If you love to cook pizza, then you will probably have wondered what equipment you need to get the perfect homemade pizza. Of course, a pizza oven is great, but you can also cook pizza in a regular oven and get excellent results.
Anyone who is a beginner in the world of cooking pizzas will likely have heard about pizza stones – these handy pieces of kitchen equipment are designed to cook the pizza to get a crispy crust and base and evenly cooked toppings. But if you never use this tool normally, you may be wondering how they work.
Pizza stones are used in the oven to bake pizza and are usually made from stone, although you can get steel ones.
In this guide, we will be looking at everything you need to know to start using your baking stone and get the best pizza possible.
What Is A Pizza Stone?
Pizza stones are ceramic pieces of cooking equipment that chefs use to bake pizzas. There are several reasons why cooking pizzas in this way is better.
When you make this type of food at home, you must make sure that you cook the food in a very hot oven – not doing so will result in a pizza that isn’t cooked properly and pizza toppings that aren’t cooked through; not to mention that you won’t achieve a crispy crust and the bottom of the pizza will not be as crisp as you would like it.
Using a pizza stone in pizza ovens or your regular oven allows for far better heat transfer. The ceramic holds heat far better than other materials, such as a cast-iron pizza pan. But it is also porous and so will soak up any moisture from the pizza dough, and this gives you a better base. Dough naturally contains a lot of moisture since water is one of the main ingredients, but once you start cooking, you will want to get rid of this.
Furthermore, pizza stones heat up in the oven so that when you place the food on top, they give a blast of heat to the pizzas so that the pizza crust starts to rise immediately – but will we look at this in more depth a little later in this guide.
A pizza stone will allow you to cook in a brick oven or the kitchen oven without the pizza sticking to the stone. If you never use a pizza stone, you may notice that the food sticks to the pizza peel before it has even been transferred into the oven. Once you manage to get it off, it will likely stick to the oven floor or grill rack. The pizza stone is a great solution to this problem thanks to the non-stick nature, and cooking this way will ensure that your food never gets stuck again.
Finally, it is important to point out that there is such a thing as a pizza steel – this is a similar concept to the pizza stone, but is made from metal. Whilst these pieces of equipment do have their advantages; they will not give you the same results as using a pizza stone.
Do You Need To Prep A Pizza Stone?
There is a common misunderstanding that in order to use a pizza stone, you must apply some olive oil before you put the stone inside the oven. This is not a fact – it may surprise you to learn that the opposite is true.
Putting oil on your pizza stone will not make it any less likely that foods will stick to it. Nor will it improve the flavour of your pizza. In fact, doing this will only serve to damage the stone in the long run. The oil will break down the stone and will eventually destroy the porous nature, preventing the stone from being able to soak up any moisture from the dough.
You may have heard people asking if they need to season their pizza stone with oil, but this is not necessary. Over time, as you bake pizza on your stone, this will season it. But adding oil will create a layer that, until properly cleaned, will cause your food to taste burnt next time you cook.
Ovens get incredibly hot, and if there is oil present, this can cause a lot of smoke – if you are using a baking stone in an outdoor grill, this is bad enough, but if you are cooking in the kitchen, a room full of smoke as a result of cooking oil is the last thing you will want.
Do You Put A Pizza Stone In The Oven First?
When you use a pizza stone, it is important to get it to the right heat – this is how it will effectively cook the pizza and give you that all-important fluffy crust by administering a blast of heat as soon as the pizza sits on the baking stone.
To get your pizza stone to the high temperatures it needs to reach, you must leave it in the oven to heat up. You can do this for around 30 minutes, although if you have the chance to leave it for longer, you can. It might also be worth keeping in mind that if you are cooking in a kitchen oven rather than a wood-fired oven, 30 minutes may not be long enough as these ovens don’t get as hot.
When you put your pizza stone into the oven, it is important that it is at room temperature, especially if you have allowed the oven to heat up first.
Like anything of a delicate design, ceramic pizza stones are susceptible to thermal shock. This is because when you plunge a cold pizza stone into a hot oven, the drastic change in temperature will cause it to crack – known as thermal shock. Unlike a metal baking pan, which is far more robust, this natural material needs to be treated with care.
So next time you want to cook some delicious pizza on your pizza stone, be sure to let the baking stone reach the right heat first.
How Do I Clean A Pizza Stone?
One of the most common problems is that food will get stuck on a baking tray or pizza pan. However, using a pizza stone should vastly eliminate this problem as the stone features a non-stick coating.
But, nothing in life is perfect, and you may notice that sometimes your pizza stone comes out of the oven with some food stuck to it. There are a few good ways to ensure that your pizza does not stick to the pizza stone.
- Sprinkle a little flour on the stone before cooking on it; this dry ingredient will soak up more moisture than the stone alone.
- You could line the stone with some parchment paper but be sure never to use foil as this will not allow the heat to transfer properly and will produce a soggy base.
What Should I Look For When Buying A Pizza Stone?
Whether you are buying a pizza stone for the first time or you have decided that it is time to invest in a new stone, there are some things that you should look for in order to get the best pizza stone.
- Look at what the stone is made from. As we mentioned, a ceramic pizza stone is best, but there are other materials out there, such as cast iron and steel. These can get very hot but will not soak up moisture in the way that ceramic stones do.
- Check the size of the pizza stone – in the main stones will range from 10 inches to about 16 inches and how large you make your pizzas will have a bearing on the size stone you use.
- In addition to the size of the stone, you will also want to think about the shape of the stone. A pizza stone is usually round, but you could get a square stone or a rectangular stone. A round stone is great, but choosing a stone in another shape should be carefully considered since this may affect the size of the pizza you can make. That being said, a square stone gives you a chance to make an unusually-shaped pizza.
- When you look for your pizza stone, you should also think about whether it has handles. In some cases, you might not need a stone with handles because you will use a pizza peel to remove the pizza from the oven. However, if you are using a regular oven, this may not be practical, especially in a smaller kitchen, so a pizza stone with handles will make it easier to remove.
- Check to see whether the stone comes with any other accessories. You will find that a stone might come with a pizza cutter, a peel and there are some that even come with cookbooks. If you can get a stone and other things, this is much better value for money.
A pizza stone is an essential piece of equipment for baking pizza at home. This ceramic stone allows you to achieve a perfected cooked pizza every time and has a wealth of benefits such as better heat transfer, the ability to soak up moisture from the dough and an intense blast of high temperatures at the start of baking.
There are several things to keep in mind when using a stone for your pizza such as how you care for it and how to use it correctly, but once you understand this, you can look forward to some incredible homemade pizzas.