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NerdChef 3/8" Steel Stone Review

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
NerdChef 3/8" Steel Stone
Credit: NerdChef
Best Buy Award
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Price:   $130 List | $129.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Affordable, designed for a normal range oven, fast bake times
Cons:  Heat profile depends on oven, heavyweight
Manufacturer:   NerdChef
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 13, 2021
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Cooking Performance - 30% 8
  • Output Power - 30% 7
  • Control - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8

Our Verdict

Compared to ordering out regularly from your favorite pizza joint, it is undoubtedly more convenient — and less expensive — to prepare and bake fresh pizzas in your home oven. However, even those who have purchased a pizza stone have likely found their pies subpar to a professional pizza oven. But the NerdChef Steel Stone will completely flip your perception of homemade pizza. Under the heat of a typical oven broiler, this 14" heavy-duty steel slab is capable of reaching an average temperature of 686°F, putting it in range of some of the top Neapolitan-style ovens we tested. The carbon steel transfers heat 20-times faster than your average ceramic stone, resulting in a fast rise of the dough fundamental to baking nearly perfect Neapolitan pizzas in just three minutes — all from the comfort of your own kitchen.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $130 List
$129.99 at Amazon
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$300 ListCheck Price at Amazon
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Pros Affordable, designed for a normal range oven, fast bake timesUnbelievable heat retention, quick baking time, accurate integrated thermometer, multi-fuel systemReasonably priced, large capacity, heavily insulated firebox, transformable design improves versatilityHigh-fire temperatures, amazing airflow, multi-fuel optionAffordable, small foot-print, easy to use
Cons Heat profile depends on oven, heavyweightExpensive, heavy, wood-fire box is smallBulky, heavy, slow to preheatDangerous flame blowback, awkward attachment of the gas adaptorLong 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 ovenSuperior design precedes superior performance in this professional-grade oven made for the common cookTop-notch cooking performance, output power, and versatility, all at a fraction of the cost of direct competitorsA powerful pizza oven with the special capability to cook with gas and wood simultaneouslyThis 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%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
3.0
Output Power (30%)
7.0
10.0
7.0
9.0
2.0
Control (25%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
4.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
9.0
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.

Performance Comparison


Finally, it's possible to make truly great pizza in your home oven!...
Finally, it's possible to make truly great pizza in your home oven! The NerdChef Steel Stone cranks up the heat at the base for faster rise times, shorter baking times, and the capability to produce nearly perfect Neapolitan-style pies.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Cooking Performance


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.

A puffy crust, or "cornicione", is one mark of a well-baked...
A puffy crust, or "cornicione", is one mark of a well-baked Neapolitan pizza. Another is a slight browning and crisp of the crust, but never burnt. We still have a long ways to go to perfect the techniques of a Pizzaiolo, but we'll continue to enjoy delicious pizzas off this steel in the meantime.
Credit: Aaron Rice

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.

Although not quite as fluffy as other ovens, this pizza steel still...
Although not quite as fluffy as other ovens, this pizza steel still gets hot enough to promote a quick rise and an airy, pocketed crust.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Output Power


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.

Placing the steel on the top oven rung puts it in close proximity to...
Placing the steel on the top oven rung puts it in close proximity to the broiler, allowing it to capture maximum heat to cook pizzas quickly and efficiently.
Credit: Aaron Rice

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.

The highly conductive steel results in a bottom crust that is...
The highly conductive steel results in a bottom crust that is beautifully blistered, but never dried out, similar to what you would pull out of a traditional wood-fired oven.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Control


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.

A slightly larger surface area means that you can use a normal size...
A slightly larger surface area means that you can use a normal size pizza peel, making it easier to both launch and retrieve pizzas from the oven.
Credit: Aaron Rice

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.

This pizza steel is surprisingly heavy for its size, but fortunately...
This pizza steel is surprisingly heavy for its size, but fortunately comes with two finger holes to make it easier to move around.
Credit: Aaron Rice

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

The ability to make delicious Neapolitan pizzas from your home...
The ability to make delicious Neapolitan pizzas from your home kitchen is a beautiful thing, and the NerdChef Steel Stone is an essential tool to make that dream a reality for your own kitchen.
Credit: Avi Farber

Aaron Rice

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