Pizza is one of the most delicious and endlessly customizable foods in the world. If you like cooking things from scratch, you have probably tried recreating the perfect pizza at home at some point in your life. Some people do it successfully, while some can’t just get the dough right.
Think about how your local pizzeria makes this simple dish so effortlessly. Besides their secret recipes, the answer lies in their equipment. Pizzerias often use a wood-fired oven and pizza stone to achieve a delicious and perfectly balanced result every time. But let’s be honest; not all of us have a wood-fired oven in our backyards. One thing we can do to try achieving the same result is to use an inexpensive kitchen tool that can reproduce the conditions of a wood-fired oven in your regular kitchen oven: a pizza stone.
Before you start buying and cooking with a pizza stone, there are a few things you should need to know to get the most out of this essential kitchen tool.
What is a Pizza Stone?
A pizza stone is a flat, sturdy slab that sits inside the oven rack, soaking up and holding onto heat. It’s where unbaked pizza dough rests while inside the oven, and the hot stone transmits the heat to the bottom of the crust, just like the floor of a wood-fired oven.
Pizza stones belong to a subset broadly known as baking stones, but the main difference is that some pizza stones can be round, while a baking stone is probably rectangular. All pizza stones are baking stones, but not all baking stones are pizza stones.
Its function is to absorb heat easily and retain that heat for more extended periods of time to mimic the effect of a pizzeria’s brick oven. It raises the temperature to provide an extra hot surface for baking the pizza. Most of what it does is transmit heat to the dough from underneath, and this is why a pizza stone is often recommended for cooking thin-crust pizzas because it produces a crispy bottom. The tiny cracks and crevices in the stone allow the evaporating steam to escape.
Benefits of Pizza Stones
A pizza stone holds heat evenly on all surfaces, be it an oven or an outside grill. It is very versatile and can be used for multiple purposes if you are creative with it.
The crust is an essential part of a pizza and is the hardest to get right. A pizza stone provides enough heat to make the crust crispy and the toppings well-cooked.
It’s available in different types, sizes, and shapes, so you can surely get the one you prefer most.
Besides cooking pizza, a pizza stone can also be used for grilling vegetables, baking bread, homemade chips, etc.
It works better than your regular baking sheet or pan because these oven-safe dishes do not retain the optimal temperature. Conventional ovens do not reach the initial high temperature needed to crisp up the pizza and cook it quickly.
Things to Consider When Looking for a Pizza Stone
When buying a pizza stone, here are the things you need to know for consideration:
Pizza stones are available in different shapes and sizes, most of which are circular or rectangular. A round pizza stone is mostly preferred by many people, as a classic pizza is round. But many people have confirmed that rectangular stones are better. A rectangular stone has more surface area, which means more heat distribution and more space to cook on.
If you are a beginner, go with a round stone. But for pizza pros and enthusiasts, we recommend getting the rectangular one. It will retain more heat and give you versatility while using it.
Pizza stones must have a lot of texture, and the surface should not be entirely smooth. The tiny cracks and crevices in a pizza stone allow for easy moisture evaporation. The perforated crevices on the pizza stone help excess steam escape, resulting in a non-soggy and crispy exterior.
3. Type of Stone
A pizza stone can be made of different materials, but often natural stone is not used. It is best to recognize and compare your options before deciding to buy one. The different types of pizza stones include:
Ceramic stones are made from non-metallic minerals like clay. The clay is shaped and baked in an oven or kiln until it hardens. Ceramic has various properties, such as good heat resistance and corrosion resistance. It absorbs heat efficiently and radiates it evenly – qualities that are important for making a great pizza. Ceramic stones are circular with varying thicknesses and are very long-lasting.
When compared to cordierite, the ceramic stone is fragile and needs proper care. If you take care of ceramic pizza stones properly, they can last long, but you have to be careful in handling them as they can break. Also, thermal shock can cause fracture to the stone, so throwing a cold pizza stone into a preheated oven is not a great idea. It’s also not good for handling sudden changes in temperature.
Cordierite is a type of mineral ore that is refinished into a popularly used pizza stone. It is available in different shapes and is utilized by professionals all over the world. Unlike ceramic, cordierite can easily handle high temperatures and resist thermal shock up to a great extent. The stone will not break if you transition it from cool to hot temperature.
Pizza lovers commonly use cordierite pizza stones because they can absorb heat from the oven and evenly radiate it. Another advantage of using this type of stone is that it can absorb moisture from the pizza dough, giving us a crispy crust pizza.
While this stone is relatively more expensive than ceramic one, it is more durable. It is created to outlast all others and continue cranking out pizzas for many years by handling all the heat your oven can dish out!
Before you head out to buy a pizza stone made of cordierite, don’t forget to take notes about the different shapes and sizes available. The thicker the stone, the longer it will take to get heated.
Stone or clay pizza stones are best for beginners. These budget-friendly stones absorb a lot of excess moisture and reach a fairly high temperature when heated, which are all the things you need for a great pie. It’s also a lighter material than cast iron or steel, making it an ideal choice for anyone who might find heavier pizza stones too cumbersome. The only setback of this stone is that it takes a lot of time to reach the optimal temperature. Also, it can be broken or cracked.
If you have cast iron cookware, you probably know how helpful it could be in the kitchen. Cast iron offers excellent heat retention and can withstand extremely high temperatures. This material is nearly indestructible and can resist cracking, warping, and shattering. It’s also resistant to thermal shock, but it’s always recommended that you cool it down completely before plunging it into cold water.
Like most cast iron, a pizza stone made of this material does require some maintenance, like seasoning. Also, it’s on the heavy side and needs at least half an hour of preheating.
The large and thick slabs of food-grade steel have recently gained a lot of attention among pizza enthusiasts in recent years. Steel is a good conductor of heat, which is why steel pizza stones can reach intensely high temperatures in a short period. It has an advantage over other types of pizza stones because it can absorb and conduct intense heat. It does not crack or break due to thermal shock.
Pizzerias often put a preheated stone on a slab of preheated steel; this truly takes our regular pizza to a whole another level.
However, some people avoid it for home use because of its weight and cost. Also, it needs more maintenance because it needs seasoning every now and then to prevent rusting. Its heavy weight makes it a bit more challenging to maneuver.
How to Use a Pizza Stone
Cooking with a pizza stone is really simple, using the correct technique. Start by putting the stone on the lowest rack in a cold oven. Starting with a cold oven is essential, especially if your stone is made of ceramic or clay.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Once the oven is preheated, so is the stone. You’ll want to give it an extra 30 minutes to preheat after your oven has reached the right temperature. Meanwhile, let your pizza dough sit at room temperature because putting a cold dough will also cause thermal shock.
Then, slide your pizza right into the stone using a pizza peel. Cook the pizza in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese has been slightly browned.
Once the pizza is cooked, use the pizza peel again to remove it, and don’t forget to switch off your oven. Leave the pizza stone inside the oven and let it cool. When it’s cool, you can clean it using a brush.