Homemade pizza tastes much better when baked on a pizza stone. These terra cotta tiles help keep the bottom crust crisp rather than the soggy crust one gets from a pizza pan. They're available at better cookware stores in a variety of price ranges. The cheap ones work just as well as the more expensive ones, so save your money.
They are made of either ceramic, compressed sand, or earthenware. The porous nature of them helps remove moisture, making dough crisp.
Advantages of using a pizza stone
- Holds and distributes heat exceptionally well, keeping oven temperature steady (the secret to brick-oven baking).
- Pulls moisture from the outer surface of the dough to promote perfect crustiness.
- Virtually maintenance free.
Wash pizza stone in plain water. Do not use detergent since it would be soaked up in the stone.
Using the Pizza Stone
The idea behind a pizza stone is to replicate the ovens used in
pizzerias: hot, hot, hot. Place stone in middle of cold oven and heat to
400 degrees for 15 minutes (I use 30 minutes from a cold oven). Sprinkle
stone with corn meal. Sprinkle paddle generously with corn meal and
place pizza dough on paddle before adding toppings. Add pizza toppings.
Use quick jerking motions to transport pizza from paddle to stone. If
you are not careful at this point or you can end up with your pizza at
bottom of the oven or on the floor. Use paddle to remove pizza when
crust is browned and cheese is bubbly.
Another method is to put your pizza dough on parchment paper and slide it onto the pizza stone.
Let the stone cool down naturally; do not put water on it when it is hot or it might crack.
I always let my stone cool down before cleaning it. For every day cleaning, I just wipe the stone, with a slightly damp cloth. This will remove all of the corn meal or flour that has stuck to the stone. If I have something baked on the stone, like cheese or a piece of dough, I will gently scrape all the residue I can get off with a spatula. If I am unable to get it clean, I will heat the stone in the oven for at 500 degrees for an hour or more, let the stone cool and then try again to gently scrape the stone. Heating up the stone will burn off anything that has stuck to it. Then just wipe down with a cloth.
Think of your pizza baking stone as a sponge; it will soak up
everything put on it. These "stones" are actually molded sand, tightly
compacted under high pressure. Like sand on the beach, they will suck in
any liquid exposed to the surface. Anything else in the water --
including soap -- goes right into the stone. Manufacturers warn you to
use only clear, plain water to clean a baking stone.
Since the stones are made of sand, they are porous and soak up everything.
- Do not cut pizza on the stone, use a cutting board.
- Allow to cool completely after use.
- Hand wash with water only.
- Never use soap or detergent on the stone
- Never move to a hot surface when stone is cold and vise versa.
- Do not oil or season a pizza stone.
- To remove stains, make a paste of baking soda and water, apply with a brush, and rinse off.
- Do not bake cookies and pastries directly on stone; the butter or fat content in them will cause the stone to smoke.
- Some pizza stones will darken with age. This will not affect its usability.
- Put the pizza directly on the stone. Do not use a pan on it.
- Do not put a pizza stone in the oven when using self-clean. Many ovens heat up too quickly and will crack the stone.
Pizza Stone Tips
- With the stone you will also need a pizza peel to get the pizza to the hot stone and back. Long handled paddles are much easier to use then the more common short handled paddles.
- A common problem is that the topped pizza sticks to the baker's peel. Giving the peel a quick jerk may work, but it may also jerk your toppings off the pizza as well. A helpful hint is to put a piece of parchment paper on the peel instead of using cornmeal. I place the rolled-out pizza dough on the parchment paper and then add the toppings. The parchment goes into the oven with the pizza. This makes it easier to slide the pizza off the peel and onto the hot baking stone. Since the pizza crust does not come in direct contact with the stone, the crust may not be as crisp.