My Pizza Stone Journey Pt. 3

Pizza stones, they work. When pre-heated properly, in blazing hot oven, they create a nice, crisp crust on the bottom of pizzas. Essentially, they start cooking the pizza from the bottom up. There’s no doubt about it, they’re great, unless you’re a moron like me, and buy cheap ones that are known to crack easily from thermal shock.

In my previous blog posts, I talked about using unglazed natural stone tile instead of buying an expensive stone, as well as how my next pizza stone purchase was foolish due to lack of research. Yep, my stone cracked. This is the next installment…

After my last stone cracked, I was on a mission to find a better one. Knowing my oven size, I made calls and visits to some of the well known hardware stores, and found that they didn’t have the sizes that would fit my oven and that their on-site equipment cannot be used to cut the larger natural stone tiles. Luckily, I was informed that local flooring and tile shops most likely CAN cut larger tiles, and better yet, may already have the sizes I need. So, I made calls, and sure enough they did, BUT due to scheduling conflicts, I was never able to make it to those stores before they closed up shop for the day. Mom and pop shops don’t have the same business hours as their big name competitors.

One day, while shopping at my local grocery store, I happened upon a pizza stone that had been out of stock in the warehouse for months. I had been eyeing this stone for a long time even before this blew into a complete obsession. It was an inexpensive one costing just shy of $9 (I KNOW, I KNOW). So, I decided to park my butt down and do a little on-the-spot research. I found that the same exact stone/brand/company was selling these on Amazon and other online retailers for $25 and up. The only problem was that there were no reviews. So I, being the moron that you all should know by now, decided to take yet another gamble. I figured, hey it’s nine bucks. If it sucks, whatever… that’s the price of a decent fast food meal anyway.

So I bought the damn thing, but here’s where I decided to do something a little different. I still had the broken stone in my oven. The broken one is cracked about 2-3 inches on one side, so it’s not completely broken into pieces. I found that the new stone fits perfectly on top of the other one. I decided to take YET ANOTHER gamble! I figured if the old stone isn’t completely broken, and the new one fits on top, they might be able to retain and conduct heat as an unstoppable team… OR they’ll both just crack and die.

Here’s what ELSE I did… I’ve been reading that many pizza stone users place two stones in the oven, one on a lower shelf, and one on a high shelf. This is supposedly to assist in keeping the heat centralized, so that the pizza gets evenly cooked on the bottom and on the top. So, I went to the hardware store and bought a cheap 12×12 natural stone tile for about $2, and put that badboy on the shelf right below the top heating element.

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The combination of the stacked stones and the top stone has produced some of my best pizzas EVER, all within the span of about 6 minutes. I’ve found preheating the stones at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for about 90 mins, then putting the pizza on the lower shelf for 5 minutes, THEN cranking on the broiler and moving the pizza to the top stone for 1 minute produces a perfect at-home pizza. Traditional wood-fired brick ovens are so hot that they can cook a pizza anywhere from 1-2 minutes. Conventional home ovens need just a lil’ mo’ TIIIIIME, but can produce a pretty damn good pizza if the environment is right. Granted, all that stone takes quite a bit of time to get to temperature, but it’s totally worth it, especially for morons with ridiculous pizza goals like me.

Please note that when I refer to pizzas, I’m talking about homemade pizzas with fresh dough, and not the frozen variety. I have no idea the cook time for those. I made a decision a while back ago that I wouldn’t buy another frozen pizza unless I REEEEALLY didn’t have the time or energy to make it myself, mainly because with the price you pay for a frozen pizza, you can buy the ingredients and make several homemade ones.

Well, that’s pretty much my pizza stone journey. I have a fews other things up my sleeve that I may talk about later on, but as far as pizza stones go… I think I’m going to stick with this combination until they crack or until I have a big enough oven to fit my bigger piece of tile. Hopefully, any of this was helpful, and if it wasn’t, I hope you at least got a good chance to snicker and have a good laugh at my expense.

Moral of the story: Do your research and buy a good stone. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg. Make some pizzas, enjoy some pizzas, and don’t be a moron like me.

XOXO,
Boogs

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My Pizza Stone Journey Pt. 2 (TL;DR Warning)

Aaah, pizza stones! Home cooks swear by them, and rightfully so! They deliver a beautiful crisp bottom that a regular baking sheet, even the specialty ones, cannot deliver. But with so many options, which one do you buy? If you’re like me, you scour the internet for product reviews, and look at both the good and bad, sometimes reading, then overlooking some of the good and bad, since some people are just plain dumbos. When I look at reviews, I look for honest reviews, checking the ratio of good to bad, and try to find a common denominator of the bad, then I check other review sites for the same product, repeat the process, then make a decision. Sometimes, I do this same process for multiple products, so that if I can’t readily purchase my first choice, I have a backup plan. And sometimes, I’m just a complete moron, and I throw all of my well-spent research time out the window and succumb to impulse purchases.

If you read Pt. 1 of My Pizza Stone Journey, you know that I found out that you can just buy unglazed natural stone tile at the hardware store and use that as pizza stone. And you also know that my dumbass didn’t measure my oven, and bought a piece of Travertine tile that was too big to fit in said unmeasured oven. Great job, Boogs! So, don’t be like me. If you go that route, measure your oven, and be aware that the big name chain hardware stores typically don’t have a variety of sizes for Travertine, usually only carrying 12×12 or 18×18. My problem is that my stove can only fit something that’s about 16.5×22 inches. So, my option would be to buy a 12×12 piece of tile that would yield a perfect pizza FOR A TODDLER. You gotta think, if the max surface area is 12 inches by 12 inches, a pizza needs to fit within those parameters. I’m no toddler, friends; I’m a hefty man who likes to stay at home on Saturday nights and eat an entire large pizza by himself and pass out. I live a life of fantasy and mystery, as you can see.

Okay, enough about that! Onto the part where I’m a moron, so you can learn from my mistakes!

So, after feeling defeated from finding out my new pizza stone wasn’t going to work. I went back and did the aforementioned research, and found a particular pizza stone that came with a peel with great, honest reviews that was under $20. I felt like I won the lottery. I figured okay, it’s not as cheap as a piece of $5 tile, but it comes with a pizza peel that would normally cost more than $20 anyway– WHY NOT? The thing was, it wasn’t available anywhere within my city limits, because none of the Wal-Marts around me had it in stock, but a neighboring town about 20 minutes away did. I called and they told me they had 3-5 in their inventory, so I drove there! I walked around looking at every space in every aisle in the home kitchen area, scouring every nook and cranny. There was no associate working that section. I even went into other sections asking for help, and they said “oh, so and so will be right there to help you!” Well, so and so was at lunch. So, I went to another department and ask then to verify (AGAIN) that this item was indeed in stock and at that store. The dude from the electronics section looks at the SKU that I had pulled up on my phone from their website. He checks their computer, and a bunch off boop-boop-beeps later, he lets me know “Yep, we’ve got 3-5 in stock!”. I tell him I can’t find it, so he gives me a code to look for on the actual price tag stickers posted on the shelves that designates the area where this item should be. He said to find this particular code/number, and it’ll be in that area. So I go, and scour some mo’–NOTHING! Finally, someone saw me in desperation and called for the lady who works that section to come and help me. She arrives, I explain the sitch, and she comes at me with “Oh no, we no have that!”. I told her I was informed by an associate who looked it up in the system, that stated you should have 3-5 in stock. “No… we no have that. We only have this one (pointing to the metal pizza pans)”. I start explaining the code I was given to look for, but by that time, I had been at that store for almost two hours, I understood there was a definite language barrier, so I politely said “thank you for your help”, and I walked out.

Onto my researched 2nd choice! So, there I was at the Wal-Mart down the street from my house looking for a pizza stone that had decent to okay reviews, and they also didn’t have that one, but they did have one that I did not look up or research. So, I did some on-the-spot research and saw the first review was positive, and decided to buy it. I get home and do more research– come to find out this particular stone is notorious for cracking due to thermal shock. Thermal shock is damage that happens when a material is exposed to a drastic change in temperature. The worst part is that the company TELLS you not to preheat it. WHAT? So, you’re telling me the whole point of a pizza stone is thrown out the window with this product. Neat! After further research, some people have said they go ahead and preheat and haven’t had any issues. I had it for about a week, and I thought a I had a pretty good grasp on how to gradually preheat the oven for a prolonged period of time so the stone has time to adjust, also making sure my dough is at room temp, but sure enough, it cracked after a few uses. It could have been because my oven got too hot for it, since the instructions say that it can only withstand up to a temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Okay, I get it! The company definitely warns you about what will crack this stone, but all the things I want from a pizza could not be achieved with all of their limitations. All in all, it was a bad purchase on my part, specifically because I have ridiculous pizza goals. I’m trying to be able to replicate the type of pizzas that come out of a traditional wood-fired brick oven in my home kitchen. This particular stone may very well work, but only for those interested in a DiGiorno and Netflix type of night. I’m looking to crank up my oven as hot as it can get, throw a pizza on a blazing hot stone with homemade dough that will puff up at the crust edges that get a nice char on the air pockets, and end up with a nice crispy bottom, all within the confines of 2-5 minutes. A true dreamer’s dream.

Until then, I’ll just be a moron who bought a pizza stone on impulse that absolutely doesn’t work for what I need.

 

Stayed tuned for Pt. 3!

My Pizza Stone Journey Pt.1

Pizza stones are typically unglazed, natural stone shaped in either a circle, square, or rectangle used to mimic the surface of brick pizza ovens. Conventional ovens usually do not get near the temperature of traditional wood burning brick pizza ovens, so in order to get the closest possible outcome to a brick oven pizza, people use pizza stones. When placed in a conventional oven and pre-heated, the stone will absorb and conduct heat that results in a hotter, more even baking temperature. Granted your home oven STILL won’t get as hot as 800 – 1000+ degrees Fahrenheit, the stones get you as close as you can get in the comfort of your home kitchen.

The problem I’ve seen is that pizza stones cost too much damn money. I’ve seen these pieces of rock sold upwards of $30-50 or more. C’MON, SON!! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also seen cheaper ones ranging from $8 to $14, but you know the saying– if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a piece of crap. Ok, I made that last part up. So, here’s what I’ve found through a little internet research (I’m an internet researcher, y’all! You didn’t know?!?). You can just buy UNGLAZED NATURAL STONE TILE AT THE DAMN HARDWARE STORE!! PFFFFFFFFF!! One slab of 18×18 Travertine tile is under $5. Why on earth would I spend $50. So, that’s what I did.

Here’s where me being a complete moron comes into play. I stroll up to my local big name hardware store, walk around clueless as to where the Flooring department is, so I politely ask someone, and BOOM, it’s right in front of my face. That’s not where the moronic part comes in though. I approach a nice gentleman, and ask where I can find travertine tile, he points to the tiles that I’m standing directly in front of. In my defense, AIN’T NOTHIN’ SAID TRAVERTINE ANYWHERE ON ANY OF THE SIGNAGE. That’s not even the moronic part. So, there I am, happy as a clam with a big ole’ slab of rock, so I take my goofy butt to the checkout, pay for it, and head home. Once I get to my kitchen, I wipe off the tile with a damp cloth and dry it off. I’m super excited, so I open up my little Fisher Price apartment oven and stick that badboy right in… and GUESS WHAT? IT’S TOO FRICKIN’ BIG!! Yep, in my excitement over learning I can save a ton of cash by buying a piece of tile to make the closest thing I can to homemade pizza of my dreams, and I didn’t measure my oven. The tile is about an inch and a half too big, so my oven door won’t shut. FAILURE.

So, there I was, broken and alone with a brand new platform for my wooden cutting board, because that’s all it’s good for now. Or maybe I can put it on the ground, so it makes me feel taller when I’m making pizzas in my pizza stoneless oven. You might think, hey– can’t you just take it back and ask them to cut it for you? I already tried. For the most part, if a hardware store has a tile cutter handy, they MIGHT be able to do it for you, but I’ve found that the big name stores don’t have the tile cutter that can cut Travertine because it’s natural stone. They’ll just refer you to their equipment rental section. Why am I gonna rent a $30-$50 tile cutter for a pizza stone that I’m trying to save money on??? On the other hand, I’ve found that smaller, mom & pop tile and flooring stores have a better selection of sizes.

Moral of the story, y’all: if you’re gonna buy a piece of tile to use as a pizza stone, make sure you know how big your oven is. This might be a “uummm… DUH!” type thing for a lot of you, but not everyone is a dingus like myself. I hope my story touches you and imparts any resemblance of a helpful tip/trick for those interested in saving money on a pizza stone.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my very thought out and well planned Pizza Stone Journey. It’s nowhere near moronic, I promise (I’m lying). v moronic, m stupor.