Ever wondered how to use a pizza stone for the 1st time? You’re not alone. In fact, people ask me this question all the time.
But let’s first talk about the optimal way to cook any pizza.
Generally speaking, the best way to cook a pizza is at a pizzeria inside a super-hot pizza oven. Neapolitan style pizza, for example, is usually made in a 900F oven. The crust turns perfectly crispy and the cheese melty and gooey in just a couple of minutes in this ultra hot environment.
The other benefit to a professional pizza oven is the surface itself. Instead of a grated rack inside the oven, the professional oven is a flat stone surface. This means you can drop your dough directly on the hot surface without having to use a pan that’s just going to slow down the whole process. It also means your pizza is going to cook from the bottom of the crust upwards, which is exactly what you want.
But what about the rest of us? What if we’re using an oven that barely reaches 500F and doesn’t have a flat surface to bake with? Thankfully, there is a solution and it’s called a pizza stone. Pizza stones are probably the most important tool for any aspiring home-based pizza-maker.
What is a Pizza Stone?
A pizza stone is basically just a slab of ceramic or “stone” that sits on a rack inside your oven. When you heat up your oven with the stone inside, the pizza stone absorbs all that heat and holds onto it. This makes the surface of the stone slightly hotter than the air inside the oven.
If you’ve ever shopped for a pizza stone, you’ve probably seen them marketed as both pizza stones and “baking stones”. A baking stone is basically the same thing as a pizza stone except it’s square instead of round. I personally prefer the square ones because it gives me extra room when sliding the pizza on and off. But some people prefer the round ones, so you can choose whichever one fits your oven and baking style better.
How Does A Pizza Stone Work?
The way the stone works is simple. As soon as your raw pizza dough hits the hot surface of the stone, it’s going to start cooking immediately. In fact, within about 30 seconds your crust will be solid enough for you to actually remove it from the oven and you can add toppings separately if you prefer. I sometimes do this if I suspect my crust is too delicate to make it off the peel in one piece with a full load of toppings.
You can compare this process to the traditional one of using a baking pan to make pizza. In this scenario, the pan has to heat up first before any of the heat is transferred to the underside of the dough. That means it might be several minutes before the crust begins to cook, leaving you with overcooked toppings and an under-cooked crust. A pizza stone reverses all of this.
How to use a pizza stone for the first time (and every time!)
So, how to use a pizza stone for the first time? Don’t worry – it’s simple, and it’s the same process you’ll use every time you make pizza.
You’ll need two things: a pizza stone and a pizza peel. The pizza peel is just a flat wooden or metal tool you use to slide your pizza dough onto the pizza stone.
Put Stone In Oven
Turn On Oven
Let Stone Heat Up
Slide Pizza Onto Stone
Bake Your Pizza
Remove Pizza From Stone
Cool Then Clean Pizza Stone
By the way, if you’d like to see my step-by-step recipe to make Neapolitan pizza at home on a pizza stone, see here.
Pizza Stone Tips
The steps above should get you started baking awesome pizza right away, but here are a few extra pointers I’ve found useful.
Bake Your Pizza In Stages:
Pizza stones are great, but they still don’t make your home oven as hot as a professional pizza oven. For this reason, I like to bake my pizza in stages. For example, I’ll start off baking a plain pizza crust without any sauce or toppings. Once the crust is solid enough that I can slide it back onto my peel, I’ll add the sauce and put it back in to cook again. Then once the sauce starts to bubble and steam a bit, I’ll take it out a second time and add the rest of my toppings. This let’s the crust have a minute or two of extra baking time and protects the toppings from overcooking. No more soggy pizza bottoms or burnt toppings!
Prep Your Peel With Enough Flour:
Use an ample amount of flour. There are few things worse than sliding your pizza off the peel only to have it stick on the way down. Once that mess of folded crust and toppings hits the stone there is no turning back. Also good luck trying to scrape off melted cheese and sauce from the stone’s surface. Not to mention the fact that oils and fats can cause the stone to crack in the future. For these reasons, always make sure to use plenty of flour on the peel and make sure to test that your dough isn’t sticking before you slide it onto the stone.
Experiment With Oven Placement:
Experiment with your pizza stone’s placement. I say above to put the stone on the bottom rack, but that’s just a general suggestion. The optimal stone placement really depends on your oven and what kind of pizza you’re trying to make. So, if you find your crust is overdone and the toppings are underdone, maybe try placing the stone on the middle or top rack so slow things down a bit. Similarly, if you prefer a crispy crust and lightly cooked toppings (like I do) keep the stone as close to the bottom element as possible.
Taking Care Of Your Pizza Stone
Thankfully, pizza stones require very little upkeep. Once you learn how to use a pizza stone for the first time, you’ll know how to use it for life. But there are a few things to know that will ensure your stone has a long life in your kitchen.
Keep your stone clean to prevent cracking. Pizza stones are best to bake dry things like bread. Once oils and fats (like cheese and sauce) hit the stone, they’re going to instantly fry. This is a pain to clean up and actually increases the chances that your stone will crack when the oils start to permeate the porous surface of the stone. But don’t worry if a bit of cheese or oil spills onto the stone, this is inevitable when making pizza. Just try to minimize it and you’ll get a lot more years out of your stone.
Don’t let your stone cool too quickly. It’s tempting to want to take your stone right out of the oven when you finish using it, but it can actually be bad for your stone. When the stone goes from an extreme heat to room temperature too quickly, it can actually cause it to crack.