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Old 11-10-2004, 03:38 PM   #1
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Want your opinions on baking/pizza stones

I am contemplating buying a baking stone. For a variety of reasons I don't want to go the "unglazed quarry tiles" route. I have an ordinary gas stove (not self-cleaning, not convection) and an oven shelf measures 17 x 25".

I want a rectangular stone that I just keep it in the oven at all times. What difference, if any, will it make when I use the oven for something other than baking bread? Can I put a utensil or cookie sheet directly on the stone? I also keep a few large, heavy cast iron pans in the oven. Can they be placed directly on the stone whithout marring it?

A common size (which seems good for my oven) is 14 x 16 but I have questions about the material and thickness.

The most commonly available stones of this size are 1/2" thick abd retail for about $25 (plus shipping). Different sites describe them as "stone composite", "clay stone", "unglazed ceramic sheet" (etc etc) - one site said theirs was ...made from a natural Clay Body, cordierite and mullite. I don't know if these are all adjectives for the same thing and whether they're simply a larger version of unglazed ceramic tiles.

A thicker stone sells for $40-$45 - for example, pastrychef.com has one measuring 14 1/2" x 16 1/2" x 1" thick which is described as "Restaurant-quality".

I also found a 13 3/8 x 17 1/2 x 3/4" thick stone from bakingstone.com that sells for $44.50 (which includes shipping). It's made from what they call FibraMent which is described as a proprietary blend of heat resistant and conductive raw materials approved by NSF International for use in baking ovens (This one was praised by some posters in the alt.food.sourdough group.)

Now - if you got this far - plz share your experience and give me your advice, opinions, recommendations, reactions ... TIA!

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Old 11-10-2004, 05:21 PM   #2
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I am a pizza stone neophyte, and really don't know whether you could store your CI pans on it or not. I would think not...but that is just my thought.

I leave mine in the oven and I do place the cookie sheets on it with no ill effects. I find that it seems to even out the "hot" spots in my oven.

I hope that someone with more knowledge will come along soon to answer your questions.
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Old 11-10-2004, 05:25 PM   #3
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1. You can put a cookie sheet on a baking stone, but if the stone thick and it's preheated, it will transfer a lot of heat to the cookies and either cook them quickly or burn them. It's better to put the stone on the bottom of the oven and leave it there while you baked goods on the shelves.

2. If you've got a 17 x 25 oven and you've got the money, go with a 15 x 23 baking stone (1" all around). That will allow you to do two small pizzas or will provide plenty of leeway when delivering one large pie.

3. For the best pizza possible (i.e. New York style thin crust pizza - yes, I'm biased), you'll want as much thermal mass (thickness/breadth) as you can get. 1" is okay, 1 1/2" is better, 2" is phenomenal (although hard for the shelves to support). I went with 2" fire bricks as they give me a ton of thermal mass. Fire bricks are the common material in wood burning bread/pizza ovens.

It's important to find out what temperature the stone is rated to. Bakingstone.com is supposed to go very high.

Also, if you're fanatical about making pizza, you'll want to purchase a second stone to act as a ceiling, radiating heat down onto the pie.
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Old 11-10-2004, 05:35 PM   #4
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I just want to know why you're NOT going to bake your cookies on your stone? I do all the time. I also do crescent rolls or anything that needs cooking, won't be runny, and isn't frozen.

I have a lot of stone stuff - I love it all - cleaning is the easiest of anything by far. As far as the material I'm not sure. Mine are simply "clay" stones. All the other descriptions are foreign to me :oops: I'm happy with my 1/2" thick stones and don't have any hints about the best thickness.

So, basically, I have been no help except to say that I love my stones :P
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Old 11-10-2004, 07:05 PM   #5
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A pizza/oven stone is going to be made of a "composite" material - not just plain clay - so that it doesn't break from heating and cooling. They are essentially made from the same materials as kiln brick, fire brick, fireplace bricks are made from.

The thicker the brick/stone the longer you need to pre-heat. That's why most pizza stones are only about 1/2 thick. While a 1/2 thick stone might need 30-minutes to preheat, a 1" might need an hour ... a 2.5-inch thick stone is going to need a couple of hours or more.

In traditional "brick ovens" the stones are heated from the top ... either by a wood fire or in modern days by gas jets. Like cast iron - the bricks retain heat for a long time.

Will cast iron mar your stone? Probably - more so if you slide it on them than if you "place" them down on it. But, bake one pizza and it's not going to be pristine, either.

A baking stone will alter how your oven works. Leaving your collection of cast iron in the oven while you bake will also alter it.
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Old 11-10-2004, 09:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael in FtW
A baking stone will alter how your oven works. Leaving your collection of cast iron in the oven while you bake will also alter it.
Can you elaborate/explain more what you mean please? Do you mean it just takes longer to preheat or something else? thx
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Old 11-11-2004, 11:48 AM   #7
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I have a pizza stone, but I don't bake directly on it. I just use it to help even out my oven's temperature. I've also found that it makes the oven burn a little hotter, so I have to adjust the temperature dial accordingly.

On a side note, I never trust the dial on the stove. I always use an oven thermometer and go by that.
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Old 11-11-2004, 03:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllenMI
I have a pizza stone, but I don't bake directly on it. I just use it to help even out my oven's temperature. I've also found that it makes the oven burn a little hotter, so I have to adjust the temperature dial accordingly.

On a side note, I never trust the dial on the stove. I always use an oven thermometer and go by that.
hi Allen

I have a good quality oven thermometer which I place in the center of an oven rack positioned the closest I can come to the "middle" of my 15" height oven. I realize that home ovens have cool and hot spots but this is how I judge overall temperature.

I am getting totally confused by responses that basically say that having a baking stone and/or cast iron utensils and/or a cast iron grill in the oven when I preheat "affect" the oven temperature. Given that I use a thermometer, I'm clueless whether people are talking about preheating time or other factors.

Help help help :?: :!: :) I am now totally confused and clueless
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Old 11-11-2004, 07:12 PM   #9
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Why don't you use your stone to actually bake on? I'm confused even more sub :oops:
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Old 11-11-2004, 10:45 PM   #10
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Hot air rises. That's the convective aspect of how ovens work. If you place anything between the heat source and the item you're baking, it will change the way your oven bakes. For the worse? It depends.

An iron pot placed underneath cookies may shield only part of the cookie tray from heat. The 'exposed' cookies will bake faster than the rest. That's something you want to avoid.

A baking stone, as long as it shields everything above it, can actually improve baked goods by providing even heat in ovens with hot spots.

When the stone is on the bottom of the oven, the flames heat the stone and the stone then evenly transfers that heat to the oven.

A thicker stone does take a lot longer to preheat. It is also less responsive to oven changes. If you turn up the oven, it will take a few minutes for the stone to transfer the additional heat. If you turn down the oven, a thick stone will retain the heat and the oven temp will take a while to drop.

My perspective on stones is strictly within a framework of recreating NY style pizzeria pizza. For that you need thickness, aka thermal mass. The thicker the stone is, the more heat you can 'fill' it with by preheating it. Good pizza is baked primarily from the heat stored in a preheated stone. If you turned the oven off the moment you put the pizza in, the stone itself would have sufficient heat to cook the pizza. That is done through a nice thick stone, preheated on the highest your oven will go for a substantial chunk of time (an hour or more).

A stone for breadmaking is a different matter. If pizza is wham bam thank you mam, bread is low and slow. Bread relies to a great deal on the long term heat being delivered by the heat source, not the initial heat stored in the preheated stone. Since stone heat storage isn't the issue for bread, a thick stone isn't necessary.

As far as those people who use their stone to resolve hot spots, a thick stone is unnecessary there as well, as a thin stone will distribute heat evenly and will make for a more responsive oven.

Although bread and pizza dough contains some fat, you want to avoid baking fatty items like cookies on a baking stone, as the stone will absorb the oil and then burn it off/make smoke the next time the stone is used for pizza.
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