7 Best Pizza Stones | April 2017
- ideal for thin crust pizzas
- stone scratches easily
- needs to be seasoned before use
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
- good budget choice
- doesn't retain heat for long periods
- may crack if placed on a cold countertop
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- retains heat well to keep pizzas warm
- even heating with no hot spots
- easily rinses clean with water
|Rating||4.4 / 5.0|
- quality made in france
- works great for baking bread
- dishwasher safe for easy cleaning
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
- comes with recipe book
- natural stoneware heats evenly
- handles are removable for smaller ovens
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
- easy to handle at just 3.2 lbs
- absorb moisture for crispier crusts
- made from cordierite ceramic
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
- 100% guaranteed against thermal shock
- certified nontoxic
- will not crack during extreme cooking
|Brand||California Pizza Stones|
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
Why Use A Pizza Stone
Properly cooking a pizza requires two things; high heat and fast heat transfer. These two properties are relative to each other though, meaning that if you have more of one, you can have less of another. You will rarely see a pizza stone being used in a commercial pizza restaurant. This is because they have ovens which can reach well over 600 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the standard home oven tops out somewhere between 450 and 500 degrees. To make up for the lower temperature, those cooking pizzas in a home oven need to use a pizza stone, which increases the heat transfer rate.
To understand why pizza dough needs either fast heat transfer or high cooking temperatures, one must understand the processes happening inside of the dough. During kneading, the flour inside of the dough begins to absorb water and become hydrated. This starts an enzymatic process and makes the proteins glutenin and gliadin inside of the dough mesh together. As they mesh together, they form gluten. Gluten is the mixture of proteins that are responsible for bread's ability to stretch and trap the gas bubbles that are formed as the yeast ferments. The fermentation of the sugars and starches within the dough and yeast leaves CO2 and alcohol as a byproduct.
Once the dough is put into the oven, heat transfers into it causing the gasses to expand and escape. The expanding gasses cause the dough to rise, creating the puffiness found in good pizza dough. If the heat is not transferred quick enough, the gasses won't expand rapidly enough before the crust hardens and the result will be limp unrisen dough.
Pizza stones are designed for fast heat transfer. If a pizza stone is thoroughly heated before placing the dough on it, heat will transfer quickly into the dough causing the gasses to expand and create a nice puffy dough, even if the oven is only set at 400 degrees.
Understanding Pizza Stone Materials
Pizza stones generally come in one of four different types of material, each with their own distinct benefits. Traditionally pizza stones were made from clay or stone. These types of pizza stones are good because they have a high thermal mass, which results in them maintaining their temperature longer and also allows them to transfer their heat to the dough quicker. They also absorb moisture from the dough as it cooks, creating a crispier crust in less time. There are three main drawbacks to clay and stone pizza stones. They are often very heavy, making them unwieldy for some. They also take a long time to fully preheat, sometimes 30 minutes of more depending on the thickness of the stone, and they can crack if not properly cared for.
Cast iron pizza stones heat up much quicker than clay or stone, and are also much easier to clean. They also have a high thermal mass, so cooking crispy pizza shouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately, they can be even heavier than clay or stone options, which can be especially problematic if one wants to cook a pizza that is larger than 12 inches. Unlike clay and stone models, there is no chance of a cast iron pizza stone cracking, but it can warp if not properly handled. They also need to be seasoned to prevent the dough from sticking.
Some newer pizza stone models are made from stainless steel. Steel varieties can actually transfer heat even quicker than clay and stone models, but will not absorb water when the pizza is cooking. They also have less thermal mass, which causes them to lose heat very quickly when taken out of the oven. This means one must place the dough on it and get it back in the oven quickly if they want their stone to stay hot. Steel models heat up quicker, are easy to clean, and can cook a pizza more evenly at lower temperatures than clay, stone, or cast-iron options.
Origin Of The Margherita Pizza
Perhaps no other pizza represents a traditional Italian pizza quite so much as the Neapolitan Margherita. A true Margherita pizza should have a minimally altered sauce consisting of crushed San Marzano-style tomatoes, which can be fresh or canned, and be topped with a good quality mozzarella di bufala and a few sprigs of fresh basil. A splash of olive oil and pinch of salt is also acceptable.
Common folklore states that the first Margherita pizza was cooked in 1889 Naples, Italy for Queen Margherita of Savoy. To honor her visit and the unification of Italy, which took place 28 years earlier, chef Raffaele Esposito who worked at Pizzeria Brandi created the pizza to resemble the Italian flag, which contains the colors, red, green, and white; the tomatoes, the basil, and fresh mozzarella. He also cooked three other styles of pizza for her, but she was so fond of the one resembling the Italian flag that chef Esposito decided to name it the Margherita pizza.
While this story is compelling, it is not accurate. There are records of similar pizzas being made in 1866. In Francesco DeBouchard's book “Customs and Traditions of Naples”, he mentions popular pizza of the mid 1800s, which consisted of tomatoes, cheese, basil, and fresh mozzarella. Despite chef Esposito's pizza not being the true first Margherita, he is most certainly responsible for the name and making it one of the most popular and enduring pizza recipes.