No pizza stone. Can I bake on my oven's floor?
I'm trying to improve my pizza skills here. I've been reading tons of great pizza posts, and apparently I am out of the loop on the importance of stones.
I'd like to do two hand-shaped thick-crust pizzas with the whole wheat-fresh oregano dough that's about to come out of the breadmaker. My gas oven can really crank out the heat, so I've never found heat loss when opening the door to be a problem. Can I cook my pizzas right on the oven floor on some foil? Should I stick with my usual cookie-sheet-on-rack method?
I would stick with the cookie sheet. With most gas ovens, the fire is pretty close to the oven bottom, so that panel is probably hotter than you want to cook on. If you have a heavy one, heat that instead of a stone and slide the pizza onto it.
Stick with the cookie sheet. Make sure to preheat it in the oven for a while to get it nice and hot. You can also use a cast iron skillet or griddle to the same effect. Just make sure they get hot in the oven before sliding your dough onto it. If you use a cast iron skillet, place it inverted in the oven and cook on the bottom so you don't have to deal with the sides.
I agree with everyone else, that the best bet is to stick with the cookie sheet.
I thought that was so creative, though, I'd love to see you try, just so I could know whether it worked! You won't know unless you try, right? I like that out of the box thinking. But I'm the sort of person who will start a fire trying to barbq in my oven, so you proably shouldn't listen to me.
The other thing that can work pretty well is if you have a big heavy oven safe pan, that may be able to take the place of a pizza stone. Obviously, it would need to be big enough to have a large flat area. The key, as I'm sure you know, is just to have something that holds a lot of heat.
The impact of the pizza stone it the thermal mass; that it doesn't cool much as it imparts the heat to the bottom of your crust. When you put a cool pizza crust on the bottom of your oven or on a cookie sheet, it quickly cools down, and relies on the hot air in the oven to get it hot again. The oven floor will have this problem as well as the burner directly below it for wildly varying temperatures.
That said, a cast iron frying pan or other massive device will make for a crisper crust. That's why many recipes for corn bread call for a pre-heated cast iron pan.
I once had a cheap ($10) pizza stone, and I disliked it. Far better are the 14" perforated metal non-stick coated pans . They make a great crust, and no preheating or "peelin" necessary.