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For Pizza cooking at home. What is the best alternative to the pizza stone?

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If it is the price of the stone you just have to look around. I got mine for $10.00 at Benix & Co. –  Kyra Jul 9 '10 at 21:11
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I think the temperature of the oven is far more important! Pizza needs to be baked with a very high temperature! –  txwikinger Jul 9 '10 at 21:14
    
FWIW, I picked a pizza stone up at Walmart for something like $6 a while back. You can find them cheap (as they should be...) –  Shog9 Jul 9 '10 at 21:14
    
@txwikinger: which, if you don't already cook in a brick oven, can be hard to maintain while opening the door to put pizza in it... –  Shog9 Jul 9 '10 at 21:15
    
Also, if you don't use a stone and put the oven at a high temperature the toppings can be cooked to a crisp while the base is still very flexible and not at all crispy. –  MJeffryes Jul 14 '10 at 19:18

12 Answers 12

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Unglazed quarry tile. Preferably 3/4" to 1" thick.

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+1 for this suggestion. I use a granite countertop offcut that I got at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore for next to nothing. –  lukecyca Jul 27 '10 at 4:42
    
@lukecyca: Thanks for the tip about the ReStore, I'll check it out. –  intuited Jan 8 '11 at 23:32
    
LOL, because unglazed quarry tile is so much more common than pizza stones. I guess the original poster didn't specify why =P –  uncle brad May 19 '11 at 0:13
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@uncle: It's actually quite common at home improvement stores. People commonly seek alternatives to pizza stones for reasons of cost. Where I live you can spend $30-40 for a wimpy 1/4" pizza stone from a kitchen store, or spend $8-12 for a 1" thick quarry tile from a home improvement store. –  hobodave May 19 '11 at 2:16
    
And for our grill, we spent that $8 for an entire box of small tiles - probably enough for three or so people to share. The nice thing about buying the little ones is that you can make it fit any space. (Great for the grill, maybe annoying for the oven.) –  James Moore Feb 29 '12 at 20:46

In addition to using floor tiles (I have tiles of about 0.75 cm thick, which isn't enough), I cook my pizzas in two cycles in an electric oven that has a grill function.

I put the oven at the highest temperature with the grill function on. Then I place the shelf with the floor tiles as close to the grill/heating elements as possible. I let that heat up until the oven is at the right temperature (~235-250 C)

I then quickly put the shelf in the middle and turn off the oven and let the pizza sit on the tiles for 5-6 minutes.

Then I take the pizza out and reheat the tiles at maximum temperature (put them close to the heating elements again).

I relocate the shelf with the tiles to the middle and put the pizza in again (this time with the grill function turned off). Let it bake for 5-10 minutes, although I just monitor the pizza visually as the crust can char very quickly.

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Peter Reinhart, in his book American Pie, My Search for the Perfect Pizza, has a great break-down of different home-baking situations and his advice on how to bake the best pizza in each situation. The first situation he addresses is Standard Home Oven with No Baking Stone. You can read it in full at the link above, but here is my summary:

Your problem in this situation is lack of thermal mass. There are three solutions:

  1. Lightly oil your pan before building your pizza. Bake on the lowest shelf of oven, closest to the heat source. The hot oil will essentially fry the bottom of your pizza. Experiment with placement to balance baking of crust and toppings.
  2. Create a thermal mass by preheating a thick inverted sheet pan or inverted large cast iron pan (or a cast iron pizza pan). Start on the middle shelf. Do not oil this beforehand as it will smoke, but just before placing your pizza on this, give it a quick squirt of cooking spray.
  3. If the bottom of your pizza is baking too fast with method #2, switch your oven to broil for five minutes before placing your pizza onto the makeshift hearth. As soon as you slide in your pizza, switch back to normal bake. The residual heat from the broiler will even out the bake.

Regardless of which option, he says, be sure to preheat your oven for 45 minutes instead of the usual 15 for most baking.

Jim Lahey, in his beautiful new book, My Pizza, has an added trick for the electric home oven that is designed to work with a pizza stone, but could be adapted for the sheet or cast iron pan method above. He points out that most home ovens are set to shut off when they reach a certain temperature. He's devised a method to trick the oven for maximum heat:

. . . place the stone [or makeshift "hearth"] on a rack about 4 inches from the top heating element and preheat, on bake, at 500°F for the usual 30 minutes, Then to boost the heat of the stone without the oven's elements shutting down, open the oven door a few inches and leave it ajar for about 30 seconds. Some of the ambient heat will escape, but the stone will stay just as hot. Now close the oven door and switch to broil for 10 minutes to heat the surface to the maximum. Open the door and slide the pizza in to broil. (...) With the door closed, broil . . . until the crust is adequately charred but not burnt and the toppings are bubbling.

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I'm using this wonderfull pizza oven at home:

Alfredo

It heats up to 400°C (750°F) and is specially designed for baking pizza. It costs about $100, but I couldn't find any reference in the US for it. (I'm from germany)

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I am in China and saw it on a New Zealand cooking show (the food truck). Has only gotten great reviews. Must Have It. Where is it manufactured? –  Pat Sommer May 28 '12 at 4:54
    
@PatSommer: Similar product reviewed here. Some links follow the article. –  Callithumpian May 28 '12 at 5:17
    
yup, identical to newwavekitchenappliances.com.au/catalogue/products/pizza-oven/… but who/where actually manufactures? Hmmm must dig deeper now –  Pat Sommer May 29 '12 at 10:00

I use two layers if soapstone tiles that were left over from our bathroom renovations. I let them heat up properly for at least 1/2 an hour at my ovens max temp (250 C). I checked with the supplier and they are approved for food purposes. Very common in Finnish wood ovens apparently.

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A wood-fired brick oven at 900°

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+1 - That's got to work at least as well as unglazed quarry tile! –  uncle brad May 19 '11 at 0:17

Any reasonable pizza stone you can buy on amazon that will fit in both your oven, and more importantly, on your grill, will be fine. The heat matters far more than the fanciness of the stone (and as others have said, a cast iron skillet flipped upsidedown works great as a stone).

I would highly recommend grilling your pizza as you can often get the grill to higher temperatures than your oven and this heat will pay off in perfect thin crust.

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Heat up a cast iron skillet and the broiler on your oven until everything is as hot as possible. Flip the skillet upside-down, put the pizza on top, and put everything under the broiler. The goal is to cook with as much heat as possible as quickly as possible. You can also try it over the barbecue, which is a bit easier to manage.

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upside-down on the skillet? broiler? Am I missing something here? How could that turn into a pizza? I've never seen a pizza broiled, nor cooked upside down. –  hobodave Jul 14 '10 at 15:25
    
The upside down skillet is a substitute for the pizza stone and the broiler is to cook the top. –  ManiacZX Jul 14 '10 at 15:35
    
Exactly @ManiacZX :) (answer edited to be a bit more clear) –  Michael Mior Jul 16 '10 at 21:58
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Pizza Hack: Broil Your Pies –  Neil Fein Oct 3 '10 at 5:04
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Good answer. And if you are making a pan pizza, you can use an aluminum sheet pan, put it on the 500 degree iron skillet, and the conduction of heat will give you a nice crispy crust. Much better than just a 500 degree oven on its own! For folks without a top broiler, this technique combined with a well-preheated oven maxed-out gives pretty good results! –  Harlan Mar 6 '11 at 19:24

I use marble with success. It has to be veinless though.

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@Recap - Interesting. Why does it matter if the marble has veins or not? –  Neil Fein Oct 3 '10 at 5:05
    
veins are weak points in a marble, a marble with veins will not endure as long as a veinless one –  Recep Oct 6 '10 at 6:47

I use a baking pan, and a dough recipe that results in more Sicilian type pie. The crust is not too crispy, and the dough is nice and thick.

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You should buy a pizza stone, but if you don't have one you can bake it directly over the grid. This way will be more crispy than over a iron baking pan.

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I usually bake it in the oven over the grid, but you should use an iron baking pan if the dough is too soft. Absolutely avoid microwave, even with the crisp plate.

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