Pizza Stone Hack (And Why They Suck)*




Introduction: Pizza Stone Hack (And Why They Suck)*

About: I'll try to fix or build anything.

Practically everyone has one of these things. We've been made to believe that since professional wood fired pizza ovens are made with stone that we should have a stone to cook homemade or frozen pizzas on too. So we rushed out and bought them. And then wondered . . . where the hell do I keep this thing?

The answer that came back from the echo chamber was "in your oven".  But when you store these things in your oven you loose an oven rack. Or you have to heft this heavy thing in and out when you need the rack it sits on.

Finally, I've solved this problem. Actually I've been doing this for years, but have just now gotten around to writing it up for Instructables. I'll explain how to easily regain your oven rack . . . and why pizza stones suck.

* I feel the need to qualify the suck comment. Obviously from the picture my pizza stone is old and well used. Stones are much better than baking sheets . . . by miles. If your choice is to cook a pizza on a thin baking sheet or a thicker baking stone, then you'll be much happier with the stone.

Step 1: Needed Things

Fire bricks are what pizza ovens are made of (at least the firebox part). They are a specially made brick very tolerant of the high temperatures in fireplaces and wood ovens. Perfect for use in a high temp environment like your oven.

---Fire bricks (sometimes sold individually at home improvement stores)
---A heavy hammer
---A brick chisel (a tile/brick saw would also work well if you happen to have access to one)

Step 2: Whack It Up

Measure the bricks and mark the size and number you'll need. Then whack them apart with the hammer and chisel. Obviously you'll want to wear safety glasses and place them on a firm surface like a sidewalk or other concrete slab to hammer them apart.

Step 3: Install and Use

Clean out your oven and arrange the broken up firebricks in such a way so that they don't touch your element. I don't think they'd damage your heating element sitting against them, but you can never be too careful. My stone happens to have half inch feet on the bottom of it that let it easily clear the top of the element. If yours doesn't, then add another layer of firebrick or use stainless steel washers* to raise it above the heating element.

Return your racks to your oven and never worry about moving your pizza stone around again. You can leave it in your oven at all times, even when you're doing the self cleaning cycle (it'll actually clean your stone very well). You should be aware though that leaving the stone in at all times might lengthen the time it takes the oven to come to temperature, but it doesn't add that much time especially if you have a convection fan.

*Avoid galvanized metal as it might produce zinc fumes that are toxic.

Step 4: Why Stones Suck

Pizza stones suck at browning (and charring) your pizza crust like a wood fired oven because your oven will never get hot enough and your stone will never transfer heat well enough to do so. What will get you closer to that goal is a big slab of steel.

The Baking Steel is a 1/4" thick (there is a 1/2" thick version too) slab of metal that will quickly conduct heat into your pizza crust. Fire up your oven to the top of it's heating range and let it warm up for 30 minutes and you'll get a very nice, crusty, charry toast on the bottom of your pizzas . . . much nicer than on a stone.

I first heard of the Baking Steel on Cooking pizzas on big slabs of steel are also talked about in the Modernist Cuisine books. You can see videos of the Modernist Cuisine folks using these steels on But this steel product isn't cheap. The only reason I have one is that I got it as a gift. If my desire for one had risen enough I most likely would have sought out a thick piece of steel. If you putter around the Stoughton Steel website you'll see that the guy that came up with this product used a scrap piece of A36 steel. So if you can find a good piece of steel, then make your own and save some bucks.



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    38 Discussions

    I prefer pizza stones, once you get them heated up they maintain the high temperature and cook the pizza more evenly. The key is you have to heat up the stone first, this means baking it for 10 or 20 minutes at the desired temperature, before even adding your pizza. I have a buddy that heats the stone at 500F for 30 minutes, then turns it down to 450 when he adds the pizza on a layer of corn meal, it comes out amazing.

    3 replies

    Exactly! My stone does great with pre-heating. It is also not pristine clean. It's been seasoned. This also makes it like a non-stick cooking surface. Makes great crispy crust pizzas.

    I'd used my stone for years. Our oven heats to 550F, but it couldn't give the crust that the steel one did. Stones are still better than thin sheet pans by far.

    Then I suppose you and I have different definitions of perfection when it comes to pizza crust. I do think I will go buy a firebrick this weekend though, this instructable is super nifty. I'll just leave the steel off of mine.

    A pizza stone isn't really meant to char the crust as you put it, what it is meant to do is to crisp the crust. A properly maintained pizza stone will last you for ages just like cast iron. I've used my pizza stone for nearly 7 years & whenever it looks like the one that you showed there in your first pic, I just set the oven to do a self cleaning cycle which is a common feature for newer ovens, & the stone is back to it's original state. They are really good if you know how to use them properly.

    8 replies

    You don't want the stone in it's original (clean) state in my opinion. The layer on top helps with crisping the crust.

    Fair enough, make sure you don't clean it with soap though. Proper pizza stones are porous, and the soap will get in the pores and seep out into the pizza crust (which is often toxic).

    My stone is so seasoned that using soap has never left a nasty taste or after effect. Plus, my stone is like a cast iron skillet. The seasoning has made it almost like non-stick cookware. It works even better than when it was new.

    I have never once used soap on it, all I've used is the heat of the ovens cleaning cycle & it is as good as new each time.

    I have a friend whose pizza stone has turned completely black because they've never put it through the self clean cycle. I'll have to ask if he thinks that makes better pizza. Doubt it.

    Yeah charcoal cooked pizza, w/out the benafit of the bbq grill lol. I would never eat off of that, but that's just me. I put mine throught the cleaning cycle once a year just like my oven, & everything runs better & also the temp in my oven is more even. All this talk of pizza has made me want one, I'll more then likely make one later lol.

    My stone is clean, but it's also seasoned. I wash it every time it's used with soap and have no problems getting a crispy crust for pizza or biscuits or whatever I am cooking. I love my stone. In fact, I have two now! Generally, I don't have items sticking to the stone either. The more seasoned the better!


    2 years ago

    Has anyone tried sandwiching more fire bricks on top of the bottom steel, and adding a second baking steel on top so that the pizza could be inserted in between both steels? I wonder how much of an increase in heat could be possible

    stones are good for certain kinds of baking (cookies, biscuits, breads, fries, fish sticks), but not so great at pizzas, especially if you want the bottom crispy. For that, you want to put the pizza directly on the middle rack with nothing beneath it. Maximum crispiness, and maximum yumminess.

         BTW, I forgot to mention the 1/4" Baking steel is priced @ $72, and the 1/2" is $110. A lot more than what I consider a good price for a flat piece of  ' seasoned ' cast iron, especially on a DIY site .

    3 replies

    If you want to make your own pizza steel, Kimberly^ made an instructible on it. you can find it here :

    Very interesting, thanks for posting this. I've been keeping mine in the drawer underneath the oven.