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The Best Surface for Baking Pizza, Part 12: All-Clad Soapstone
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I was first aware of All-Clad when a company I worked for sent me to Pittsburgh for a few months. I visited the nearby(ish) All-Clad factory for business and later went to their factory sale. When I got home with my new toys, people were unimpressed. No one had heard of All-Clad. But I didn't care. I had seen inside those pots, and I knew very well what I had.
What does this have to do with pizza stones? Well, when I was researching stones, I saw that All-Clad had a pizza stone. And unlike all the man-made products, this one was a hunk of soapstone. The stone itself is 13 inches in diameter, 3/5-inch high, and weighs 9 pounds, 10 ounces. It comes with a metal ring with handles that the stone fits into for transport. (It also comes with a pizza cutter.) What mine didn't come with was a care and use sheet. Apparently there's supposed to be one in the box. After contacting All-Clad, they emailed a PDF of the instructions.
Meanwhile, I did some research about soapstone and thought I had just about all the information I needed, even without the official company brochure. But when I got the information from All-Clad, some of what they said conflicted with what I found on other sites. For example, All-Clad said that the suggested maximum temperature was 450 degrees; other sites said that much higher temperatures were perfectly fine. All-Clad suggested that the stone didn't need to be seasoned with oil first; other sites called for seasoning with olive oil or vegetable oil, some said mineral oil was preferred, and still others said that seasoning was required, rather than just suggested.
Although the instructions don't say as much, the metal ring is strictly intended for out-of-oven use. Its purpose being for holding and transporting the stone once it is out of the oven. (That explains why some people on Amazon complained about the metal darkening in the oven.)
Other care instructions note that the stone can be washed with soap and water and that you can cut directly on the stone. Since the stone is a little soft, it scratches, but light sanding will smooth it out again. Seasoning, according to All-Clad, can make the stone more non-stick, but the seasoning happens over time with use. One benefit to seasoning it right away is that it gives the stone's surface a uniform color.
In the end, I decided to season the stone (which turned it from a light gray to a dark gray: see above) and then treat it just like every other stone I used and preheat it to 550 degrees for 1 hour. In the process, the dark gray turned to a dark brown and there was some smoking from the oil residue on the stone. At 45 minutes, the stone was at 501 degrees, and at 1 hour it was at 539F.
At 8 minutes, I pulled the pizza out. The cheese wasn't quite as browned as with some of the pizzas, but it was melted and bubbly. The pizza was also a little puffier than it had been in previous tests. I didn't bother taking the stone out of the oven and putting it into the metal ring for serving, but rather removed the pizza directly from the stone.
When I cut it, there was a nice crunch, and the bottom had the most char (and the darkest black) spots of any of the pizzas. If you're not looking for that much color, then reduce the heat to the recommended 450 degrees.
Overall, it was a good pizza, and if getting char is a priority, this one accomplishes that. The metal ring that comes with the stone make it easier to transport and would offer a nice presentation, but moving a screaming hot stone to that metal ring might be troublesome.
This stone (including the metal ring and pizza cutter) sells for $125.
There you have it: Twelve pizzas, twelve different baking surfaces. Next week check back for a summary and comparison of all of the baking surfaces tested in this series. And then I think I'll celebrate with, oh, I don't know... maybe a delivery pizza?
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.