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Pizza Saga Continues- Help with a Pizza Stone??

Hi CHs-

Those who have read my previous posts will know I've been after good local pizza (Dufferin & Lawrence)- and have not managed to find any. Even the "good" chains do not deliver to us- and we are too far away from other recommended places- if anyone has new ideas- please share!

So- I've taken to just making my own- which is quite enjoyable. I like my crust/sauce recipes, so I'm pretty happy. I bought a pizza stone from Pampered Chef (first thing I've ever bought from them), based on a recommendation from a friend who has had hers for 5+ years (her hubby uses it in the oven, bbq etc). They happened to be at my place of work- so I figured, what the heck I'll try it.

Well- my stone has cracked each and every time I used it. I'm on my 3rd stone- and it too cracked on my 3rd use. The previous ones cracked on first use- leading us to believe they were somewhat defective. One thing I can say is that they haven't given me any trouble with the exchanges, and I've now asked for a full refund.

My question is two fold-
1) any recommendations on where to buy a good stone? What to look for specifically?
2) how do you use yours? I was always under the impression you should put the stone in a cold oven and let the oven/stone heat together. After doing this with the first two stones, I was told by PC that this was not the case- they recommend heating the oven, placing the stone in, and then letting the stone heat up. I tried that too- but didn't seem to make the difference. I don't have the worlds best oven, and perhaps the issue is poor heat conduction. The other thing I question, is whether there needs to be more food on the stone. PC states that if there isn't enough on the stone this can cause it to crack. I'm putting a ~ 10 inch pizza on a ~15" stone.

Thanks for the help....

In the pursuit of a good pie-
S

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  1. Haha - my PC stone also cracked the first time I used it. I haven't even bothered with getting a replacement because it seems VERY common, and if I have to baby the thing with special care, I'm not interested. I think they are for people who bake their pizza at 400F or something. Maybe I will seek out a refund.
    Anyway, the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day website recently did a review of pizza stones - and alternatives. They rated cast iron as a great choice, and it will of course never crack. Not the cheapest option but if you already have a piece of cast iron you can repurpose it like we have our grill pan.
    I'm also currently using my broken stone on top of a cheapie pizza pan that effectively holds the pieces together.

    http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=...

    1. I had a huge, industrial-grade stone (over 1" thick) that I found years ago at Brookstone. Mine didn't just crack -- it busted right in half -- diagonally! -- when I dropped the stupid thing. (It weighed a ton.)

      I used it anyway for years - and only got rid of it when we relocated to Europe -- it would have been too big to put in my little (but mighty!) oven anyway, and I couldn't see the wisdom in shipping a busted stone.

      If I ever find another one, I'll buy it in a heartbeat....it was black and shiny from all the crud that had spilled on it over the years (pizza, mostly...)...but it was also mostly nonstick, too.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842

        Thank you both! I'll look into cast iron...
        and yes- I should clarify- mine is split right in half! I keep using the larger piece- and it does a good job- just not sure if I should bother trying to find one that is more durable.

        I'll check out that site Jules... thanks.

        1. re: shariberri

          Cast iron isn't really a good material for a pizza "stone". It transfers heat too quickly, which will result in a crust that burns before the toppings have cooked.

          get a piece of cordierite, like the old stone oven piece recommended below. It's got substantial heat capacity, good heat conductance, good mechanical properties (it doesn't break, unless you drop it.), spectacular resistance to temperature differences (it won't crack if you take it out of the oven and put it in your freezer, or when you put cold dough on it.). It's what the vast majority of commercial deck ovens are lined with. The downside of it is that its got a substantial heat capacity, so it takes a long time to get to temperature. It's also used as kiln furniture (shelves to put unfired pottery on, etc), which is probably the origin of the very thick piece sunshine used to own.

          I don't know what sort of pizza your trying to make, nor what problems you have,

      2. FWIW, I have a PC stone in my oven. It lives there. There's not always something on top of it and it has never cracked. It sounds defective.

        If I had to get another stone I'd look at getting a natural, unglazed stone from a tile dealer.

        DT

        1. I think that I have this one:

          http://www.amazon.com/Old-Stone-Oven-...

          It is hard for me to remember for sure, because I have had it for nearly 15 yrs. Technically, it 's my husband's, since I gave it to him as a gift when we were still dating. Except when we have moved, it is in the oven and never comes out. It is never washed, just periodically scraped off with a long handled metal spatula. We've been making great pizzas on it for years without any problems.

          1. Cook's Illustrated tested baking stones and highly recommended the baking stone by Old Stone Oven #4467. You can order it at King Arthur Flour or Amazon.

            You can also line your oven with unglazed quarry tiles.

            1 Reply
            1. re: observor

              my old stone oven pizza/baking stone came today from amazon - very well wrapped and padded. it's impressive. hoping to start using it next week as soon as the oven is hooked up.

            2. Here is a well known CH source for all pizza related issues...

              http://www.pizzamaking.com/

              1. I finally got a decent stone after using a rather small one for years. Wm-Sonoma has a good one that is thicker than my old one, and it has raised ridges on the bottom so it's easy to get your fingers underneath to pick it up. (They aren't regular "feet" which could catch on the oven rack and tilt.) I've wondered about that Fibrament baking stone - anyone use it?

                9 Replies
                1. re: breadchick

                  It's not suitable for baking pizza on. Not enough heat capacity, too low heat transfer. It's better than nothing, but it's more expensive than better, less expensively marketed products.

                  1. re: breadchick

                    I've used a Fibrament twice so far, and I'm very pleased with it. I liked my old workhorse of a stone as well, but this is really pleasant. Pizza is out in 4 minutes with great char.

                    Actually, the attached pie was out in about 3.5 minutes.

                     
                     
                    1. re: tommy

                      Tommy, Great Pics. What is your oven,gas/elec/convect,and how high of a temp can you achieve? Thanks.

                      1. re: ospreycove

                        Electric convection. The stone gets to about 640 degrees on the top rack, and I turn on the broiler as I'm assembling the pie, which brings it (or at least its surface) to over 670 degrees. The broiler also presumably heats up the top of the oven as well, which no doubt helps.

                        I've seen people time and time again suggest that they don't heat their stone, or that they heat it for 20 or 30 minutes. One person recently even suggested that they assemble the pizza on a cold stone, and then move the whole thing into the oven. Baffling.

                        The fact of the matter is if you want the stone to get as hot as it can, which is generally the goal for pizza, then you need to preheat it for no less than an hour. I preheat for more than an hour, and I open and close the door during that process to get the oven to cycle on. The proof is in the results. Although, some people don't mind cooking a pizza for 10 minutes or longer. That is not my preference as the crust turns into cardboard. I look for more of a Neapolitan-style.

                          1. re: observor

                            which part? that's the thing. the only impressive part should be the results, and only if you like results like that. otherwise my comments and thoughts and experience should be considered with the same value and weight as those of people who put pizza in a cold oven and cook it for 20 minutes.

                            there's nothing impressive happening here, other than constantly reaching for a goal.

                            1. re: tommy

                              The extent to which you are efforting correct results. People who would pay a lot of money for a pizza stone and not heat it are missing out.

                              1. re: observor

                                I'm finding it's an uphill battle. For every good piece of advise there seems to be 5 that are simply wrong and would produce nothing but a mediocre meal.

                                1. re: tommy

                                  Yes, there is so much misinformation propagated by people...I guess one just has to take into account the variations and come to one's own conclusions.

                  2. I had a PC stone that cracked in half but only after years of use. Someone here said he/she continued to use their stone, just place to two sides together. I wish I had done that instead of throwing mine out. As Davwud said, you can use unglazed quarry tiles for a stone and you'll be set for whatever size/shape bread or pizza you make. I bought mine at Home Depot (if you don't see it , ask--I had to) and they were about 35 cents a piece--I only need 6 for my oven but bought 9. They've worked fine for almost two years, although I don't bake bread in the summer because of the heat.

                    1. I was using the Lodge 14" cast iron pizza pan for a while both in my kitchen oven and on my Weber grill until I built my own wfo.

                      http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c36...

                      1. Had problems with stones and in frustration started using an el cheapo 16" metal pizza pan I bought at Walmart. I dust the pan with flour and stretch the dough out until the pan is covered. Load the other ingredients on and put the pan in a cold electric oven with the rack in lowest to next to lowest position. Set oven on bake @ 500 degrees. Rotate pan 1/4 turn every 5-6 minutes and bake about 18 minutes. I keep a 4'' mud knife (sheetrock tool) handy to separate the pizza from the pan. Take a look at dough recipe at this site: http://www.fornobravo.com/ They recommend using a scale to weigh out dough ingredients and that certainly made it easier to achieve consistant (and tasty) results

                        1. Thank you all so much- a lot of things to consider... for now I'll stick with my broken PC stone... i am thinking about that Old Stone Oven as recommended by a few of you.... thanks also for all of the other recommendations- and that fabulous pizza link!

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: shariberri

                            re the old stone oven stone...it has little 'feet' ...is is supposed to sit on the floor of the oven or on the bottom rack and the feet go between?

                            1. re: redgirl

                              I think it depends on your oven. I have always placed mine on the bottom rack. The feet aren't "in between", they rest on the rack with out any difficulty or wobbling. I've used it this way in 6 different ovens without any problem. However, if your oven doesn't have a heating element on the bottom, you can place it there also. Like I said, depends on the oven, and how you want to use it.

                            2. re: shariberri

                              I used my PC stone for YEARS...bought it when my children were toddlers and they are 15/17 now...my husband broke it one year during Thanksgiving and I got a replacement that is still going strong...I never wash mine though, did you? Im wondering what the element is that has caused three to break...one, maybe defective, but three...prob not. Anyway, I just scrape off excess and turn the broiler on (its been used in gas and elec ovens) to burn any that wont come off. I leave it in the oven all of the time. As for usage, I never preheat the stone. Mainly, b/c it is so hard to handle when it is hot...I have the rack, but dont use it, go figure, LOL...do u add any oil or anything to yours? I dont put anything on it, and Ive never really had much stick to it...it has a very dark brown/charred patina now and does VERY well.

                              1. re: ckw1205

                                I preheat the stone because you need it hot when you're making bread/pizza. I never take it out, though. I use a pizza peel and/or parchment paper to put in and remove bread and pizza. I think the extreme heat of the stone and the cold dough (well, room temp dough) caused mine to break down over time. I also washed mine, mostly scraping off under water is all.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  The dough didn't cause it to break. The washing likely did.

                                  1. re: tommy

                                    +1
                                    Never let water near my pizza stone. Minor "spills" will burn off, major accidents get cleaned with a pastry scraper.

                                2. re: ckw1205

                                  I have two PC stones, a good sized rectangle, and a smaller round one. The rectangle stays in the oven all the time, and I haven't had any problems with it. Works as well as my good, fancy stone (which was an arrangement of stones on a flat sheet, I forget where I got it, but it was just too heavy).