Have you ever felt the horror of having your beloved stone crack while you're cooking up your latest pie? You're not alone. There are a ton of pizza stone owners looking for answers to this mystery. Our advice?
Just breathe slowly.
And then read on.
There are quite a few opinions out there about what makes a baking stone crack. Some make sense. Some make zero sense. So, we thought we'd sort out the good from the bad, and help try to explain why your stone cracked and how you can protect yourself from that traumatic experience ever happening to you again.
Okay, maybe we're being a little dramatic. But we know you really want to make great pizza at home. So having your go-to tool fall apart on you can be a little unnerving.
Top Reasons Why Pizza Stones Crack
1. Putting a cold baking stone into a hot oven
When you throw a cold pizza stone into a hot oven, your stone experiences the dreaded "thermal shock," which basically means your stone can't handle large temperature changes. Since it's usually made of ceramic, that can cause a fracture in the stone. Sometimes it's evident immediately. Other times it lies dormant until your next baking session.
2. Allowing moisture into the baking stone
You should never wash your baking stone, because if the stone isn't allowed to dry appropriately before the next baking session, it can weaken the stone. Also, contrary to some old-wives' advice out there on the interwebs, never oil your baking stone. That's a one-way ticket to Cracksville.
3. Placing cool or cold food onto the baking stone
Even if you've pre-heated your stone, you want to be careful about placing cool pizza dough onto it. And especially be cautious with placing frozen pizza dough on there. That'll rock your stone quicker than you can say "thermal shock.'
4. Handling the stone too much
Even though with a name like "stone," you may expect your baking stone to be tough as nails, it's really much more fragile than you may think. Repeated handling of the stone can weaken its internal integrity over time. And, of course, the results don't show up until you're in the middle of baking that perfect pizza with company on the way. It's just how the world works, right?
5. Removing the stone too soon from a hot oven
Just like throwing a cold pizza stone into a hot oven can shock the senses out of it, pulling it out of a hot oven and setting it on the stove to cool can have a similar impact. It's just not ready for that kind of sudden temperature change.
6. Using too much heat
This is a really unfortunate one, because the hotter you can get your oven, the quicker your pizzas will bake. And, you'll get that perfect crust. There's a reason wood fire ovens get up to 800 degrees! You need heat to turn out the perfect pizza! The bad news for your baking stone, though, is when you start to crank up the heat, you run the risk of shattering it into a few interestingly-shaped pieces.
Instead of being so negative, though, let me spell it out for you in positive terms how you should treat your pizza stone.
How To Prevent Your Pizza Stone From Cracking In The Future
Keep your stone in your oven all the time. If you like a pretty looking stone, cover with foil so drips from other things don't stain it.
Always put a stone into a cold oven and do a long pre-heat.
Minimize handling. Moving in and out of the oven can cause cracking.
Handle carefully. Any kind of drop will cause fractures.
Avoid washing or oiling a stone. The moisture can cause it to crack.
Use only dough that is room temperature or warmer. (Some have even suggested warming it slightly on the stove top before placing it on the stone.)
Wait until stone is completely cold before removing it from oven.
Don't put frozen pizzas on your pizza stone. Ever.
Use a folded towel and place on the counter before you take the stone out of the oven, so the counter won't send your stone into "thermal shock."
Don't use high heat with it. (This one's kind of a bummer, since high heat makes unbelievable pizza pies!)
If you leave your stone in the oven, remove it for the self-cleaning cycle. With the drastic temperature changes, you're asking for trouble.
Are Pizza Stones Worth This Kind Of Kid-Glove Treatment?
If you've made pizzas on your baking stone, you'd probably answer with a hearty, "yes." You're a die-hard fan. Let's face it, pizza stones work pretty well. They have quite a bit more thermal mass than a baking sheet, so they store and distribute heat better than a flimsy metal pizza pan. (That "thermal mass" part is pretty important. That's where the magic happens.) The stone gets about as close to the the results of cooking a pizza in a brick oven as you can reasonably get, and usually gives you a decent looking crust and a nice tasting pie.
Make Even Bake Better Pizzas And Never Face A Fractured Stone Again
So, here's where the news goes from kind of bad to unbelievably good. Several years back, Modernist Cuisine published some findings from their research that if you wanted to make truly amazing New York Style pizza at home, you should skip the ever-present baking stone, and opt for baking your pizzas on a piece of steel. Steel has many times more thermal mass than a ceramic stone, which means it retains heat way better than a simple baking stone and does all the stuff that makes great pizza great. Plus, it's practically indestructible. I mean, you could probably crack it with some sort of anti-aircraft missile or a near-proximity nuclear detonation, but you shouldn't be cooking with that kind of stuff anyway.
Since we love making amazing pizzas, and we hate cracking pizza stones, we went looking for someone making a baking steel, and couldn't find anyone. So, we made it ourselves. Now, we're excited to help other pizza enthusiasts make the best pizzas of their lives at home with the Baking Steel. The Baking Steel is being snapped up all around the world by novices and pros alike, and the positive reviews for it have been truly overwhelming. You owe it to yourself to at least see what you may be missing by simply replacing that cracked pizza stone. We're pretty sure you'll never want to buy another stone again.