more comfortable baking 12" pizzas. It is important to note that this steel is remarkably heavy for its size, weighing 23 pounds.
Ceramic pizza stones have been a staple of many kitchens for a very long time. While they certainly can produce adequate homemade pizzas, it is always obvious that the pie did not come out of a professional pizza oven. Even though a ceramic stone helps crisp the bottom crust better than an aluminum baking sheet, it still often takes more than 10 minutes. And in a dry oven environment, that often leads to stiff crusts and withered toppings.
We were skeptical of the NerdChef Steel at first. How is it possible to completely change the final product so drastically if you are only swapping out what amounts to the base of your oven? Well, we admit our first impressions were proved entirely wrong. This pizza steel is, in fact, capable of producing nearly perfect, Neapolitan-style pizzas from your average oven. Although the crust is not quite as pocketed as other highly ranked ovens, it is still soft, light, and airy — friends consistently remarked that this is by far the best pizza they've ever had from an average range oven.
The NerdChef takes considerably longer to preheat than most dedicated pizza ovens — the 3/8" steel takes at least 45 minutes underneath the broiler to reach average center stone temperatures of 752°F. Though it is much more time-consuming to heat, this is incredible considering that even at maximum output, our oven only reached an average internal air temperature of 574°F. This goes to show that this simple innovation is working as it should: to absorb heat and directly transfer that into cooking fantastic pizzas.
We are almost certain that the NerdChef Steel inventors and our testers have shared the experience of poorly baked homemade pizza. Instead of settling for subpar pies, the designers harness carbon steel's conductivity and heat capacity to cook pizzas faster and at higher temperatures. NerdChef claims that these steels have twice the heat capacity, and 20-times more conductivity, than your average pizza stone. While we have no reasonable way of verifying these claims, the science adds up.
Steel has a significantly higher density than any type of stoneware and a much higher conductive capacity. Effectively working as a BlackBox radiator in your oven, the NerdChef Steel Stone will capture radiative heat put out by the broiler, and in turn, transfer that energy conductively to the dough. This results in a fast-rising crust that is softer, airier, and considerably less dry due to its decreased baking time.
By positioning the Steel Stone on the highest rung of the oven, directly underneath the broiler, you can effectively shrink the cooking space of your oven to bake more efficiently. Although it takes quite a long time to preheat, this steel has an even heat profile similar to a finely crafted cast iron skillet. The evenness of the output energy is obviously somewhat dependant on your oven. Still, the steel averages 686°F — just under that of some of the best Neapolitan-style ovens we tested — and often has a center temperature in the range of 750°F, the ideal temperature for this style of pizza.
This is a bit of a funny metric for this particular design. We recognize that rather than being a standalone oven, the NerdChef Steel relies on the capacities of your range oven — obviously, the better quality the oven, the more likely it is that this pizza steel will help you churn out beautiful pies. However, some key aspects to the design greatly benefit your control over this Steel Stone.
The thickness of this precision-cut steel offers excellent consistency of temperature across its surface, producing beautifully charred crusts. By taking a number of measurements with an infrared thermometer, and then using a standard deviation method to directly compare it to pizza stones in other ovens, the NerdChef Steel will arguably cook your crust more evenly than some of the top ovens we tested. One downside to this is the fact that this pizza steel is incredibly heavy. While the company recommends lowering the oven rack if the pizza is cooking unevenly, we can't quite imagine safely maneuvering an awkward, 23 pound, 750°F piece of steel.
Ease of Use
It is likely that the above recommendation to try various rack levels to control temperature and cooking time from one firing to the next is a sound one. But based on the weight alone, it is not a bad idea to consider leaving this steel in your oven full-time. Relative to other options, the NerdChef Steel could actually be considered lightweight — many dedicated pizza ovens tip the scales at more than 30 pounds. On top of that, this steel certainly requires much less setup than most other options.
Since you are not dealing with actual fire, among other concerns of high-fire ovens, this simple pizza steel is much more accessible to your regular at-home cook or baker. Some recommend baking pizzas on a convection setting and then switching over to broil to finish the toppings off. However, we had success — and significantly improved baking times — by simply cooking the pizzas under the broiler the entire time. Although the average three-minute cook times don't exactly give you the time to prep pizzas to cook in back-to-back rounds, it is best to allow both the steel and your oven to come back up to optimal temperatures between firings anyway.
The NerdChef Steel is an altogether simple design compared to other ovens we've covered in this review. As a result, it is much less expensive than other options while still remaining a remarkable competitor in terms of performance. If you only really ever plan on cooking pizzas at home, or you live in a smaller space, this relatively inexpensive accessory may be your entry point to baking Neapolitan-style pizzas.
Although it doesn't afford exactly the same feel or experience as portable, outdoor ovens, if delicious Neapolitan-style pizza is the goal, then the NerdChef Steel Stone will get you there. By operating in conjunction with a typical range oven, this thickly cut steel cuts down on costs while improving user-friendliness and accessibility to delicious, homemade pizzas.
— Aaron Rice