While it is true that ordering pizza to be delivered to your home might be the ultimate dining convenience, most American households don’t even try to make their own pizzas at home, and rely strictly on pizzeria pies. For reasons of economy or even just variety, it would seem that more people might try to make their own pizzas at home more often than they do. Instead, Mom might be a master chef when it comes to roasts and casseroles, but home made pizza is rarely seen on the menu. One reason many people might avoid making pizza at home is the inability to create a pizzeria-worthy crispy crust. Both pre-made pizza crusts from the supermarket, as well as crusts made with genuine home-made dough often turn out with soft, soggy bottoms when baked at home. Many at-home chefs might be tempted to simply quit trying after a few of those soggy pizza experiences, but if they knew how to use a pizza stone properly they might get different results.
Using a pizza stone properly can create a thin, crisp pizza crust right in your oven. Many people have heard of pizza stones and many homes might already have one in the kitchen, but few are used correctly it seems. If people don’t already own a pizza stone, at least most have seen one. It is simply a round, flat stone made of ceramic or earthenware that is placed on the rack inside an oven to evenly distribute heat to the bottom of the pizza. Uneven distribution of heat is what causes most problems when baking a pizza at home. When the heat is evenly distributed across the bottom of the pizza, all the moisture in the dough is absorbed and the crust will get crispy from center to edge. Using the pizza stone allows a home chef to recreate the effect of cooking a pizza in a real masonry oven. The porous natural stones absorb moisture and even out the heat that is delivered to the crust. The slow, even heating cycle results in crisp pizza crust every time.
Pizza stones come in a variety of sizes to fit most conventional cooking ovens and they are fairly easy to use. It is important to remember is that a pizza stone requires slow heating and cooling cycles to prevent cracks in the stone due to thermal shock. A pizza stone should be placed in a cold oven and slowly brought up to baking temperature for about an hour prior to baking a pizza on it. After baking, the stone should be left in the oven and allowed to cool naturally after the oven is turned off. The pizza is baked directly on the stone and a sprinkling of cornmeal or breadcrumbs can help prevent the crust from sticking to the stone.
If there is anything tricky about using a pizza stone, it would be care and cleaning. Pizza stones are super porous and will absorb just about any liquid they come into contact with. The only thing you really want a pizza stone to absorb is minute traces of pizza dough that will “season” the stone through repeated use. It is best to use a dry brush or a short rinse (without submerging) of plain water to clean the stone. What you don’t want to use on your pizza stone is soap. One trip through the dishwasher or a good scrubbing along with the pots and pans in a soapy sink will ruin a pizza stone. The soap along with the loose oils and who-knows-what floating around in the water will quickly be absorbed right into the stone and will only come out slowly with heat. Unfortunately, that heat comes with the next cooking cycle and the soaps and oils in the stone will add some mighty mysterious and undesirable flavors to a pizza. You can make great pizza at home and it can be crispy too. All you have to do is care for your pizza stone properly and use it as it was designed to be used.