Have you ever wondered how much of your yearly budget you dedicate towards corner slices, craggy Sicilian squares, and Neapolitan-style pies?
What if you could take the delivery guy off of speed dial by cooking pizza at home? The key is arming yourself with a pizza stone, a simple slab of ceramic (or cast iron, or steel), that magically absorbs every last degree of heat your home oven can muster, using it to blitz a circle of cheesy dough into a crackle-crusted, cornicione-spotted, restaurant-worthy pie.
These simple-to-use oven tools not only make good homemade pizza, but can be used for home-baked bread, too!
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
Lodge Cast Iron Baking Pan 14"
Needless to say, stone and steel largely dominate this category. But we found ourselves won over by cast iron. It boasts the portability (loop handles!), affordability, and attractiveness of the former, coupled with the resilience and awesome heat retention of the latter. Like most cast iron products, it can transition seamlessly from oven to stovetop to grill or even a campfire. And while it aces when it comes to baking pizza, flatbread, and crackers; that’s only part of its potential—a raised lip makes it good for roasting vegetables, and the flat, piping hot baking surface creates an all-in-one tool for searing meat and warming tortillas for fajitas. Of all of the models and materials we found, it was the easiest to clean by far, requiring nothing more than a quick wipe and dry in order to look like new. And while you probably won’t need it, considering cast-iron can last for generations, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Just as making great pizza takes practice, so too does learning to effectively and safely use a pizza stone. Leifheit takes away all the guesswork with an included pizza peel, which is an essential co-purchase if you’re considering getting a stone. Yes, you can use flat-sided cookie sheets, but peels are really the most fool-proof way to corral cheese and sauce-covered dough onto a sizzling stone slab. A basic pizza peel alone will run you about $15 to $20, which is why the included accessories are a huge plus.
Another thing we like is the wire carrying tray, which you can set the stone onto in the oven for increased maneuverability, or transfer the stone onto afterward, so it can actually be brought to the table. But these clever additions wouldn’t amount to much if the stone itself were a dud. Happily, the Leifheit surges to the top of the pack, and speedily churns out evenly cooked, browned and crisped pizzas, flatbreads, and crackers for a reasonably low price.
If our top two choices are good for making experts of beginners, this sizzling steel is the preferred pick of pros or anyone ready to take their pizza game to the next level. Steel is prized not just for its durability, but its extreme heat-transferring and retaining properties. This tends to lead to superior “oven spring,” an instant poofing of the dough when it hits the oven, which creates an airy pizza crust. Not only does The Original Baking Steel excel at speedily churning out a perfectly cooked pizza, but it can also do one after the other without dropping a single degree. And since it’s flame-proof that means it’s equally effective under broilers or grills, and the Steel’s high capacity enables you to quickly crisp big batches of crackers. Keep in mind, however, that incendiary heat is less than ideal for baking more delicate items like cookies or scones (stick to slow-burning stones or baking sheets for that). It’s certainly durable, although the trade-off is that it’s on the more expensive side of the spectrum. And while it cleans easily, it takes some effort to lift and store.
We love the spacious surface area of the Solido (14x16) and the robust thickness of the cordierite, a preferred material for stones due to its resistance towards thermal shocks. We also appreciate the spiral grooves underneath the base that are designed to funnel heat towards the center for consistent baking. But although our dough was definitely cooked through, it also stuck in spots. It’s also on the more expensive side, very hefty, and without handles, making it difficult to maneuver. So if you’re going to struggle with the weight of your (costly) stone, we’d sooner go with the more durable and quicker conducting steel.
Is there anything Cuisinart doesn’t make? Granted, the brand is justly better known for food processors than pizza stones but this is still a solid (not to mention totally budget-friendly) option for the at-home dabbler—especially since it’s made of cordierite and can be used in either an oven or on a grill. The lightweight circle doesn’t have tremendous capacity, being 13-inches, and was a middle-of-the-road performer from our point of view. This pizza stone cooks quickly without sticking or scorching but leaving a few blonde spots. And though easy enough to hoist at 3.5 pounds, it’s more difficult to grasp and adjust, due to an absence of handles or rims.
Weighing 23 pounds (a serious beast!), we could scarcely get this behemoth out of the box. Since steel is a super-conductor, now imagine it saturated with all of the heat your oven or grill can muster. We can’t knock its performance—it conducts up to 20% faster than its ceramic/stone counterparts, meaning puffy crusts, crisped, and caramelized in the time it takes the cheese to melt. But it takes a lot of safety precautions and a bit of know-how to be able to effectively maneuver the NerdChef in and out of the oven. Hardly being able to lift it means it's a struggle to clean. And while it comes equipped with finger holes for hanging, you’ll want to have some awfully sound infrastructure before availing yourself of that option. It’s also the most expensive model on our list, coming in at just over $100.
While we tried to mimic the pizza parlor experience at home, conventional ovens don’t crank out the kind of heat that professional gas, charcoal, or brick ovens do. But stones are crafted to absorb and withstand the highest temps your oven can reach—generally 500-degrees—and transfer it directly to the pizza that’s placed on top, resulting in expertly-crisped crusts and evenly cooked ingredients in record times.
What Are Pizza Stones Made Of?
Stone or clay, largely, which are light in weight, attractive, and transfer heat evenly. But they can be hard to clean and are subject to cracking and breaking. There’s also cast iron, which is quick to heat and easy to clean. Then there’s steel, which is the best conductor of all and won’t crack or break. The issue is that it tends to be incredibly heavy, and difficult to maneuver when hot. Finding a stone that's already pre-seasoned will save you some steps getting started.
How Do I Use a Pizza Stone?
Stones are meant to season over time with continued use, which is why you shouldn’t need to do more than wipe yours with a damp cloth upon removing it from its packaging. Start your stone in a cold oven, as sudden temperature changes can cause the materials to crack or warp and let it heat to your desired temperature. It’s actually recommended to let it sit in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour even after reaching that temperature before coming into contact with the dough.
How Do I Clean and Care for a Pizza Stone?
Pizza stones should never be cleaned with soap because they’re unglazed and porous. Once you let the stone cool completely (since temperature shifts can cause cracking), wipe as much residue off as you can with a damp cloth, using a stiff brush if needed to scrape away any cooked-on food. The same process applies for steel and cast ironstones, although you’ll want to make extra sure you dry them immediately, as remaining moisture can cause rust.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
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