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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...).

                                            1. You asked about other uses for the stone. I bake my crusty bread on it, the artisan 5 min. a day bread.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: LadyCook61

                                                That just gave me an idea; I froze a big piece of focaccia (sp?) and was wondering the best way to defrost it, maybe just tossing it on the preheated stone would work?

                                                1. re: LadyCook61

                                                  Do you first crank up the heat, as for pizza? Or just preheat the oven to the normal temperature that the recipe calls for?

                                                2. I also find it's terrific for reheating things -- like naan (from take out). I also put things like calzones or other dough covered things on it.

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: LNG212

                                                    Definitely going to try to defrost the bread on it, seems like it would give it a nice crusty bottom and make it taste fresher than just defrosting...

                                                    1. re: ideabaker

                                                      I find that focaccia thaws fairly quickly (less than an hour at room temp), but I often toss it on a preheated stone for a minute or two just to crisp the bottom crust. And it does indeed freshen it up.

                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                        Thanks, JoanN... so I should let it thaw on the counter then pop it onto the preheated stone to heat it up... sounds yummy!

                                                    2. re: LNG212

                                                      I just bought some bread (a cheesy foccacia) from the bakery and wanted to heat it and perhaps get a toasty bottom. I preheated the stone and oven to about four hundred. Though it came out ok, it stuck to the stone and tore a bit when I tried to get it out (it was quite a large piece). When you reheat bread using the stone, do you add cornmeal or use an extra high temp or what? Thanks ahead of time for anyone's response!

                                                      1. re: ideabaker

                                                        For pizza I usually crank my oven up really high and the preheat is only around 15 minutes or so. But for reheating other things, I usually use a lower temp (maybe 400, as long as the bread is fully room temp already) but I preheat for a bit longer period. If I recently scraped clean my stone, then, yes, I do use a bit of cornmeal so it doesn't stick. But if my stone still has residual cornmeal on it (because I'm lazy and don't clean after each time) then I don't bother adding any extra. This is for reheating naan or other breads. That seems to work. When I make other things like calzones that start out raw, then I do use cornmeal everytime (just like I would do for pizza).

                                                        1. re: LNG212

                                                          Ok, so I now see two things I did wrong... 1) The bread wasn't room temp and 2) no cornmeal... I'll definitely try it next "bread re-heating time" your way. Thanks for the reply LNG212!

                                                    3. Pizza dough is super easy to make especially if you use 00 flour especially made for pizza.. YUMMY!!! you can buy Napoli flour online very reasonably.

                                                      1. What do people think about stone vs. steel?


                                                        [Sorry, I can't figure out how to post a link here without all the url showing...]

                                                        16 Replies
                                                        1. re: treestonerivershrub

                                                          Well that's fascinating.

                                                          My initial reaction upon reading your post was to dismiss the pizza steel concept, as steel goes against all the conventional wisdom for pizza stones. (Steel wouldn't retain intense heat the way a stone would, nor would it wick away moisture from the dough)

                                                          But once I saw the article was written by J. Kenji López-Alt, I took a closer look. He knows his shit, and his results are eyebrow raising, to say the least.

                                                          I'm really fascinated-- I have a heavy, square 1/2" stone, and still I may invest in one of these pizza steels. Even if I wind up preferring the stone, it will be interesting to have the steel/stone oven configuration that he talks about (simulating the configuration of the narrow, heat-retaining pizza oven).

                                                          Thanks for sharing this link.

                                                          Mr Taster

                                                          1. re: treestonerivershrub

                                                            Yes. In total agreement with Mr. Taster. From anyone else I'd have dismissed it cavalierly. But not from Kenji. Really intriguing. And I really want to try it. Thanks for letting us know about it.

                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                              For those who are curious, I called a local steel shop to find out how much it would cost to purchase 16" x 14" x 1/4" piece of 304 (stainless) steel.

                                                              It would have to be plasma cut (as opposed to shear-cut, i.e. with scissors) because shear-cut produces a surface that is not totally flat. Obviously flatness is an essential quality for even browning and a properly flat pizza :)

                                                              The cost to cut one piece of this metal is... wait for it... $204.

                                                              Yikes. He sells the bakers steel through his website for $72.

                                                              From reading the website for the bakers steel, the guy who produces it apparently works at a metal shop, and is producing these in quantity, so clearly it's actually a great deal cheaper to get it from him than to have one small sheet custom made. (Now if you could find a piece pre-cut somewhere, that's a different story- but this really is a very specific thing that one is unlikely to find sold in bulk, pre-cut).

                                                              A contractor friend of mine explained that its because of the labor involved in retrieving a massive sheet of bulk steel, cutting off one small piece, and then putting the remainder of the huge sheet back into storage. There's great savings in producing this in quantity (and savings from purchasing directly from his employer!)

                                                              Plus, this guy really does deserve to earn a nice chunk of money for making this available for purchase at what (suddenly) appears to be a very fair price, so it's really a win-win all around.

                                                              Mr Taster

                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                This guy 'deserves' nothing. The product he's selling is A36 hot rolled steel (aka 'mild steel'), not stainless. Mild steel, sourced locally, is usually 1/3 to 1/2 the price he's offering. He's also selling a one size fits all solution, that will happen to fit all ovens, but has a maximum pizza size of 13"-13.5". For NY style, when you get into that size, it's almost all rim. If you buy the steel yourself, you can size the steel to your oven, rather than being forced into making postage stamp sized pies.

                                                                In addition, in his advertising, he's making specious claims about Neapolitan bake times, based upon a dated and incorrect ad campaign for Modernist Cuisine. The actual book recommends 3/4" and, when it was released, incorrectly promised Neapolitan bake times, but has since been revised to back off any Neapolitan claims after a conversation I had with Mr. Myrhvold. Bottom line- the vast majority (99.9%) of home ovens can't produce Neapolitan pizza, and to say otherwise is either incredibly misinformed or dishonest.

                                                                Lastly, the website pushes the 1/4" thick steel model as being optimum for pizza. 1/4" steel is way too thin for NY style. Steel only begins to show it's innate superiority to other materials at 1/2" or thicker- as Kenji points out in his reviews.

                                                                Overpriced, too small, too thin (for the recommended model) and misinformed advertising. Buyer beware.

                                                                Steel is the best material for home pizza baking you can find, just not the snake oil branded steel that this guy is peddling.

                                                                1. re: scott123


                                                                  How do you know this is made with A36 hot rolled steel? I looked for details on the metal used to manufacture the steel and didn't find anything. I found dimensions he used + "food grade steel" (whatever that means-- so I assumed it was stainless)

                                                                  Note that he is now selling a 1/2" thick version (also 14" x 16") for $110. I've made excellent New York style pizza on my 1/2" bakers square baker's stone, so I think your criticism of the dimensions (aside from thickness) are unfair. The large triangles are, in my opinion, the least critical element of a NY pizza. I'll gladly take a small triangle if the crust texture and flavor are right, since that's really the trickiest and most critical element to get right in a NY style pizza.

                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                    I see now in the comments of the Serious Eats article someone talks about using A36 hot rolled steel. I'd still like some true documentation that A36 is food grade steel, but I'll run with it for now. (Where is Harold McGee when you need him?)

                                                                    I called the local steel mill back (the one I did my initial pricing on stainless for) and asked for a repricing.

                                                                    14" x 16" x 1/4" costs $20 for the metal and $20 for a shearing job (they cannot shear rounded edges, however).

                                                                    For 1/2" thickness, it is $37 for materials and $20 for the shearing.

                                                                    This salesperson told me that they've had people purchase this steel for cooking surfaces before, and they've never had a complaint that shearing created an uneven surface. In fact, he went the other way saying that he'd have concern that the heat from the plasma cut might provide a greater danger of warping the metal.

                                                                    So, here's the breakdown:

                                                                    $40 + tax for 1/4" A36 Hot Rolled Steel, 14" x 16"
                                                                    $57 + tax for 1/2" A36 Hot Rolled Steel, 14" x 16"

                                                                    Compare that with the baking steel retail prices at $72 and $110, respectively.

                                                                    If he were to buy his steel from this mill I priced at, he'd be making 80% and 93% profit on the 1/4" and 1/2", respectively.

                                                                    Sounds like an awfully good racket :) But hey, he thought of it first, and it's not his fault that people do love to pay top dollar for branding.

                                                                    To his credit, he did only ask for $3,000 from Kickstarter to do this, which sounds reasonable. The fact that people ponied up nearly $40,000 to get such a simple project off the ground is absolutely insane. But you can't fault him for the unreasonable power of internet groupthink.

                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                      If you've ever eaten breakfast at a diner, it was cooked on an A36 steel grill. If it's good enough for omelets, it's good enough for pizza.

                                                                      I'm aware that Andris offers a 1/2" model. He only started offering it after I made him aware of the inferiority of 1/4" steel. He still pushes 1/4" strongly, though, because of it's lighter weight. Mass is a big part of the pizzamaking equation and 1/4" steel just doesn't provide enough. Traditional cordierite baking stones, such as the one you currently have, tend to vary in density/baking properties, but there's a very high chance that the 1/4" steel won't outperform your 1/2" stone. For you to spend $72 and end up with the same baking properties that you have now- that would be quite a shame, imo. $20 (+ shipping) cordierite kiln shelves can surpass 1/4" steel.

                                                                      Steel is advanced pizzamaking. It's not for beginners. It's generally for people who've been using traditional cordierite stones and want to step up their game with faster bake times. For the beginner who's not really hung up on making the perfect pizza, kiln shelves are more than sufficient, far less expensive and easy to obtain. Steel, specifically 1/2" steel, is for the zealot. As your pizzamaking improves and you start wowing friends and family, your obsession invariably grows and you start thinking about ways to move up yet another notch on the pizzamaking ladder. Pizzeria quality flour is part of that journey, as are higher quality cheeses and tomatoes. Slice (triangle) size is another component of this voyage.

                                                                      In other words, you may not care all that much about the size of your pizzas now, but, in the event you start taking this more seriously (and with 1/2" steel, you will), size will matter. In the New York area, no self respecting pizzeria would offer a slice pie that's less than 18" and many go much higher into the 21" realm and beyond. This is where the magic happens. It may seem insignificant now, but as you move up the ladder towards pizza perfection, relatively insignificant factors start taking on much greater significance.

                                                                      As you noticed, you can find the same steel for about 1/2 the price locally. It depends on where you are, but I'd keep looking around a bit more- there's a good chance you might find a better price- in the 1/3 realm.

                                                                      When you say 'he thought of it first,' you're talking about marketing steel for pizza, correct? He definitely didn't come up with the idea of baking pizza on steel. Commercial pizza ovens have been offering steel decks for at least 25 years and I've been recommending steel for the home baker quite a while before Modernist Cuisine (Andris' inspiration) was printed.

                                                                      And you'll have to excuse me if I don't give Andris 'credit' for being a good businessman. If you aren't informed or honest about your product, that's not good business. Once you throw truthful advertising out the window, people like Bernie Madoff start qualifying as 'good businessmen.'

                                                                      Btw, plasma isn't necessary for cutting a36 steel. If you can find someone who will do a shear cut, it might be a little less expensive.

                                                                      1. re: scott123

                                                                        >> And you'll have to excuse me if I don't give Andris 'credit' for being a good businessman. If you aren't informed or honest about your product, that's not good business.

                                                                        But that's the thing-- I don't see Andris being dishonest. In fact, he seems to be quite forthcoming.

                                                                        To wit:

                                                                        He asked for $3,000 to get his business off the ground-- a reasonable amount to do a round or two of production and get a small business going with a simple round or two of production. It's not his fault that Kickstarter and the internets got him $40,000. Now, if he had asked for $40,000 to begin with, I'd say that was dishonest. The fact that he only asked for $3,000 indicates to me that he's not out to deceive.

                                                                        Additionally, he's very forthcoming about the inspiration for the steel coming from Modernist Cuisine. He's not pulling a Christopher Kimball where he takes Kenji's ingenious recipe for vodka pie crust and sticks a "Cooks Illustrated" label over it. (Even if the recipe was legally theirs since Kenji created it as a CI employee, its unethical to not give credit every time they use the recipe on their TV show.) And Andris is not claiming to be a master (or even a pro) baker-- just an enthusiastic amateur who likes to make pizza as a hobby, and who read a book to help him up his game. No deception here.

                                                                        Lastly, Andris is not making any claims that the baking steel is anything other than a block of steel. He's not doing a Billy Mays style high pressure line like, "Our baking steel features all natural, toxin free X16 browning power, to make your pizzas extra crisp!" EDIT: I see one of the stone's features is that it is "Pre-seasoned with our proprietary oil" which admittedly is a little scammy.

                                                                        Yes, there's marketing bluster about the thing being green, and the zippered case is a ridiculous $30+ add-on, and it appears there is considerable markup on the metal itself. But is it dishonest business practice to charge more for something than its worth? (Now you get into the grey area of value, which is an intensely personal judgment call). We're not talking about necessities-- food, clothing, shelter, where price gouging would be clearly unethical. This is a luxury item for people with a hobby, with a little extra cash to burn, and Andris is selling directly to them. He's clearly not selling to those of us who are frugal, resourceful, or just stubborn enough to buy our own steel from a metal shop.

                                                                        As for his claims about Neapolitan pizza at home, it smacks more of ignorance of the VPN regs than of anything else. Remember, this guy is not a pro. He's just a guy who works in a steel mill who got a business idea from reading a book. Yeah, I agree that he should remove all mention of claims that one can make "Neopolitan style pizza at home", and that's just about the greatest criticism I can hurl at the guy.

                                                                        Would you consider Andris to be "informed and honest" about his product if he came out and said, point blank, "The baking stone is made from A36 rolled steel which you can get for 1/3 to 1/2 the price at your local metal shop." It seems to me your criticism stems from the fact that he isn't doing exactly that.

                                                                        If I've misunderstood you, I invite you to clarify what I've posited here.

                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                          At the top of his Kickstarter page, he states,

                                                                          "Create Neapolitan style pizza or artisan breads right at home, without investing in a brick oven. Create the crust you crave."

                                                                          This is blatantly false advertising. Steel (at any thickness) cannot produce Neapolitan/brick oven bake times. He used a misquoted blurb from a book as the basis for his claim:


                                                                          It's one thing for a book to be incorrect or misquoted in promotional materials, but if you're selling a product, you better do you're homework. And Andris did not. As I said earlier, I spoke with Nathan Myrvold


                                                                          around the time the book was being published about these claims and he has since come out with a correction:


                                                                          *The related clarification can be found in the 3rd and 4th entry in the Volume 2: Techniques and Equipment section

                                                                          Andris, unfortunately, never got that message. He used a misquoted advertisement and never actually read the book that was supposed to be his inspiration. He also never followed up on any clarifications. Both the original text of the book and the correction completely dispute his claim (as does anyone else who's baked with steel).

                                                                          Zero homework. I'd like to say it's just ignorance, but he's been aware of this discrepancy for around 8 months and has done nothing to correct his claim. When he's aware that the statements he's making are untrue and does nothing to correct them, that's no longer ignorance.

                                                                          1. re: scott123

                                                                            The critical distinction is that Nathan Myhrvold positions himself as an expert on a topic, while Andris is not, and makes no claims to be.

                                                                            If I imagine a scenario where Nathan Myhrvold is selling his own branded steel with claims touching on VPN standards, I would indeed have a greater problem with it. I don't hold a steel worker with an idea to the same standard of precision that I do someone who lays claims to be an authority on a topic.

                                                                            However, I agree that if Andris is in fact aware of the difference, and moving forward he should modify his language. But I don't fault him for making the mistake to begin with. He's just one guy starting a tiny business that became disproportionately popular way too quickly. There's bound to be bumps in the road.

                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                              Everyone has made some really interesting points. Any questions or uncertainties I had about this whole baking steel business have all been spoken to. Very informative!

                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                While Kickstarter has many members who are actively seeking investors, the manner in which Andris is utilizing it is less from the perspective of investments and more in the form of a marketplace. Saying "donate $72 and I'll send you this steel plate" is no different than "buy this steel plate for $72." Start-ups seeking investment are free to make mistakes, but the moment you start selling merchandise, the moment you say "hey, buy this" you have to be informed about your product, regardless of whether or not you're an amateur or a professional.

                                                                                If I find someone on Craig's list selling speakers, they're free to quote specs from other trusted commercial sources, but they're not free to talk about things like ohms and speaker impedance if they don't know what these things are themselves.

                                                                                I don't care who you are, if you're selling something, and you make a claim, you had better be able to back that up.

                                                                                1. re: scott123

                                                                                  Well that's the thing, isn't it? Sites like Kickstarter have effectively blurred the line between investments and marketplaces. Do you think an investor in a non-virtual business deal doesn't receive some kind of kickback from the business as a reward for their faith in the product? Kickstarter just codifies this deal with predetermined "levels of support". I see it as being quite similar to my $50 donation to NPR, which gets me a tote bag, but I would never consider that a purchase. There is a clear distinction, even if it is largely academic.

                                                                                  Additionally, Kickstarter introduces us to Andris, almost like a "friend" (in the diluted, insincere Facebook sense). Knowing the story behind a product affects its value, for better or worse, and Kickstarter provides that story, and puts a sympathetic face to it.

                                                                                  Consider in the case of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings, discovering the stories behind his paintings converted them from worthless bits of artistic obscurity to priceless masterpieces.

                                                                                  In Andris' case, although the story provided an initial upswing in value with the groundswell of support from the internets, in the long run Andris' story decreases value because we know we can secure more or less the same product ourselves, at considerably less expense. And if we you and I can secure it cheaply and easily, and if the popularity of the steel continues to rise, copycat companies are sure to pounce on the idea, manufacture them in China, and drive the price way down.

                                                                                  Andris' had better be considering some major innovating in order to differentiate his product from every other copycat that is sure to roll down the line. In the meantime, I do hope that he is enjoying his burst of success.

                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                        2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                          I think it's pretty great that you called a steel mill and priced everything out.

                                                                2. re: treestonerivershrub

                                                                  I use steel for pizza. I've gotten better results from it than i got from stone. The reason is pretty straight-forward - it delivers more heat to the crust at any given temperature due to its increased conductivity (as long as you have a piece that's thick enough).

                                                                  But keep in mind that steel mainly helps given a few conditions:

                                                                  1) Your oven isn't capable of heating a stone to the 700-800+ degrees that is ideal for certain kinds of pizza. If your oven is hot enough - you have a huge element or maybe you've messed with the self-cleaning function - then steel can burn the undercrust before the pizza is cooked.

                                                                  2) You're able to generate enough top heat to match the increased heat from the steel. If you have a top-of-oven broiler, this is usually a non-issue. But in some cases, people may find that they're burning the bottom of the crust before the top is fully cooked.

                                                                  3) You're aiming for a quicker rise, looser crumb structure style of pizza in the first place. Steel can be useful for both quasi-Neapolitan style pizza and NY style. But some people use other kinds of dough or have their own work-arounds for home-oven-pizza, and I couldn't say what would work best for them.

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    Thank you for sharing your experiences! This is all really helpful.

                                                                3. I've had my pizza stone for years. The surface is a shiny as glass and almost black. I leave it in the oven on the middle rack and simply set any pan or whatever on it. I made a 'peel' from a sturdy piece of cardboard the same diameter as the stone. I put the pizza ready to go onto the stone on the 'peel' then gently slide the pizza off the 'peel' onto the stone. When the pizza is ready to remove I carefully slide the oven rack out of the oven a few inches and using a pair of tongs I grab the pizza and slide it carefully into my homemade peel then onto the cutting board. 'No biggy'. I sprinkle a little corn meal onto the hot stone just before sliding on the pizza. I've never even thought of washing the stone. The buildup of the oils from the cheese/olive oil is my stones 'patina'.

                                                                  1. Once to pizza stone is preheated do I turn off the oven and is the stone expensive?

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Fmcnama

                                                                      No, you do not turn off the oven.

                                                                      Every pizza stone has instructions in the box if you need to soak it the first time, maximum temperature you can use etc..

                                                                      $10-$50, doing a search on Amazon.

                                                                    2. Do not wash your pizza stone (we call ours the pizza rock). They are porous and will retain any soap or chemical you put on it.

                                                                      I clean mine as soon as it is cooled with a hot water and a plastic scrubby or a brush.

                                                                      With use of the years, it will discolor and become "seasoned." That's when it's perfect.