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Jul 30, 2008 05:41 PM

Pizza Stone Advice?

Hi all, just got a new pizza stone and I'm loving it. First use was putting it in a cold oven, letting it preheat with the oven, then putting corn muffins in a muffin tin and placing the tin on top-- great! Super high peaks on the muffins, everyone wondered how I did it!

Second time out, I put a super thin pizza base/crust (store bought and a little thicker than a flour tortilla) on it, again, preheated, and the top of the pizza came out super; bubbly with brown edges on the crust... sadly, the bottom was still white and not crisp at all. So the same night I tried it again with those thin crusts with the same results.

So, ok, today I bought two other kinds of premade crusts (I'm not that confident in making my own yet, but if you have an easy recipe, preferably using wholegrain flour, I'm up for suggestions). They say on the package "Crispy" so I'm guessing they will work out better.

While lovingly admiring my pizza stone today I noticed there are spots where sauce or cheese have gotten on it. Am I supposed to wash it (I heard somewhere that using soap on a pizza stone is a no-no) with something special? Am I supposed to use water on it at all? If so, how long do I have to let it dry before using it again (don't want to crack it)?

Other than putting it under baked goods and using it for pizza, are there other uses for a pizza stone that I should know about?

I know there are a lot of mini-questions in this thread, but any advice you can give for any of them would be great. Want to keep this love affair (with my pizza stone) alive!

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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  1. A little more detail would be helpful in determining what is happening.

    What temperature is the oven set for?

    How long are you preheating it?

    Which shelf you putting the stone on?

    I wouldn't worry too much about cleaning the stone yet.

    Making the dough is actually quite easy, and I think well worth the effort.

    39 Replies
    1. re: knecht

      Well for the pizza thins it said 180 Celsius which is about 350 Fahrenheit (didn't seem that hot to me). I preheated the stone about thirty minutes on the middle shelf. Perhaps I'm a bit nervous to make the dough after watching too many experts twirling around perfectly stretched circles in the air as they make theirs... afraid mine will end up stuck to the cabinets and everything else in the kitchen :-).

      1. re: ideabaker

        I normally crank the oven up all the way (500 F) and let it preheat for about an hour. You really need to get the stone as hot as you can (and it will still be a couple hundred degrees cooler than some commercial ovens).

        With a homemade crust and on a middle rack I normally figure 9-13 minutes to bake a pie. (I like my crust fairly dark)

        One advantage to making your own crust is knowing it's made with only flour, water, olive oil, yeast (I keep a sourdough starter), and salt.

        It's very helpful to have a peel, and if you're as cheap as I am you can even cut one out of a board. There's no need to throw the crust in the air, you can (though some will frown upon it) roll it out, or just stretch it on the peel.

        1. re: knecht

          knecht, we may be equally cheap because I was thinking, why not just use a big plate? This pizza making equipment isn't inexpensive. But I may break down and get the board, I think the plate might make the crust get soggy from condensation.

          500 degrees Fahrenheit? I've gotta check to see if the oven here goes that high (after I convert to Celsius). And an hour to preheat? No wonder the bottom of my pie wasn't done. But after you heat the stone do you cook the pizza at 500F? That sounds like it would fry the top, but maybe it wouldn't?

          1. re: ideabaker

            I understand your concern, but think of it this way - you are completely cooking some dough from raw to crispy! In Italy they use 900 degree ovens that do it all in a couple of minutes.

            You kind of need a peel because the length of the handle lets you get the angle necessary for getting the pizza to slide off onto the stone (looks scary, but as long as you keep some flour under the dough it should be fine).

            You may find that you need to move the stone to a higher or lower rack in order to get the top and crust to cook at the same time. You also may find that the temperature in the oven isn't even, and a peel helps if you need to spin the pizza round to cook evenly.

            1. re: knecht

              The peels here are pretty expensive, I think it was around thirty dollars Kiwi, which is about twenty five dollars American... but I may just have to cave in and get one!

              1. re: ideabaker

                I use a piece of parchment paper on top of my large cutting board. Shape and top the pizza on the parchment and then slide parchment and pizza onto the baking stone from the cutting board. No worries about it sticking. The edges of the exposed parchment paper will brown/burn (but not flame) in the oven so don't worry about that. You can still grab an edge of the parchment and give the pizza a turn if needed. I still get a very crispy crust even though the pizza sits on the paper and not directly on the stone. I do this method with shaped bread loaves too. I've long desired a peel but am too cheap to invest in one and this works fine for me. Hmmmm...maybe Santa will bring me a peel....

                1. re: morwen

                  Thanks, Morwen, I never thought about using parchment paper. I cooked another pizza a couple of nights ago and it slid off of the lipless cookie sheet I was using and stuck midway on the stone, it was a real comedy watching me trying to dislodge it while not burning myself or ripping the pizza in half! My stone is getting kind of "seasoned" now (burnt stuff on it) and I've been just scraping it clean with a metal spatula, no water... do you think that will cause the parchment to stick because of the food residue?

                  1. re: ideabaker

                    That's the same experience that led me to using parchment paper! My stone is seriously well used at this point and the parchment doesn't stick. Mine came with a plastic scraper though, which I eventually lost and replaced with a plastic lid with the rim cut off. I don't know if scraping with metal is good or bad for the stones...maybe someone else does?

                  2. re: morwen

                    I shape my dough on parchment paper on top of the peel as well, but I pull out the paper after the dough has begun to bake bit--perhaps three minutes. I found that sometimes, but not always, if I waited until the pizza was fully cooked, the parchment burned and stuck to the bottom crust. Pulling out the paper, which is really easy to do, avoids this problem.

                    I've also used cornmeal on the peel instead of parchment paper and do like the extra bit of crunch it imparts to the crust. But if I'm making a bunch of pizzas at a time--even just three or four--the cornmeal remaining on the stone begins to to burn and then attaches itself to the dough that might be laid on top of it. And I've found that trying to brush off the stone between pizzas can be rather hazardous.

                    So for me, it's cornmeal if I'm only making one or two, parchment if I'm making more.

                    1. re: morwen

                      Usually the best way of making the Pizza not stick is a bit of cornmeal sprinkled on the stone before you drop the pizza on.

                      As for cooking the pizza crank up the oven as high as it goes and let it sit 45 minutes to a hour. THe stone is a heat mass which is the point so it is not all that usefull before it reaches the right temperature

                    2. re: ideabaker

                      Well, I broke down and bought the pizza peel. I also got Trader Joe's pizza dough (fresh) . Now, what to do with the fresh dough? Cornmeal under the dough?

                      1. re: ideabaker

                        A few notes:
                        --re:your point below about the stone's carrier, if you're leaving the stone in the oven anyway (that's what I do too) then don't even use the carrier thing. Store it away for the future.
                        --I sprinkle my peel with cornmeal, then put the dough on it, then top the pizza. I think enough cornmeal ends up on the underside of the dough that it's enough to keep it from sticking on the stone (and the stone should be hot enough).
                        --There's also enough cornmeal left on the peel so that it's there when I use it again to pull the pizza out of the oven.

                        Good luck!

                    3. re: knecht

                      Ok, ok, I'm beginning to think it is time to make a trip to the kitchen store for a peel. Sounds like I'm cruising for an injury without one! Thanks for your advice.

                      1. re: knecht

                        Exactly... remember that the famous old 100 year old pizzerias in New York City all use coal ovens, which burn at a super hot temps. One of the secrets of a perfectly cooked crust (crispy on the botton, but still soft and chewy on top, with some dark charring marks indicating doneness) is super high temp for very short time. The best we can do to recreate that sort of environment at home is to crank up your oven to the highest heat possible, and use a pizza stone to suck up as much of that heat as possible to transfer to your pizza.

                        Mr Taster

                      2. re: ideabaker

                        I cook pizza at 500F, but 450F gives decent results as well. A lot depends on your oven, so crank it as high as you can and see what happens. I find 30 minutes preheating is plenty. If you don't have a peel you can use a flat baking sheet (one without a lip). Don't spin it a lot; once usually is enough. You may not need to spin it at all if your oven heats evenly.

                        1. re: Zeldog

                          The only problem with cooking at 450 constantly in my oven is that it will surely burn the cheese, and the outer crust gets too dark. I have a gas oven I preheat to 450 cook mins then lower to 425, turn it, and it should be done in 12 - 15 mins.
                          Middle rack, center. However, this is using homemade dough though.

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I keep my stone on the bottom rack (and I too use homemade dough). Maybe the rack placement is why mine doesn't burn?

                            1. re: LNG212

                              I'm in New Zealand for vacation now and am cooking on an electric stove which I'm not accustomed to. I will try it on the bottom rack to see if that helps, thanks for the tip!

                              1. re: LNG212

                                sorry! I was referring to the heat only I don't use a stone, I prefer a pizza pan with holes....oops.

                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  Chef, why do you prefer the pizza pan with holes, out of curiosity?

                                  1. re: ideabaker

                                    Yes the I use is a 17 in & aluminunum perforated pizza pan. I never oil it, just drop a handful of polenta or cornmeal on it. The dough grabs that, and it helps it slide out and also gives a nice addition of crunch. The aluminum pan is a great conductor, so the dough is always perfect to my liking...I tried the stone a few times, I just didn't care for the way my dough turned out. To each their own some like a crunchier dough. We like a handle that is softer inside with a slight crisp exterior.

                              2. re: chef chicklet

                                Another option is to cook the dough for a few minutes and then top it and put it back in.

                                1. re: jzerocsk

                                  I'm using a premade pizza base... would I put on the tomato sauce then cook for a while before adding toppings? Otherwise I think the top part of the crust would get tough...

                                  1. re: ideabaker

                                    Can I ask why you're using premade pizza base (is that dough?)

                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      Um, basically because it was there... a kind of Mt. Everest thing? :-) I will learn how to make dough this winter when I get back to the states... one of end-of-year resolutions!

                                    2. re: ideabaker

                                      What do you mean by a pre-made pizza base? Is that like a boboli, or a ready-made dough?

                                      I've done this with both ready-made and homemade doughs and have been happy with the results. I like the crust thin and crispy.

                                      Not sure how it would work with a boboli type of crust.

                                2. re: Zeldog

                                  Oh, I have one of those "lipless" baking sheets, I will try that next time I make pizza (tomorrow night)! Thanks!

                                  1. re: ideabaker

                                    Give in and get the peel! I used my lipless baking sheet for a couple of months, with plenty of cornmeal, and my fresh dough always made a mess on my stone, in my oven. Despite the cornmeal, by the time I got the toppings on, the dough was stuck to the aluminum baking sheet, at least in places. So, as I tried the jerk and slide motion to get the pie off the baking sheet and onto the stone, the thing would fold up on itself, spill, tear - whatever - and what a mess! I've never had that problem since the first day I got my peel. Then too, because the baking sheet doesn't have the long handle, you have to reach pretty much into your 500 degree oven. Not so awful for my arm, but my soft contact lenses don't like being that close to such heat. Get the peel, then try to find other uses for it to justify the cost!

                                    1. re: misspastina

                                      Ha ha, Misspastina, ok, you've broken me down :-). A peel is next on my culinary shopping list! With the high temps you and everyone else is suggesting it just seems too dangerous to be working with just my arms and my lipless baking sheet, especially once I start making my own dough ( a daunting prospect for me ). Thanks for your amusing story (very akin to my peel-less experience), and I'm open to other uses for the peel too!

                                      1. re: misspastina

                                        Well I finally gave in and bought the pizza peel. Only one problem, it is wider than the pizza stone's base (held in a stainless steel frame that holds it when you put it into and out of the oven). The peel is 14" wide, the stone is 13" wide, but the frame cuts into that missing inch (with the stainless steel carrier in it)... any ideas? Skip the frame and figure out how to remove the stone without the frame? Get a smaller peel (I don't know where from, this one was from Bed Bath and Beyond and it was only in this size)... or is the peel supposed to be a bit larger than the pizza stone? Thanks in advance for your help!

                                        1. re: ideabaker

                                          No need to remove the stone from the oven (at least not while it's hot), so leave the carrier off...just make sure the pizza is not larger than the stone :-)

                                          1. re: jzerocsk

                                            Thanks for the advice jzerocsk, since I usually don't take the stone out of the oven anyway your advice makes a lot of sense. In fact, now I'm beginning to wonder why it needs a carrier at all! I will keep the pizza to the size of the stone and get rid of the carrier (at least store it away) and use the peel. Again thank you!

                                    2. re: Zeldog

                                      I didn't notice uneven cooking, just that the top was perfectly done and the bottom was still white. I think I definitely need to follow your advice and crank up the heat more so than the last two times.

                                      1. re: Zeldog

                                        Almost exactly what I would advise, but if all you have is a baking sheet with a lip, turn it over and use the bottom.

                                        As far as cleaning the stone, I take mine out and give it a scrape with a dough scraper or spatula to get the crusty bits off. That's about all the maintainence it's had in ten years.

                                        I have found corn meal to be more effective as a "lube" under the crust. I usually roll out the dough, place it on a peel sprinkled liberally with corn meal, then build the pie directly on the peel. I use parchment when making multiples as I can roll out and stack the crusts in advance.

                                        1. re: Scrapironchef

                                          I like the advice on the cornmeal... would it work if I just sprinkled the cornmeal on the stone then slide the pizza onto the hot, cornmealed stone? Or would that just be too messy?

                                          1. re: ideabaker

                                            You had me laughing with the story of trying to keep the dough from breaking in half and all that. :)

                                            I think this is why a peel is so ideal. If you sprinkle the peel with cornmeal and put the dough on it (top with whatever), it's really easy to slide it off and onto the stone in the proper position. And then it's easy to rotate the pizza (if necessary, I don't) and to get it out of the oven again. I think trying to get the dough onto the hot stone without any implement is just asking to get burned -- or maybe that's just my own clumsiness talking.

                                            1. re: LNG212

                                              Yes, after that almost-fiasco I am beginning to think the twenty bucks for a peel might just be worth it. I definitely have the "clumsy" gene and am rarely seen without a Band-Aid or two on my hands or arms...

                                            2. re: ideabaker

                                              The cornmeal is to keep the dough from sticking to whatever you're using as a peel, the stone doesn't need it.

                                          2. re: Zeldog

                                            You shouldn;t have to spin it. The whole point of a pizza stone is to evenly distribute heat so if you let it sit in the oven long enough it should bake everything evnly without you having to touch it.

                                  2. Ditto to Zeldog. I preheat to 500F for maybe 20-30 minutes (depending on how impatient I am). I use cornmeal on the peel so that the dough slides off easily. The paddles aren't that pricey (under 10$ I think) and I find it really makes things go smoothly.

                                    Another consideration ... be sure that whatever you are putting on the top isn't too wet. For example, I cook mushrooms first (release their liquid and brown a little, or roast them) and then put them on top, then the whole pizza into the oven. Otherwise the moisture released from the 'shrooms (or any veggie, etc) would make the center of the pizza soggy.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: LNG212

                                      Thanks for the extra advice on the moist ingredients, last time I just tossed them on and it came out ok, but with the higher heat, who knows what might happen? I put on (a little of each) green and black olives, onion, green pepper, red pepper, mushroom, Italian sausage, ground beef, ham and pepperoni with Italian herbs and Mozzerella. Will try your tip with the veggies next time! Thanks!

                                    2. The thinner the crust, the hotter the oven should be. You want to bake a thin pizza fast, fast, fast so the bottom crisps up without drying out the rest of the crust. As others have noted, 450- 500F is optimal for thin crusts. Depending on how thin "thin" is, it might take 5 - 10 minutes to finish.

                                      DON'T OVERTOP A THIN PIZZA. That will kill any chance of getting it to crisp up properly, no matter how hot the oven gets.

                                      Placement of the stone is also important. The bottom heat coming from the preheated stone is crucial, but so is the top heat. If you don't have adequate reflected / convected heat cooking the top of the pizza, the cheese will remain undercooked while your crust is on the verge of burning.

                                      To this effect, you want: 1) to place your stone closer to the roof of your oven (but watch that the electric element doesn't scorch the top or 2) use a second pizza stone on the rack above the primary stone, for a hearth oven effect. Option 2 isn't typically necessary unless you're working in a restaurant kitchen and need to churn out pizzas really fast.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Professor Salt


                                        Chose not to start this as a separate thread as the posters here are very helpful.

                                        We're having a couple over for a pizza party tomorrow night.

                                        The idea: Everyone makes their own, modestly topped, thin-crust pie and we bake them on the grill.

                                        Question is the method: The grill is actually a Brinkman charcoal smoker (horizontal barrel type with fire box attached on the left).

                                        My thought is to get a good hot coal fire, in the main barrel on the left, and position my pizza stone all the way to the right. Goal is to get the grill very hot and bake with the indirect heat.

                                        We'll be quickly opening the door to the grill and sliding the pies, one at a time, onto the stone.

                                        Please critique my method.

                                        1. re: Monch

                                          No. Indirect heat on an offset smoker will only dry out a grilled pizza. The thin gauge metal on a Brinkmann loses too much heat to use as an effective high temp oven. It works fine as a low temp smoker (or grill) it's designed to be. Monch, see method #2 below.

                                          There are two methods I recommend for grilled pizza. If you have a well insulated grill (like a Komodo kamado, Big Green Egg, etc) that's easily capable of retaining 600F, you can use a stone and prepare pizza just like baking in an indoor oven (i.e. raw dough is topped before baking, and the whole works bakes in one shot, 500F or so, 8 minutes). Be aware that pizza stones are not meant to be heated directly over a flame - they can and do crack when subjected to a flame, so use a metal sheet pan under it to act as a heat buffer.

                                          The other method is grilled directly over really hot coals without a baking stone. You stretch out the dough thin, grill the raw dough, covered, for 1 minute. Lift the cover. If your fire is hot enough, the dough will have bubbled vigorously. If it didn't bubble, give the grill more air or charcoal to get the heat up. Rotate this side of the crust 90 degrees, so it cooks a little more evenly and leaves nice crosshatched grill marks. Cover the grill again to retain as much heat as possible.

                                          Another minute on side one, then flip it over. As soon as it's flipped, top immediately with a very light sprinkle of cheese so the cheese has maximum time to melt in the remaining 2 minutes over the fire. Top LIGHTLY with your other stuff. Any meat has to be fully cooked, because you'll barely have time to warm any toppings through. Rotate the pizza 90 degrees after 60 seconds.

                                          Key points: have all your toppings cut and ready to go. You really have to work fast with method 2.

                                          Make sure your fire is hot enough. Hold your hand about 5 inches above the grate until the heat's too much to handle. If you can keep your hand there about 5 seconds, it's about perfect. Less than that, and your coals are too hot. Close off a vent and let the fire die down a bit. If you can hold your hand there more than 5 seconds, the fire's too cool.

                                          The first one will always come out crappy, just like a first pancake that hits the griddle. Adjust your heat and the speed it takes to cook the dough based on this first pizza. Remember, you have to work fast with method 2. Sometimes, faster than you expect.

                                          1. re: Professor Salt

                                            P. Salt,

                                            Was too busy to check my post prior to having my guests over.

                                            Don't know quite how to respond.

                                            I went forward with my plan and had mixed results.

                                            I DID get heats up in the range that baked the pies in about 10 to 15 minutes depending on toppings. Had trouble restraining my guests from over-topping.

                                            I went first with a traditional Pizza Margherita but added some soprasetta (sp) for flavor. As a previous poster said, it was like the first crepe...not quite right...but OK.

                                            The balance of the pies, there were three of them, went well.

                                            I scraped hot coals right under the stone and that seemed to help.

                                            It was all a great experiment and we had great fun.

                                            Indirect heat, managed as best you can, can yield tasty results.

                                            Happy Griillingj!

                                            1. re: Monch

                                              Glad it worked out well for you!

                                              If a pizza has a medium to thick crust, it might work out just fine at lower temp / longer bake. I forget sometimes that not everyone likes the thin crust, charred bottom type of pizza that I prefer. For my style of pizza, baking in moderate heat for 15 minutes wouldn't work well. In any event, glad the dinner was a great success.

                                            2. re: Professor Salt

                                              Thank you for your thorough advice--- I need all I can get! Don't know if I'm ready for Method 2 yet, first I need to learn to make my own dough and master Method 1! But glad to have Method 2 as a place to aspire to!

                                        2. Easiest way to clean is to run the stone through the self clean cycle of the oven. All the cheese goo will burn off.

                                          This will smoke a bit, though.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: tomishungry

                                            I'm glad I'm not hearing "soap and water" as I have just been scraping it clean. But I will try the self clean cycle (if this old stove has one!). So an old pizza stone should be dark in color from many uses (i.e. "seasoned")? Thanks.

                                            1. re: ideabaker

                                              I just scrape mine clean too, using a metal thing-ee. I think the "no soap" thing is because the stones are pourous and will absorb the soap -- ick.

                                              1. re: LNG212

                                                That would be the reason yes.

                                                Just scrape the cheese off. If you try to bake the cheese off the fat just melts into the stone and you'll never get it out.

                                          2. p.s., anyone have any other (culinary) uses for a Pizza Stone? I've just been leaving mine in the oven all the time and I put whatever I cook on it. Baked things get a great crust on them and rise very high, and things like meat and fish don't seem affected by it, maybe they cook a tiny bit faster (or that could be my imagination...).