The key benefit of steel over stone is heat conductivity - how quickly it moves its stored heat into the dough. The faster the heat transfer the better the oven spring (a quick rise in the dough before it sets) and the nicer the caramelizing on the bottom (tasty toasty brown spots). The thinner the pizza, the hotter you want to bake it and the faster you want to zap it with the stored heat.kenchau wrote: ↑ I use a pizza stone myself, but the steel should heat up faster, retain heat better, has easier clean up, perhaps lighter (but this depends on the steel and stone - varies really), won't be prone to cracking. A stone can naturally absorb moisture, but this is seldom an issue from personal experience. But absorbing moisture is also a draw back, for example, when you have sauce or grease spilling onto the stone, it gets absorbed and your stone becomes spotted and such.
I can't speak to whether they heat up to the same temperatures, but assume it's a wash. I assume the steal needs to be seasoned, but have no experience to say one way or another.
Steel is much heavier than stone.
Yes, the steel needs to be seasoned to prevent rust and make it more non-stick, same as iron or steel pans. Brand name pizza steels probably have some level of seasoning that may be all you need, but just as with pans, it's even better if you strip and season it, if you're willing to spend the time and effort. And since it's just steel, if you're OK with a less convenient buying experience to save cost, you can get a sheet of thick steel from a local steel shop, cut to your size, corners rounded; and either have them file the edges down or do it yourself (they can be sharp). You will absolutely need to wash it very well (it will have oil on it that's definitely not food-grade), dry it, and season it if you get it from a shop. Get 1/4" thick minimum; 3/8" is better; 1/2" is technically even better, but very heavy. For sizing, the ideal would be the internal size of your oven minus a 2" gap an all four sides (supposedly for airflow for more even heat distribution).
I'll get a nice steel when I get a bigger oven. For now I have a round stone, and it's great for pizza as well as bread. I just leave it in the oven all the time, and give it a quick cleaning only when cheese overflows a pizza etc. It's not easy to get super clean because it's porous, but it doesn't need to be super clean - it lives in an oven and doesn't need to look new, and is sterilized every time it's used.