How to use a pizza stone
Pizza is arguably the world's favorite food. A delicious base topped with any of an infinate numbers of topping combinations, is guaranteed to please.
Making fantastic pizza at home is easy with a pizza stone and some practice. A pizza stone is a round or square plate made out of a ceramic material – usually terra cotta on which you cook your pizza. Much like the best pizza pans, ceramic pizza stones hold their temperature very well and ensure that your pizza cooks from the bottom as well as the top – mimicking the way it would be cooked in a wood fired pizza oven. A benefit of a pizza stone over a pizza pan however is the way that ceramic pizza stones 'wick' moisture away from the crust resulting in extra crispness.
Pizza stones aren’t expensive, and with a bit of practice you can create some fantastic pizza. Here’s how to use one;
How to use a pizza stone
Pre heat your pizza stone in your oven with the oven set as hot as possible. This is critical – if your pizza stone is cold then it won’t help at all. Getting your pizza base and toppings onto a very hot pizza stone can be a bit difficult – as soon as the base touches the stone it sticks and starts to cook.
To overcome this you can stretch your dough out over baking paper before putting your toppings on. (Make sure it is oven/baking paper rather than general kitchen paper as general kitchen paper will stick to your pizza base). You could also use a Teflon sheet or cookie liner if you have one.
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When you’ve finished adding your pizza toppings, use a pizza peel, or carefully lift the baking paper and pizza onto the pizza stone. Another way to prevent your pizza sticking to your pizza stone is to sprinkle semolina or corn meal on the stone and then slide your base and toppings off a flat oven tray or similar. Finding the best technique for you will take some practice – it very much depends on the equipment you have in your kitchen.
NOTE! Cooking a pizza with a pizza stone and a hot oven can take less time than you would think so keep an eye on it! If you have a really hot oven then your pizza may only take 6 or 7 minutes.
Here are the most important tips for cooking great pizza at home using a pizza stone:
How to 'condition' your pizza stone
Pizza stone tips
- Find a good pizza base recipe (see below) and use ‘strong’ flour. If you’re unsure, look for a flour with the highest amount of protein you can find – anything above 12g protein per 100g is good.
- Make sure your oven and pizza stone is as hot as possible –turn your oven temperature as high as possible and make sure it is at its peak heat when you put your pizza in. Also, make sure your pizza stone is thoroughly heated before putting your pizza on it. An important tip it to make sure you have a space cleared on your countertop to put your pizza stone when you take it out of the oven - it will be very hot so make sure that wherever you are place it will withstand the heat.
- Don’t use too much topping – loading up a pizza with huge amount of topping can result in a soggy base or by the time the base has cooked the toppings can be overdone, and the crusts - where there aren’t many toppings - can get burnt. Traditional Italian pizza has a small amount of good quality ingredients.
- Practice – don’t be put out if it doesn’t work perfectly the first time – you’ll soon get the hang of using your pizza stone and your mistakes are probably delicious anyway - the best tasting pizza’s I’ve ever made was one I accidentally dropped in a heap onto my hot pizza stone – it ended up being cross between a calzone and a pizza. YUM
A good basic pizza base recipe:
Makes 2 large bases or 3 twelve inch bases
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1.5 cups (350ml) of warm water
3.5 cups (500 grams) strong flour
Pinch of salt
Add yeast to warm water and wait until it activates and starts frothing. Make a ‘well’ in the middle of your flour and pour in your water and yeast mixture. Add the oil and salt to the bowl. Use a spatula to draw the flour into the centre of the bowl and combine with the water etc. Now use your hands to knead the mixture into dough.
Knead the dough for a little while until it forms a neat ball and isn’t sticky to touch – you can add more flour or water if you need it. Rub a little olive oil on the inside of a bowl and place you dough inside.
Leave the dough for 90 mins – 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough to remove any air bubbles then cut the dough into two. Use a rolling pin or your hands to roll out the dough into a base shape.