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Pizza Stone ... Which one?

Since there are many pizza stones available, which ones have you used and liked and which ones should I avoid. I have double built-in Wolf ovens, and although there is a pizza stone accessory available (at huge cost), is there anything better? (and most importantly, cheaper!) ... also, do you have any favorite pizza dough recipes?

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  1. I have used both a store bought, pricey pizza stone - and thin terra cotta tiles arranged on the oven rack. And actually? I think the tiles work best.

    My fav. recipe is Marcella Hazan's pizza dough - after an overnight rise in the fridge.

    5 Replies
    1. re: happybaker

      I have a cast iron pizza stone from Crate and Barrel that is amazing, but I do not think they make them anymore. The key is to preheat the oven with the stone in it for a long time, then remove the hot stone to the top of the oven and makethe pizza on the stone. Make sure to wipe it with olive oil firat to prevent sticking. This gives the bottom of the crust a head start and eliminates the need for added flour. One caution: you will eventually burn yourself, but it's worth it.

      1. re: chazfitzm

        I've never seen a pizza crust stick to a stone when oil is not used. Oil just gives a slightly different effect to the bottom of the crust. But it's not really necessary.

        1. re: cowboyardee

          For stone stones, absolutely.

          But chazfitzm's pizza stone is cast iron. The oil will help season the metal. After long use, it probably wouldn't be necessary there, either, but it makes sense up until then.

          1. re: ellabee

            There's absolutely no difference, sticking wise, between cast iron and stone. If there's sufficient flour for the pizza to launch from the peel, the dough will never stick to unseasoned cast iron. Assuming, of course, you don't burn it. If you take bread past a black appearance, it will blister and liquefy, and become sticky.

            And while some pizza styles may not require peak oven temps, the most popular styles do, and, at peak oven temps, oil will burn. By oiling a pizza stone- any pizza stone of any material, you're smoking up the house for no reason.

            1. re: ellabee

              My 'stone' is cast iron as well. No sticking. Never seasoned it either.

      2. Nav210west, stone selection hinges on your desired pizza style, how serious/committed you are to making the best possible pizza, and your oven specs.

        If you want to just match the specs of the optional Wolf stone but with a far friendlier price tag, a kiln shelf, being made from the same material, will mirror the Wolf stone flawlessly.

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

        Depending on what temperature the oven can reach, this will give you any bake time down to about 7 minutes, and possible even a bit lower if the oven can be calibrated to a higher temp. 7+ minute pizza is probably what 99% of the population considers to be great.

        If you want world class pizza, though, then you'll need to look at other materials. 1/2" steel plate is readily available from local metal distributors and, although it's heavy, it will give you any bake time down to 2.5 minutes. 3-6 minutes is where, for NY style, the pizza making magic happens. The intense heat creates more oven spring, producing a puffier crust.

        1/2" steel plate won't give you sub 2 minute Neapolitan bake times, though. If you want those, then you'll need two things:

        1. Experimental hearth materials, such as silicon carbide kiln shelves, aluminum plate or a willingness to mod the oven to reach higher temperatures (1/2" steel plate can achieve Neapolitan undercrust browning at 625 deg.).

        and, more importantly

        2. A broiler that can do Neapolitan top baking (aka leoparding). About 1 in 200 people have the necessary broiler specs to do Neapolitan, so the odds aren't that great, but a Wolf oven should have an abnormally strong broiler, so, for you, there's a little more hope. I'm not able to find any close up shots of the broiler or wattage specs. I can usually tell from either if you have an oven that can do Neapolitan. If you do, then it's definitely worth experimenting with a special hearth (such as aluminum plate), since a home oven setup that can do Neapolitan can sub for a multi-thousand dollar wood fired oven.

        The dough recipe, like the stone, is completely style contingent as well, and, again, depends on how involved you want to get.

        26 Replies
        1. re: scott123

          Thank you, Scott123, for the educational response. I am now anxious to find out if my ovens can achieve the temps necessary for 3-6 minute cook times. I will need to do more research for Neapolitan top baking. I have not heard of Neapolitan top baking before and am always anxious to learn something new. I had no idea my pizza stone question would lead to so many new future baking experiences. The self clean feature is supposed to get over 900F, so maybe there is hope. I will let you know what I find out about my ovens, and now my interest is peaked regarding Neapolitan baking.
          p.s. a buddy's wife just built an outdoor wood fired oven from over 300 mortarless individual fired bricks so they could make wood fired pizzas.... now I understand more about this ... thank you.

          1. re: Nav210west

            Nav210west, you're welcome.

            Knowing what I know about your oven, I can guarantee you that, with the right stone (1/2" steel plate) you can do 3-6 minute bake times, which is the pizza obsessive's ideal bake time for NY style.

            Authentic Neapolitan is an under 2 minute bake (ideally 60-90 seconds). That's what people, such as your friend's wife, build wood fired ovens (WFO) for. Or at least, that's what some WFO owners do. You'll find quite a few people that build or buy ovens and use them at lower temps- 3-6 minute bakes. It's only a small number of fanatics that are looking for true Neapolitan pizza.

            Neapolitan pizza, btw, is not for everyone. If you've been raised on NY or American pizza, Neapolitan can be perceived as a bit burnt or wet/soupy. With a skilled person making the dough and tending the oven, these can be mitigated, but it's normal to find at least a little char, which some people just can't tolerate. It's a little bit like espresso vs regular coffee. Some people go bonkers for espresso, while there are others that can't handle the darker roast. Before you start checking your oven specs, I highly recommend tracking down a local Neapolitan pizzeria, so you can see if you like it. Most urban areas these days have one. The market has been on fire for the last 5 years and pizzerias have been popping up all over the place.

            You would think that 900F could achieve any pizza style possible, but, unfortunately, that's not the case. First, most ovens have a safety feature whereby a latch keeps the door shut while cleaning. Just to be able to open up the oven, you have to break this latch, which, for the money you paid for your particular oven, I'd probably want to avoid. Secondly, hearth temp is really not that much of a concern. You can, as I explained earlier, choose a hearth material with very fast heat transfer, which will give you Neapolitan undercrust char in 60-90 seconds at fairly low temps- as low as 550. The clinker in the equation, though, is top heat. The strength of your broiler makes it or breaks it. A ceiling pre-heated to 900 can give off some radiant heat, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to what a powerful, high wattage, multi pass, glowing red broiler can do.

            I hope I'm not getting your hopes up re; Neapolitan in a home oven. Even with a Wolf, I don't think there's a great deal of hope. Here's the kind of broiler you're looking for:

            http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/inde...

            As you can see, it's a freakish number of coils.

            Even if you can't do authentic Neapolitan sub 2 minute bakes, 3-6 minute pies, with the right flour and stretching skills, can be majestic. Everyone oohs and aahs about home made 10+ minute pizza, and some might even say it's the best they've ever had, but put any 10 minute pie next a 4 minute one and the 4 minute's superiority will be blatantly apparent.

            1. re: scott123

              Thank you for the pizzamaking link. I have read a few posts and realize there is a lot to learn. I also now understand what the pizza was that I had in a little basement eatery in Rome. It was the best pizza I have ever had. Now I think there is hope that I can create something of similar taste. The broilers in my ovens are 8 pass, so if I want to expand out to neapolitan top bake pizzas, I'll need to consult with my friend and build an outdoor wood fired oven. For now, though, I think creating the 3-6 minute pizzas will keep me busy for a while. Thanks so much for opening the door to my pizza education.

              1. re: Nav210west

                i do my pizzas on my big green egg. I have two inexpensive stones both of which work just fine. What I leaned early on is to wait until the stone gets good and hot before putting on your pizza. In my case, I wait about 40 minutes after the BGE comes up to temperature (600-650 F). The pizzas cook for 7-9 minutes depending on how much topping I put on. Lots of good advice in this thread. This is my 2 cents...

              2. re: scott123

                Hi, Scott:

                If steel is good, and aluminum is better, what about copper?

                Aloha,
                Kaleo

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Kaleo, steel is good, but only in certain settings (550 dial temp, broiler in main oven compartment), and aluminum is more conductive than steel, making it a potential candidate for Neapolitan bake times for oven owners with freakishly powerful broilers, but I wouldn't necessarily say aluminum is better. It may be better in this incredibly specialized role, but the jury's still out. Between silicon carbide and aluminum- in this particular role, I'm leaning towards silicon carbide. Some additional conductivity is good, but the kind of conductivity aluminum brings could end up introducing some negative aspects, such as extreme charring, even with longer bakes/lower temps.

                  Aluminum, right now, is just a theoretical possibility and not one that I'd bet a lot of money on. Copper is out of the running. If there's a chance that aluminum's conductivity will cause it to act strangely, then those odds increase exponentially when you get into the conductivity realm of copper.

                  The pizza community is beginning to experiment with stacking, and it's possible, like an all clad pan, copper may play some sort of role, but, on it's own, I'm pretty confident that it's conductivity will prevent it from being viable.

                  Copper is so conductive the temp might drop when you open the door the oven.

                  And that's just looking at it's conductivity. I think it's price would be fairly prohibitive as well.

            2. re: scott123

              I use a 3/4" thick (16"x16") aluminum plate. It works pretty well and weighs a heck of a lot less than steel. My oven only goes to 550, but my pies generally cook in around 5 minutes as long as I give the plate a good 45 minute head start.

              By the way, I am aware that there's no proven connection to health issues but I was a bit concerned about the Aluminum, so I seasoned it extremely well with grapeseed oil before I started using it for pizza. It is now sealed in a very thick black layer of polymerized oil and I can sleep easy knowing that instead of getting Alzheimer's from the aluminum I'll probably get cancer from the oil. Whatever, at least I'll go out having made some pretty good pies!

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                A few questions if you'd be so kind:
                How is the undercrust texture and charring with your method?
                Have you tried using a broiler with it?
                Where did you find the aluminum plate?
                Did it cost an arm and a leg?
                What else have you tried to compare it with?

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Undercrust is ... crusty :-) ... Fairly dark, maybe a few spots of black here and there. (There could be more -- it certainly can't touch the crust of a pizza baked at, for example, Lombardi's in the East Village.) I'll take a photo next time I make pizza and post it here. I usually refrain from doing that because my pies don't come out with the amazing looks of what you can see from a lot of the obsessives. I'm only an occasional obsessive so I never quite get there.

                  I do use the broiler. I put it on the second rack from the top. (On the top rack, I was having some problems with the outer edges of the crust burning.)

                  I bought the plate from a local welder who I found via a Google search for "aluminum." He had it cut for me by his supplier. I paid him $80 for the plate, plus $10 to have him to deburr and smooth the edges for me.

                  The only thing I can compare it with is my pizza stone, which I purchased sometime circa 2001, quite possibly at Target. I'd say that the stone is more consistent, but I had 10+ years of practice with it. I'm still learning how the plate behaves; when I hit it on a good day the pies are amazing, much better than anything that ever came off the stone. (Crisper, deeper and better flavor, etc.)

                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                    Thanks.

                    One last question:

                    Do you turn on the broiler only right before the pizza goes in or do you heat the aluminum under the broiler for a while first?

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      I've been trying both ways, and I'm not sure which one works better or if there's a difference. When using the broiler first I'm never quite sure how long to give it, etc. Do you have any thoughts or information on how best to do that?

                      I really need to invest in an IR thermometer so that I can figure things out a bit more objectively.

                  2. re: cowboyardee

                    Okay, I made a couple of pies today. Here's a photo of the underside of one of the slices. I cooked today's pies on the top rack, using the broiler. I allowed the broiler to preheat the plate for several minutes before putting the pies on, and it seems to have worked well. They took around 3 to 3.5 minutes each, which is definitely a new record for my oven. (I think the crusts could have benefited from another minute or so -- they weren't quite as crispy as I would have liked -- but the tops were burning a bit. Next time I'll kill the broiler after a couple of minutes and leave 'em a bit longer.)

                    IR thermometer arrives tomorrow, so I can get some better information on heat absorption, etc. But I can say that the latter pies seemed to cook slightly more quickly, indicating the the aluminum does benefit from some preheating.

                     
                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                      And now for the readings from the IR thermometer. I did two tests; one with the pizza stone on the top rack (it still lives in the oven even though I'm using the plate to cook on these days) and the aluminum plate on the bottom rack, and another test with the opposite configuration.

                      Overall things I learned:
                      A) A preheat absolutely does matter. Scott's claim of aluminum's "extreme conductivity" might be true in thin sheet metal, but a plate is a lot of material and it definitely takes time to heat through.

                      B) Surprisingly, my pizza stone got hotter in both tests than did the aluminum. However, it's a lot less massive than the aluminum, and I didn't do an extremely long preheat (see below).

                      C) My pizza stone's lack of mass showed itself when I allowed the oven door to stay open for two minutes at various phases of the tests. The stone lost a lot more heat than did the aluminum plate.

                      Now for the data.

                      Methodology: I started both tests after leaving the oven door open for a while and allowing the stone and plate to come to the same approximate reference temperatures each time. I began each test with an oven preheat, followed by a round of broiling on high. At various intervals I pulled the racks out and allowed two minutes to pass, in order to simulate someone taking their time getting the pizza in place and losing some heat along the way.

                      I took the temperature at top dead center on both the plate and the stone. I also measured the oven walls at various points to verify my oven's thermometer. It seems to be fairly accurate. I measured before turning on the oven; then at 444 degrees during the climb to 550; again the moment the oven beeped 550; then allowed the oven to reach 550 again and gave it 25 minutes after the beep; then proceeded to do the broiler tests.

                      All numbers are in degrees F. Ambient temperature in my kitchen was approximately 71 degrees.

                      Test #1: Stone on top rack, plate on bottom rack
                      --
                      Temp-------------------------------Stone----------------------------------------Plate
                      Starting temp---------------------095------------------------------------------125
                      444----------------------------------277------------------------------------------268
                      550 (immediate)----------------425------------------------------------------425
                      -- door open 2 min--------------403------------------------------------------411
                      550 (25 minute preheat)------547------------------------------------------577
                      -- door open 2 min--------------505------------------------------------------541
                      Broiler - 5 min--------------------577------------------------------------------N/A
                      Broiler - 10 min-------------------596-----------------------------------------N/A
                      Broiler - 15 min-------------------629------------------------------------------N/A
                      -- door open 2 min---------------543-----------------------------------------N/A

                      Test #2: Plate on top rack, stone on bottom rack
                      --
                      Temp-------------------------------Stone----------------------------------------Plate
                      Starting temp---------------------098------------------------------------------124
                      444----------------------------------385------------------------------------------259
                      550 (immediate)-----------------605------------------------------------------415
                      -- door open 2 min--------------564------------------------------------------406
                      550 (25 minute preheat)------644------------------------------------------546
                      -- door open 2 min--------------567------------------------------------------513
                      Broiler - 5 min--------------------N/A-------------------------------------------560
                      Broiler - 10 min------------------N/A-------------------------------------------570
                      Broiler - 15 min------------------N/A-------------------------------------------590
                      -- door open 2 min--------------N/A-------------------------------------------535

                      All in all I'm not sure what this data indicates. Next time I bake I'll do a full hour preheat on the bottom rack, then move the aluminum up (hopefully without scorching my hands along the way). I'm not sure how multiple pizzas will work in this configuration but hopefully the metal will hold enough heat to do the job. I'll also have to do some more baking on the stone and see whether I've missed something there.

                      Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for further testing.

                      ... and, apologies for how those tables rendered. Subsequent spaces are being treated as a single by the forum software, and an attempt to insert tabs resulted in an exception being thrown. So the only way to get a semi-reasonable result was to use lots of hyphens as separators.

                      1. re: davis_sq_pro

                        davis, thanks for taking the time to record and post these measurements.

                        I'm thinking the stone generally got hotter because it reflects less of the element's radiated heat away. The extra conductivity of the metal plate should make a bigger difference to how the pizza cooks than those relatively small differences in temperature before the pizza is added.

                        1. re: davis_sq_pro

                          Quick update:

                          I made a couple of pizzas last night with the plate on the floor of the oven. One hour preheat. Measured temp just before putting the first pizza on was 632F. Unfortunately the bottom of the pizza started to seriously burn and smoke within about a minute.

                          The second pizza was much more successful; I killed the oven and instead put on the broiler (just to help maintain ambient temperature in the oven). This crust was heavily charred--much, much more so than it the photo above--but not burned. Unfortunately the top didn't get quite as cooked as would have been nice.

                          It seems to me that preheating the stone very low in the oven is good for the undercrust, and getting it close to the broiler is good for the top. But without the dangerous task of moving the thing after preheating, there are few options for perfection in both regards. I'm wondering if a long preheat toward the bottom of the oven (maybe the first or second rack) followed by turning on the oven's convection baking feature, might yield more balanced results.

                          Another option I thought of is to use both my stone and the plate. Plate on the bottom for charred crust -- 1 minute(?) -- then move up to the stone right under the broiler to cook the top -- another minute or two. This is more complex a system than I'd like, but might work...

                          Thoughts?

                          1. re: davis_sq_pro

                            I wrote a nice lengthly response and then clicked on an ad or some crap and lost it.

                            Anyway, the thrust of the post-gone-missing is that I have been using 2 stones for some time now with pretty good success. I have two ovens and the stones are on the second from top rack in each. I suspect you will have improved results even with one oven, a stone near the top and a stone on the bottom.

                            1. re: tommy

                              I'll give that a try next week. Looks like I'm going to be eating a lot of pizza in the coming days... Life is tough.

                              Thanks for taking the time to type up the long post. I feel your pain. Due to the way this site uses dynamic HTML I lose stuff all the time and my browser is unable to cache it. I now type my lengthier replies in Notepad and then paste them in, so as to avoid the problem.

                    2. re: davis_sq_pro

                      Davis, I would be eternally grateful if, on the next bake, you could include a shot of the undercrust. Right not the data on aluminum bakes is practically non existent.

                      Do you happen to own an infrared thermometer, and, if not, would you be open to purchasing one? You can get them for as little as $17 shipped.

                      Here's one that's pretty cheap/reliable:

                      http://www.dealextreme.com/p/1-2-lcd-...

                      An IR thermometer would go a long way confirming hearth temp, which, for your bake times, seems like it could be a bit lower than 550. Do other foods that you bake take a bit longer than stated in recipes?

                      Regarding the 45 minute pre-heat: aluminum's extreme conductivity causes it to pre-heat very quickly- faster than the walls of the oven. As soon as your oven is 550, I assure you, your aluminum will be 550 as well. That could easily be 20 minutes, but I'd probably give it half an hour to be on the safe side.

                      1. re: scott123

                        Hm, not sure I want to be a pioneer in this particular field! I got the idea to buy it from some posts by Nathan Myhrvold in an eGullet thread. He seemed to indicate that he'd done plenty of work with it. Oh well.

                        Anyway, yes, I've been meaning to buy an IR thermometer for some time. Any recommendations for one that's less cheap and even more reliable? (I decided a few years ago to buy only high quality stuff, as it usually lasts much longer and more than pays for itself over time. If that's the best model and $17 is the correct price then forget I said that.)

                        I am almost certain that my oven is a bit off. Unfortunately my oven thermometer is one of the aforementioned cheap pieces of garbage; it broke a while back and I've not bothered to replace it. Also happy to hear any recommendations for one of those!

                        As for the preheat, your advice is in contradiction to what I've read about plate metal baking, both from Myhrvold and some work by Kenji at SeriousEats (plus some comments in his posts). Or are you implying that aluminum and mild steel react differently to the various forms of heat produced by the oven? (I assume they were using the latter in the various tests.)

                        Either way the IR thermometer will give us a lot more clarity, so please share any more recommendations and I'll order one right away. Always nice to have a good excuse to buy a new toy.

                        1. re: davis_sq_pro

                          I had a cheap one. I invested in the Kinitrex Infrared Thermometer IRT0421 I purchased it on Amazon http://amzn.to/PAo4pl $43.80. The majority of the reviews are positive, so I purchased it and have not had a problem yet, but I suggest reading the reviews and deciding if it is worth the $$.

                          1. re: foodie4me

                            Thanks! I've just been reading reviews and am currently leaning heavily toward the Raytek MT6. The only negative reviews there are from a few people complaining that the box smelled like plastic fumes when they first opened it. I've been eyeing one of these for a long time, so absolutely no problem spending the $50 now that I can call it a purchase in the name of science.

                            1. re: davis_sq_pro

                              Oh it has changed my life. I use it to check the temperature of my saute pan and it has made a world of difference. No more steaming and finally getting that crispy crust that I had been missing out on. Enjoy.

                    3. re: scott123

                      I have a stone which I keep all of the time on the floor of the oven to maintain even heat no matter what I'm baking, and keep it there on the bottom when I slide my pizza onto it. Question I have is, is the floor of the oven the best location for pizza, or should I start off by moving it up as I read somewhere else so the heat reflects downward on the pizza? Thanks, good detail Scott, you should teach pizza making and maybe conduct tours in NYC.

                      1. re: JohnF

                        I guess it depends on what kind of pizza you like. I am perfectly happy with 10-12 minute non-authentic-Neapolitan-or-whatever-but-perfectly-acceptable-American-type pizza, so my pizza stone sits on a rack (there actually is not room for it in the bottom of the oven unless you guys are talking about setting it DIRECTLY on top of the element, which doesn't sound like a wonderful idea to me ...)

                        In my old oven, that preheated pretty well and retained most of the heat actually in the oven, I had it on the bottom rack. No problems.

                        In the new oven, however, the bottom rack is (1) much closer to the element than the old one was and (2) this oven sucks rocks major big time because there is a frickin' HOLE in the top that vents directly through the back left burner on the range.

                        This means that my *$()*@@! oven NEVER reaches temp if I want to bake anything at over about 350F. Because it isn't a real oven, it's a frickin' giant SPACE HEATER. It also means I can't actually use that rear burner while the oven is on because anything I try to cook there will burn as it is heated by the oven instead of the burner control. Dagnabbit.

                        In order to get around this I have been forced to move the rack with the stone to the CENTER of the oven, else my pizza burns to a crispy crunch on the stone which becomes superheated because that frickin' lower element NEVER GOES OFF once you turn the oven up to anything over about 400F (and it's on way too much between about 350F and 400F). In the meantime my toppings have not yet begun to cook properly.

                        There is no separate broiler control so I can't speed the cooking of the toppings that way, and I don't LIKE my pizza that way anyway. Either the broiler is on or the baking element is on. Cooking toppings with the broiler only works if you want that semi-charred crust in 2 minutes or less from a super heated stone. I most emphatically DO NOT.

                        So, it all depends on what you want in a baking methodology. I have no interest in baking in a superheated oven or on a superheated stove, so this works for me. For me, a superheated stone is something to be assiduously AVOIDED, not sought and wooed. LOL!

                        1. re: JohnF

                          I keep my stone in the bottom rack of my oven all the time to ensure even heat throughout the oven and speed recovery from opening the door. But for pizza, I move the stone to either of the top two rack positions. That's because my oven, like many, vent out from the bottom, making the top of the oven the hottest part. Hope this answers your question.

                          1. re: JohnF

                            Depends on what kind of pizza you're going for, what kind of dough you're using, etc. A little experimentation might be in order.

                            Typically, the element that heats the oven is on the bottom. Even though the air is typically hottest at the top of the oven, preheating the stone on the bottom normally translates to having a hotter stone than placing it in the middle or higher because it takes so much radiated heat directly from the element (though preheating the stone in the oven and then placing the stone under the broiler makes it even hotter still in my experience). Also note that this effect will lessen if you preheat the oven for a long time - well past the point at which the oven reaches your set temp - because the element won't be on as much and the temp will equalize somewhat. ETA- I'm actually not sure if this applies to a gas oven. It likely depends on the gas oven in question. Offhand, I'd say a low position during preheating should translate to a hotter stone more often than not either way.

                            Whether this is a good thing or not depends on how you make pizza. The point of cooking pizza more quickly isn't exactly to char the crust - little bits of char are a byproduct. Instead, the idea is to make the dough expand more quickly in the oven leading to a lighter interior, with some texture contrast from the somewhat crispier/chewier exterior of the crust, and also a non-soggy undercrust. But a hotter stone isn't always better - if the bottom of your crust is charring badly in the time it takes to cook the dough through and heat the toppings, then keeping the stone a little cooler while cooking might be a better option.

                            IF you do use a broiler to actually cook the pizza, you may find that having the pizza closer to the broiler element during cooking is beneficial. This can also depend on your broiler and the rest of your method. Likewise, even without using the broiler, you may also find that the hotter air near the top of your oven is more crucial to your results than a hotter stone preheated on the bottom of the oven.

                            Also keep in mind that different dough recipes are somewhat designed for different cooking times/temperatures. New York pizza dough is typically a little different than Neapolitan pizza dough, and arguably responds better to the lower temperatures and longer cooking times most home ovens are capable of.

                            Practically speaking, I doubt most people are going to run into problems with overheating their stone just by putting it on the bottom to preheat. But it's hard to speak for you without being in your kitchen. It mainly has to do with making sure that the heat delivered to the top of your pizza isn't too out of sync with the heat delivered to the bottom of your pizza.

                            And of course, not everyone prefers the textural effect of a quicker cooking time anyway, so that can be a factor too.

                            Scott123 might be able to explain this better than I can, or even correct me here or there. But that's the basic physics of it to the best of my understanding.

                        2. Our pizza stone came from Trader Joe's and cost $10. It has sat in our oven for 5 years being used regularly, does the job just fine.

                            1. Heard great things about Lodge cast iron pizza stone on CI podcast. Has any one used it?

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: shaebones

                                The Lodge pizza stone has some advantages. Out of the stones you can walk into a store and buy, it's one of the best. It's the best you can get in Walmart, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond. It also offers risk seeking pizza bakers the option to pre-heat the stone on the stovetop to a very high heat and then transfer it to the oven for use with the oven's broiler, although, personally, I'm not a fan of handling very hot stones, even when they have handles. Another advantage is that it pre-heats quickly. Lastly, unless you completely abuse it by plunging a red hot stone into water or use it with frozen pizzas, it should last indefinitely.

                                Once you start looking at online options, though, it doesn't rank quite as well. It's a notch below Old Stone baking stone or Williams-Sonoma, and quite a few notches below a 1" kiln shelf.

                                Where it gets completely blown out of water is when it's compared to steel. Steel and cast iron have very similar baking properties. This particular stone, though, is only 1/8" thick. 1/8" doesn't have the thermal mass to give you the fast bake times you'll see with much thicker hearths, such as 1/2" steel plate. Even if someone felt that 1/2" steel plate is too heavy, 1/4" steel plate has twice the thermal mass of the Lodge pizza stone, and, depending on where you buy it, will most likely be a few dollars cheaper.

                                In summary, if you're happy with denser, breadier, longer baked (12+ minute) pizzas, then I would say that this is a fairly solid, easily obtainable option. Otherwise, if you want a shorter (better) bake time, then I'd look at a kiln shelf (8+ minutes) or 1/2" steel plate (3+ minute bakes).

                                1. re: scott123

                                  Many thanks to all the Chowhound bloggers for their suggestions.
                                  1/2" steel plate it is. I hope to begin experimenting soon after I get my latest business venture opened and running. Thanks Scott, and now I look forward to an eventual pilgrimage to Da Michele ... I will need a good vacation soon. :-)

                                  1. re: Nav210west

                                    Nav210west, a trip to Naples is certainly a tremendous culinary experience, but, as I said before, if you can make it to a large enough North American city, there's a really good chance you can save some airfare and experience the real deal. Domestic Neapolitan pizzeria owners are hungry and have a lot to prove. When you get this kind of fire in the belly, you see Da Michele quality results.

                                    I've said it before, but, just to make sure you're completely aware of what you're getting into, 1/2" steel plate is heavy. A typical plate is in the 40 lb. realm. It's not easy to get in and out of the oven. I've done it on my own, but, ideally, it's a two person job. Most people just leave it in all the time. In most ovens, the steel needs to be placed in close proximity to the broiler (6-7"), and, in this position, it makes it hard to bake other things. With your convection ability, though, you might be able to put the steel on the bottom shelf and still get great top browning. Even if it's on the bottom shelf, though, it still might make it difficult to use the oven for other things.

                                    The weight of steel, as I mentioned above, makes it only for obsessives in search of the perfect pizza- those who are willing the pay the cost of having to either take it in and out or having to work around it when baking other things. It's not for the faint of heart.

                                    The pizza making community is aggressively seeking out something that will provide the same baking properties, but with less heft. There's glimmers of hope on the horizon, but nothing that's tangible today. If you're feeling incredibly motivated, you can't beat 1/2" steel, but there's nothing to be ashamed of in going a more tried and true route and matching the specs of the optional Wolf stone with a 1" kiln shelf. The axner shelf that I gave you the link for, if your oven can fit it, is 24 lb. That's not a bad interim stone to use while we look for a lighter alternative to steel. It's also worth looking to see if you have any ceramic suppliers in your area, since shipping tends to be costly.

                                  2. re: scott123

                                    I have been using the lodge cast iron pan for a little while now. The results have been pretty decent. A preheat in a 500 degree oven followed by heating it past 500 directly under the broiler and then cooking under the broiler has given me a cooking time of about 3-3.5 minutes (i've timed it). Some decent char and crispiness on the bottom in that time, with a pretty good texture from the quick puff. My broiler is an electric coil of better-than-average but not superpowered strength, and at this point I suspect that using a more conductive material could possibly be a waste just because I can't generate any more top heat.

                                    The thermal mass doesn't seem to be a big issue for an individual pizza given my broiler, There's still a decent bit of mass to work with. OTOH, I have found that the 'stone' needs to be reheated for a a while under the broiler for subsequent pizzas. At any rate, I can tell you first hand that you're not limited to 12+ minute pizzas with the Lodge pan unless you don't have a decent broiler to work with.

                                    ETA: by the way, I'm not trying to recommend against a steel plate. I'm just saying the Lodge pan is capable of some fairly fast cooking times. I'm also wondering where you've seen that it's 1/8 inch thick. I don't have calipers and the rim makes it tough to measure otherwise, but it feels like it's closer to 1/4 inch thick just by my offhand guess.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      I want to add a theoretical consideration:

                                      One potential downside of the lodge pan, and one potential upside of a steel plate that's cut to fit your oven is this - at least theoretically, a large plate stretching the whole way across your oven should reflect more of the broiler's heat back up at the top of the oven, and might effectively make the entire top of your oven hotter. This could probably even help an underpowered broiler behave like a stronger one and push cooking time lower, even with concerns of thickness and thermal mass put aside.

                                      Problem is, I have not yet experimented with a larger plate than the lodge 14 inch 'stone' so I can't compare first hand. I was wondering if anyone else has. My cooking time is already pretty low, but I imagine that's mainly just because I have a fairly strong broiler to work with. If I ever try out a larger plate, I'll try to remember to cite my experience here.

                                  3. re: shaebones

                                    I use one all the time and am quite pleased with the results.

                                    As scott123 mentioned, heavy and hot are not an ideal combination when it comes to transporting a pizza. I have done it but don't recommend moving it at all. I use a short handled peel to move the pizza in and out of the oven. The handles on the Lodge work great when you want to clean it but will transfer heat very fast through a pot holder. Before you get the pan to the stove top, your hands will tell you it wasn't a good idea.