It took me a long time to commit to owning a pizza stone. It seemed like a luxury for people with big kitchens and lots of time on their hands. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I was actually gifted a stone for Christmas. Suddenly every frozen food I had in the house got thrown in the oven on my stone. I’d leave it on the bottom rack of my aging oven because it cooked things, even indirectly, a little more evenly. Before long, I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t get it clean, and it felt like I was serving people from a “dirty” appliance. I threw it out, can you believe that? I thought I must be doing something wrong.
What is a baking stone made of?
There are a lot of different sizes, materials, and heat-tolerances out there. A baking stone (also called a pizza stone) is made of ceramic, thick slabs of cut and pressed Himalayan salt, or a magnesium iron aluminum cyclosilicate composite called Cordierite. Baking stones are meant to help foods get crispier when baked in the oven, and more evenly cooked through. For the home pizza chef, they help mimic the fire-power of the ovens in professional pizza kitchens.
There are also pizza pans out there made of metal or cast iron that don’t do quite the same thing, but are a good option if you want something more lightweight just for pizza.
Important Note: Do not add a cold or room temperature baking stone to a hot oven. Adding a stone to a hot oven could crack your stone. It is always best to allow the stone to heat up with the oven slowly. Some types of stones hold up better to fast temp changes, but I wouldn’t risk it with salt or granite/clay baking stones. Every manufacturer has a different process, though, so read up on the instructions that come with the stone, if you have access to it.
How to clean a baking stone
The trick is to scrape and keep scraping. Once the large particles of food are gone, use a cloth with water ONLY to rub off what remains on the stone. If food is really stuck on bad, you may need to soak the stone in hot water for some time. That’s okay—just don’t use detergent or bleach or the stone will soak up that chemical flavor and smell. Just make sure your stone is completely dry before putting into the oven, both so it doesn’t crack and so it is capable of crisping up food.
Steps for cleaning a baking stone
Allow the baking stone to cool completely
Use a plastic spatula (some stones come with a tool) and scrape off any baked-on food
Mix one part baking soda with one part warm water
Spread the paste on the stone with a cloth and then rinse the cloth
Let paste stand on the stone for 5 minutes
Wipe paste off with the rinsed cloth
Rinse baking stone with warm water to remove any residue
Lay baking stone on a towel and allow it to fully air dry
How to store a baking stone?
Why not just leave in the oven on the bottom rack? You’ll always know where it is, and it will help distribute heat evenly, especially in older ovens. If you’re a compulsive oven-checker, the stone will retain more heat, too. This way it lays flat and out of the way. Or if your oven has one of those in the drawers underneath, those are great for keeping the stone flat and at hand.
Be sure to clean off food debris before storing your stone back in its carton or box, though, because they can get moldy. To clean a stone with visible mold, place in a cold oven, turn the heat up to 450F and heat for one hour. Turn off oven and let the stone cool in the oven. Once cool, remove stone and use the steps above to finish the cleaning process.
Note that if you have a self-cleaning oven, take your stone out before cleaning it because of the rapid temperature changes during the cleaning process.
Avoid dropping the stone, as they will often crack or break.
How to season a baking stone?
It is not generally required that you season a baking stone but if you do nothing, the first couple of pizzas may stick. This is why there is a simple method to get your new baking stone ready for its first day in a new home – yours!
Drizzle about a tablespoon of vegetable oil on the baking stone
Gently rub in the oil with a soft cloth or paper towel
Slide the stone into a cold oven (This is very important)
Turn oven temperature to 450 degrees.
Allow the stone to bake alone in the oven for 30 minutes
Shut off the oven and allow the stone to cool
The miracle of parchment paper works well here too, but we are still testing whether or not the crisping action still happens if the food doesn’t touch the stone directly. Even heating, yes, but the stone is supposed to absorb a bit of moisture also.
Do’s & Don’ts:
Don’t throw away your pizza stone in a fit of disgust like I did. Hopefully these tips will keep your stone in decent shape, and you will realize that discoloration is normal for any baking stone. I’m enjoying my new stone and I promise to treat this one better.
What will you be making with your stone this week? Need some ideas? Here are some links to recipes for what to make on your stone besides pizza:
Epicurious: potato chips, crackers, quesadillas
Feels Like Home: strudel, giant cookie, falafel