5 Best Pizza Stones and Steels, Tested By Food Network Kitchen
Want to know the secret to at-home pizza baking perfection? The best pizza stones and steels on the market.
Tested by Madison Papp for Food Network Kitchen
Our Top Pizza Stone and Steel Picks:
Have you ever wondered how to make the perfect pizza at home? A decadent pie that rivals the crisped, golden crust from the best pizza parlors? We’ll let you in on a secret: it’s not one of those fancy pizza ovens you’ve seen all over social media (although, we do love them). All you need is the right equipment: a pizza stone or steel designed for your oven or standard grill.
We’ve found that any perfect at-home pizza starts with a pizza stone or steel. When you go to your favorite pizza joint, tender balls of dough are stretched, seasoned, and popped into an intensely hot pizza oven. The dough lays flat on a scorching surface (known as the "floor" of these ovens), yielding a crispy crust on top and bottom. Mimicking this process at home (please don’t try it) is dangerous and pretty impossible because the base of standard consumer ovens can’t handle the scalding temperature.
Furthermore, most homes are not equipped with a professional pizza oven and a pizza stone or steel helps to recreate this environment. Thus, they are essential in crafting pies that will rouse approval from the best of pizza connoisseurs.
What To Know About Pizza Stones
Never Stack Your Stones: Want even results? Do you own multiple pizza stones? Do not stack your stones or pizzas on different shelves in the oven, this will yield mixed results, often burnt, soggy, or overly crisped.
Placement Matters: The perfect place to bake a pizza is in the middle rack of the oven. Is this frustrating for single or small oven owners who want to bake pizza for a party of 10? Sure. But throw in a zesty side salad, some savory snacks, and stove top heavy with your favorite pasta recipe and you’ve got an all-out Italian-inspired feast.
Cut Your Pizza Somewhere Else: None of our picks are ideal cutting surfaces. Cutting on pizza stones will leave scratch marks or push debris into the stone itself which will lead to burning the next time the stone is used. Metal surfaces will dull your precious knives and pizza slicers. Thus, it is best to transfer your pizza to a cutting board or knife-friendly serving platter.
How to Pick a Recipe for Your Pizza Stone
We wanted to know if the pizza recipe informs the performance of the baking surface or if the reverse was true. The answer is a combination of both. A solid pizza recipe will work wonders on a well-crafted pizza stone or steel. However, a poorly made pizza stone or steel will not allow the best of pizza recipes to flourish. If your pizza recipe is lacking, no matter which steel or stone you use, the outcome will be less than desirable. So, here are some guidelines towards choosing the best ingredients, recipes, and methods for your pizza so that your pizza stone or steel can do its best work:
Recipe: Start with a solid recipe, such as this classic Pizza Margherita by Food Network Kitchen. We like also like using a Neapolitan crust along with fresh mozzarella, garden-plucked basil, and tomato puree slowly cooked into a tangy pizza sauce stewed with herbs, garlic, and maybe a touch of onion.
Dough: When storing pizza dough, we like to proof ours in the fridge overnight. This deepens the flavor of the dough. However, make sure to use room temperature dough when forming and readying your pizzas for the oven. Cold temperatures limit yeast activity which is essential for dough to rise.
Traction: Pizza dough is sticky. To prevent misshapen pies, line your work surface (when shaping the pizzas) with a 1:1 handful of cornmeal and all-purpose or 00 Flour. If using a pizza paddle to transport your pizza from the workspace to the oven, line the pizza paddle with the cornmeal and flour mixture.
Other Tools You Need to Make Pizza At Home
In the search for the best at-home pizza making experience, we found a smart investment in a pizza paddle and a pizza cutter/wheel. However, do check the boxes and online links when purchasing a stone or steel as many come already packed with these tools.
We also love an infrared thermometer which can be purchased on amazon for under $20 like this one from Helect. Not all ovens cook the same, and an instant read thermometer tests the temperature of your baking surface and the oven to ensure the best results.
We love a cast iron skillet. It channels a deep sear on steaks and just the right amount of char on flatbreads. When we learned a cast iron favorite, Lodge, made a baking pan ideal for pizza, we couldn’t wait to try it out. The stone comes pre-seasoned, but is not sink or dishwasher friendly, similar to most cast iron tools. In our testing, this baking surface yielded pizza that could be confused with some of the best pizza shops around. The bottom crust had streaks of sleek char with a nice chew, but not overly crispy paired with a gorgeous rise. The top of the pizza yielded a few dark bubbles circling a golden crust. The cheese elegantly melted and didn’t overly crisp. This model was however on the pricier side, at around $87 it is an investment. But sometimes good investments yield the best results, with joy and delectable pizza for years to come. Plus, pizza baking surfaces are pretty indestructible. If handled with care, this pan will last generations.
In terms of size and weight, this model comes in at just 14 inches in diameter, which is a pretty decent size pizza for a family or party of four. That being said, it is heavy. At close to 10 pounds, do make sure you have some arm strength and some solid oven mitts to handle this surface when hot. Another handy selling point? This product sure holds heat. In the minutes after leaving the oven, the temperature of the oven remained, keeping the pizza hot, hot, hot.
This elegant model, although ultra-heavy (16 pounds), came in a very close second to the Lodge in terms of performance. Do note that the baking steel requires specialized cleaning. Water will warp it and the brand even recommends that you buy a special brush to clean the steel. (Trust us, read the directions on this one.) This may be an investment for some who wants a dishwasher or easy-clean option, but the results are impeccable and utterly worth it.
When leaving the oven, the steel kept its heat well, but not quite as long as the Lodge. We were also happy to see the dough puff and bubble in the way pizzas are baked in top ovens in Italy. Now this steel does not match the cost of a one-way ticket to Naples, but it does cost a pretty penny. At around $109 dollars, it is the most expensive steel on this list. Still, it has a great surface area (16 inches x 14 inches) which allows for shaping both large rectangular and circular pizzas.
We consider this stone "The Queen" for a few reasons: she is chic, dependable, and wonderfully sturdy. In much of our testing we found that darker baking surfaces yielded better results because darker colors absorb more heat, which is ideal for pizza making. As bakers, we often shy away from darker baking sheets because we don’t want burnt cookie bottoms and semi baked tops, but in the world of pizza baking, this duality is ideal. We also love that this stone comes in two sizes, the 14- and the 16-inch. Plus, cleaning (she’s dishwasher safe!) and storage is a breeze as this model would look glam on any kitchen counter or exposed shelf — thus ideal for those who are low on storage and sticklers for a statement piece.
In the $50 price range, this stone is a no brainer. Our only note is that this stone takes longer to heat than the others listed, 45 minutes to one hour was needed in our oven for the stone to hit the temperature of choice. Even after an hour, the stone didn’t match the temperature of the oven. It also cools faster than other steels on this list. Still, it is lighter weight at around si6x pounds which allows for younger baking enthusiasts to take an additional role in the pizza baking fun. Other, heavier baking surfaces would certainly require additional help from adults if crafting a pizza night geared towards a kid-forward crowd.
This is the ultimate set for beginners because it comes with all the trappings for a fun at-home pizza baking adventure minus the ingredients. It comes with a pizza paddle, which is ideal for transporting pizzas to a preheated stone in the oven. One can try fussing around with spatulas or dough scrapers, but the result is not the same and almost always ends in messy, misshapen pizza. It also comes with a pizza wheel, which is not the best but gets the job done.
This brings us to cost, the whole set costs less than $25 — a total bargain. Now, you won’t get parlor-perfect pizza, but you will get pretty close, which will satisfy most pizza lovers. Another plus? This model is primed for use on a grill which can level-up outdoor cooking options. At just over 14 inches in diameter, this is also one of the lighter stones on our list at just under 6 pounds. But, if you are looking to keep the pizza on the stone for an extended period of time, we recommend you move it to a wire rack or cutting board for immediate consumption. While the stone cools off, there is nowhere for the steam from the bottom of the pizza to flow. Thus, soggy-pizza haters beware, and be quick post pizza bake.
At just under $34, we were impressed by this stone’s performance. It does not yield crust as charred or crispy as the darker steels or stones on our hit list, but for those that like a softer yet golden crust, the Unicook is a sure-fire winner. Now, it is not to be cleaned with detergents and certainly not in the dishwasher, but it does come with a handy scraper, which is helpful when you top your pizza with too much cheese — something the best of pizza bakers are guilty of from time to time.
When it comes to size, we do love a rectangle. It is more difficult to execute a rectangle pizza on a round surface, and many pizza lovers prefer this shape (15 inches x 12 inches). Thus, for die-hard rectangle pizza fans, this could be the stone for you. It is also ideal for families because multiple mini pizzas can be baked on this surface. Another perk? It also works on the grill. When popped out of the oven, the stone cools quickly, so do your transfer in a timely manner to avoid a soggy crust.
How We Tested
Once we selected a killer pizza recipe, it was time to test out our stones and steels. We crafted this test by baking the same variety of pizza on different stones and steels at the same oven temperature (about 525 degrees F).
In our testing, we found that it is best to heat your oven to a high setting such as 500 to 550 degrees F and pre-bake the stone or steel for at least 30 minutes. At this point you can check the temperature of your baking surface with an infrared thermometer. If you don’t have one on hand, across the board 30 minutes was a solid indication of readiness. However, if your oven is not one hundred percent exact, it may help to let it bake for an extra 45 minutes.
In order to pick winners, we first looked for temperature and heat retention. Pizza baked on a cold or room temperature stone will not reveal a uniform and quality product. The heat of the stone ensures even baking as well as flavor imparted by a necessary maillard reaction. Thus, it was a shock that some stones and steels call for a 15 minute pre-heat when in reality all stones tested hit the ideal baking temperature after a full 30 minutes.
We also felt it was important that the best products tested retained heat after they were removed from the oven. Sometimes we don’t have the time to slice a pizza right away and if sitting out on a colder surface, a pizza can easily get tough or chewy.
Our next marker of excellence proved to be pizza quality. We’ve been lucky to try some of the best pizza in the world from New York City to Naples, Italy. One of our favorite pies is the classic Neopolitan Margherita. This pie has a slightly puffed golden crust with flecks of fresh oven char. The base is on the thinner side, crispy and browned on the bottom, layered with pomodoro sauce, fresh slices of mozzarella, and chiffonade basil. It is a pizza purists dream and utterly delicious. Any stone or steel that produced this result would be the true winners.