Pizza stones are larger versions of baking stones. They are designed for baking pizzas on in home ovens. The goal is to help the pizza crust develop a crispiness and puffiness that approximates that of pizzas from pizzerias.
They can also be using for baking pastries or crispy bread on.
They work by concentrating heat, and keeping that heat stable under the pizza as it is baking:
“A baking stone or steel won’t actually make your oven hotter, but it does store heat. When you bake bread or pizza directly on the hot surface of the stone, its concentrated warmth results in crustier breads and crispier pizzas with puffier “oven spring” (the expansion of dough during the first few minutes of baking) than you’d get from just hot oven air and a cookie sheet.” Stockton, Lesley. The Best Pizza Stone and Baking Steel. Wirecutter: 25 March 2019. Accessed January 2020 at https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-pizza-stone-and-baking-steel/
A stone with its porous surface helps to crisp the crust and prevent soggy pizza by absorbing excess moisture from the crust: “Baking a [pizza] on a ceramic stone all but guarantees that you won’t end up with a soggy bottom crust ever again.” Ibid.
They are typically round but rectangular ones are also available.
How to use a pizza stone
Begin heating the pizza stone in the oven in advance of needing it.
When putting a pizza stone on an oven shelf, leave a 10 cm (two inch) space all round on the shelf, to allow air to rise and circulate. It will likely smoke the first time you use it.
Put the pizza stone in the oven when you start heating the oven. A sprinkle of water on the stone should evaporate immediately if the stone is hot enough to cook on.
You assemble your pizza on a baker’s peel or sheet or tray with no edges, first putting corn meal or parchment paper on the peel. When your pizza is all put together, you then slide it from the peel directly onto the heated pizza stone in the oven, with no pizza pan involved.
When the pizza is finished, use the peel to remove the pizza from the pizza stone, which you leave behind in the oven until the stone has completely cooled.
A stone can stay hot long after the oven is off; always use oven mitts to handle it. Pizza stone reviewers say it can’t be emphasized enough to not remove a pizza stone from the oven until the stone is totally cool; they say that even the shock of sudden cooler air can crack it. Though, some may have flaws in them that will cause them to crack when cooling, no matter how careful you are.
Pizza stones versus baking stones
Some people advise that rather than thinking of a round pizza stone, it is best to buy a rectangular pizza stone instead, and that rather than trying to fit it to the size of pizza you usually make, to buy the largest stone that will fit into your oven. At this point, granted, it’s not clear what the difference is between that and a baking stone is.
The round pizza stones, they say, may conjure up visions of a perfectly shaped pizza and may often be the ones in gourmet food photos, but they can be less multi-purpose, and can allow a lot of dripping. The rectangular ones are more flexible in terms of what you can make and what they will handle, not only in terms of pizza size, but also in terms of other baked things, plus they will be more likely to have edge room to catch dripping.
Clean a new pizza stone first with a baking soda solution, rinsing well (don’t use soap, it can be absorbed in.)
To clean a pizza stone after use, allow the stone to cool, then remove, scrape off any food or drippings, then rinse with warm water. You can scrub with baking soda if you wish, but never soap: soap will go into the stone.
Eventually, over time, oils will go into the stone and make it non-stick, shiny and dark.
Do not put frozen pizzas on a pizza stone. Do not leave a pizza stone in the oven during the oven’s self-clean cycle.
Becky Hughes. How to Clean a Pizza Stone the Right Way. Epicurious Magazine. 15 June 2017. Available at https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-clean-a-pizza-stone-article (link valid as of January 2020)
Rachel Z. Ardnt. Tested: Does a Pizza Stone Really Make a Better Crust? Popular Mechanics. 4 June 2014. Available at https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/a10608/tested-does-a-pizza-stone-really-make-a-better-crust-16859308/ (link valid as of January 2020)
The Baking Steel Company. Why Your Pizza Stone Cracked and How To Prevent It. 28 November 2019. Available at https://www.bakingsteel.com/blog/why-pizza-stone-cracked (link valid as of January 2020)