A pizza stone is a tool that lets you take home pizza production to the next level. This dense stone or composite material sits underneath your pizza, allowing it to cook quickly and evenly for that perfect crispy base.
I’ve been using my pizza stone for a long time now, but at first, I found it a little daunting because I was confused about how to season the stone before use.
The information I read was confusing, and it took me a while to figure out the best approach. So, to make things easy for you, I’ve prepared a complete guide on how (and whether) to season a pizza stone.
What exactly is a pizza stone?
Traditional pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired brick or stone oven. You’re probably familiar with these dome-shaped ovens since many pizzerias give them pride of place in the restaurant.
In a brick oven, pizzas cook exceptionally quickly at a very high temperature on a flat clay surface. This surface is highly efficient at transferring heat to the base of the pizza giving it its unique crispness and evenness.
A pizza stone lets you recreate the effect of a brick oven at home by cooking the pizza base in just the same way.
Arguments against seasoning a pizza stone
First, let’s play devil’s advocate and look at the reasons why some people say you shouldn’t season pizza stones. We’ll take a look at the arguments and see if they stand up to scrutiny.
Some pizza stones are glazed or sealed
Usually, pizza stones are made out of unglazed, porous stone or earthenware material. But this isn’t always the case. Some pizza stones are nonporous from the get-go. Check with the manufacturer, and if your new pizza stone is already sealed, it doesn’t need to be seasoned.
The manufacturer doesn’t recommend seasoning the stone
It’s always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use your pizza stone.
But, as long as the stone isn’t glazed, then I think it’s a good idea to season your pizza stone, even if the manufacturer suggests otherwise. This is because a well-seasoned pizza stone has a nonstick surface that is easier to use, period.
It’s better to season your pizza stone naturally
Some people suggest that you should let your pizza stone seal naturally with oils from the foods you cook. It’s true that at high cooking temperatures, fats are released into the pizza stone from the food cooking above. The problem is that this takes time, which means that the first few times you use your stone, your pizza is likely to stick to it.
I like to be kind to myself. When I try something new in the kitchen, I want it to work from the start. That’s why I don’t buy into this natural seasoning technique. A well-seasoned pizza stone helps you make great pizza from day one; I just can’t see why you wouldn’t want to do that.
Seasoning a pizza stone makes it smoke and smell
Some people argue that pre-seasoning a pizza stone with oil makes it release foul-smelling smoke as the seasoning oil burns at high cooking temperatures.
But this isn’t really an argument against seasoning your pizza stone; it’s simply a warning about what can happen if you don’t do it correctly.
Traditionally, olive oil was used to season pizza stones, but I don’t recommend it. While it is delicious olive oil does have a strong flavor, and it’s quite a thick oil, too, so it’s hard to rub it into the deepest recesses of your pizza stone.
Instead, it’s better to use a lighter and less strong-smelling oil like flaxseed or rapeseed oil to season your stone. You also need to use just the right amount of oil, since if you don’t leave any excess, the oil won’t burn when you cook with it.
Why you should season your pizza stone
Now let’s look at some compelling reasons why it’s a great idea to season your pizza stone.
Your pizzas won’t stick to the stone
This is the fundamental reason why you should season a pizza stone. A new unseasoned pizza stone is the opposite of a nonstick surface. There is nothing more demoralizing than finding that your first pizza stone pizza glued to the surface of the pizza stone, leaving a charred mess that is nearly impossible to clean off.
It’s easier to clean a seasoned pizza stone
It can be tricky to clean a pizza stone, especially when it’s new. You shouldn’t use soap or running water since this can permeate the stone, damaging it when heated and getting into your food.
Since a seasoned pizza stone has a nonstick surface, it’s far easier to clean.
NB: don’t be worried if your pizza stone looks discolored or dirty. Long-term pizza stone users will tell you that the darker the stone, the better the pizza. As long as you clean all material from the surface, then your pizza stone is good to go.
You can control what oil seasons your stone
If you season your pizza stone before use, you can control what oil infuses into the stone and seals it. If you don’t do this, then you have to rely on seasoning from the fats in the food you cook on it.
If like me, you love strong-tasting pizza toppings like anchovy and spicy salami, you will want to avoid oils from these toppings seeping into your stone and making it smell. Pre-seasoning the pizza stone with a light oil helps you to avoid this problem.
How to season a pizza stone
So, here’s how to season your pizza stone. You’ll be pleased to discover how simple it is.
You will need:
- The pizza stone: remember to confirm whether or not the manufacturer advises you to season the pizza stone.
- An oven: any oven will do; it doesn’t have to be a specialist pizza oven. It just needs to heat up to temperatures of at least 450°F.
- Lint-free cloth: you’re looking for a fine, clean cloth that won’t produce lint.
- Oil: Any natural oil will do, but I recommend light, odor-free oils like flaxseed oil or rapeseed oil.
Step 1. Prepare the pizza stone:
Make sure that the pizza stone is clean and absolutely dry. In fact, I don’t recommend that you clean your pizza stone water because it’s a porous material, and some of that water gets absorbed into small spaces where you want the oil to go. Better to just clean it with a dry cloth.
Step 2. Oil the pizza stone:
Spread some oil across the top surface of the pizza stone.
Step 3. Spread in the oil:
Gently rub the oil into the stone using your cloth in a circular motion. This process helps get oil deep into the stone and removes excess surface oil. At this stage, the pizza stone will look oiled but not greasy.
Step 4. Heat your oven and the stone:
Now turn on your oven and put in the pizza stone. You want to use a minimum temperature of 450°F, but 500°F is better if possible.
NB: DON’T preheat your oven before putting it in the stone. Placing a cold stone into a hot oven runs the risk of cracking or damaging it from the sudden temperature change.
Step 5. Bake the pizza stone:
When the stone and the oven have reached full temperature, bake the stone for twenty minutes, then turn off the oven and give the stone plenty of time to cool down. Remember that the whole idea of a pizza stone is that it retains heat, so I recommend that you air on the side of caution and carefully remove the stone with oven gloves.
You will notice that your pizza stone now has a darker color where the oil has been infused and baked into the surface.
Step 6. Do it again, and again:
Now repeat the process at least two more times. The stone will darken further and take on a slightly glazed look. Trust your judgment, and when the stone looks like it’s a nonstick surface, then you’re done.
Step 7. Start making pizzas!
And that’s it; you’re good to go. Enjoy your pizzas.
So, to pull everything together, it’s a great idea to season your pizza stone in all instances except where the pizza stone is already glazed and nonporous.
A sealed pizza stone will give you a nonstick, no-hassle cooking surface from the start, and this means that right away, you’ll be making delicious pizzas with an even crispy base.
If you follow the simple guide above, you can quickly and easily give your pizza stone a smooth and well-seasoned finish that stops food sticking.
Once you discover the delights of a seasoned pizza stone, you’ll never go back, and you’ll probably find that your cooking pizza a lot more often than before.
If you have any questions or comments about how to season a pizza stone, please share them below.