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pizza stone questions

Spencer Dec 26, 2006 04:52 PM

Santa brought me a pizza stone for Christmas.
- Do they really make a difference in pizza taste?
- Any handling tips such has cleaning it?
- Think I read somewhere that you can just leave it in the oven even when not in use- true?

  1. s
    scott123 Dec 26, 2006 05:28 PM

    1. Yes, they do make a difference, as long as they are thick enough. A 1/4" stone creates pretty much the same results as an aluminum cookie sheet, imo.

    2. Don't clean it. Don't remove it from the oven. You may find some people that use their stones for fatty items like cookies. Don't. The stone will absorb the fat, and, when you pre-heat it for pizza, will smoke like crazy.

    3. See answer # 2 :)

    2 Replies
    1. re: scott123
      Spencer Dec 26, 2006 05:46 PM

      Thanks for the responses.
      It came with a wire tray, of sorts. Do I need to use this, or can I just set the stone on my oven rack?

      1. re: Spencer
        scott123 Dec 26, 2006 06:16 PM

        I have no idea why they include a wire rack with the stone, since the stone is never made to be taken out of a hot oven. Just set the stone on the rack.

    2. HaagenDazs Dec 26, 2006 05:31 PM

      And if it ever breaks (it won't unless you drop it) you can buy yourself a large terra cotta saucer (for placing under potted plants) and it will work exactly the same way... and you save $30. Pizza stones tend to be larger and square which can be an advantage, so they both have their pluses and minuses.

      8 Replies
      1. re: HaagenDazs
        chef chicklet Dec 26, 2006 05:34 PM

        I've often wanted to try using terra cotta, but wondered if there was any lead or other toxics used in processing?

        1. re: chef chicklet
          JoanN Dec 26, 2006 06:05 PM

          Unglazed quarry tiles are just what I use. Nothing toxic in them.

        2. re: HaagenDazs
          scott123 Dec 26, 2006 06:15 PM

          Terra cotta is one of the weakest ceramics you can buy, which, in turn, makes it's an especially poor choice for the thermal shock of baking. Unglazed quarry tiles aren't that wise of a choice to handle the thermal shock of baking either, but at least those are fired at a high temp. Terra cotta has almost no thermal resistance whatsoever. One extreme change in heat and it's toast.

          1. re: scott123
            JoanN Dec 26, 2006 06:23 PM

            Interesting. I've had my quarry tiles for years and never had a problem with them. By "thermal shock" I gather you mean having something cold hit the hot tiles? I guess my pizza dough is never cold.

            1. re: JoanN
              scott123 Dec 26, 2006 06:44 PM

              Pizza dough, from the perspective of a blazingly hot 550+ pre-heated stone, is a lot colder than you think. Water boils at 212 degrees. Until it turns to steam, water will not exceed that temp. So, when you place the wet dough on a hot stone, you're talking a 300 degree drop in temp, at least for a second or two while the water in the dough boils off. That's pretty drastic.

              A lot of people have no problem with quarry tiles. This isn't to say that quarry tiles aren't potentially problematic. They aren't made to withstand the thermal shock of baking. The can break, and, if they do, it can be a lot worse than just a cracked/unusable stone. You can end up with a stone fragment in the crust of your bread/pizza. Trust me, you don't want that to happen. The odds are probably very low... maybe 1 in 500, but for a few cents more, you can use fire brick and remove yourself from the pool completely. Fire brick is specifically engineered to handle extreme changes in heat.

            2. re: scott123
              HaagenDazs Dec 26, 2006 07:20 PM

              The last time I dumped ice cubes on my 500 degree terra cotta it was fine. Only kidding - room temperature bread (as in pizza or loaf bread) has never proved to be a problem in my experience.

              What did that self-cleaning oven pizza guy use for a pizza stone?

              1. re: HaagenDazs
                scott123 Dec 26, 2006 08:16 PM

                As I was explaining to Joan, it's all about probabilities. While quarry tiles might be in the realm of 1 in a 500 chance a problem can a occur, the much more structurely weak terra cotta is a far iffier proposition- somewhere in the 1 in 100 realm. Terra cotta lends itself to slow cooking- very gradual heating and very gradual cooling. There's nothing gradual about pizza.

                1. re: scott123
                  HaagenDazs Dec 26, 2006 08:32 PM

                  Oh I agree about probabilities, I was just putting in my 2 cents. You're talking about gradual heating/cooling as far as cooked foods go? I say that to mean cooked food versus the actual cookware. The oven is slow enough to heat and cool as not to cause any problems. In fact, I keep the oven door cracked for a few minutes to allow the TC to heat more slowly. In the event of bread baking - pizza or otherwise - I think it's pretty safe as long as the dough isn't soggy wet. Maybe the cornmeal I use gives enough of a buffer zone? Compare that to say, searing a steak on terra cotta and the difference is substantial, IMO.

          2. RShea78 Dec 26, 2006 06:02 PM

            Is it the Fibrament brand?

            -1) Taste is probably suggestive, but quality in the bake is highly improved with continued "batches" of baking.

            -2) Those need only a brushing down, preferably while still hot, if any foodstuffs get on it.

            -3) I remove mine if the baking temps are lower than 400 degrees, or if I use glass bake-ware in my oven. Because they need a good 10 minute preheat time to reach optimum temps, I will remove mine with consideration of small batch baking with short bake times.

            If I was to bake a single pizza, for example, out it goes. It is not worth it or energy efficient in that case.

            1. JoanN Dec 26, 2006 06:04 PM

              I use tiles instead of a stone and I do clean them every once in a while. I leave them for an hour or so in a sinkful of warm water, no soap, scrub them with a Golden Chore Boy, and place them on a rack to dry. It just gets off some of the baked on crud that I can't brush off with the dedicated dustpan and brush that I keep solely for brushing off the burnt cornmeal and carbonized bits that accumulate.

              1. e
                eatlocally Dec 26, 2006 06:26 PM

                The pizza stone is a great gift, congrats! I basically do not clean mine at all and try to be careful to immed remove any scraps that fall on it. When I am done I brush any flour/semolina flour (which I use on the peel under the pizza so it slides easily onto the stone) into the trash. I do remove it from the oven after use, bc I need the oven for other things and felt like having a large stone in there would interfer with the proper cooking of the other items. True??
                You do need to heat it to the highest temp you can and give it time to get there and you will definitely notice a difference in your pie! Enjoy.

                4 Replies
                1. re: eatlocally
                  djohnson22 Dec 26, 2006 07:28 PM

                  I believe that leaving the stone in actually helps the proper cooking of other items (if even indirectly) by helping to keep the oven temp stable/consistent

                  1. re: djohnson22
                    Buckethead Dec 27, 2006 09:48 PM

                    That is true, mainly because the stone's heat helps bring the oven back up to temperature more quickly after you open and close the oven door.

                    1. re: djohnson22
                      RShea78 Dec 28, 2006 05:51 PM

                      How true!

                      Some commercial pizza ovens, not only shelve their ovens with such a material, but line them as well.

                      Unfortunately, the bottom line is if it all is worth the energy and preheating time, to do this pizza thing at home

                      When I worked for a pizza restaurant the first thing was getting the ovens going even before thinking about the dough, prep, or any other stuff. The owner insisted on a 3 hour preheat for a stable oven.

                      1. re: RShea78
                        scott123 Dec 28, 2006 09:23 PM

                        Commercial ovens have thick baking stones. The thicker the stone, the longer it takes to pre-heat.

                  2. LaLa Dec 26, 2006 08:37 PM

                    It is wonderful for heating up old day old pizza too!


                    1. d
                      Diana Dec 28, 2006 03:23 PM

                      I even used mine with TJ' pizza dough and home made peach pie filling to make a sweet calzone. next, I try red bean!

                      1. v
                        vsoy Dec 28, 2006 05:10 PM

                        I sometimes use a slurry of baking soda and water to scrub the burnt stuff off the pizza stone. Doesn't get all the stains off, but most of them.

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