You may well have questioned why your efforts at homemade bread or pizza do not come out the same as the one from the pizzeria or bakery. Well, there is a fairly simple reason to that- it is something called a baking stone.
A baking stone is a portable natural stone surface used to bake goods. It is intended to absorb moisture from the dough and help create a crust that is crispy and evenly cooked, resembling the bakery or pizzeria crust. This makes the baking stone an ideal choice for foods made from dough which present a crispy texture with a hint of a crunch.
How do you use a baking stone?
The baking stone when used for baking pizza also goes by the name of a pizza stone. However, this should-be kitchen staple goes beyond being a single-use tool as it can be used for so much more than making pizza.
In fact, one of the best uses you can put the baking stone to is for baking bread. The results will yield delicious artisan breads that will closely resemble bread made in a brick oven.
This quality is a result of the baking stone’s ability for superior heat absorption and retention. The high heat from the stone’s porous surface extracts moisture from the outer side of the dough to produce an impeccably crunchy crust.
But to get these results, you need to follow a few steps to prep your baking stone first:
- You need to preheat your baking stone prior to the baking process. For ½ inch thick stones, the recommended preheating time is half an hour, but for thicker ¾ – 1 inch stones, preheating time could go up to a full hour.
- This makes the stone heat up and transfer heat straight to the bottom of the bread when the dough is placed on it.
- This is different from using a baking sheet where the dough is placed on a cold surface and the bread gets off to a cold start on a non-heated surface.
- The preheated surface allows the bread to bake at a more even temperature all over. This yields a nicer crust, especially for artisan style breads.
- In contrast, the metal baking sheet is not porous and unable to absorb moisture. This is also why you may end up with softer, even soggy crusts when using a metal baking sheet.
- Since the stone retains heat so well, it also maintains a more even temperature inside the oven.
- Depending on the type of baking stone used, they are generally safe to use up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some very important considerations:
- It is important to note that the preheating time for the oven is different than that of the baking stone. While your oven may be done preheating to the required baking temperature, the baking stone will not be done heating yet.
- Before preheating the stone, make sure that the oven is cold. This is to prevent the cold stone from cracking from a sudden change in temperature if placed in a hot oven. Instead, the stone should heat up while the oven heats, ruling out thermal shock along with possible breakage.
Types of baking stones
Baking stones can come in different materials such as clay, marble, tile, firebrick, and even cast iron and steel. Your choice may depend on what results you are looking for.
For instance, do you want a stone that yields an ultra-crispy crust, or are you looking for something that is convenient to move in and out of the oven? Do you consider yourself a dough professional willing to pay a high price for the latest equipment, or do you just want something to deliver impressive results without too much effort involved?
Based on your personal needs and kitchen habits, here is what you can choose from:
This classic baking stone absorbs moisture during baking and delivers a crispy crust. However, if not handled carefully, these stones can crack or break. This option is also the most cost effective one.
Slightly more expensive and extremely durable, cordierite is a mineral known for handling extreme temperatures very well. It is easy to take a cordierite stone from a low temperature to a very high temperature without the risk of breaking it.
The cast iron option will not break, heat up quickly and be easier to clean than the stone option. Most models will also come with handles for easy maneuvering in and out of the oven.
Baking steel is the newest entrant to the baking stone world. While these steels radiate heat less evenly than their ceramic or cordierite counterparts, they can achieve higher temperatures. They are virtually indestructible, free of the risk of breaking but do require more maintenance than stones as they will need to be seasoned from time to time to prevent rusting.
Glazed or unglazed:
This is more of a consideration than a baking stone material option. Those that come in natural materials like clay, stone, ceramic or cordierite are sold as unglazed given the reason that they take in moisture while yielding even heat.
Others that are sold as glazed are considered micro glazed as the glazing has fine cracks or fissures that allow some moisture to penetrate. So whether you decide to go with the glazed or unglazed version is more of a matter of personal preference.
Of the two, glazed products are marketed as easier to clean and cost a little more.
Baking stones comes in different shapes and sizes so keep your oven size in mind before getting one. There are round, square and rectangular shapes to choose from. If all you want to do is use the stone for making pizza, then we would recommend opting for a round stone, but if your baking needs go beyond pizza to breads, calzones and cookies, consider a different shape.
Rectangular stones provide more surface area and are better suited for breads and other nonstandard round or square shapes.
Taking care of your baking stone
Because natural stones are porous, you should never use soap to wash them. Also, only clean the natural stone after it cools completely. Introducing a hot stone to tepid or cold water can compromise the structural stability of the stone and cause cracking or breaking.
Try to get a thicker baking stone for the thinner it is, the greater its chance of breaking and cracking.
Best Baking Stone for Bread Baking
Here we have compiled a list of the best baking stones that will last you for a long time:
1 – SOLIDO Rectangular 14 X 16 Baking Stone (Top Pick )
This sturdy pizza stone from Solido (view on Amazon) is the right size to fit all standard ovens. As such, you can leave it in there without having to take it out repeatedly. This baking stone is 1.1 inches thick and distributes heat beautifully.
It comes with a heat spiral in the bottom side for even heat distribution and retention. This is a good system that works effectively delivering perfect results every time.
We would recommend this product for bakers who like to use their baking stone for things other than just pizza. For one, you can leave this stone in your oven for even heat distribution when baking other things. And then with its large work surface, you won’t have to switch stones in between baking.
This is also an easy-to-clean piece by just scraping off residue and scrubbing with a damp cloth. And while grease may leave stains on it, that does not affect its baking efficiency.
- Fits into standard ovens
- Thick stone with excellent heat distribution
- Rectangular shape ideal for baking breads
- Easy to clean surface material
- Comes with feet
- Heavy stone making it difficult to handle
- More expensive than the competition
2 – Pizzacraft All-Purpose Baking Stone (Budget Pick )
Measuring 20 X 13.5 inches, this budget-friendly Pizzacraft ThermaBond baking stone can also be found on Amazon and is suitable for grill and oven use. This is a nice, thick stone which retains heat for a long duration of time. Being durable, it is impressively resistant to thermal shock and is safe to use in temperatures up to 900 F.
The cordierite ceramic stone is quite porous and absorbs most of the moisture. Equal heat dispersion minimizes hot spots during baking so that the crust does not get too crispy in certain spots.
The ThermaBond technology enhances the stone’s durability eliminating the risk of thermal shock and guaranteeing consistent cooking in the oven or on the grill. We would gladly recommend this stone to anyone looking to bake artisan style breads with exceptional results.
- Suitable for larger ovens baking larger breads
- 2/3 inches thick
- Durable cordierite stone
- Does not require conditioning or seasoning
- Produces high quality crusts
- Quite heavy to handle
- Comes with no feet making it hard to handle
- Due to its large size, may crack on sides if it hits oven sides
- May not fit in all oven types
- May give off a strong smell during first few uses
Other Baking Stones to Consider
3 – Old Stone Oven 14 X 16 Baking Stone
Coming from a pioneer company that was the first of its kind to introduce baking stones for home use, the Old Stone Oven baking stone is thicker than most other stones in the market. This stone features impressive porosity and heat retention that always creates a perfect crust.
Suitable for professional quality pizzas and artisan style breads, this baking stone comes in a 14 X 16 inch size, one of the largest you will find in this category. The rectangular baking stone provides ample surface creating breads that that give you a nice, chewy crust.
Crafted from a blend of lead free clays, this is a thick and sturdy stone that features eight ½ inch protrusions on the underside of the stone serving as feet. This feature not only makes it easy to lift it off the counter but also secures the stone on top of the oven grill.
This is an extremely durable product that is suitable both for oven and grill use. Even though there is no warranty against breakage, this product has been thoroughly tested for durability and has made many users very happy.
- Large size suitable for baking breads
- Comes with raised feet that won’t slide around
- Handles thermal shock well
- Heat safe up to 2,000 F
- Specially engineered Heat Core
- Made in USA
- Needs careful handling due to large size and weight
- Some complaints about chemical smell coming from the stone
- Stains easily so cleaning can be a challenge
4 – Dough-Joe 15 X 18 Baking Stone- 5 piece set
This baking stone from Dough-Joe comes in a set of five cordierite bricks that can be placed next to one another in the oven to create a baking surface. This is a unique design feature that allows you to customize the size of your baking stone as per your needs.
Together the five pieces measure 15 X 18 inches to provide a large surface area. For larger breads, this is an ideal surface but should you need to bake something smaller, you can easily remove the extra bricks and create a smaller surface.
This feature also allows you to use the bricks in any sized oven without worrying about how to fit your baking stone in there. The ¾ inch thickness of the bricks deliver an excellent heat retention capacity and is safe to use for temperatures up to 700 F. Just make sure to fully preheat the bricks for 30 -40 minutes before placing any dough on it.
- ¾ inch thickness
- Modular design
- Saves the hassle of handling a large pizza stone
- Less prone to stress breakage
- Seasoning not required
- Very versatile- easy to handle and store
- Not recommended for baking cookies as dough won’t rise properly
- Pieces may slip apart in oven, according to some users
5 – ROCKSHEAT 14X16 Baking Stone
The ROCKSHEAT baking stone simulates professional brick ovens by evenly distributing heat and absorbing moisture out of the dough. Its rectangular shape provides a large work surface making it an ideal choice for working with different foods like breads, cookies, biscuits and more.
The cordierite stone is safe to use for temperatures up to 1400 F offering long lasting durability. This baking stone features an innovative double faced built in handle for removing and placing the stone in the oven. With four handles on two sides, all you need to do is to flip the stone over and you have a new side to work with.
The ROCKSHEAT baking stone comes in a 0.67 inch thickness which does not require as long a preheating time as other thicker stones, yet it has been tested to provide the durability of other high end brands. This product is FDA certified and does not contain any harmful substances. All in all, a quality product that delivers promising results.
- Even heat distribution
- Space saving double face built in handles
- Can handle high levels of heat well
- No seasoning required
- Reasonably priced
- Stains quite easily
You may have noticed that our list of recommendations today has been heavily inclined towards rectangular baking stones. However, it does not mean that we have anything against round or square stones. It is just that we are looking at the best baking stone for bread and rectangular options give you more working surface that their round counterparts which can be somewhat limiting.
Likewise, we also have shown a preference for products that are ceramic or cordierite based because these come with the best porous surfaces for giving you breads with a perfect crust. And we would not compromise on the porosity of the surface material for your bread.
By all means, if you plan on making more pizzas than bread, then do consider rounder options but for bread making needs, we would highly recommend rectangular stones with effective porous surfaces. You can try everything from big country loves and rolls to ciabatta and even pita bread on these baking stones and get impressive results every time.