Pizza Stone Basics
Buying a Pizza Stone
The best pizzas come out of wood-burning, clay-lined ovens. But for most of us, it is not possible to have such an oven in our home. So, for the home cook, the next best thing is to use a pizza stone. You can buy clay stones specifically designed for pizzas, or you can get unglazed floor or quarry tiles at your local home improvement store. Pizza stones come in round or rectangular shapes. If you find tiles that are rather small, you can set several next to each other to make a larger surface.
Seasoning a Pizza Stone
When you first get your pizza stone, you can season it if you’d like. Rub a light layer of olive oil over it using a paper towel and let it set for about an hour. The oil is absorbed into the porous stone. You can then use the stone as usual.
Using a Pizza Stone
Move your oven rack to its lowest position or remove it completely. Place the stone as low in your oven as possible, even on the floor of the oven if there are no coils there. It is important that you place your pizza stone in an unheated, cold oven. If you don’t do this, you risk cracking the pizza stone due to thermal shock. Set the temperature to about 500 degrees Fahrenheit and let the pizza stone heat for at least 45 minutes to an hour. This allows the pizza stone to come to temperature slowly. It absorbs the heat, making your crust nice and crispy. When you are done with baking your pizza, turn off your oven and leave the stone in the oven to cool completely. Remove it when it is thoroughly cooled, otherwise you risk cracking it when placing your superheated stone onto the cooler surface of your counter. Thermal shock can also occur when you place a frozen pizza onto your heated pizza stone. If you want to use your stone to bake a frozen pizza, let it thaw out a bit first to help prevent this.
Caring for Your Pizza Stone
I have had a pizza stone crack in the oven, even though I followed the above guidelines. I never did figure out why it cracked (right in the middle of baking a beautiful pizza), but I have heard that these stone can develop tiny cracks that then will break wide open in the heat of the oven. It could be from some trauma, even though they are pretty hardy. You should take care, however, not to bump, drop, or nick your pizza stone.
Cleaning Your Pizza Stone
The porous nature of your stone means that it will absorb everything that touches it, including soaps and detergents. It is very important not to use soap when cleaning your stone. Just take a stiff brush and some water and brush away any particles. Eventually, your stone will have dark and light areas, spots and splotches. But this is part of the charm of a well-used stone, and gives your pies added flavor when they are baked.