Are you looking to become a pizza connoisseur? The fastest way to up your pizza game is to use a pizza stone. Become a master in minutes! Pizza stones are a simple tool that can take your pizza to new heights. They are easy to use — but they have a slight learning curve and can be damaged quite easily when mistreated.
One of the best tricks for getting the most out of your pizza stone is to learn how to season it correctly. A properly seasoned stone can elevate your pizza to masterful levels and make you the envy of all your friends. Seriously, pizza stones make a huge difference to the quality of cooking – not to mention they are much more affordable than buying a whole pizza oven.
If you love pizza, you owe it to yourself to make the best pizza you can. A pizza stone can help you get there.
What is a Pizza Stone?
To begin, what is a pizza stone, and what makes it so extraordinary? In short, a pizza stone is just that – a stone to cook pizza on. They are flat slabs that can be rectangular, round, or oblong and are usually ceramic or clay. The specific properties of the stone are what cook the pizza to perfection.
Ceramic and clay are porous materials, meaning when the pizza is cooking on it, it helps to draw away excess moisture and results in a divinely crispy crust. The ceramic allows for more even heat distribution than metal pans and results in more even cooking.
Pizza does not cook as well in a conventional oven without a pizza stone because the temperature is too low to cook the bottom well without burning the topping first. The pizza stone rectifies that by transferring heat up through the bottom and drawing away excess moisture.
These select properties are what make stone oven pizza so much better than regular oven pizza. But with a pizza stone, you don’t need an entire pizza oven to achieve the same effect! You can just pop the pizza stone into your regular oven, and voila – perfect stone-cooked pizza!
Why Bother Seasoning?
Now that you know what a pizza stone is and how it works, you are most likely wondering why you need to bother seasoning it if it is as magical as it seems. Well, herein lies the even more magical answer: seasoning the pizza stone further improves the pizza’s flavor. That’s right. Pizza stones provide the perfect golden crust, but they also change the taste of the pizza itself.
This ability to change the pizza’s flavor is due to the ceramic’s porous nature. As the pizza cooks, some of the flavors are absorbed and transferred to the next pizza cooked on it. This ‘seasoning’ adds a depth of flavor to each subsequent pizza. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
If you have never used your pizza stone before or are especially worried about the pizza sticking, you can do what cooks refer to as ‘pre-seasoning’. The process of pre-seasoning is incredibly straightforward and takes minimal effort and only one ingredient.
To pre-season a pizza stone, first give the stone a rinse. You can wipe it down to help dry it, but do not wash it. Once you have rinsed the stone, either let it sit until dry or warm it in the oven to dry it. If you choose to use the oven, keep it at the lowest temperature. Be sure it is 100% dry before use.
Beware — never change the temperature of the stone too quickly, or it may crack. If you are heating the stone, always put it in the oven before you turn it on and let them heat up together. Never try to cool the stone with water. Leave it in the oven and let it cool gradually, or it may break.
Once the stone is clean and dry, apply a small amount of vegetable oil and spread it over the stone. Experts recommend that you use a cloth to spread the oil rather than a paper towel as it is less likely to get caught on the stone’s surface.
Once the stone is fully coated, place it in the oven and heat to about 500°F for about an hour. This seasoning and cooking will add flavor to the first pizza you cook, prevent sticking, and help the stone with future seasoning.
How to Season a Pizza Stone
Whether you choose to pre-season your pizza stone or not, it will season itself eventually; it simply happens with time and use. As each pizza cooks on the stone, oils, fats, and other flavorful substances will drip onto the stone and absorb into it. This type of seasoning is unavoidable.
If you are looking to promote this type of seasoning, try using a clay pizza stone instead of ceramic as it is more porous and takes on flavors better. Whether you choose to use a ceramic or clay pizza stone, it will become seasoned with time.
This protective layer of ‘seasoning’ can give your pizza a very personal taste, prevent cracking, and promote even cooking.
If you choose to cook other things such as flatbread, cookies, or crumpets on your pizza stone, the flavors will combine and meld over time to produce a taste unique to your stone and add an extra body to anything you bake. To maintain and promote good seasoning, do not wash your pizza stone or let food build up.
You want to retain as much flavor as you can without leaving food on the stone. After it has cooled from baking, be sure to scrape off any excess food or residue gently. You will know your pizza stone is well seasoned when it starts to change color. This indicates the flavors are stored properly within the stone.
As stated at the beginning, using and seasoning a pizza stone is not hard. In fact, most of it is fairly passive. However, just because you do not need to clean a pizza stone like other cookware does not mean it is low maintenance. To get the most out of your pizza stone, you must care for it regularly.
Pizza stones are more fragile than they seem and can break easily when mistreated. The best way to avoid breaking a pizza stone is to be gentle with it. Do not move it around excessively; do not submerge it or try to bake with it wet. In fact, avoid water whenever possible. Some people swear by never washing their pizza stones at all. And most importantly, do not change its temperature rapidly.
Pizza should not stick to a well-seasoned pizza stone, but if it does, gently scrape off any residue with a plastic scraper before the following use. It is okay that the stone will become discolored and spotty, but you do not want to let food build up and burn onto it.
Some pizza lovers choose to leave their pizza stones in the oven at all times. If you do this, leave the stone on the bottom rack and cover it with tin foil if you want to avoid drips. Others may remove the stone after use, but be careful to let it cool first and be gentle when moving it.
This may seem like a lot to remember and quite the hassle for a simple cooking stone, but it is well worth the effort. Pizza stones made pizza an unimaginable delight. They are a must for any diehard pizza fanatic.
Pizza stones are heaven-sent for any pizza lover looking to up their pizza game without breaking the bank. They’ll never beat authentic stone pizza ovens, of course, but they are leagues better than trying to cook pizza in a regular oven. Pizza stones require a lot of care and delicacy, but the results are more than worth a little extra effort.
The best way to care for your pizza stone is to allow it to become naturally well seasoned and avoid washing it. Letting the flavors soak in is what makes pizza stones so extraordinary. They provide the crispest golden crust, distribute heat evenly, and make each pizza better than the last. It looks like wine isn’t the only thing that improves with time.
There is some debate on whether or not pre-seasoning is essential and whether or not you should even get your pizza stone wet, but one point that is not disputed is the matter of seasoning. Seasoning a pizza stone is the most magnificent show of love you can put into your pizza making. It means you take care of your pizza stone and use it frequently. It’s like a scrapbook of pizzas past – one that tastes good.