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Is a Pizza Stone necessary?

Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 01:05 PM

I do love pizza. But, I have never made it! I am a pretty swift home cook and fairly decent baker, but I have recently taken an interest in learning and trying more bread baking. I got some mushrooms, great Jersey tomatoes and some very tasty 'zucchini and turkey sausage' meat at the greenmarket today. Along with those topping and some sweet basil from my first ever home garden (okay, garden box, but I live in the city and I am proud of my first-born herbs!), and good fresh mozzarella, I intend to make some pizza tomorrow.

The thing is...I don't have a stone or anything else one might use other than the back of a baking sheet. A food blogger whom I enjoy and respect, said that she uses a stone but has used parchment/cornmeal/back of baking sheet and was thrilled with the results.

Part of me had no problem running out and buying a pizza stone tomorrow. But, I probably won't want to spend a lot on one. And...of course, there is always the possibility that the idea of making pizza sounds great to me, but I will actually not like it. That happens to me a lot. ;) So, should I get a stone (or an alternative)? Or should I hold off until after my first shot at pizza and still get good results? If you think I should hold off, please let me know any tips to making a great pizza without a stone. THANKS!

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  1. Justpaula RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 01:08 PM

    Oh! And of you think a pizza stone is a must, I will appreciate any suggestions for one that does the job without breaking the bank. And if I can make an easy run to Bed, Bath & Beyond or Target, specifically, for it that would be a huge plus.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Justpaula
      v
      VenusCafe RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 01:21 PM

      A pizza stone is an absolute must.
      I've got the one offered by the King Arthur site, and I'm going to get
      a second stone for above the pizza. That one will be the pizza piece by Emile Henri at Sur la Table.
      Both were and are $50, with the Emile Henri winning the contest. It is a fine stone and can be used for many things. You will need to spend that, but not more! And keep in mind the formula if you are going for a Napoli style thin pizza. As much over 500 degrees as you can get (probably on CONVECTION ROAST, and it should be done in 5 minutes. Six minutes at most. That formula will keep you on track as you experiment. I conquered pizza just this year after over 20 years of trying. My secret was skipping the dough making and buying Wolfgang Puck's pizza dough at Gelson's. Good idea for a first step; later you can do your own. The flour used in pizza dough will vary depending upon HOW HOT you can get your oven. Under 500 calls for a different flour than a hotter oven, and 400 degrees would call for a still different flour. HOT HOT HOT! Some people even cook pizza on the oven cleaning designaation which is super high, but I don't recommend that. All this temperature advice pertains to thin crust pizza. Also keep the toppings light; that keeps the crust from being soggy. There are some GREAT sites online for pizza info, and some really obsessed pizziolas!
      Good luck.

      1. re: VenusCafe
        c
        ChiliDude RE: VenusCafe Jun 5, 2012 12:35 PM

        D'accordo (I agree)! Not only do I use my rectangular one for baking pizza, but also for baking bread. I was a gift from our daughter and son-in-law.

        Also, THIN CRUST RULES!!

        1. re: ChiliDude
          v
          VenusCafe RE: ChiliDude Jul 9, 2012 01:12 AM

          The main reason a pizza stone is necessary has to do with temperature. When I do my
          oven on Convection Roast, I can dial in a temp of 550. When I preheat for 30 min, I am at temp 550. After an hour preheat my oven still says 550. BUT MY STONE MEASURES
          670 degrees! That higher stone temp represents the stone's accurmulative heat, and is called 'inert' something. It is a huge advantage.

        2. re: VenusCafe
          hambone RE: VenusCafe Aug 30, 2013 03:33 PM

          pizza places here in Brooklyn will sell you a ball of dough. (About $2 per.)

        3. re: Justpaula
          g
          Girdletocrave RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 01:23 PM

          My husband and I are pizza snobs, so I am really a pizza stone fan. When properly preheated, it gives you that crisp and chewy crust I love. The inexpensive ones are fine. Just make sure your pizza peal is the same size or smaller if the stone comes with a wire rack that makes lifting the stone easier.
          Here is an alternative

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/299775

          Have a great pizza experience. I love my basil and envy you your tomatoes.

        4. todao RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 01:26 PM

          A pizza stone is not "necessary", but it's a plus. A good quality baking sheet will produce a good pizza so, IMO, you might find some benefit in using something like that until you've had time to get some experience with pizza making.
          "A food blogger whom I enjoy and respect, said that she uses a stone but has used parchment/cornmeal/back of baking sheet and was thrilled with the results."
          Can't really argue with the practicality of that statement.
          However, a good pizza stone does wonders for crust development because, unlike a baking sheet, it's thoroughly heated before the pizza is placed upon it. Not that you can't preheat a baking sheet; you certainly can. But it's more difficult to manage and tends to take some of the fun out of the process.
          In selecting a pizza stone, avoid those with "accessory" attachments like handles, raised platforms, etc. Select one that's a suitable size (usually around $30)
          http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/produ...
          http://www.target.com/p/Pizza-Stone-R...
          and whether it's round or square isn't really an issue. They'll both work fine.
          Follow the instruction that come with the stone VERY carefully. Proper pre-heating, avoiding exposure to cold items (e.g. cold water spritz, etc.) can ruin a good stone in an instant. Been there; done that.
          Storage is also an important consideration and your instructions will guide you in that respect also.
          Just as important as the stone is the peel. When you purchase one, purchase the other at the same time. Season the peel and store it either hanging vertically or resting vertically on its side (I cover mine with heavy brown paper bag material to absorb any excess oils and prevent them from infiltrating the shelving surfaces.
          )Hint:
          When you're first starting out, make your pizza small. Avoid trying to create some extraordinarily large pizza. You can prepare several small size if you need to ... and it'll give you the opportunity to try a wider variety of toppings to see how they work for you.

          1. e
            escondido123 RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 01:48 PM

            I will let others debate the pizza stone question and instead give you some thoughts on how to keep your pizza from being soggy because of the ingredients--specifically the fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. They both contain a lot of water which will show up on the pizza and sog it out so here's how I deal with them. Slice tomatoes in half and remove obvious seeds/jelly/liquid. Slice both tomato and cheese medium to thin,spread on paper towels and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cover with more paper towels and press until towels become soaked. Repeat as necessary. Once they are pretty dry just leave on towel or paper plate until ready to assemble the pizza. The other secret with ingredients is not to use too much--though lots of fresh herbs and olive oil do make a big difference.

            22 Replies
            1. re: escondido123
              todao RE: escondido123 Jun 3, 2012 01:51 PM

              Great advice. Only thing I'd add to the "avoid soggy pizza" ingredients list is fresh mushrooms. If you're going to use them either precook and add late in the baking process (so they're on the pizza just long enough to heat through) or use them very sparingly.

              1. re: todao
                Justpaula RE: todao Jun 3, 2012 02:15 PM

                I just saw this after I responded to escondido. Reading about the possible sog-factor, I realized that, yes, the mushrooms need to be considered carefully. After reading all of these great responses, I think I am going to go with a reasonably priced stone from BBB, and stick with just tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and some dots of the sausage (it is not encased). which I will pre-cook. I think I am going to use the New York Thin Crust Recipe from Cooks Illustrated Cookbook. I prefer a chewy but crispy crust and that looks like the better option from that cookbook. Thinking about it, my preference for crispy sort of answers my OP, huh??

                I am sure you have all made my pizza making potential a lot stronger.

                1. re: todao
                  The Professor RE: todao Jun 3, 2012 03:26 PM

                  I'm confused...I always use sliced, fresh Crimini mushrooms on my pizza and have never, ever had them result in soggy crust!

                  But to answer the original posted question, I think a pizza stone is an _absolute_ must if you're looking to do the classic New York/New Jersey style pizza.
                  Two other things absolutely vital are to make sure you use dough that was made at least the day before...fresh dough makes really crappy pizza, and to preheat the oven with the stone(s) in place for at least an hour or more. 575°F is as hot as I can get my home oven and it works fine, but. the pizzeria I worked in many years ago, we ran the ovens at around 750°F. An insanely hot oven is very important for great pizza.

                  1. re: The Professor
                    e
                    escondido123 RE: The Professor Jun 3, 2012 04:30 PM

                    We make our pizza dough the same day and cook our pizza at 500. We had it Friday night and it was chewy and crunchy with great flavor...not crappy at all.

                    1. re: escondido123
                      todao RE: escondido123 Jun 4, 2012 10:13 AM

                      Justpaula - referring to "fresh dough makes really crappy pizza"

                      While I agree that a fermented dough makes a better pizza (or bread for that matter) a freshly made dough that's had time to run through at least one rise will provide a satisfying pizza crust. I sometimes even prepare a dough two or three days ahead of time, but not everyone has the opportunity to do that. Don't shy away from making pizza because you haven't time to allow for fermentation. Just work with what you have and enjoy.

                      1. re: escondido123
                        todao RE: escondido123 Jun 4, 2012 10:23 AM

                        Justpaula - referring to "fresh dough makes really crappy pizza"
                        While I agree that a dough that's been allowed to ferment for a day or two offers more flavor in the crust, I disagree that a freshly made dough makes a "crappy" pizza. I sometimes ferment a dough for two or three days but I understand that not everyone has the opportunity to do that. As long as your dough has had a chance to experience at least one rise cycle you can still make a very nice pizza with good flavor and texture. Don't shy away from making pizza because you don't have time to ferment the dough. Just go for it and enjoy.

                        1. re: escondido123
                          The Professor RE: escondido123 Jun 4, 2012 05:22 PM

                          LOL. Just an opinion, that's all.
                          I guess "crappy" was the wrong word to use.
                          Occasionally on extremely busy days in the pizzeria we sometimes miscalculated and started running out of properly made dough and wound up having to use dough made the same day.
                          You're right, it wasn't bad, just not as good as with fermented dough.
                          I considered it crappy only in comparison to the superior texture and flavor of the "day before" dough.

                          1. re: The Professor
                            e
                            escondido123 RE: The Professor Jun 4, 2012 08:53 PM

                            For me, the "day before" dough can begin to veer into sourdough territory and I hate sour dough.

                            1. re: escondido123
                              The Professor RE: escondido123 Jun 5, 2012 12:27 PM

                              Interesting. I have never had it develop into "sourdough" since
                              1) I use regular bread yeast and
                              2) the dough lives in the refrigerator after a short initial rise.

                              I think what I've always liked about the 'day before' dough has more to do with the resulting texture of both the outer crust and the thin crust underneath all of the toppings. Probably a result of giving the gluten a chance to further develop slowly.

                              1. re: The Professor
                                s
                                sandylc RE: The Professor Jun 5, 2012 12:37 PM

                                Fresh dough does NOT make crappy pizza, by any means. Aged dough makes very nice pizza, but does indeed take on a sour smell if aged for more than 24 hours or so.

                                1. re: The Professor
                                  cowboyardee RE: The Professor Jun 5, 2012 12:53 PM

                                  "I think what I've always liked about the 'day before' dough has more to do with the resulting texture of both the outer crust and the thin crust underneath all of the toppings. Probably a result of giving the gluten a chance to further develop slowly."
                                  _______
                                  In my experience, you can achieve the same texture with a fresh dough (rise of a couple hours) by making sure to knead it enough, using flour with enough gluten, getting the moisture balance right, and cooking it hot and fast enough. The main thing aging dough seems to accomplish is a difference in flavor - it's only necessary for gluten development when the gluten is underdeveloped prior to aging.

                                  Locally, I know of a decent wood-fired oven Neapolitan pizza place that gets excellent texture to their crust (lightly charred cracker under-crust, crispy and slightly charred top crust, chewy interior texture with a large uneven crumb) - and I know for a fact that they make their dough daily for the same day's service.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee
                                    tommy RE: cowboyardee Jun 5, 2012 01:09 PM

                                    What Neapolitan place is this?

                                    1. re: cowboyardee
                                      tommy RE: cowboyardee Jun 5, 2012 01:27 PM

                                      Thx

                                    2. re: cowboyardee
                                      e
                                      escondido123 RE: cowboyardee Jun 5, 2012 02:19 PM

                                      My bread is made from a fairly wet dough that rests for 20 minutes after mixing in the Kitchenaid, gets a 60 stroke knead with damp hands on granite and no additional flour except on the board where dough rests, rest 1 hr, stretch and fold, rest 1 hour, quick 8 fold knead, rest 1 hr, then final shaping and rest while the oven heats to 500 along with round Le Cruset with lid. Dough gets set into pan, top cut and lid on for 25 minutes, then lid off for another 30. Crunchy, chew, lovely every time.

                                      1. re: escondido123
                                        cowboyardee RE: escondido123 Jun 5, 2012 03:33 PM

                                        How do you adapt that for pizza? (I'd assumed you were talking about using this dough for pizza upthread) Bake the bread into a vaguely pizza-y shape, cool, apply toppings, bake again until melty?

                                        1. re: cowboyardee
                                          e
                                          escondido123 RE: cowboyardee Jun 5, 2012 04:16 PM

                                          Sorry, cowboy, I forgot we were talking only about pizza dough so obviously you would not put it into the LC and bake. You'd just use it like any pizza dough. We put it on parchment paper on the peel, press it out, let it rest, press again and let sit for a bit, add toppings and slide onto stone in 500 oven.

                              2. re: escondido123
                                tommy RE: escondido123 Jun 5, 2012 04:58 AM

                                How does your dough develop great flavor the same day? Are you adding sugar and olive oil or something?

                                1. re: tommy
                                  e
                                  escondido123 RE: tommy Jun 5, 2012 07:59 AM

                                  I make all my dough in one day and find it has great flavor--no sugar, no olive oil, just a little salt. 5 hours from Kitchenaid to oven. When we go to dinner at someone else's house, they always ask if I'll bring that "great" bread.

                                  1. re: escondido123
                                    tommy RE: escondido123 Jun 5, 2012 08:21 AM

                                    What kind of yeast?

                                    1. re: tommy
                                      e
                                      escondido123 RE: tommy Jun 5, 2012 09:13 AM

                                      Fleischmann's Yeast. They label it "Bread Machine" yeast but we don't use a bread machine.

                          2. re: escondido123
                            Justpaula RE: escondido123 Jun 3, 2012 02:07 PM

                            Thank you so much for this important info! Originally, I was just going to go with the fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella (even when we order pizza in, I always have to have the "I don't like that many toppings" discussion with my husband.) But, the turkey farm vendor offered samples of the sausage and while I initially thought it would figure into a nice dish with farm eggs, I had forgotten that eating poultry with eggs gives my hubs the creeps. My point is, I understand that it is not a great idea to bog down the pizza with too much. Maybe I will use the mushrooms in a salad on the side.

                            You instructions on dealing with the moisture from the tomatoes and cheese sounds very valuable. I will most definitely take these steps.

                            1. re: Justpaula
                              e
                              escondido123 RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 04:32 PM

                              Good to cook the sausage ahead. We also do the mushrooms ahead, slicing and browning them well in olive oil. Adds wonderful flavor--and it's kind of a vegetable!

                          3. grampart RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 02:03 PM

                            I bought one of these about 6 years ago and it's still going strong. Highly recommended. http://www.bakingstone.com/

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: grampart
                              JoanN RE: grampart Jun 5, 2012 05:55 AM

                              +1 on the FibraMent. I used quarry tiles when I first started making pizza, but they kept breaking on me. Bought a FibraMent stone about 10 years ago. It lives permanently on the floor of my oven. Love that stone. And although quarry tiles may be cheaper initially, the FibraMent has paid for itself in longevity.

                            2. s
                              shallots RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 02:14 PM

                              I made pizzas for many years without a stone. Baked them on cookie sheets that weren't preheated. They were tasty.

                              But then we moved out in the country where pizza isn't very good from our local store.

                              So I started reading up, bought Reinhart's book "American Pie" after borrowing it from the library and enjoying the read about his quest.

                              With his book and recipes, a good stone, and patience, I now make pizzas that slide off the piel, onto the stone, and cook quickly and become awesome eating experiences.

                              Unless you really have great instincts from other baking learning, the perfect pizza isn't going to happen overnight. Learning is half the fun.

                              And read and reread the advice on here of how to avoid soggy pizza. ( I lightly spray thin sliced mushrooms with seasoned olive oil to keep the moisture in as they cook.)

                              1. m
                                meagan RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 03:13 PM

                                OK...I no longer think a pizza stone is necessary. I have had two and both have cracked while sitting in my oven. I can't remember what brands the pizza stones were, but they were both real pizza stone, not quarry tiles. The most recent one I noticed had cracked in several places. I always left the pizza stones in the oven, so maybe the frequent heating weakened them. Who knew? I do not plan to get another one, although I make pizza all the time. My latest technique uses Peter Reinhart's pizza neopolitan recipe. After making/rising the dough in the fridge, I put a ball of it on parchment paper for 2 hours on the counter. sometimes I flatten it, sometimes I don't. 1/2 hour before I am ready to bake, I preheat my oven (500 convection setting)and two heavy flat cookie sheets. then I roll/stretch the dough on the parchment and have all toppings prepped. When the oven is ready, I remove the cookie sheets, carefully place the rolled/stretched dough on top, then quickly put the toppings on. Then back in the hot oven for 10+ minutes. The pizza is great. I just have to be careful not to burn myself or my little helper dog who is always underfoot.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: meagan
                                  e
                                  escondido123 RE: meagan Jun 3, 2012 04:33 PM

                                  Our first pizza stone--they've all costs about $10--cracked after about a year. But since it still stayed together and we never took out of the oven, it still worked fine. Only threw it away because we sold the house and moved.

                                2. chowser RE: Justpaula Jun 3, 2012 03:24 PM

                                  You can also buy unglazed quarry tile for about 40 cents a piece. You only need six so it's not a huge investment. Another thing that works is cast iron with the broil function.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/683259

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: chowser
                                    ipsedixit RE: chowser Jun 4, 2012 08:03 AM

                                    +1

                                    1. re: chowser
                                      v
                                      vircabutar RE: chowser Jul 8, 2012 12:53 AM

                                      I concur!! Cook's illustrated did an article on how cast iron skillets (albeit very restrictive in size and shape) are really good alternatives to pizza stones. Not only do they hold heat well, but cast iron takes less time to preheat (whereas pizza stone you'd have to gradually heat otherwise it shatters).

                                      1. re: vircabutar
                                        tommy RE: vircabutar Jul 8, 2012 04:44 AM

                                        You most certainly do not have to heat a pizza stone gradually.

                                        1. re: tommy
                                          JoanN RE: tommy Jul 8, 2012 05:15 AM

                                          The instructions that came with my Fibrament stone explained that baking stones are porous and absorb moisture, even if just from the air. If that moisture, which turns to steam at 212°F, is forced out of the stone too quickly, the stone can shatter or develop cracks. They emphasize that a gradual increase in temperature is important for the longevity of the stone.

                                          Since all pizza stones are porous (they are, aren't they?), it seems this would hold true for other stones as well.

                                          Never been a problem for me since my stone lives on the floor of my oven and it takes a good 30-40 minutes for my oven to get up to pizza-making temps anyway.

                                          1. re: JoanN
                                            tommy RE: JoanN Jul 8, 2012 05:19 AM

                                            You heat your stone gradually?

                                            1. re: tommy
                                              JoanN RE: tommy Jul 8, 2012 06:03 AM

                                              As I said, my stone lives on the floor of the oven. I have an old gas oven and it takes a while to heat up so the stone is heating up gradually as the oven preheats. It's not something I think about.

                                              1. re: JoanN
                                                tommy RE: JoanN Jul 8, 2012 06:17 AM

                                                All ovens take a while to heat up. You are not doing anything special with respect to heating the stone slowly.

                                                One needs not heat a pizza stone gradually.

                                                1. re: tommy
                                                  s
                                                  sandylc RE: tommy Jul 8, 2012 12:19 PM

                                                  I think the "gradually" here means heating the stone while the oven heats rather than heating the oven first and then adding the stone.

                                                  I have been to kitchenware "parties" where they have rolled out their pizza dough right on the cold stone, topped it, and then placed the whole shebang in the preheated oven. The results were much less than stellar and it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

                                            2. re: JoanN
                                              s
                                              scott123 RE: JoanN Jul 10, 2012 01:42 AM

                                              All pizza stones are NOT porous- at least nowhere nearly as porous as Fibrament. Fibrament starts off as a wet refractory cement that's poured into a mold and allowed to set. As the cement sets, the water evaporates, leaving pores. Traditional pizza stones, namely cordierite, are kiln fired clay. The clay starts off in a much drier state (sometimes even a powder), and, after being fired in the kiln, the ceramic particles fuse together and create a non absorptive surface. Ceramic cordierite stones are far denser and far less absorptive than cementitious stones like Fibrament.

                                              This porosity/lack of density in Fibrament is actually a major fault, not an advantage. Where you have air, you have structural weakness, insulation/lack of thermal conductivity and lack of resistance to thermal shock. In certain settings, such as gas ovens without a broiler in the main compartment, the lack of conductivity can be an advantage, but in almost every other setting, the lack of conductivity makes Fibrament an inferior pizza stone.

                                              This porosity is why Fibrament includes instructions for 'curing' the stone before it's first use, i.e. heating it very slowly to drive off any moisture that's been accumulated in the stone. This is the only baking stone material that needs to be treated this way. Once 'cured,' the fibrament is supposed to be able to be pre-heated as you would any other stone, on your oven's highest temperature setting, although, if you live in a humid climate, you might want to use a longer, incremental pre-heat with Fibrament.

                                              Ideally, stone shoppers will read one of many online posts such as this one and not purchase Fibrament in the first place, or, if you do own a Fibrament stone, when it cracks (and they always eventually crack), you'll invest in a more durable material that doesn't require kid gloves.

                                              1. re: scott123
                                                JoanN RE: scott123 Jul 10, 2012 05:06 AM

                                                Very interesting. All I can say is I've had my Fibrament for at least 10 years now and it's lasted longer than any other stone I'd had previously. This is also the only stone I've had that remains in the oven. Since I don't do anything with or to it, other than scrape the gunk off once in a while, the only kid glove treatment it ever got was that first heating more than a decade ago. But I'll certainly remember your post next time I'm in the market for a stone.

                                      2. tommy RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 07:28 AM

                                        I've noticed that everyone thinks they make very good pizza. My advice is to skip the stone and see if you make really good pizza, and then stick with it if you're happy.

                                        1. j
                                          JeremyEG RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 07:48 AM

                                          I would get the stone. Not sure where you're located but here, an inexpensive stone pays for intself with a couple at-home pizza meals. Give it a shot.

                                          As others have suggested, get your oven as hot as possible and preheat the stone. A friend of mine suggests over an hour at 550 on convection roast. Good call.

                                          I haven't had many problems with soggy pizza either. Lately, I have been using more toppings that are either thrown on at the end or cooked for only a minute. Fresh ricotta from the farmers market, or torn pieces of fresh arugula. When the tomatoes are in season, I sometimes even slice them paper thin and drape them over the pizza at the end. Good stuff.

                                          Give the stone a shot and please report back!
                                          JeremyEG
                                          HomeCookLocavore.com

                                          1. cowboyardee RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 07:59 AM

                                            A pizza 'stone' specifically is unnecessary - there are a few alternatives that seem to work as well or even better in a home oven.

                                            Whether you need something more than the back of a baking sheet, OTOH - that depends on what effect you want/how picky you are about the crust.

                                            Making a pizza on a baking sheet will give the crust a 'bread-y' texture. You won't get any charring on the crust (unless you overcook the pizza by a good bit). You also won't get much crispiness. Some people like pizza crust like this - if you do, then a baking sheet is all you need.

                                            I started off with a sheet pan, but wanted a crust that was more distinctively pizza-esque. So I bought a baking stone, and used that for a while preheated in a 500 degree oven. Better, but I was aiming for something akin to Neapolitan style pizza, and a stone in a conventional oven made a crust that was still bready-er than I wanted. I tried quarry tiles briefly, and found the effect was pretty similar to a stone. What's worked significantly better for me: a heavy cast iron griddle preheated under the broiler, with the pizza then cooked under the broiler as well. I got the crispy outside, chewy inside effect I wanted - it only comes from a very quick cooking time in intense heat.

                                            Incidentally, I've also recently experimented a few times with assembling pizza in a preheated skillet on the stovetop and then quickly putting that under the broiler. This seems to get the same effect, and I like the method because you don't have to mess around with a peel, which takes a little practice to use well. I got the idea here:
                                            http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...
                                            Worth a read - it's a pretty clever method. Incidentally, I found that I got better results if I preheated my skillet in the oven before the stovetop because the cool-ish sides of the pan seemed to interfere with the cooking.

                                            1. w
                                              wyogal RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 08:36 AM

                                              No, not necessary. I make crusts on a baking sheet, par-baking them. Then I put the pizza directly on the rack without a pan after I've put the toppings on it, and put it back into a hot oven, about 450F, convection. They turn out great every time.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: wyogal
                                                pinehurst RE: wyogal Jun 4, 2012 08:57 AM

                                                +1. Caveat: we do not, nor did we ever do "thin crust" pizzas. But the cookie sheet method has worked nicely in our house since the 70's.

                                              2. c
                                                cajundave RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 09:40 AM

                                                This is the Pizza stone that I use on my smoker grill.I can get my grill up to 800 degrees.

                                                http://www.axner.com/cordierite-shelf...

                                                They are used in kilns so they are good to 2150 degrees.

                                                It wont crack.

                                                1. a
                                                  Allice98 RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 09:47 AM

                                                  You can certainly make pizza without one but as you mentioned that you are getting into bread making you will likely want one to also make breads directly on the stone. They are good at evening out oven temps when you aren't using them to bake on. They are a good buy in my humble opinion if you use your oven a lot.

                                                  1. tommy RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 10:39 AM

                                                    Here're two videos, one with a pizza stone, one without:

                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPKKCh...

                                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1j1QW...

                                                    I would advise to do everything differently.

                                                    1. westernmeadowlark RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 12:48 PM

                                                      Two words: cast iron

                                                      http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Logic-Cas...

                                                      This is my pizza "stone" and I love it! It gives a wonderful crust, holds heat well and will never ever break. I love making pizza, once you get the hang of it there are few easier or more fun meals :) We make pizza about once a week here. I use this crust recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo..., it is extremely reliable. Preheat your oven at 500 with the stone in it as soon as you start your dough rising. Roll the dough out (well floured, but i don't use cornmeal and I've never had a problem with it sticking to the cast iron), and have all your toppings prepped. Pull the cast iron pan out and reduce the heat in the oven to 450 (if you are going for a super thin crust pizza keep it at 500 and decrease cooking time) transfer it to the iron stone, top with the toppings and bake at 450 for 10 min, more or less.

                                                      but if you want to try making pizza without a stone, go ahead and use a cookie sheet - the results may not be quite as good but they'll still be very tasty :)

                                                      1. w
                                                        white light RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 05:36 PM

                                                        Another vote for the Fibrament Baking Stone. I spent a lot of time researching various stones and have been very happy with it.

                                                        http://www.bakingstone.com/

                                                        This peel will make your life much easier too:

                                                        http://www.superpeel.com/

                                                        And a very basic but awesome approach to making pizza at home:

                                                        http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeat...

                                                        1. b
                                                          bg90027 RE: Justpaula Jun 4, 2012 06:18 PM

                                                          I've never tried this but I've been intrigued by the idea of buying fireproof bricks and making a quasi brick oven for pizzas as suggested in this LA Times article from a few years back:

                                                          http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                          1. s
                                                            sandylc RE: Justpaula Jun 5, 2012 09:06 AM

                                                            Pizza dough secret: Although aged dough is AWAYS my first choice, you really can get a decent quick pizza by just stirring the dough together and using it RIGHT AWAY. Yes, it's true. No rising. Good for weeknights.

                                                            OK, everyone, attack! Just be sure that you note first that I said aged dough is best!

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: sandylc
                                                              cowboyardee RE: sandylc Jun 5, 2012 09:51 AM

                                                              Right away as in without a rise? What's the end effect, texture-wise? Do you use yeast (I guess for flavor alone)?

                                                              I've never tried making pizza from dough that hasn't risen. But I have compared dough that was made couple days ago and allowed to ferment a bit to dough that's only a few hours old.

                                                              IME, an aged dough develops flavors (namely a hint of fermented sourness and enhanced yeasty complexity) that a fresher dough does not have.

                                                              But aging a dough does NOT have much to do with getting an ideal texture from the dough (unless we're talking about a no-knead dough where aging is crucial for rise and gluten formation). Texture is determined by other factors in the dough - namely gluten formation and moisture level - and also, even especially, by how you cook the pizza. This is why a preheated stone or heavy cast iron surface is important, and why i prefer using a broiler to an oven set to 500.

                                                              Incidentally, aging a dough can make it *slightly* more difficult to get enough browning and char on the crust during a pizza's short cooking time in a home oven without overcooking. This is because a lower pH (the sourness) slows browning reactions. Still, I've had good success browning aged doughs to my liking under a broiler on very hot cast iron.

                                                              1. re: cowboyardee
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                                                                sandylc RE: cowboyardee Jun 5, 2012 10:16 AM

                                                                "Right away as in without a rise? What's the end effect, texture-wise? Do you use yeast (I guess for flavor alone)?"

                                                                The dough rests while the oven is heating and I am assembling/preparing the other ingredients.

                                                                Of course, there is yeast, and it does its deal mostly in the oven.

                                                                As stated twice in my post, giving your dough a couple of hours to a couple of days is the ideal, but for a quick dinner immediate dough is quite good.

                                                                1. re: sandylc
                                                                  tommy RE: sandylc Jun 5, 2012 10:30 AM

                                                                  The yeast is going to die pretty quickly in the oven I would think.

                                                                  1. re: tommy
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                                                                    escondido123 RE: tommy Jun 5, 2012 10:46 AM

                                                                    My husband has been fooling around with a recipe that makes pourable dough that is put into a rectangular baking pan in a cold oven and then heat turned on to 500. Obviously not a lot of rise--like a fat focaccia--but great chew and nice flavor.

                                                                    1. re: escondido123
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                                                                      sandylc RE: escondido123 Jun 5, 2012 11:02 AM

                                                                      I've heard of that one...certainly a different animal....and very interesting. There is always another way to do something, isn't there?

                                                                      1. re: sandylc
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                                                                        escondido123 RE: sandylc Jun 5, 2012 11:18 AM

                                                                        For those people who like that "French" bread pizza, this would be perfect. Split in two horizontally, put on toppings and a quick broil. So much more impressive than a puny baguette.

                                                                  2. re: sandylc
                                                                    cowboyardee RE: sandylc Jun 5, 2012 10:30 AM

                                                                    How long do you preheat your oven? If we're talking something like an hour and you use a decent bit of yeast, I'd suspect that you're getting some significant measure of rise while the oven is preheating. Any rise in the oven should come mainly from expansion of air (I think mainly CO2) that the yeast has released into the dough by that point.

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee
                                                                      s
                                                                      sandylc RE: cowboyardee Jun 5, 2012 10:40 AM

                                                                      True.

                                                              2. c
                                                                Chi_Guy RE: Justpaula Jun 5, 2012 12:40 PM

                                                                Is a pizza stone necessary? That depends on what type of pizza you are trying to make. You can certainly bake a fine pizza on a pizza pan, screen, or even a cast iron skillet but those methods tend to produce rather bready crusts. If you want to make Pizza hut style pan pizza or deep dish, you can bake it that way. But if what you are after is a chewy, crispy thin crust like at the high end NYC joints or Neopolitan style you can't duplicate that at home without a pizza stone.

                                                                The key to making pizza is high heat. Ideally, 850 deg F or higher. Which is why wood fired brick ovens make such good pizzas. Your standard home ovens top out at 475 to 500 F. A stone absorbs your oven's heat, cooking the pizza at a higher temp than your oven can achieve resulting in crisper crust.

                                                                Also as others have pointed out you don't need to drop $50 on a stone at Williams Sonoma to make good pizza. Unglazed quarry tiles from the hardware store work too. I use a 12" pizza stone and peel set that I picked up for $25 at Cost Plus World Market a couple of years ago that work marvelously.

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Chi_Guy
                                                                  cowboyardee RE: Chi_Guy Jun 5, 2012 12:58 PM

                                                                  "You can certainly bake a fine pizza on a pizza pan, screen, or even a cast iron skillet but those methods tend to produce rather bready crusts."
                                                                  ________
                                                                  Not sure how you've used cast iron for pizza, but I've switched to CI specifically because it can create a less bready texture than a stone, at least when thoroughly preheated and used in conjunction with a reasonably powerful broiler.

                                                                  1. re: Chi_Guy
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                                                                    wyogal RE: Chi_Guy Jun 5, 2012 02:14 PM

                                                                    I would disagree. I like a thin crust and never use a stone.

                                                                    1. re: Chi_Guy
                                                                      Bacardi1 RE: Chi_Guy Jun 5, 2012 04:17 PM

                                                                      But that $50 Williams-Sonoma stone sure is TERRIFIC!!!!!!!! Not only makes the best home-made pizza, but toasts takeout pizza to new dimensions.

                                                                      1. re: Chi_Guy
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                                                                        Chi_Guy RE: Chi_Guy Jun 5, 2012 08:35 PM

                                                                        @cowboyardee - there's more than one way to skin a cat. the folks at pizzamaking.com have discussed a method similar to yours. I know others use cast iron to make deep dish and sicilian style pies. Like a pizza stone, cast iron too will retain heat and distribute it evenly. But one of the advantages of the stone over cast iron is it draws moisture out of the dough, creating an excellent light and airy crust. While you can certainly make a good pizza on cast iron, my experience is they tend to come out more breadier and less crusty than a stone.

                                                                        @wyogal - I should clarify, by thin crust I mean the NY/Neopolitan style with a crisp outer layer, light and airy inside, with a slight chew. It's not simply the thickness of the pizza. There are other thin crust styles like cracker crust which you can certainly duplicate without a pizza stone.

                                                                        1. re: Chi_Guy
                                                                          cowboyardee RE: Chi_Guy Jun 5, 2012 09:06 PM

                                                                          "But one of the advantages of the stone over cast iron is it draws moisture out of the dough, creating an excellent light and airy crust. While you can certainly make a good pizza on cast iron, my experience is they tend to come out more breadier and less crusty than a stone."
                                                                          _______
                                                                          In one major sense, I agree with you - if all other factors are equal, a stone seems to create a slightly better, crispier texture to the undercrust, probably because of its porousness. The problem are those other factors.

                                                                          If I had an oven capable of temperatures in the 700+ range, I'd use a stone. But I don't, and in my experience delivering a lot of heat to the crust quickly is even more important for the texture I want than the porousness of what the crust is cooking on top of.

                                                                          So to speed up cooking, I use the broiler rather than the oven set to 500. This cooks the top of the crust much faster. But using a broiler creates a problem when using a stone - you're cooking the top much faster, but since you can't preheat the stone all that much hotter than you can without the broiler, the top of the pizza cooks faster than the bottom. Using cast iron sidesteps this problem because it's far more conductive than stone, delivering more of its stored heat in the shorter cooking time, even though it's no hotter to begin with.

                                                                          So for me, using cast iron is all about matching top heat to bottom heat while making both more intense than you can normally accomplish in a home oven. But the point of my initial post was just that CI doesn't necessarily lead to a bready crust - given the constraints of a home kitchen, it might be some people's best option for a non-bready effect.

                                                                      2. v
                                                                        von_levi RE: Justpaula Jun 5, 2012 01:50 PM

                                                                        A few others have said it: Cast Iron.

                                                                        Not prone to breaking like a pizza stone (it's virtually indestructible), and you don't have wait an hour for it to heat up.

                                                                        Here's the trick with cast iron: preheat it on a stove top burner before you put it in the oven. Do this step with the uncooked pizza on it. I do three minutes on the heights temp.

                                                                        If you have a cast iron skillet, you can experiment using it. Roll the do out, transfer to the inside of the pan, add your toppings, put on the burner for three minutes, then put in a preheated oven.

                                                                        1. e
                                                                          emu48 RE: Justpaula Jul 4, 2012 10:42 PM

                                                                          I've used a stone for decades and always thought it was essential. Now I'm living where there isn't one, and I'm still making great pizzas. I make them two ways: on a pizza screen or in a heavy steel oven pan, much like a heavy cookie sheet or sheet-cake pan. I get excellent crusts either way. My pizzas are made with a rather wet dough rolled or stretched pretty thin using lots of sprinkled flour. If using a pan, I spray it with nonstick spray. Sometimes I sprinkle semolina or cornmeal on after spraying, but it seems not to matter. And I always have a glug of olive oil in my dough. I always pre-heat the oven as hot as it will get. I seem to get good results whether the oven shelf is at middle height or at the lowest possible height. There are advantages to having a stone, but you can make decent pizzas without one. I also coat every crust with olive oil, spread with the back of a large spoon, before adding toppings. That seems to slow the crust's absorption of the sauce, making for a crisper pizza. I also make an effort to get the toppings on and the pizza into the oven as quickly as possible, for the same reason.

                                                                          1. Soop RE: Justpaula Jul 5, 2012 02:25 AM

                                                                            I did have a kind of pizza stone once, it was a piece of granite which should have been thick enough. I'm a (currently inactive) member of a great pizza forum, and I got a lot of great advice there. But the stone cracked, and I don't think it worked great anyway. I get really good results by:

                                                                            Making my dough with a high hydration
                                                                            Using olive oil in the dough
                                                                            Honey is better than sugar
                                                                            Using an ale instead of water makes a nicer dough (IMO)
                                                                            Keep the dough in the fridge for about 3 days to let the yeast work slowly (improves flavour)

                                                                            Then on the day, I cut out a hunk of dough from the batch, shape it into a ball, and leave it under a damp tea towel to warm to room temp and rise. Then when I shape the pizza, I'll cook the dough on its own first, as high as the oven will go, until I end up with essentially, a flatbread.

                                                                            Then on go the toppings, as quickly as possible, and to a large extent, this prevents a soggy base, and gives a flavoursome, chewy crust.

                                                                            It isn't quite as good as the taste from a pizza oven, but without all the faffing about with stones I couldn't get working anyway, it's good enough for me (which is very good!)

                                                                            If you must buy a stone, I would recommend cordeirite or soapstone, and you want it thick - an inch or so iirc.

                                                                            If you can find it, it's cheaper to get either a kiln wall, or a soapstone offcut from a kitchen/bathroom place (although they're not going to make you one, you just have to cross your fingers they broke something)

                                                                            1. e
                                                                              ellaf RE: Justpaula Jul 7, 2012 12:34 PM

                                                                              This is a really good thread. I haven't read all of the replies, but based on your post (live in the city, probably not a lot of room, haven't made pizza yet) I would hold off on the stone and make some pizzas without it.

                                                                              I make pizza every Friday night without a pizza stone and have not bought one
                                                                              - homemade pizza and dough beats the local pizzerias hands down (in North Carolina)
                                                                              - pizza stones require a slider thing that has to be bought and stored
                                                                              - pizza stones require a longer preheat - again, I am not debating the quality of the pizza or the crust, just the mechanics of having more and specialized kitchen equipment.

                                                                              Once you get rolling with the pizza and the bread, you might want to take that extra step. good luck!

                                                                              1. tim irvine RE: Justpaula Jul 7, 2012 12:51 PM

                                                                                I agree tha is a good thread with a ton of useful information. I love the pizza stone. It is old enough I have no idea what brand it is. I do not wash it. Whatever gets spilled on it just gets burned off eventually. (I do scrape off what I can.). I use it in the oven and have used it in a wood fired grill at 900 degrees F. It is wonderful for bread. As regards the fresh dough, day before dough, etc. debate, I use a cup of my sourdough starter, a cup of water, two cups of bread flour, a little salt, and a little olive oil, knead, roll it out, and make pizza. It is great to use a peel, but I get fine results using a cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal. If I am making a gloppy pizza in a 500 degree oven, I will build the pizza on a small piece of parchment and slide it in on the parchment, avoiding the, "Darn, gloppy mess all over the stone and oven door! Wonder if I can eat it?" scenario.

                                                                                1. KitchenBarbarian RE: Justpaula Jul 7, 2012 09:02 PM

                                                                                  Is it "necessary"? Well no. An OVEN is necessary, a pizza stone is not.

                                                                                  But it sure makes things easier. And more consistent. Plus (since I leave mine in the oven ALL the time) it also helps to regulate the oven temp when I'm baking other things, such as cakes, cookies, and brownies.

                                                                                  Something else that will make your life easier: Super parchment or Pan Pal teflon pan liners ("reusable parchment"). Takes up way less room than "regular" parchment, lasts virtually forever (my original Super Parchment is about 2 years old now I think, and while showing signs of wear, it's still going strong). I got the Pan Pal liners from the Webstaurant store (online restaurant supply) - cut to fit your stone, baking sheet, I even use them as cake pan liners. Totally solved the how-to-get-the-pizza-off-the-peel-and-into-the-oven (where splattered all over the the back of the oven, the floor of the oven, and the oven door doesn't count as "in the oven").

                                                                                  But back to the stone. If you haven't got the bucks, don't sweat it, but if you can swing it financially, it really does make a (positive) difference. I have the Old Stone Oven stone which cost me about $30 when I bought it but is apparently something closer to $40 nowadays.

                                                                                  http://www.amazon.com/review/R338RVEG...

                                                                                  I'd buy a scale first if you don't already have one, though. And the recipes on pizzamaking.com - you can choose something simple and easy or you can get as technical about your dough as you want to be, there's something for everyone on there.

                                                                                  17 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: KitchenBarbarian
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                                                                                    sandylc RE: KitchenBarbarian Jul 8, 2012 12:23 PM

                                                                                    "An OVEN is necessary..."

                                                                                    Hasn't Serious Eats done a stovetop cast iron skillet pizza?

                                                                                    1. re: sandylc
                                                                                      tommy RE: sandylc Jul 8, 2012 12:25 PM

                                                                                      Mario Batali certainly has.

                                                                                      1. re: tommy
                                                                                        KitchenBarbarian RE: tommy Jul 8, 2012 03:00 PM

                                                                                        Yeah ... I GUESS you could do it that way ... but I wouldn't. Basically you're steaming your toppings ("Cover with the lid"). You're sure not going to get the crispy brown bits you get in the oven.

                                                                                        Maybe YOU don't "need" and oven, but *I* do. A skillet isn't going to cut it for me. I'd get one of those Presto pizzamakers first.

                                                                                        YMMV, but I get 0 miles to the gallon from that idea, LOL!

                                                                                        1. re: KitchenBarbarian
                                                                                          cowboyardee RE: KitchenBarbarian Jul 8, 2012 03:07 PM

                                                                                          The Serious Eats version preheats the pan on the stove top and gives the crust a minute or so of a head start and then cooks the top of the pizza under the broiler. It can achieve pretty decent results.

                                                                                          I'm not familiar with the Batali method OTOH.

                                                                                          1. re: KitchenBarbarian
                                                                                            tommy RE: KitchenBarbarian Jul 8, 2012 03:09 PM

                                                                                            No need to guess. Otto has been doing it for 9 or 10 years now.

                                                                                            But it's not a process that interests me. I need an oven. Preferably wood-fired for 90 second cook times, as opposed to the 10 or 12 minutes in ovens that most home cooks are doing.

                                                                                        2. re: sandylc
                                                                                          chowser RE: sandylc Jul 8, 2012 03:07 PM

                                                                                          I thought he did it in the oven w/ cast iron.

                                                                                          1. re: chowser
                                                                                            KitchenBarbarian RE: chowser Jul 8, 2012 03:27 PM

                                                                                            Apparently what he (Batali) does is parbake the crust in advance, then top and finish in the oven.

                                                                                            http://www.mariobatali.com/images/Art...

                                                                                            So if you want to do it the Batali way, you STILL need an oven, LOL! As well, the Serious Eats version also still needs to finish in the oven.

                                                                                            So, apparently, all nitpicking aside, you STILL need an oven, LOL! (even if you're "oven" is a grill).

                                                                                            As for Otto - I have no idea who or what Otto is.

                                                                                            To each their own, but pizza on top of the stove with none of the good things that happen to the ingredients in the oven just isn't to my liking.

                                                                                            But you know what, this thread isn't about what *I* like or don't like - it's about helping the OP figure out if he wants a Pizza Stone or not. To that end, I posted my opinion and my experience. It's up to him to decide what he wants to do.

                                                                                            Does he NEED a stone? Well, not really. But he may still WANT one. Or he may not. Either way most of what's been posted will hopefully help him decide what's important to HIM and the way HE likes to make pizza.

                                                                                            1. re: KitchenBarbarian
                                                                                              tommy RE: KitchenBarbarian Jul 8, 2012 03:33 PM

                                                                                              Batali owns several restaurants, one of which is Otto, at which ovens are not used.

                                                                                              1. re: tommy
                                                                                                JoanN RE: tommy Jul 9, 2012 05:33 AM

                                                                                                No, but broilers are.

                                                                                                1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                  tommy RE: JoanN Jul 9, 2012 05:42 AM

                                                                                                  Sure, salamanders are used in every restaurant kitchen I've been in.

                                                                                                  1. re: tommy
                                                                                                    JoanN RE: tommy Jul 9, 2012 06:03 AM

                                                                                                    Not in most pizza places they're not.

                                                                                                    1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                      tommy RE: JoanN Jul 9, 2012 06:52 AM

                                                                                                      Indeed. We have already determined that Otto cooks pizza using an exceptional technique.

                                                                                                      1. re: tommy
                                                                                                        JoanN RE: tommy Jul 9, 2012 07:10 AM

                                                                                                        Not all that exceptional. Jim Lahey uses a broiler, too.

                                                                                                        1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                          tommy RE: JoanN Jul 9, 2012 07:24 AM

                                                                                                          I'm relatively sure that Lahey is using a wood-fired oven at Co.

                                                                                                          Regardless, two restaurants using broilers and flattops instead of ovens still qualifies as "exceptional."

                                                                                                          1. re: tommy
                                                                                                            Soop RE: tommy Jul 10, 2012 07:38 AM

                                                                                                            Actually... A lot of the mediterranian owned takeaway restaurants in England will use a grill (broiler) type setup. I've seen quite a few where the pizza is assembled, and then placed on a conveyor belt, with an electric broiler atop.

                                                                                                            It's not the same as using a stove or whatever, and it's a far cry from traditional italian style pizza, but until the cheese cools and you realise quite how unhealthy it is, it's really quite delicious.

                                                                                                            1. re: Soop
                                                                                                              tommy RE: Soop Jul 10, 2012 07:59 AM

                                                                                                              That's what the Domino's chain does in the US too. As well as some local places.

                                                                                                              1. re: Soop
                                                                                                                s
                                                                                                                sandylc RE: Soop Jul 10, 2012 09:38 AM

                                                                                                                How does the bottom of the crust get baked?

                                                                                        3. g
                                                                                          ghundi RE: Justpaula Apr 21, 2013 02:09 PM

                                                                                          Alton Brown says on his show "good eats" that you can buy square stone tiles at any home hardware store (home depot, lowes) that work as well. I was trying to find what kind of stone he mentioned when I googled and got this thread. If I find it I will repost here. My next look will be on his website. The stone probably needs to be non-treated and possibly porous. He said what kind on the show. I broke my pizza stone and am looking for a cheap replacement

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: ghundi
                                                                                            JoanN RE: ghundi Apr 21, 2013 03:39 PM

                                                                                            What you're looking for is unglazed quarry tiles, mentioned in a few posts above. I used them successfully for years, but got tired of having them break with some regularity.

                                                                                            1. re: JoanN
                                                                                              chowser RE: JoanN Apr 22, 2013 01:11 PM

                                                                                              I've been really lucky w/ mine and haven't had problems. I did buy extra because they're thinner than I thought they'd be and I was sure I'd have some break. I just leave mine in the oven.

                                                                                          2. c
                                                                                            crabwoman RE: Justpaula Aug 28, 2013 10:53 AM

                                                                                            Hi JustPaula, I'm not adding to the pros/cons of using a pizza stone - I'm just very curious as to why anyone would/should use the BACK of a baking sheet? If your sheet has edges, would they trap heat and make it hotter? If you have flat sheets, like cookie sheet, why bother? If anyone can help me on this I would appreciate it greatly!

                                                                                            1. t
                                                                                              truman RE: Justpaula Aug 29, 2013 10:58 AM

                                                                                              I have a cheapo pizza stone (Farberware, I think) that is more than 10 years old and came from Bed Bath & Beyond. I have never preheated it; I've always assembled the pizza on it and then slid the whole thing into the preheated oven. Suits us just fine.

                                                                                              One point to consider, though, is not just the stone/no stone question, but also the "dough + cooking surface" question. We've tried several different dough recipes, and some work better than others on the stone. Remember to change only one variable at a time!

                                                                                              12 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: truman
                                                                                                grampart RE: truman Aug 29, 2013 11:41 AM

                                                                                                " I have never preheated it; I've always assembled the pizza on it and then slid the whole thing into the preheated oven. Suits us just fine."

                                                                                                Might as well use a cookie sheet.

                                                                                                1. re: grampart
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                                                                                                  truman RE: grampart Aug 30, 2013 08:38 AM

                                                                                                  Perhaps - but when we've tried the same dough recipe on a cookie sheet, the pizza doesn't seem to get as crisp.

                                                                                                  That being said, tonight is pizza night and this thread has inspired me to try preheating the stone first. We'll see how that works out... I worry about burning myself on it while I'm assembling the pizza. (I am accident-prone.)

                                                                                                  1. re: truman
                                                                                                    JoanN RE: truman Aug 30, 2013 09:02 AM

                                                                                                    That's what a pizza peel is for. At the risk of shouting, DO NOT try to form your pizza on a hot stone. You'd just be asking for trouble. And more than just burns. Assemble your pizza on a peel, or on a baking sheet if you don't have one, and slide it onto the hot stone. You'll want to form the pizza on top of plenty of cornmeal or on a sheet of parchment paper (my preference; makes less of a mess, but you lose the crunch factor) so it slides easily off the peel or baking sheet.

                                                                                                    1. re: JoanN
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                                                                                                      truman RE: JoanN Aug 30, 2013 09:33 AM

                                                                                                      thanks for the suggestion of a cookie sheet - I will also wear my asbestos gloves! <jk>

                                                                                                      1. re: truman
                                                                                                        chowser RE: truman Aug 30, 2013 10:04 AM

                                                                                                        Highly recommend the parchment paper and if the stone if hot enough, you do keep that crust crunch. It's easy to slide on/off and make multiple pizzas at a time. Stating the obvious but if you use a baking sheet w/ sides, make sure to turn it over so the pizza slides out easily onto the stone. The pizza cooks in no time on a hot stone.

                                                                                                    2. re: truman
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                                                                                                      sandylc RE: truman Aug 30, 2013 03:17 PM

                                                                                                      Preheat the stone at your highest oven temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.

                                                                                                      If you use parchment paper under your pizza to slide it into the oven, you can pull out the parchment with the assistance of the peel after the crust has set.

                                                                                                      I just leave the stone on the bottom shelf of my oven all of the time.

                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc
                                                                                                        chowser RE: sandylc Aug 30, 2013 03:52 PM

                                                                                                        Why do you want to pull the parchment paper during the cooking time? I leave it under so it's easy to remove the pizza, too.

                                                                                                        I leave my tiles in my oven all the time, too. They not only regulate the temperature but they catch anything that drips from what I'm baking.

                                                                                                        1. re: chowser
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                                                                                                          sandylc RE: chowser Aug 30, 2013 04:03 PM

                                                                                                          To put the crust directly onto the stone. Call me nuts, but I have the idea that the crust turns out better and crisper that way. The pizza comes off easily when it's done regardless of whether the parchment is still there...

                                                                                                          1. re: sandylc
                                                                                                            chowser RE: sandylc Aug 30, 2013 04:07 PM

                                                                                                            I was thinking of removing the pizza when the person doesn't have a peel. I don't know why I had the impression from a previous post. I figure the less I open the oven, the better.

                                                                                                          2. re: chowser
                                                                                                            JoanN RE: chowser Aug 30, 2013 04:04 PM

                                                                                                            I pull the parchment out as well. If I don't, it burns; sometimes even sticking to the bottom of the crust. I know others don't find it necessary. Perhaps it depends on the stone or how hot your oven is. But I do exactly what sandylc does: I lift the edge of the pizza with a peel and slide the parchment out from under the pie as soon as the crust has set.

                                                                                                            1. re: JoanN
                                                                                                              chowser RE: JoanN Aug 30, 2013 04:06 PM

                                                                                                              Mine browns but doesn't burn. But the crust gets brown just as it would w/out. I think it was here on CH that someone calculated the heat transfer to the thin layer of parchment and it was negligible. I used to worry about burning but have been lucky so far--though I do trim it, except for one handle.

                                                                                                              1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                JoanN RE: chowser Aug 30, 2013 04:13 PM

                                                                                                                All I can say is that I've had the parchment burn to a crisp. I mean black, with pieces breaking off. No idea why it happens, but I have no desire to have it happen again.

                                                                                                  2. n
                                                                                                    Nanzi RE: Justpaula Aug 29, 2013 11:27 AM

                                                                                                    We have a ceramic grill and wanted to make pizza out there, and my pampered chef stone said no. So I found a cast iron pizza pan with 1" sides. Works great on the grill and the smokey flavor is so good. Tastes like the ones from wood grilled restaurants.

                                                                                                    Plus we make meatza with a meat 'crust' and the liquid stays contained(not all over the bottom of the oven like the first time I tried it with the pizza stone inside. Smoke?? yeah boy!) I found the cast iron one online. Just my 2 cents worth.

                                                                                                    1. c
                                                                                                      cteodosio RE: Justpaula Jul 17, 2014 11:31 AM

                                                                                                      A pizza stone is not necessary. I am a pizza fan. I even have a brick oven I just built in my patio. The most important things you should keep in mind is having the highest temp in your over before your pizza goes in, and, of course, ingredients. Start off with dough from your local stop & shop and bring to a rise. buy fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, and shredded mozz and make a fresh tomato pizza (thin slices of tom. minced garlic mozz and basil). Graduate to making a napolitano pizza by finding great tasting canned whole tomatoes, mill them and add very few spices (salt, basil, etc) UNCOOKED. buon appetito!

                                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: cteodosio
                                                                                                        grampart RE: cteodosio Jul 17, 2014 11:34 AM

                                                                                                        Stop& Shop dough? Really?

                                                                                                        1. re: grampart
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                                                                                                          cteodosio RE: grampart Jul 17, 2014 11:50 AM

                                                                                                          Yes, my stop and shop carries dough made from companies in New Haven, CT and New York that were very good. But again, I was merely posting this for others that are just starting out. ciao

                                                                                                        2. re: cteodosio
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                                                                                                          masha RE: cteodosio Jul 17, 2014 11:43 AM

                                                                                                          Maybe you can make great pizza without a stone if you have a brick oven. But for those of us with conventional ovens that only get to about 500-550 degrees, a pizza stone really helps raising the temperature and concentrating the heat under the pizza.

                                                                                                          1. re: masha
                                                                                                            c
                                                                                                            cteodosio RE: masha Jul 17, 2014 11:59 AM

                                                                                                            My comment was for the people who are just starting out and want to attempt to make a pizza. You can definitely make a good pizza without a stone, and for starters there isn't much expense. If you find that you want to go further, then, of course, get a stone, or a brick oven ;).

                                                                                                          2. re: cteodosio
                                                                                                            cowboyardee RE: cteodosio Jul 17, 2014 12:50 PM

                                                                                                            "A pizza stone is not necessary"
                                                                                                            ...
                                                                                                            "The most important things you should keep in mind is having the highest temp in your over before your pizza goes in"
                                                                                                            _______
                                                                                                            Those two statements are at odds with each other. We might think of a pizza stone (including thick metal pizza 'stones') as a way to funnel heat into the crust more quickly, allowing for a quicker, more dramatic rise, and a more distinctively pizza-esque texture. If maximizing heat is important, then a stone is important for that very same reason.

                                                                                                            In truth though, it depends on what kind of pizza you're looking to make. Pan pizzas do not necessarily need stones. Same thing with certain kinds of cracker crusts. Seriouseats.com has a halfway decent method of making vaguely NY style pizza that uses a cast iron skillet rather than a stone. And some dough recipes are reasonably well suited for comparatively low cooking temperatures (often by using a lot of oil and sugar) and might not benefit a great deal from a stone - the effect is somewhere along the lines of a Papa John's crust.

                                                                                                            But in general if you're looking to make pizza with that light, chewy, coarse-crumbed texture distinctive of pizza crusts, you'll need a stone for the same reason you need high heat.

                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee
                                                                                                              c
                                                                                                              cteodosio RE: cowboyardee Jul 17, 2014 12:57 PM

                                                                                                              AGAIN, my comment was for the people who are just starting out. Obviously not for a seasoned pro like yourself.

                                                                                                              1. re: cteodosio
                                                                                                                cowboyardee RE: cteodosio Jul 17, 2014 01:03 PM

                                                                                                                No offense, but your post didn't actually mention how to make a good pizza without a stone, aside from mentioning using good ingredients.

                                                                                                                My point was that beginners should either get used to using a stone from the get-go (and it does take a little practice to use a peel well, which using a stone necessitates) or pick a dough recipe/style of crust that is appropriate to their set up.

                                                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee
                                                                                                                  c
                                                                                                                  cteodosio RE: cowboyardee Jul 17, 2014 01:13 PM

                                                                                                                  This was intended as a helpful comment about making a pizza without a stone for someone just starting out. Not step by step pizza making. I get what you are commenting on and appreciate your expertise.

                                                                                                                2. re: cteodosio
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                                                                                                                  masha RE: cteodosio Jul 17, 2014 01:14 PM

                                                                                                                  I started out making pizza about a year ago, and did not originally have or use a stone. I enjoyed the experience of making my own pizza (using homemade, not store-bought, dough) but was very disappointed in the quality of the crust of the finished product. Part of that was a question of technique in working with the dough but most of it was because my oven was not hot enough. I asked for and received a stone (Emil Henry ceramic) for Christmas and it has vastly improved the crust.

                                                                                                                  So, yes, a beginner (or anyone else) can make a pizza without a stone, but the quality of the crust will fall short of a good, professionally made pizza. Some beginners will probably get discouraged and give up; others like me may have the tenacity to keep working on improving their pizza, which definitely includes using a stone (and by that I am including quarry tiles, pizza steels, and any other equivalent).

                                                                                                                  My tenacity largely comes from wanting to replicate, as close as possible, the East-coast style of pizza that I grew up with, which is hard to find in my current home of Chicago. If I lived in New Haven or NYC, I'd probably would not have stuck with making home-made after my initial experiments.

                                                                                                                  1. re: masha
                                                                                                                    c
                                                                                                                    cteodosio RE: masha Jul 17, 2014 01:24 PM

                                                                                                                    Well done.

                                                                                                                    1. re: cteodosio
                                                                                                                      m
                                                                                                                      masha RE: cteodosio Jul 17, 2014 01:42 PM

                                                                                                                      My point is that a beginner may want to try making pizza without a stone, but he/she is likely to be disappointed in the results. Before giving up, the beginner should invest in a stone (or quarry tiles, etc) and will be pleased by how much it elevates the quality of the crust.

                                                                                                            2. Sandwich_Sister RE: Justpaula Jul 17, 2014 12:55 PM

                                                                                                              A pizza stone sure makes life easier you never have to worry about the crust.

                                                                                                              We use a paddle sprinkle it with a little corn meal and then make the pizza. Slide the paddle into the oven onto the pizza stone.

                                                                                                              You can make it on baking sheet as well but thin crust pizza is better on a pizza stone.

                                                                                                              You can also make a thick crust pizza in a cast iron skillet.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Sandwich_Sister
                                                                                                                grampart RE: Sandwich_Sister Jul 17, 2014 01:48 PM

                                                                                                                Agreed and one of these makes life even easier. Check it out and be sure to watch the videos.
                                                                                                                www.superpeel.com

                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                1. re: grampart
                                                                                                                  Sandwich_Sister RE: grampart Jul 17, 2014 03:20 PM

                                                                                                                  There is trial and error with making pizza, the stone and the peel are great and help anyone who is new to the game.

                                                                                                                  Making home made pizza is so rewarding because you only learn from your mistakes and the pizza never comes out bad. Win Win in my book.

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