Pizza stones are used at home and in restaurants to give pizzas a crisp crust. These kitchen tools are effective because the hard material that makes up a pizza stone heats evenly in the oven. This allows the pizza to cook on a surface that's free of hot spots and other inconsistencies. The porous pizza stones absorb oil and moisture, wicking it away from the crust. Cooking with a pizza stone is a fairly simple process, as long as you are aware of the basic rules that govern using one.
Preparing the Pizza Stone
Pizza stones may be made from heavy stone or ceramic material, but they are actually quite delicate in nature. Sharp changes in temperature can cause the stone to shatter. Before using a pizza stone, brush it off with a dry cloth. Place the pizza stone in a cold oven, then turn on the heat. Allowing the pizza stone to heat with the oven decreases the risk of thermal shock. Generally speaking, pizza stones should not be treated with oil or nonstick spray.
Cooking the Pizza
Homemade and frozen pizzas can be prepared on a pizza stone. If making a frozen pizza, slide the pizza straight onto the cold stone, then turn on the oven. Place the icy pizza on the hot stone could cause the stone to buckle. If making a homemade pizza, prepare it as you normally would. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal onto the heated pizza stone, then slide the pizza onto the stone using a pizza peel. A peel, which is shaped like a paddle, is necessary because the stone will be far too hot to handle. Sliding out the oven rack to place the pizza on the stone is also dangerous, as it may not be able to fully support the weight of the heavy stone.
Plan to bake the pizza for the recommended amount of time, but check on it every five minutes or so to ensure that the bottom isn't burning. To remove the pizza, slide the pizza peel between it and the pizza stone and lift it out of the oven. Never cut a pizza on a pizza stone, as the sharp edge can damage the stone.
Cleaning the Stone
Before doing anything, it's important to allow the stone to cool naturally. Turn off the oven and remove the stone using either the pizza peel or some heavy-duty heatproof gloves. Remember that the stone will be very heavy and hot; it can easily transmit heat through thin potholders. Place the pizza stone on a heat-resistant surface and allow it to cool completely. This may take a few hours, but is necessary to keep the stone from breaking.
After the stone is cool, lightly scrub the surface with a stiff, dry brush. If desired, wipe it down with a damp cloth. As pizza stones absorb moisture, it's important to never submerge the stone in water or clean it with soap. Additionally, washing the stone can ruin the natural seasoning that it gets from absorbing oil during use.