Wednesday Baking-What You Need to Bake Pizza

by Kristen on August 19, 2009 · 13 comments

in Baking, Wednesday Baking

IMG_5261-1

(Well, you can bake pizza without these items, but they’ve made my pizza-baking efforts easier and have improved the end product immeasurably.)

Why You Need a Stone and a Peel

The two items I now consider to be essential are a pizza stone and a pizza peel, which really work in tandem. For many years I used my pizza stone without a pizza peel and I have to tell you that using the pizza peel makes all the difference in the world.

To get a nicely browned crust on the bottom of your pizza, it’s best to place the dough directly onto a hot pizza stone. However, if you’re rolling the dough out directly onto the stone, it’s impossible to preheat it, and if you have preheated the stone, it’s tough to transfer the dough to the hot stone.

Enter the pizza peel, which makes the dough transfer a piece of cake (or pizza, I suppose).

IMG_0708

Here’s my basic pizza-making routine. I preheat the stone in the oven for 15-20 minutes, to make sure it’s very hot. I then roll out my pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. I sprinkle a bit of flour onto the pizza peel, and then lift the rolled-out dough onto the peel. Since there’s a thin coat of flour on the dough and peel, the dough doesn’t stick, and so to transfer it to the hot stone, all I have to do is open the oven door, lower the peel to the level of the baking stone, and give the peel a sort of flicking motion with my arm to make the dough slide off onto the stone.

When I’m making thin-crust pizza, I put both the tomato sauce and cheese on top of the dough before sliding it into the oven, but when I’m making a pizza with a more middle-of-the-road crust, I top it with a thin layer of tomato sauce, bake it for five minutes, and then take it out to add more toppings before I finish baking it.

I also use my pizza stone when I bake deep-dish pizza (the cake pans sit on top of the stone) and when I make stromboli and calzones.

Buying a Pizza Stone and Peel

Though I think it’s often wise to invest in good kitchenware even if it’s expensive, I’m pleased to report that a pizza stone and pizza peel will not require a fistful of cash. The pizza stone and peel that I have were only $15 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (I don’t see it on their website, but last I checked it was still available in store). Honestly, I can’t tell even the slightest difference between this stone and the Pampered Chef stone that I used to have, so I would advise against buying a really expensive stone.

Taking Care of Your Stone and Peel

When you first get your stone, it will be slightly bumpy and fairly light in color. As you use it, the surface will become smoother and darker, and will turn into a more non-stick sort of surface. Here’s what mine looks like.

IMG_0696

Since pizza stones are porous, it’s best not to use soap on them, as they could absorb a soapy smell and flavor. I just rinse mine with water after it’s cooled off, and if something like cheese has melted on, I use a plastic spatula to scrape it off. My stone is so smooth by now, though, hardly anything sticks to it. It’s not pretty…

IMG_0701

…but it’s thoroughly seasoned, and it works far better now than it did when it was all new and pristine.

Pizza stones are sensitive to sudden temperature changes and can break if you are not careful. When heating a stone, make sure to put it in the cold oven and let it preheat along with the oven. When your stone is hot, let it cool off completely before washing it off, to avoid giving it a cold shock.

I’ve been using my pizza peel (the one that came in the $15 set) for quite a number of years, and there’s no sign of it wearing out, save for a small crack which doesn’t affect its performance at all.

IMG_0703

Since it hardly gets dirty, I usually just brush the excess flour off of it and store it on top of my fridge (I have a small space between the fridge and the cabinets above it). If it does get dirty, I give it a quick rinse with water and dry it off promptly. Since it’s an unfinished wood surface, I don’t use soap and I don’t let it stay wet.

If you, like me, have struggled along for years making pizza with pale, wimpy looking undersides, do yourself a favor and get a stone and a pizza peel. For the price of a large pizza, you’ll have yourself a couple of tools that will help you make pizza that rivals the take-out variety.

All you pizza-bakers out there…what do you use to bake your pizzas?

Leave a Comment

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Battra92 August 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm

If you want to save on a Pizza peel you can use an unglazed Terracotta saucer turned upside down. When Alton Brown suggested it I ran out to buy one and found that to get the size I wanted it would be around $10. Coincidentally that weekend I saw a Pampered Chef one new at a Flea Market for $10 so I can’t vouch personally for the terracotta but if you check out Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen (or watch Good Eats) it’s what he suggests.

Reply

2 EngineerMom August 19, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Pizza!

We use a pizza screen. In our tiny kitchen, finding both storage and cooling space for the pizza stone I used to have was a fairly major problem. The pizza screen looks a bit like a round window screen with the edge finished with a flat aluminum piece. Ours cost around $20 at a local cooking specialty store.

Reply

3 Aaron August 19, 2009 at 5:32 pm

My stone lives at the bottom of my oven year round. I’d also recomend trying using corn meal under the pizzas. It makes it super easy to slide the pizza off, in a shuffle board type motion.
AO

Reply

4 WilliamB August 19, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Well drat it Kristen. That pizza looks so good – that cheese is almost perfectly brown – that you have me jonesing for pizza for dinner. That wasn’t in the plan at all. I have other things that should to be eaten lest I embarass myself come Food Waste Friday.

Reply

5 Theresa August 19, 2009 at 7:08 pm

In lieu of a pizza peel, try a wooden cutting board. This has been a lifesaver discovered by my wonderful husband. Sprinkled liberally with cornmeal to prevent sticking, the dough slides right off onto the pizza stone with a mere flick of the wrist.

Reply

6 Janknitz August 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm

The stone is absolutely essential (I haven’t tried a pizza screen, though) but the peel can be substituted. Here’s a few frugal suggestions:

A thin piece of masonite will work.

I’ve used a “baking mat” from the Dollar Store successfully. This is a stiff plastic mat meant for cutting out cookies on (NOT for baking on). Or a cutting mat, used to cut up foods and easy to clean.

Use the back of a thin, flat cookie sheet.

Check out your local restaurant supply store or Smart and Final for a peel. They are less expensive than the home and variety stores.

Even a stiff piece of cardboard will work.

Reply

7 Jinger August 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm

I’m going to use my 20% off coupon at BBandB to buy both the stone and the peel. Thanks!

Reply

8 Mariciel August 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Hi Kristen,
Thanks for stopping by my website the other day. And thank you for posting about pizza stone and peel. The pizza recipe from which I based the dough I made the other day was talking about preheating the stone but I didn’t really know much about pizza stones so I went ahead and made mine on a pan. Of course, I didn’t have a stone, hence the pan. But your post today made it all clear. Can’t wait to get me one of those sets now that I am much more eager and confident to make my own pizza at home. :) Thank you!!

Best regards,
Mariciel

Reply

9 hiptobeme August 20, 2009 at 12:25 am

Now I want pizza :D

Reply

10 calimama @ compactbydesign.com August 20, 2009 at 2:55 am

Kristen, so funny you should post this! Every time I make pizza I wonder what a stone that has been used excessively looks like! Mine is nowhere near yours but it’s on it’s way.

I have been thinking about trying my baking sheet in lieu of a pizza pan or screen as sometimes the crust is quite hard than I like and I think it is due to the stone. Any thoughts on getting a softer crust using a stone?

Reply

11 Becky August 21, 2009 at 3:52 am

I just have large pizza forms with the holes in the bottom from Walmart. I have never seen pizza stones for sale here (Poland) and they are incredibly heavy to try to bring overseas in a suitcase. I make the dough, then put it on the pregreased and sprinkled with corn meal pizza forms. I let it sit for a minute or two while I clean up the counters in the kitchen and then finish making the pizzas.

I bake them in a convection oven. It works for me. Those stones look like they make much smaller pizzas than my family is used to.

Reply

12 Anki August 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm

No pizzastone and no peel in this house. We usually make tortilla pizza or place the dough directly on a baking mat and then bake the pizza on a pre-heated cookie sheet.

Reply

Previous post:

Next post: