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The Best Surface For Baking Pizza: Finale

[Photographs: Donna Currie]

Whenever the subject of pizza baking stones comes up, people chime in with their favorites. But how many people have owned more than two—or maybe three—pizza stones? And how many have tested them with exactly the same recipe in the same oven baked for precisely the same amount of time? Over the course of 12 weeks, I tested a variety of baking surfaces with the same pizza recipe, photographed the results, judged the textures, and ate the pizzas.

Since I tested one recipe on all the stones, it should be said that with recipe and technique tweaks, a baker should be able to get decent performance out of just about any of the surfaces tested. When buying one, though, there are other factors to consider, including ease of cleaning, durability, and size. There is no single stone that will be perfect for everyone. But, everyone should be able to find a stone that is uniquely suited to them.

The Surfaces

  1. Cheap Pizza Stone, $20
  2. Aluminum Pan, $10-15
  3. Quarry Tiles, $4 for 6 tiles
  4. Double-Stacked Quarry Tiles, $8 for 12 tiles
  5. King Arthur Flour Baking Stone, $55
  6. Emile Henry Stone, $50
  7. Pizza Screen, $10
  8. Screen and Stone, $10, plus cost of stone
  9. Parchment and Stone, Pennies, plus cost of stone
  10. Fibrament Baking Stone, $43-90 for standard sizes; custom sizes available
  11. Lodge Cast-Iron Pizza Pan, $35
  12. All-Clad Soapstone, $125

The Upper Crust: Recommended Baking Surfaces

I've got to say that it was enlightening. Some of the results were different than what I expected. And of course, I expect your results would be different in different ovens making different pizzas. But this should give you a good idea of which stones would give you the results you're hoping for.

King Arthur Flour Baking Stone
20110614-baking-surfaces-pizza-stone.jpgPros : A crisper crust than with the quarry tiles, and more browning. The rectangular stone gives a little more landing space than a round stone, but it's not so large that it would impede airflow in most home ovens.

Cons: Like any porous surface, it's not going to stay pretty for long when you start spilling things on it.

Comments: One of the better options of the series. No razzle-dazzle, but this is a workhorse of a stone. Best for overall usability.

Emile Henry Stone

20110614-baking-surface-emile-henry.jpgPros: Aesthetically pleasing and practical, this stone can be easily removed from the oven to double as the cutting and serving surface. It also produces the crispest crust of any of the stones, and keeping the pizza on the stone for serving helps keep the crust hot and crisp. The glazed surface can be cleaned with soap and water.

Cons: While this was the crispest crust, some may find it a little too crisp.

Comments: This stone has a lot going for it, including coming in both round and rectangular shapes; a preference to consider before purchasing. Comes out on top for crispness.

Lodge Cast-Iron Pizza Pan

20110614-baking-surfaces-lodge-pan1.jpgPros: This can be use on the grill or stovetop, in the oven, and under the broiler. Side handles make it easy to move the stone. The crust gets well-browned with spots of char, and crisp. It comes seasoned, but you can opt to season it more, and it is virtually unbreakable.

Cons: Just like any cast iron piece, it has its own cleaning/seasoning rules. However, it's easier to clean than a porous stone.

Comments: The versatility of this one earns some bonus points. There's a certain romance to using a stone rather than metal, but this does the job. The lip, though seemingly a drawback, proved not to be.

Fibrament Baking Stone

20110614-baking-surface-fibrament.jpgPros: An almost endless selection of sizes, you can custom-order a stone to fit your oven and your particular needs. The crust gets crisp—not as crisp as the Emile Henry, but similar to the King Arthur Flour stone.

Cons: There are dire warnings about getting the stone wet. That means cleaning is limited to scraping.

Comments: The water warnings associated with this stone limit its versatility—especially for bread baking that involved spritzing the loaves mid-bake. Best for customizable sizing.

See the slideshow for the complete results!

After eating the same pizza every week for 12 weeks, I'm ready to wrap up this series on pizza baking surfaces and eat some different pizzas.


About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie or @cookistry.

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