“What Is So Great About Pizza Baking Stones?”
Baking stones, also called pizza stones, are ideal for making perfect pizza, bread and all sorts of other foods. The technique of cooking on them goes back to ancient times when people baked their bread on hot, flat stones in the fire; today’s pizza baking stone provides the same type of surface.
Since the ideal temperature for perfect pizza is about 500 degrees Fahrenheit, baking stones are the best choice because they are made from a material similar to that which lines the inside of kilns and brick ovens. This means they can easily withstand the high temperatures required for pizza making.
Baking stones conduct heat well and distribute it evenly, and their surface is porous. These things enable the pizza dough to cook uniformly and form a crispy outer crust with a deliciously chewy center.
Pizza stones are a snap to use and care for, and they require no special tools or cleansers. They become somewhat discolored over time; this actually makes them perform even better. They also make excellent warming trays in or out of the oven, as they retain heat very well.
How To Use a Pizza Stone
Using a pizza stone is surprisingly easy. The stone is placed in the oven to preheat without oils or coatings of any kind. Once the stone is hot, the assembled pizza is put on it for baking.
The pizza can be put together on a pizza paddle, or “peel”, which is then used to transfer it into the oven.
Sprinkling the surface of the peel with cornmeal or flour will ensure that the dough slides off easily onto the pizza stone.
The stone itself should be non-stick, although sometimes they can be slightly sticky when new. The cornmeal should take care of this, and eventually the baking stone will form a natural non-stick surface through regular use.
When the pizza has finished cooking, it can be removed with the peel. The stone should be allowed to cool completely, and then it should be rinsed with plain water and allowed to air dry. It does not need to be soaked or scrubbed and it should never be washed with dish soap.
More Than Pizza
Baking stones are ideal for making all sorts of breads, especially flatbreads such as chapati, focaccia, arepa, barbari and Armenian cracker bread. Homemade corn and flour tortillas can also be made on a baking stone, along with biscuits, dinner rolls and loaf breads.
The Pampered Chef pizza stone is perfect for nachos as well; any cheese that drops onto the surface of the stone can be gently scraped off once it is cooled. That stone comes with a small plastic scraper for this purpose; Pampered Chef also sells a serving basket with handles for their round pizza stone to sit on.
This works very well for the wide variety of hors d’oeuvres and finger foods which can be prepared and then safely served right on the hot baking stone.
The Emile Henry Pizza Stone
Baking stones need to be durable, reliable, and easy-to-clean, and the Emile Henry pizza stone fits the bill on all three accounts. Emile Henry has a long, rich history of slow, natural cooking, making their stones a smart addition to any home kitchen.
Years of Experience
Founded in 1850 in the small town of Marcigny in the Burgundy province of France, Emile Henry has a worldwide reputation for the finest ceramic cookware, specially made from the same mineral-rich limestone soil and clay of the area that provides body and fullness to the Burgundy wines.
The Henry family still owns and operates the company, closely overseeing the manufacture of quality cookware and baking stones; with over 150 years of experience, Emile Henry ensures excellence. Every piece is 100% food safe, with no lead or cadmium.
Cooking and Serving With Ease
The Burgundy clay slowly and evenly distributes the heat across the stone’s surface, bringing out the flavors and aromas and guaranteeing a uniform texture and doneness. Because of the smooth glazed cooking surface, there is no need to add extra grease or fat to the stone, allowing you to cook healthier dishes. The clay also retains heat, so the stone keeps the food hot from oven to table to plate.
Emile Henry stones are extremely durable and resistant to thermal shock, so the stone can go directly from freezer to oven. They are light weight and heat up in 15 minutes, making brick-oven style pizzas in a home oven or on a grill quickly.
Additionally, these stones do not easily chip or crack, so you can cut directly on the stone without damaging or scratching the cooking surface, a convenient quality for making pizza at home! These pizza stones also come with a two-year warranty against faulty workmanship.
As for Cleanup…
For most home cooks, the convenience of cleanup is essential. This stone does not trap baked on or burnt on foods, and all Emile Henry cookware can go directly in the dishwasher, unlike so many other clay stones or pizza pans on the market.
Stones by Emile Henry are arguably the most versatile on the market. Their pizza stones can be used inside both conventional and convectional ovens. Their stones are also made to be used on grills of varying types: gas, charcoal, or wood. It is also ok to cook with them under a broiler.
A Colorful Investment
Finally, this baking stone comes in a number of fun colors—red, olive, black, or figue (the color of figs)—with fade and chip resistant glazes. Whether you are making pizzas or fashioning flatbreads, the Emile Henry pizza stone is a worthwhile investment for any home cook.
The Pampered Chef Pizza Stone
In business since 1980, the Pampered Chef sells a wide variety of cookware, bakeware and kitchen implements through their home cooking shows and catalog sales. They offer an entire line of stoneware for baking, including muffin and loaf pans, casseroles, and bar pans.
One of their most popular stoneware items is the pizza stone, which comes in two different sizes: a large round stone, which is 15 inches in diameter and sells for $32, and a medium round stone, which is 13 inches in diameter and sells for $24. Both are of the thinner style of baking stone.
What Makes Pampered Chef Unique
There are several things about the Pampered Chef pizza stones which make them stand out from other brands. They have handles which are formed as part of the stone itself, rather than being attached as separate pieces. This feature ensures that the handles will not rust, break or detach from the stone.
Another unique aspect of these pizza stones is the fact that they are not porous like other baking stones, so they do not absorb the flavors of food the way traditional ceramic stoneware will. This also means they can be seasoned with a small amount of oil if food sticks to them initially.
With regular use, they will eventually develop a natural non-stick coating like other baking stones. Like the other Pampered Chef stoneware, the pizza stones can be used in the microwave. They can also be used to store food in the refrigerator and the freezer.
Pampered Chef pizza stones are quite versatile, and the company offers a number of recipes especially for use with their stones. Some of the foods that can be prepared and served on them include crostini caprese, stuffed spinach rolls with sausage, fajitas, a club sandwich ring and brie with pecans. They are also excellent for pizza, of course, both of the frozen and homemade variety.
Care and Use Instructions
Despite having a non-porous surface, Pampered Chef baking stones still need to be washed with plain water only, and they come with a special nylon scraping tool for cleaning. They should not be used on the grill or placed under the broiler. Like other baking stones, they are not dishwasher safe.
At least two thirds of the surface of a Pampered Chef pizza stone should be covered when used in the oven, and the food should be distributed as evenly as possible. Unlike other stones, the Pampered Chef pizza stone should not be preheated first.
If the stone has been refrigerated, both food and stone can go directly into the oven, but frozen food should never be placed on a warm stone. Following these steps will minimize the risk of the stone cracking due to thermal shock. As mentioned above, cookies, refrigerated biscuits and other oil-containing foods are safe to prepare on this baking stone.
Why Using a Pizza Stone is Better
There are several reasons why pizza stones are better than metal pans.
Pizza Stones Provide Better Results
There is no question that pizza cooked on a baking stone simply tastes better than pizza cooked any other way. There are several reasons for this. Ceramic stoneware is porous, and it retains heat very well. When dough is placed on it, the moisture in the dough is drawn out and absorbed, ensuring that it cooks all the way through without becoming soggy.
The pizza stone also heats evenly. Pans made of metal may have hot spots, so the dough can burn. In short, pizza cooked on a pizza stone will have a perfectly cooked crust which is crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, just like pizza that is professionally made in a pizzeria’s brick oven.
These principles apply to any baked goods that are made using a baking stone, also. Breads of any kind will be browned perfectly without burning, and they will have the best consistency.
Easy to Use, Easy to Care For
Baking stones are very easy to use. There is no need to go through any special conditioning process because the stone will naturally become seasoned over time, with normal use. When cooking with a pizza stone, it should be placed in the oven prior to turning it on and be allowed adequate time to heat up.
Food is placed directly on it to cook, and then the stone should be allowed to cool down before cleaning. That really is all there is to it. They are also easy to care for, since cleaning consists of a rinse and possibly a light scraping. Some cooks leave their baking stones right in the oven at all times, which nicely solves the question of where to store the stone.
A Healthier Option
Metal baking pans need to be coated with oils or other fatty substances so food won’t stick to them, adding more calories and fat to whatever is being cooked. Using a baking stone requires no added fats. If pizza dough tends to stick to a new stone, a small amount of cornmeal scattered over the top will take care of it.
Proven To Work Well
Baking stones, in one form or another, have been in use for centuries. People started out by baking simple breads on flat rocks heated in an open fire. In Colonial times, brick fireplaces had special niches for bread baking.
Today, chefs all over the world sing the praises of baking stones, for the simple reason that they work very well. They can safely be used in any type of oven, from professional grade to smaller gas ranges. If properly used and cared for, they will continue to produce delicious results for years.
Finding the Right Baking Stone
Baking stones come in many different shapes and sizes. Choosing the right one is mostly a matter of preference. There are several factors to consider when making the decision.
Which Shape is Best?
Baking stones can be round, square or rectangular in shape. Most people assume that round stones are only for pizza, but that is not the case.
Round stones can be used to prepare all of the same foods that stones of other shapes can. By the same token, pizza can be cooked on a baking stone that is square or rectangular in shape. The shape that is chosen really depends on personal taste and what the individual finds easiest to handle.
It should be noted that a very large rectangular stone can hold a lot of food, but it might be quite awkward to lift in and out of the oven. Thick, rectangular stones are actually best left in the oven at all times; they can double as warming surfaces for foods that are cooked on top of the stove.
Baking Stone Materials
Most baking stones are made of unglazed ceramic clay, and this material tends to work very well. It heats evenly, can withstand high cooking temperatures, and is safe for use with food.
Some cooks advocate baking stones made of granite or marble, which will be extremely heavy and probably more expensive than clay. Marble stones can double as pastry boards, however. Some people advise saving money by purchasing terra cotta tiles or bricks from home improvement centers to use as baking stones.
Be advised, however, that these materials have not been graded for cooking and may contain lead, especially if they are glazed. Only unglazed material should be used as a baking stone.
Baking Stone Cost
Prices for baking stones vary and are not necessarily an indication of quality. There are baking stones which sell for less than $20, and there are some that cost hundreds of dollars. The average cost is about $30 – $50.
A stone which fits in one’s oven but is the largest size that will do so is ideal if it is to be left in the oven; otherwise, whichever type is easiest to handle is probably best.
Other Things to Consider
Care should be taken to choose a baking stone that is not too heavy. A very thick, heavy stone will take a longer time to heat up in addition to being difficult to handle; however, the stone should weigh enough to seem durable.
A pizza peel is a very sound investment for use with most types of baking stones, particularly when making pizza or bread. It is great for moving food on and off a hot baking stone, and pizza can be assembled on it.
If nachos and hors d’oeuvres will be prepared with some frequency, a good option might be a lighter baking stone with handles to make it easier to remove from the oven. It is also possible to purchase stone bar pans with raised sides, which are the best option for making cookies. Muffin pans, casseroles, loaf pans and a variety of other baking pans now come in stoneware as well.