Baking perfect pizza at home is one of those cooking projects, like laminated pastry or sourdough, that takes a little practice to get just right. That said, one simple tool can take your at home pizza to the next level: a baking stone or steel.
To find the best, we gathered five baking stones and steels ranging from about $40–$100 and put them through their paces.
The Best Baking Steel: Original Baking Steel
The preheated Original Baking Steel produced pizzas with crispy, gold-bottomed crusts, with spots of char just like the ones from your favorite neighborhood pizzeria. This, 15-pound slab of steel also won on versatility: You can put it on your stovetop and use it as a griddle or use it on your grill, and it’s safe under your broiler, unlike some of the baking stones I tried.
The Original Baking Steel is also incredibly durable, comes ready to use (no seasoning necessary) and is heavy duty enough to last a lifetime. It’s also available in a few sizes, even an extra large griddle style (with a rim) that can fit two small pizzas or pies at once. It requires minimal maintenance, just a wipe down with oil to prevent rust, but you can wash it with soap and water—just make sure to dry both sides thoroughly to prevent rust from forming. If you think pizza will be your number one bake, this is your best bet. Make sure to choose a steel that is small enough that air can circulate all of the way around it in your oven. The Original Baking Steel is 16x14x1/4’’.
The Best Pizza Stone: FibraMent-D Pizza Stone
If you think you’ll use your stone for more than just pizza, you might consider the FibraMent-D pizza stone. It made very nice pizzas that were less charred than pizzas baked on the Baking Steel, but still golden and crisp, and since the stone is a bit less conductive than steel, longer cooking items like pastries or bread are less likely to scorch on the bottom. Unlike the steel, this stone had to be seasoned in the oven for a few hours before use. This ¾-inch stone weighed in at 17 lbs and felt substantial and sturdy. It also has a beveled edge which makes it a bit easier to maneuver than some other stones and steels. I even dropped it on my floor a few times from a height of a few inches and it held strong. The manufacturer recommends that liquids never come in contact with this stone. It should be wiped clean with a dry rag, and never cleaned with soap (soap absorbs into the stone) or an abrasive brush. This stone also comes in a few sizes to fit various ovens. You can even get one custom cut for your oven.
Runner Up: Pizzacraft Thermabond Stone
The Pizzacraft Thermabond Stone baking stone performed well in all of my tests. It’s a good option for people who want a stone that’s easy to use right away; it does not require any seasoning before use. The Pizzacraft boasts a heat transfer pattern on one side which helps air circulate more evenly around the stone. The pattern also creates a small lip that makes this stone easy to move in and out of the oven, unlike some of the other stones we tested. It is safe up to 900º F, and the manufacturer recommends scraping it clean, but it can be washed with water (not soap) when cool. Just make sure it’s completely dry before heating to prevent cracking.
Why Buy a Pizza Stone or Steel?
A preheated baking stone or steel creates a super hot cooking surface, which makes the bottom crust of your pizza crispy and brown instead of soggy and pale. A baking stone or steel can also improve your pie crusts, help you bake beautifully golden hearth breads, and help keep the temperature in your oven consistent for other baking projects since it retains so much heat.
For this test, we tested only rectangular stones and steels, without handles, as they are more versatile than their round counterparts. They varied a bit in size, but most measured in at about 14”x16” (some brands come in a few sizes to accommodate different oven sizes). One of the most important things to remember when choosing a stone or steel is that it has at least 1-inch of clearance from the edges of your oven. Proper air circulation will help your stone or steel and your oven perform to the best of their abilities.
Baking Stones vs. Steels
Pizza stones are made of some sort of composite material, ceramic or cordierite, which all have different levels of heat conductivity. The FibraMent website says their stone "is made from a proprietary blend of heat resistant and conductive raw materials approved by NSF International for use in baking ovens.” Pizzacraft makes both ceramic baking stones and cordierite ones. The composite and cordierite stones are more durable, and a little more expensive than ceramic, generally speaking.
Some baking stones also need to be seasoned before use. Instructions vary a bit from brand to brand, but generally you’ll have to heat up the stone gradually, starting at a very low temperature until you get to about 500º F. This process takes a few hours, so don’t plan to bake on the stone right away. Baking steels, on the other hand, arrive ready to go, which is a plus for impatient bakers. Steels are also virtually indestructible, while stones have a chance of cracking with improper use.
Both options have some heft. The Original Baking Steel weighs in at 15 pounds, and the ⅜-inch thick version (Wirecutter preferred this model for pizza over the original) at 23 pounds which may be too cumbersome for some folks to lift in and out of the oven. The 15x20-inch Fibrament D stone weighs in at 17 pounds, but has a beveled edge which makes it a bit easier to maneuver than flat stones and steels. cordierite pizza and ceramic stones are generally a bit lighter than steels and the FibraMentD.
If you are really into baking pizza at home, some pros recommend having both a baking steel and baking stone to create a pocket of intense heat to quickly cook your pizza, but for most people, one or the other will be just fine.
To test the pizza stones and steels, I baked two pizzas with tomato sauce and cheese back to back on each stone/steel. Then I baked a galette on a piece of parchment paper directly on top of the stone/steel. I also tried roasting a sheet pan of carrots tossed with olive oil on top of the stones/steels to see if they browned faster or more evenly. All of the tests were done on stones or steels that had been preheated for 1 1/2 hours prior to use.
Other Stones and Steels I Tested
The Pizzacraft Baking Steel was a great size that could accommodate two small pizzas or loaves of bread at once, but it was a bit thinner than the Original Baking Steel and was bowed slightly when it arrived. It also may be a bit too large for some smaller ovens; you want air to be able to fully circulate around the steel or stone for best performance.
The petite Rocksheat Pizza Stone measures only 12x15 inches and is designed with a few divots to be used as handles which makes it lightweight and easy to maneuver. However, I found it too small to comfortably land a pizza without worrying it would fall off of the side. It would be a good option if you have an oven with limited space.
Old Stone Oven’s cordierite baking stone got high marks from other review sites, but was not available at the time of testing.
Any of these stones or steels will definitely improving your home baking, but the Original Baking Steel takes the prize because of its versatility and indestructible construction. If you’re looking for the best baking stone, choose the FibraMent-D Pizza Stone, which is versatile and sturdy and perfect for someone who plans to use their baking stone every day, for baking tasks beyond pizza. If you’re a baking novice looking for an easy-to-use, easy-to-care for stone, opt for the Pizzacraft Thermabond Stone.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious