Let’s face it: for a lot of people, a wood fired pizza oven at home isn’t achievable due to lack of outdoor space, lack of funds or to be frank, you don’t cook enough pizza at home. You may think that Pizza isn’t worth eating unless it’s wood fired, and not just cooked in your kitchen oven.
But you know what? That doesn’t have to be the case! There is a solution for those who don’t like the taste of plain kitchen oven pizza, yet don’t have a wood fired oven. It’s called a pizza stone.
I’ll explain why it is so simple to cook a pizza on a pizza stone, anyone can do it. And once you do, you won’t want to go back to using your oven normally again.
What is a pizza stone?
If you’ve ever tried to make a pizza on a baking pan in your oven, you’ve probably found yourself wishing you could just fire that thing out of your backyard into space or something. Why? Because typical baking pans don’t really do a good job of cooking your ingredients evenly.
Pizza stones, on the other hand, are specially designed for delivering consistent results every single time you cook with them. They’re made of porous materials (usually basalt or clay) that absorb the steam and oil produced by your pizza ingredients as they cook.
This allows pizza stones to produce a crispy crust and melt-in-your-mouth tomatoes, cheese, and other toppings with ease.
Why cook your pizza on a pizza stone?
There are a few reasons that you’ll want to use a pizza stone to cook your pizzas. First is the taste. There is something that is special about a base that has been heated underneath, and the taste of a wood fired oven spoils us in that regard. A pizza stone isn’t an exact replica, but it’s the closest you’ll get at home.
Next, pizza cooks best when it is as hot as it can be without burning. Ideally, you want to be able to scorch the pizza base within a few minutes, which is hard to do in a traditional oven. This will help your crust stay crisp and your toppings stay melty.
And finally, you’ll find that with a pizza stone, you are mobile. Many people use them on a normal barbecue or outdoor oven – you could even take them to the park and cook!
Just remember that you need to watch your pizza closely. You don’t want it to burn before it’s done cooking through.
How to cook a pizza on a pizza stone
The key to making delicious pizzas on a pizza stone is all in the planning. Let’s go step by step through the process, to get the most out of cooking a pizza in this way.
Some people prefer to use a pre-made pizza dough when they cook a pizza on a pizza stone. I’ve found that creating my own pizza dough with good pizza flour, salt, yeast, and water works just as well.
If you’re using a dough mix, take care to follow the instructions and let the dough rise and punch it down a few times, to get the right size and consistency.
Use plenty of high-quality ingredients. If you use bland ingredients, your pizza will be bland too. Ensure you choose the best cheese for your pizza, and the freshest vegetables and meats that you will want to add.
Don’t forget to experiment! Just because you haven’t tried a topping on pizza, doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Combining different toppings to explore different flavors are all part of the art and science of pizza making.
Make sure you have the right tools at hand. You want quality oven mitts or gloves, a cooling rack and a few wooden boards to place the pre-heated stone.
Make sure you have the right pizza cutting tools at the ready, too.
Ready? OK, now fire your kitchen oven up, and set it high heat.
Place your pizza stone in now, so it heats up as your oven pre-heats.
Cut all your ingredients, and make sure you arrange them in small bowls or piles, so they are within easy reach of your pizza preparation bench.
When the oven has warmed, take the pizza stone out (careful – it should be hot!) and place either on a wooden board or the cooling rack.
Put a pre-rolled dough on the pizza stone and immediately add your sauce. The base has already started cooking, thanks to the pizza stone, so that means you’ll need to work quickly. Add your toppings, being careful to not overload the pizza, and then finish with your cheese.
There are a lot of different options you can make when it comes to pizzas, so be sure to choose one that works best with your ingredients and your preferences.
Once ready, put the pizza stone back into your oven, and keep a careful eye on the pizza. You may want to use a pair of tongs to carefully lift the crust a little, to see how the base is browning.
When ready, pull the stone out (with gloves or mitts) and slide the pizza off carefully on to a board to cut. Don’t cut the pizza on the stone!
Return the stone to position, add a new base, and prepare your next pizza, and repeat.
Tips for cooking your pizza on a pizza stone
Here are a few tips to ensure you cook a pizza on a pizza stone with the best chance of success.
If you find your second and subsequent pizzas are taking longer to cook, try returning the pizza stone without a pizza, into the oven for a few minutes. This gives you a chance to try your already cooked pizzas.
Make sure your pizza stone doesn’t get soaked in oils, etc. The drier you can keep it, the better.
Keep cheese away from the very edge of your pizza. This will help avoid them burning onto the surface of the pizza stone, or worse, dropping to the bottom of your kitchen oven.
Make sure you go easy with toppings. There’s a reason pizza restaurants don’t serve pizzas piled up like mountains. That makes them harder to cook through and more chance of cooked toppings flying everywhere.
Try pizza recipes that are easy for you to make to start with. If you’re a beginner, it’s better to pick a recipe that’s easier to make than one that’s harder.
How to care for your pizza stone
You need to take some care with your pizza stone, to ensure that it lasts a long time into the future. You don’t just cook a pizza on a pizza stone and then throw the stone in cold water in your sink. It’ll swell, or even worse, crack.
Actually, you want to expose your pizza stone to as little water as possible. As a general rule, a damp cloth with hot water and a quick wipe when finished is all the cleaning you should need to do.
Whatever you do, keep soaps and detergents far away from your pizza stone. The stone will absorb them and damage the stone, and all future pizzas will have a lovely detergent taste to them. Yuck!
Avoid cutting your pizza directly on the stone. This will cause scratches to the surface which will only weaken the strength of the stone.
Lastly, let it cool completely before storing it away.
How do you clean a pizza stone?
You need to be mindful that pizza stones are very porous. Avoid using any chemicals or detergents at all, and limit the water as much as possible.
The best way to clean a pizza stone is with a plastic scraper or very blunt knife, and carefully scrape any large pieces of food off the surface. Then wipe down with a warm damp (not soaking!) cloth.
What else can you cook on a pizza stone?
Here you were thinking that a pizza stone was purely only for cooking pizza? Wrong! Just like a wood fired oven, pizza stones can be used for a wide variety of foods. Everything from frozen fries to baking goods, a pizza stone is an interesting way to cook various foods.
Try using your favorite bread dough recipe and prepare it as you normally would. Instead of putting it in a loaf pan and in the oven, try putting the round dough ball directly onto the pre-heated stone and bake it like you normally would.
That exact same theory can apply to things like pita bread, tortillas, naan, homemade soft pretzels and more. You can even cook up some delicious quesadillas by adding cheese, peppers and whatever you like inside a soft tortilla, fold it over, and then place on the centre of your preheated pizza stone for a few minutes.
Cooking pizza at home can be delicious, but it can be challenging to create a good-tasting pizza on a pan. That’s because most pans aren’t designed to cook pizza evenly. Using a pizza stone, however, solves this problem.
It allows you to cook your pizza evenly while delivering a crispy, crunchy crust with ease. And that’s why you should try to cook a pizza on a pizza stone as soon as you get the chance.