Do pizza stones work better than pans?

Why doesn't homemade or warmed-up restaurant pizza taste as good as pizza fresh from a brick-oven pizzeria? One clear reason is the crust. Metal does not absorb moisture -- which means that if you use a metal pan, you'll likely end up with a crust that's soft and soggy.

Pizza stones, also called baking stones, are designed to address this problem. They are porous, which means they absorb moisture from the dough, and can produce a crispy crust that is evenly cooked and nicely browned. The porous nature of pizza stones also makes them perfect for cooking other bread- or dough-based foods that should have a crispy texture, such as focaccia, French bread, calzones and even crispy-style cookies.

Pizza stones come in different shapes and sizes. Round pizza stones are suited to cooking pizzas, although you'll want to be sure you choose one with a diameter large enough to make a decent-sized pie. Rectangular stones give more surface area, and are a good choice if you plan to cook a range of foods. Pizza stones that feel excessively heavy may become a burden to use, and those that are too thin may not absorb enough heat to cook your pizza crust fully and evenly. Recommended pizza stones are generally about ½-inch thick.

Some things to keep in mind when purchasing and using pizza stones:

  • Minimal is best. Let's face it, it's a stone -- about as basic an item as you'll find in anyone's kitchen. So don't waste money on packaging, brand name or features you don't need. Of course, if you want a stone that doubles as a serving piece, or comes with a rack or other accessories, you will pay more. But keep in mind that many cooks never take their stones out of the oven.
  • Preheat your stone. The key to making the kind of crust you'd find at your favorite pizzeria is to make sure the stone is good and hot, so don't rush the preheating; in fact, some experts recommend preheating a stone for an hour before you set the dough on it.
  • Don't use soap on your pizza stone. Unless you like pizza laced with Dawn or Palmolive, confine your cleaning to a gentle scraping of hard particles followed by a good rinse with warm water. Pizza stones are porous -- which means they'll absorb any soap or detergent you apply.
  • Guard against a soggy bottom. Sure, some pizza stones cook better than others -- but if your pizza crust comes out soggy, the problem might not be the stone's fault. Experts say that too much sauce or even an abundance of water-laden vegetable toppings can prevent your pizza from turning nicely crisp. One helpful solution is to bake the crust alone for several minutes, and then add the sauce and toppings.
  • Don't get sticky. Users debate whether the convenience factor outweighs the drive for authentic ingredients -- but all agree that a dusting of cornmeal on the stone will help ensure that your pizza slides off easily. If you don't mind a little cornmeal baked onto your pizza crust, you may save yourself a lot of frustration.
  • Avoid cracking up. Cracks and breaks are the most common complaints that pizza-stone users post. While some of these breakages happen in shipping, and some may be due to manufacturing defects, many are caused by simple handling mistakes. Keep in mind that extreme changes in temperature are a huge reason why stones crack or even shatter -- so don't put a cold stone into a hot oven; don't put a hot stone on a cold surface; and don't place a stone that has just been removed from the oven under cold running water.
  • Consider investing in a pizza peel. Many pizza stones come with either racks, handles or raised feet, which makes handling easier. Nevertheless, reaching into a hot stove to remove a heated stone can be uncomfortable -- or even downright scary. Many cooks recommend a pizza peel -- that is, a paddle you use to transfer the pizza on and off the stone, which remains in the oven the whole time. Experts say that with a little practice, you'll master the art of the paddle -- and feel like a real Italian pizza chef to boot!

Do pizza stones work better than pans?

Why doesn't homemade or warmed-up restaurant pizza taste as good as pizza fresh from a brick-oven pizzeria? One clear reason is the crust. Metal does not absorb moisture -- which means that if you use a metal pan, you'll likely end up with a crust that's soft and soggy.

Pizza stones, also called baking stones, are designed to address this problem. They are porous, which means they absorb moisture from the dough, and can produce a crispy crust that is evenly cooked and nicely browned. The porous nature of pizza stones also makes them perfect for cooking other bread- or dough-based foods that should have a crispy texture, such as focaccia, French bread, calzones and even crispy-style cookies.

Pizza stones come in different shapes and sizes. Round pizza stones are suited to cooking pizzas, although you'll want to be sure you choose one with a diameter large enough to make a decent-sized pie. Rectangular stones give more surface area, and are a good choice if you plan to cook a range of foods. Pizza stones that feel excessively heavy may become a burden to use, and those that are too thin may not absorb enough heat to cook your pizza crust fully and evenly. Recommended pizza stones are generally about ½-inch thick.

Some things to keep in mind when purchasing and using pizza stones:

  • Minimal is best. Let's face it, it's a stone -- about as basic an item as you'll find in anyone's kitchen. So don't waste money on packaging, brand name or features you don't need. Of course, if you want a stone that doubles as a serving piece, or comes with a rack or other accessories, you will pay more. But keep in mind that many cooks never take their stones out of the oven.
  • Preheat your stone. The key to making the kind of crust you'd find at your favorite pizzeria is to make sure the stone is good and hot, so don't rush the preheating; in fact, some experts recommend preheating a stone for an hour before you set the dough on it.
  • Don't use soap on your pizza stone. Unless you like pizza laced with Dawn or Palmolive, confine your cleaning to a gentle scraping of hard particles followed by a good rinse with warm water. Pizza stones are porous -- which means they'll absorb any soap or detergent you apply.
  • Guard against a soggy bottom. Sure, some pizza stones cook better than others -- but if your pizza crust comes out soggy, the problem might not be the stone's fault. Experts say that too much sauce or even an abundance of water-laden vegetable toppings can prevent your pizza from turning nicely crisp. One helpful solution is to bake the crust alone for several minutes, and then add the sauce and toppings.
  • Don't get sticky. Users debate whether the convenience factor outweighs the drive for authentic ingredients -- but all agree that a dusting of cornmeal on the stone will help ensure that your pizza slides off easily. If you don't mind a little cornmeal baked onto your pizza crust, you may save yourself a lot of frustration.
  • Avoid cracking up. Cracks and breaks are the most common complaints that pizza-stone users post. While some of these breakages happen in shipping, and some may be due to manufacturing defects, many are caused by simple handling mistakes. Keep in mind that extreme changes in temperature are a huge reason why stones crack or even shatter -- so don't put a cold stone into a hot oven; don't put a hot stone on a cold surface; and don't place a stone that has just been removed from the oven under cold running water.
  • Consider investing in a pizza peel. Many pizza stones come with either racks, handles or raised feet, which makes handling easier. Nevertheless, reaching into a hot stove to remove a heated stone can be uncomfortable -- or even downright scary. Many cooks recommend a pizza peel -- that is, a paddle you use to transfer the pizza on and off the stone, which remains in the oven the whole time. Experts say that with a little practice, you'll master the art of the paddle -- and feel like a real Italian pizza chef to boot!

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