Every now and then I end up explaning to friends how they can make good pizza at home. One of the main issues is how to obtain the nice, crisp crust. And of course I’m referring to Italian pizza now, not American pan pizza. The simple answer to this is: use a baking stone (pizza stone) (assuming of course that the dough and filling is home made). Or if you like going to extremes: get a wood fired baking oven made from stone. But with a simple baking stone, you can achieve prette good results even with an electric/gas stove. There is a simple explanation: When a pizza dough is baked on a metal plate, the evaporating moisture is not able to escape from underneath the pizza. The result is a soggy, unappetizing crust. Also, the cold dough will let the temperature of the metal plate/sheet drop relatively quickly. As a result, the yeast dough will not rise as much before the gluten network solidifies and prevents further rising of the dough.
A baking stone is made from a porous ceramic material. It’s heat capacity is good (much higher than that of a metal plate/sheet) and as a result, when the cold dough is placed on the baking stone, it still has enough heat to make the pizza rise immediately. Secondly, the fact that the baking stone is porous lets it absorb moisture from the pizza. This is what gives the nice crisp crust as it transports moisture away from the pizza.
I also recommend to set your oven at the highest temperature possible – preferebaly in the range 250-300 °C (480-570 F). At this temperature, the pizza will be ready in less than 10 minutes. And remember – don’t use soap when cleaning your baking stone. Remember that it’s porous and you definitely don’t want your next pizza to taste like soap. Just scrape of residues of cheese once they have turned to carbon dust. If necessary, you can wipe it of with a moist paper towel.
My oven will not make it to the higher temperatures, but I can get up to the 500 F if I put the stone in the barbecue. The pizza will take around 5 minutes to bake. I try to cut the toppings really small to allow them to cook.
[…] A pizza baking stone has a higher heat capacity than a metal plate/sheet – this ensures proper rising and gives a crispy crust. […]
[…] black speckles are the carbonized remains of cheese and pizza sauce. I’ve blogged about the science of pizza stones previously: A baking stone is made from a porous ceramic material. It’s heat capacity is good […]