A quality pizza stone or steel takes your oven to the next level, absorbing and radiating intense heat to create a flavorful crisp crust on pizzas and bread. If you aren’t going to use one of these products, then you may as well hit the freezer section of the grocery store for your next pizza.
You need more than just an oven to create a delicious homemade pizza.
The Problem with Homemade Pizza
No homemade pizza can compare to the crispy, succulent, deliciousness you’ll get from a brick oven. But with a steel or stone, you can get pretty darn close.
The biggest knock on homemade pizza is the crust is always lacking.
Either, it’s too soft, too hard, too flat, or too just not good. The key to a crispy and flavorful crust is intense high heat over a brief period of time. Meaning, you need a pizza oven, or a surface (steel or stone) that will radiate a ton of heat — and I mean a ton — like 600°F.
Your oven alone won't cut the mustard…
What most people don’t realize, when making pizza at home, is their oven alone won’t be enough to yield a good final product. There are so many problems with the traditional oven, but the most significant is, at best, the average oven will only heat to around 500°F.
Sounds hot enough, right?
But consider a brick fired oven, it usually burns at around 800°F and most commercial ovens sit between 700 - 800F. With low temperatures of 500 degrees, you just can’t produce great pizza. It's no wonder the conventional oven falls short.
In the good 'ol days pizzas were prepared in brick ovens, so they didn't generally require a heating stone or steel. In a perfect world, we would all still have one of these masterpieces in our own kitchens, but sadly our world is not perfect. See our article on making homemade pizza with your oven for more tips.
When broilers were introduced into the world we found convenience overruled great food. Little did we know we would soon long for the days of yore when brick ovens were still alive and well. But the take over is complete and without brick ovens, the pizza stone turned into a must-have kitchen accessory.
Pizza stones and steels are designed to compensate for the low temperature of your oven. If used properly, you can get an almost perfect pizza every time.
We’ve scoured the world looking for the best stones and steels humankind has to offer. The products in this lineup are recommended and produced pizzas with the best flavor, and crust texture.
BAKING STONES VS STEELS
Many articles talk about the wide range of pizza stones, even though these materials aren't actually stone. They come in a variety of materials – metal, ceramic, and composition – each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some have sticking issues, while others will have thermo-conducting problems. It's our job to let you know which material is going to do a good job -right away.
Baking Pizza Stones
Pizza stones or baking stones are commonly made from ceramic or cordierite. Cordierite is the name that is commonly mentioned and is a natural mineral that's added to ceramics. It can withstand heat much better since it doesn't expand like ceramic as much. This means the problem of cracking is less of an issue but the price is often higher as a result. Cordierite is harder to clean than ceramic which shouldn't be an issue if you're not being too sloppy, but accidents and drips will be obvious. This just means you'll need to learn how to clean cordierite properly after it cools down. These are meant to last and have great ability to retain heat for years and years if you really like making pizza so often.
Ceramic is celebrated for being able to achieve high temperatures and retain its heat while being warmed up. It's also easy to clean and won't rust since there's no metal involved. The downside is that ceramic materials react very poorly with cool air once it gets heated up. If you expose this to cool air suddenly, it can crack and become useless. A pizza needs to be taken off of the ceramic or cordierite stone quickly before slicing. It's a little tricky at first, getting the pie off quick enough so you're not exposing the stone to cool air for too long, directly out of the oven; but you'll get the hang of it and if not, well, you'll likely buy another stone and eventually figure it out.
In conclusion, these mixed ceramic composition stones are good conductors of heat but they don't transfer heat nearly as quickly as pizza steels. However, foods cooked on a pizza stone will cook evenly but they will require longer cooking.
Pizza steels are nearly indestructible, very durable and can last a lifetime. However, they require some level of care. It benefits from being seasoned from time to time. Steels are immune to thermal shock and won't shatter or break.
The biggest complaint about metal slabs is that they can be heavy. Whether or not you're using steel, iron, or aluminum, these are all heavier than most pizza stones. To be honest, iron and steel can both rust, but aluminum fairs a bit better. But these all do one thing well and that's storing heat very effectively. However, you'll need to be sure to season your steel so it retains that non-stick surface.
Why We Prefer Steels Over Stones
After hundreds of pizzas, cooked hundreds of ways, with hundreds of variations in timing, temperature, and cooking surface, we’ve found the best homemade pizza is made using a baking steel. A quality steel will yield a more bubbly crust with a hint of the charred flavor you get from a brick oven.
While steels are the best cooking surface for great pizza they are not necessarily the best option for everybody.
First, they are more expensive.
Second, they are heavy. Really heavy; some weigh as much as 20 pounds. That's not an easy thing to sling around the kitchen.
But on the other hand, it will outlast almost everything else you own. Also, it can handle a variety of heat sources, so your pizza steel can easily be converted into a griddle as needed. Regardless of whether you're looking for stones or steels, we’ve narrowed down the search with the best of the best. You can also skip down for some ideas on making your own baking steel or stone.
Best Baking Stones & Steels
#1 Artisan Performance
Best Steel Pizza Slab
Pizza steels are durable and easy to wash. The Artisan Performance is a rectangular shaped slab.
With the Artisan Performance Steel Slab, you can achieve great results with this impressive .25" thick steel slab for baking pizza. The total size is great for bigger pizzas and measures 16" by 14.25 inches. It's easy to wash but using baking steel will require that you bake out and season this steel a couple times before using it. This gives you a surface and flavor that's always better for long-term usage.
The cost is a little more than the average cost of ceramic composition stones, but it's still reasonably priced. This slab is made in the USA and weighs a total of 16Lbs. It's heavy-duty for the long haul; a good choice of cookware to invest in once you’ve decided to create restaurant grade pizza at home.
Pizzacraft stone boasts Thermabond technology made from cordierite.
As cooking pizza at home is not an everyday trend it leaves more room for experimentation. Pizzacraft Rectangular Thermabond stone is your absolute buddy – from bread to pastries, and of course crispy crusted pizza! This t results in finished products that seemed to have been baked in a brick oven.
What makes the Pizzacraft stone stand out is the Thermabond technology that it is made from cordierite. The cordierite material has been tempered to withstand not only extreme heat but also, thermal shock. That said, there will be no problems with fast changes in temperature with this product. It will not crack during extreme temperatures which are very useful in fast-paced cooking situations. Another plus is that you don’t have to condition or season it before use. Compared to other steels, the pizza craft is thinner and wider which allows it to distribute heat to a wider area and doesn’t heat up that easily. This means that incidences of burnt crust before the cheese melt situation is averted.
The Pizzacraft stone is more than just a slab of clay because it can work wonders in your home-made pizza. It is fortified with thermabond to make it more durable even with everyday use. You don’t have to work around with it delicately and thus have the peace of mind that it will work well for more pizza nights to come. The 15-inch size is big enough to make a family sized pizza that everyone will surely enjoy.
#3 Victoria Cast Iron
Best Budget Steel
Basic science has taught us that metals are the best conductors of heat.
With this Victoria Cast Iron Pizza Slab, you'll find it has lots more uses with crepes, bread, and tortillas. There are two rounded sizes available in the 12-inch and also the 15-inch diameter. The best-priced version is with the 15-inch since you can fit two self-serve pizzas on one slab or one big 14 to 15-inch pizza! Once again, you'll need to bake out and season this slab before using it, but the results are incredible.
This also comes with a handle for easier storage on a couple of pins mounted on your kitchen wall making it a rustic decorative kitchen accessory. Pricewise, you can't beat this compared to versions that are double the cost. Check it out.
Best Cordierite Stone
A round stone with several size options priced to fit most any budget.
We've found the Rocksheat Cordierite Pizza Stone is not only affordable but practical when it comes to handling high oven heat and stability. It doesn't require seasoning at all and makes this surface non-stick with a light coat of cornmeal. The largest diameter measures a total of 16-inches and is only 0.63" thick! There are also 5 other sizes available down to a 10-inch diameter, so the prices you'll see will adjust from small to large.
This cordierite stone doesn't need to be washed at all so all that's needed is to scrape off anything that's stuck to the surface. It won't affect the flavor whatsoever. This weighs less than 10 pounds so it's better for putting in your oven or BBQ with ease (will fit Big Green Egg smokers).
Nerd Chef promises 20x more heat retention and at faster rates too.
Steel pizza stones have definitely left its mark on most home pizza makers. One such product is the Nerd Chef Steel Stone. Many are impressed by its durability on most cooking conditions and styles. As with most steel pizza stones, the Nerd Chef promises 20x more heat retention and at faster rates too. The product owes this feature due to the thickness of the steel used.
The highlight of owning a steel pizza stone is to create great pizza at a shorter time. This is the advantage of cooking with steel. The Nerd Chef created its shape in a square form to maximize and fit most ovens and grills. It also fitted two holes at either end for easier handling. The surface is sandblasted to ensure a smooth and even finish that will ease up cleaning situations. Although it heats up pretty easily, it must be pre-heat before use. The thickness promotes high heat retention for longer periods. Meaning, you can cook pizza continuously without preheating the steel over and over again.
Steel really does have its advantages which are mostly practical ones. For the pragmatic home-maker, this will be the stone of choice because of its durability and more efficient use. But then again, some will pose the question on the quality of the outputs. Some may say that it will not cook pizza the old school way as with its ceramic counterparts. But nevertheless, if you are after efficiency and durability, this will be a great choice.
The Solido stone is another trusted brand over the years.
Ceramic stones have a strong following simply because of the great success home pizza makers have with it. It has a primitive appeal to pizza making and just adds a homely vibe. The Solido stone is another trusted brand over the years. The square shape enables it to fit into most standard ovens and grills.
What sets Solido apart is the addition of a unique heat spiral. The heat spiral embedded in this product allows heat from around the oven to be concentrated in its core and be evenly distributed throughout the plate. Also, it allows the pizza stone to heat faster and increase its heat retention properties. The result is perfect crusts and an evenly cooked, great tasting pizza. The heat spiral also adds traction for the hands for better grip and easier handling. What’s more, tiny feet are included at the base so that the plate can be easily lifted off the grill or the oven.
Solido has made significant improvements with the old school ceramic stone to make it more competitive with its contemporaries, the steel pizza stones. The appeal of the Solido stone is that even with the modern technology that fortified its heating capacities, it does not rob one from experiencing the pizzeria vibe that we get from using ceramics.
Budget Cordierite Stone
Round 13" stone, for around $25 it's hard to beat.
If you're new to pizza making, you can't find a better deal than this. Check out the Augosta Cordierite Pizza Stone 4-Piece Set. The only drawback is this pizza stone has a 13-inch diameter and is 0.6" thick. The total weight is 5.7 pounds and is ideal for beginners who like making frozen pizza in addition to freshly made versions. It also comes with a wooden peel, a pizza serving spatula, and a pizza cutting wheel.
This version recommends that any stains only need light scrubbing under a kitchen tap to clean it. Most of the Cordierlite stones don't need washing at all, so scraping off anything that sticks is also perfectly fine. This is the best value for young couples and has many more uses for baking bread, cookies, and calzones.
We hope you found our roundup and summary of this essential pizza cooking accessory. Instead of mulling over installing a wood-fired oven in your backyard, cooking on a pizza steel or pizza stone will work wonders for making a crispy pie that levels with your favorite pizza place.
How to Use a Pizza Stone?
Using a pizza stone is pretty simple, just place it in the oven, then preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Don’t place a cold stone in a hot oven, conversely, don’t place a hot stone on a cold counter. The rapid change in temperature will make the stone crack. When the pizza is ready, use a paddle to remove it from the stone, leaving the stone to cool completely in the oven.
Most ovens take about 20 minutes to reach 500 degrees. But don't get antsy when your oven is preheated, because your stone is not ready yet. It's important to let your stone preheat for an hour at 500 degrees. Many pizza aficionados have tried shorter times and have suffered the consequences. Shortening the wait time by as little as 15 minutes will produce inferior pizza. The crust will have fewer bubbles, and the tell-tell brown spots of the perfect pizza will be fewer and paler.
How to Use a Pizza Steel?
There are two popular ways to use a baking steel.
The first is pretty straightforward.
Place the steel in the oven then preheat it to 500 degrees, for an hour. Lightly cover the steel with cornmeal to help prevent sticking, then set your pizza in and cook for about 8 minutes. Rotate the pizza 180 degrees halfway through the cooking time.
The second technique is known as the broiled crust method.
Place the steel in the oven and preheat to 500, for an hour. Move the steel to the top rack of the oven, set the pizza in and cook for about 5 minutes. Rotate the pizza 180 degrees and change your oven to broil, then cook for another 2 minutes.
Maintaining Stones & Steels
How do I protect my stone from cracking (thermal shock)?
Nothing is as heartbreaking to a DIY chef as the horror of seeing your cherished baking stone crack in half. Its a hard break up to get over, but when you rebound to a new stone try to take some steps to prevent cracks in your new stone relationship.
First, never place a cold stone in a hot oven, the shock of rapidly changing temperatures is too much for your new baking stone to bear and it will fracture. Sometimes you will see it happen before your eyes, other times, you won’t see the damage until you try to bake with it again. Removing a hot stone from the oven and placing it on a cold counter has the same effect, as will placing cold food on a hot stone. Never put a frozen pizza on a preheated stone (never put a frozen pizza anywhere, except the trash).
Another reason stones crack is moisture.
Baking stones are very absorbent. If you wash or soak your stone in water it will absorb more moisture than it can vent out. Meaning it will never dry, causing your stone to weaken. The same is true of oil, while you’ll get grease on your stone during everyday use, coating the stone in oil is guaranteed to break it.
How do I season my stone?
Seasoning a pizza stone is as simple as baking pizza on it. Some people suggest adding oil to a stone before using it for the first time. These people are wrong.
Stones are made from clay, not metal. They are porous and will absorb the oil an take your stone on a one way trip to Cracksville. All you have to do, it make pizza.
Do I need to season my steel?
Most baking steels come preseasoned, all you should need to do is wash it and dry it before you can start cooking. If you want to go the DIY route when it comes to acquiring a pizza steel, then you might need to season it before use.
How do I reseason my steel?
On occasion, your baking steel might need to be reseasoned.
If food begins to stick or if there is a rust spot, because you forgot to dry it, then it might be time to reseason. Wash the steel with hot water and a dab of mild soap. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely.
Add a few drops of oil (flaxseed oil is popular), then use a paper towel to spread the oil around the steel evenly. Repeat this process on the other side of the steel as well. After you have wiped off the excess oil, set the steel in the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. Bake your steel for about an hour, then turn off the oven and let it cool.
How do I clean my pizza stone?
Once the stone is cooled, use a spatula to scrape off any food particles, then wipe it down with a rag. Do not use soap or detergent of any kind. Stone will absorb the soap and the next 50 pizzas will taste like Dawn.
How do I clean my pizza steel?
After each cooking session, make sure to leave the steel in the oven to cool. While pizza steels are impervious to thermal shock, its best to let them cool slowly. After it has cooled completely, use a brush and some hot water to clean it off. It's okay to use a little mild soap but not necessary. Make sure to dry your steel completely to avoid any possibility of rust. Just like with baking stones, the color of steel will darken with use.
How do I store my stone?
Keep your stone in a cool dry place. Most people just leave them in the oven, but remember to remove it if you need your oven for anything besides pizza, leaving the stone in the oven will affect other dishes you cook.
DIY Stones & Steels
DIY Pizza Stone
If you cost is a major factor for you you can easily make a “pizza stone” for just a few bucks at Home Depot.
Grab some UNGLAZED quarry or terra-cotta tiles. Each one is about $0.50 each and you will need about 8-10 tiles. If you decide you want an extra-large stone then just purchase a few more tiles and you can cover the entire oven shelf if you want. For an added jolt get enough tiles to line the rack above the pizza too. With tiles above and below your pie, you’ll simulate a brick oven more fully than if you just place them underneath.
Dedicated Do It Yourselfers find as much joy in making the product as in using it. If your one of these skilled DIY-ers then you can make your own pizza steel for about half the cost of a new one.
- First, locate a local metal recycler, blacksmith or industrial metal supplier and talk to them about what you're looking for. You need an A36 steel plate, that is about ¼ or ⅜ of an inch thick.
- You can get thicker steel if you like, but it will be heavier and it will take longer to heat up. Bring along the measurements for your steel plate, you'll want somewhere around 14x16 inches, any bigger and you might struggle to get it in and out of the oven.
- The edges will be sharp so either sweet talk the metal shop into smoothing them out for you or invest in a grinder and round them out yourself.
- Next, clean your steel plate. Thoroughly. You should soak it in vinegar for a few days to remove mill scale, then scrub it with a stainless steel brush. You might need to repeat this process a few times to make sure you have gotten it all off. Be careful, not lazy.
- Once clean, dry it thoroughly and season it as you would a cast-iron skillet. Rub a small amount of oil, flaxseed oil is best, into all 6 sides of your plate, then wipe off any excess with a paper towel.
- Finally, set your oven to the highest temperature, and bake the steel for a minimum of one hour. The burning oil may stink up your kitchen so open some windows before you get started. After, seasoning, you are ready to start baking.