When I first started baking pizza years ago, I read somewhere that one should toss some cornmeal on a hot pizza stone after preheating, just before putting the pizza on. Since I tend to bake pizza at the highest setting on the oven, the cornmeal (or semolina, which I later switched to) would immediately smoke and burn. I set off a smoke alarm in my house a couple times. And I always had this wasted layer of burnt cornmeal/semolina which I'd wipe off the stone after each use.

After a few years of doing this, I realized that my pizza dough never stuck to the stone in the oven (though I occasionally had trouble getting it off the peel as it was going into the oven). So I just stopped doing it. Even with the minimal amount of semolina I tend to use on my peel these days, I never have had a case of the dough sticking to either a preheated pizza stone or a pizza steel. (I have had cases where the pizza got stuck due to sauce or cheese leaking through a hole or over the side, but a little dusting of cornmeal/semolina wouldn't have prevented that sticking.)

Recently, I watched Alton Brown's pizza bake on his fun Mega-Bake Oven contraption. I noticed he too tosses what appears to be semolina on the hot pizza steel (which smokes immediately) before loading the pizza on. I've seen this recommended occasionally in other reputable sources.

I can certainly understand putting some sort of cornmeal/semolina/flour on a cold pizza stone or steel, for those who tend to bake raw dough without preheating first.

But is there really a good reason to throw some semolina or cornmeal onto a screaming hot pizza stone before baking, assuming a "normal" pizza dough (of some sort)? I would assume that perhaps some recipes might stick, though I tend to use a very high hydration dough that sticks easily to my hands and the peel, but it always releases easily in the oven. I also have baked many loaves of various kinds of breads and again have never had a problem with sticking.

Am I just lucky? Or are there some particular recipes/stones that stick more? Or is there some other reason for doing this?

5 Answers 5


I agree with you and don't do it either. Rather, like you, I put some cornmeal or semolina on the peel, upon which I construct my pizza. This, of course, allows the pizza to slid off and onto the steel. Clearly, some of the cornmeal or semolina winds up on the steel itself, but I don't toss it on intentionally. Never had sticking issues. I use a very high hydration dough. I also don't use anything on the stone when I bake bread...no sticking.

  • 3
    I completely agree, tossing it on the stone makes no sense, it's getting it off the peel which is usually the hard part, and semolina acts as mini ball bearings between the peel and the dough.
    – GdD
    Mar 23, 2016 at 22:12

Before IR thermometers were common, you'd toss a little flour or semolina on the (wood fired) oven deck and see how quickly it browned, as a way of gauging the temperature. I'd say doing it in a modern oven is just a case of cargo-cult baking.

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. You should know that, according to Google, this is only the second time that the phrase "cargo-cult baking" has appeared on the internet. (Very cool phrase, BTW!) Mar 31, 2018 at 13:47

If you make pizza in an regular home oven on a sheet of baking paper, and don't have the high temperatures of a "real" pizza oven, you will find that the cornmeal helps with getting the pizza off the baking paper, and moreover it doesn't burn. Cornmeal is also used when making bread at home in a similar fashion.

Of course, this isn't the "true" way of making pizza, but if that's the equipment you have at home, you do what you can with it.

  • 1
    You can just bake the pizza with the parchment under it. Also makes it very easy to retrieve when it's done cooking.
    – user50726
    Mar 7, 2019 at 18:42

My comment does not directly answer the original question, but tells what I have done instead of using cornmeal. I have seasoned my pizza stone the same way I do cast iron. That is, I rub flaxseed oil on the warm stone, heat it way up until the smoking stops (with all the ventilation I can achieve - an outdoor grill is ideal), let it cool, and repeat until I'm satisfied. Neither dough, nor cheese, nor sauce will stick to it. (Although I must admit that now I'll have to dig into your question, because if you saw Alton Brown do it there must be a reason...)

  • This might be better as a comment rather than an answer.
    – mbjb
    Jun 9, 2020 at 7:22

I've seen putting corn flour under the dough in order to allegedly allow a slight air flow underneath the loaf. Must say that was only for focaccia, ciabatta and bread loaves, namely products that are baked at lower temps than pizza and without pizza stone. Depends on your oven. I don't use this method and the bottom part of such products is still ok.

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