Though it may seem a remote memory that stone was the order of the day for cooking and baking, pizza prior to the 18th century in Italy was a baked flatbread.
It was baked in a stone oven outdoors in many areas of Italy. In smaller villages, a single outdoor oven was used by all villagers to bake bread and make pizza.
What is a Pizza Stone Made of?
A pizza stone can be made from stone, clay, salt, or ceramic material. The first pizza stones were made mainly of stone in a round shape large enough to fit the size of the pizza dough.
Pizza stones are not the same as a pizza peel which is usually a large paddle shape with a long handle used to remove baked goods safely from an oven, Today’s pizza peels may be made from metal rather than wood,
Pizza Stone – A most Useful Kitchen Tool
When a pizza stone is made of stone, it retains heat evenly across the entire lower surface. It also has more weight to it that helps pizza and focaccia yeast-based doughs rise more evenly during baking while keeping the bottom of the dough crust crisp.
A pizza stone needs weight in order that the thin dough can expand across the upper pizza stone surface. The simple answer to the question, “What is a pizza Stone” is simply a baking implement that can be used to bake any type of yeast-based bread.
Note that pizza stones are generally about 16 inches in diameter for large pizzas. However, for the thicker Sicilian pizza dough, the pizza stone may be rectangular, or s sheet pan may be used.
Pizza stones are sold in smaller sizes for single portion pizzas that are approximately 8 inches in diameter.
Some pizza stones are referred to as “tiles” because they are square-shaped and sold in sets of four.
Making Pizza with a Pizza Stone
Pizza can be made at home. It has only five ingredients that include:
- Flour (semolina can be used or blended with bread flour)
- Olive oil
- Warm water
Blend all ingredients and knead until the dough is soft and flexible. Let it rest in a warm place until it rises (about 1 hour). While your pizza dough is rising, place your pizza stone in the oven at 200 degrees F.
When you pre-warm your pizza stone, the dough rises and creates a firm crust. When your dough is ready, roll it out to one inch smaller than the size of your pizza stone.
Carefully remove your warmed pizza stone with oven mitts or a pizza peel and place your pizza dough on top of your pizza stone. Add your favorite toppings such as sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella, parmesan, or Romano cheese. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is brown and cheese is melted.
There are numerous recipes you can find online that are quick and easy to make.
Keeping a Pizza Stone Clean
If you choose a pizza stone made of clay, ceramic, or stone, these are materials that quickly absorb odors and are very porous. Thus, they need to be cleaned after each use. However, to ensure the pizza stone does not lose its seasoning, use a paste of water and baking soda.
Never use soap to clean a pizza stone or put it in the dishwasher. Most dish detergents are mildly corrosive and some contain fragrance.
Your pizza stone should be cleaned with a paste of water and baking soda, rinsed, and allowed to dry naturally.
Avoid using metal scrubbers or scrapers as this will mar the surface of the stone and make dough removal difficult on a pitted stone surface.
More Uses of a Pizza Stone
Using a pizza stone for other types of baking stretches the use and value of owning one.
For example, save your day-old bread, cut into cubes and place them on a pizza stone. Bake until browned and you have delightful salad croutons.
Some bakers like to sprinkle a sparing amount of olive oil, parmesan cheese, and garlic or onion powder on the cubes after baking while cubes are still warm.
2. Grill Food
One really great way to make use of your pizza stone is for grilled pizza. You make the pizza dough and topping as usual and then place the pizza stone on your outdoor grill. You will love the barbecue flavor your pizza has.
This is especially true if you add dampened fruitwood to your grill before you add the pizza stone It is also possible to use a pizza stone for barbecued hot dogs and veggies. Just about anything you can barbecue on your outdoor grill can be done with a pizza stone. Just keep in mind that the stone will be exposed to a direct flame and lower the grill flame as needed.
3. Roast Food
A pizza stone is also great for making roasted veggies in an indoor oven. Dredge veggies lightly in olive oil and place on a pizza stone. Then, bake until veggies give up their fluid. Peppers, corn on the cob, and even Portobello mushrooms make a wonderful part of an outdoor grill menu.
Brush corn on the cob with chili butter before roasting on a pizza stone. Certain types of seafood can also be roasted indoors or on a barbecue grill outdoors on a pizza stone. These include bacon-wrapped shrimp, salmon, tuna and shark steaks, and other shellfish like clams, lobster, crab, and oysters.
The next time a recipe calls for toasted nuts, toasted sesame seeds, or rye seed, place these on a pizza stone and bake for a few minutes. This is also a good way to dry fruits like grapes, plums, peaches, and banana chips.
Use a pizza stone to bake pies, flatbreads like soda bread, banana nut bread, or biscuits. Place pie pans and bread pans atop the pizza stone to avoid overbaking of the bottom crust.
Investigate Before You Buy a Pizza Stone
The choice of pizza stone material depends on how frequently you plan to use it. Some of the newer pizza stones are micro glazed and have handles on either side. The glaze apparently retains moisture because it is made from clay with a glaze added.
Guide to Using a Pizza Stone
Although there are many uses for a pizza stone other than to bake pizza, it is important to know how to use it.
You need to know the maximum temperature range the pizza stone can withstand and the average baking temperature you will be baking with.
The most important safety issue when using a pizza stone is to protect the hands when removing the stone from the oven. Fortunately, most recipes allow the baked or roasted foods to cool down about 5 to 10 minutes before you remove them from the oven.
This is also true for pizza. If you remove a piping hot pizza too soon, the melted cheese can cause a burn.
Where to Buy a Pizza Stone
A pizza stone can be round, rectangular, or square, is available in several sizes and the average weight is from 2 to 7 pounds depending on whether it is made of stone, clay, or ceramic material.
No kitchen should be without a pizza stone especially if there is an avid baker in the hone. With many additional uses, the next step is where to buy a pizza stone.
Actually, you may want to purchase two or three so that if you plan a pizza party you can bake several pizzas.
Most stores that sell kitchen accessories sell pizza stones. The most convenient way to shop for one is online where there is an endless choice of sizes, weights, and styles to choose from.
For a more authentic version, you can ask your local pizza store where they purchase theirs.
A pizza stone is so much more than useful for pizza. Now that you know what a pizza stone is, how to use it, clean it and where to buy it, you’ll wonder why you never owned one or two.