If you've ever tried making pizza in your home oven without any specialty equipment, you've probably found the results markedly different than what you get from your favorite pizza joint. Home-cooked pizzas tend to emerge from the oven pale, doughy, and less flavorful (browning = flavor). That's because home ovens can't reach 900+ degrees Fahrenheit like commercial or wood-fired pizza ovens. In order to achieve a pizza with a well-browned, flavorful crust and airy, chewy interior, you need to cook the pizza as hot and as fast as possible to mimic the intense heat of a traditional wood-fired oven.
That's where pizza stones come in. Pizza stones are rectangular or circular slabs of relatively thick stone or metal that absorb heat to cook the crust much faster than a pan or sheet tray. With practice and the right pizza stone, you can churn out pizzas that resemble the pies you get from your favorite slice shop.
I'm no stranger to pizza stones after working in professional kitchens for many years, where we used these slabs for much more than just pizza. They're great for baking bread, especially oblong loaves like baguettes, and you can use their ability to hold heat to put a mean sear on steak or vegetables. For this guide, I focused primarily on pizza, using each stone to make multiple thin-crust pizzas in my oven. I also used each stone to bake bread in the oven, though I weighed this test less heavily. I had the tough job of evaluating the quality of the finished pizza through multiple taste tests and also based my recommendations on how easy the stones were to move, use, and clean.
To learn more about how to choose, use, and care for a pizza stone, I interviewed my former colleague Andrew Janjigian (@wordloaf), baking instructor and former resident bread expert at Cook's Illustrated Magazine. You can read more about our methodology, along with answers to FAQs, and pizza stone tips and tricks here.
Updated 11/10/2020: We've completely overhauled this guide with original testing and expert interviews. We also added information about our testing process, what to look for in a pizza stone, and tips and tricks for making good pizza at home.
Pros: Excellent thermal conductivity for superior pizza in your home oven, preheats faster than cordierite stones, easy to clean, practically indestructible, doesn't show wear like cordierite stones
Cons: Heavy to lift, gets too hot for baking bread or cooking on the grill
If you're buying a pizza stone, it's because you want to significantly up your game from the type of pizza you can get using a pizza pan, baking sheet, or skillet. The Original Baking Steel offers the biggest leap in pizza quality out of all the stones we tried.
Unlike most traditional pizza stones, which are made from cordierite stone, the Baking Steel is (as the name suggests) made of steel, which transfers heat much faster. All materials have different thermal conductivity, meaning they hold and transfer heat differently. Some materials can behave much hotter than they actually are. That's why, for example, food cooks slower in a glass versus metal baking dish, or why it hurts to touch a hot oven rack, but only feels warm when you hold your hand in the oven air. When heated to 500 F, the Baking Steel behaves the same way as the surface of a traditional 900 F brick oven.
The Baking Steel consistently made the most well-browned, bubbly pizzas, with great speckling across the bottom of the crust. This not only made for pizza with a better texture, but also a more robust flavor, since those browned bits offer much more flavor. "If you're really obsessed with pizza, get the Steel," said Janjigian, who primarily uses the Baking Steel when making pizza.
However, Janjigian said that the properties that make the Baking Steel great for pizza make it a bad choice for bread, which needs slower, more consistent heat to bake properly. In testing, the Baking Steel burned the bottoms of my loaves. Steel also isn't a good choice for making pizza on the grill, where the temperatures exceed 700 F and the exceptional heat transfer from the steel becomes overkill. "All that heat in the grill is going directly into the steel, which in turn is going into the bottom of your pizza," Janjigian said. "By the time it's done on top it's going to be burnt on the bottom."
That said, the Baking Steel really shines for turning your home oven into a pizza-making machine. I could tell from the second the dough landed on the steel and started to hiss and sizzle that I was in for an excellent pie. The slick, seasoned surface cleaned up easier than other stones, and while this is a minor attribute, I liked that the dark color didn't show wear the way cordierite stones do.
Practically speaking, the steel is a rectangular 14 inches by 16 inches, which makes it versatile for pizzas that are large or aren't perfectly round. Since it's made from steel it's also basically indestructible and thus much more durable than cordierite, which is prone to cracking and breaking. If you're really serious about pizza quality, the Baking Stone is absolutely the best all-around choice.$89.00 from Baking Steel
Pros: Makes decent pizza and excellent bread, cleans up easily, has feet for easy maneuvering
Cons: Produces less browning, takes a long time to preheat, cordierite is prone to cracking and staining
Previously our best overall pick, the Solido 14x16 Cordierite Pizza Stone makes delicious pizza that is moist, springy, and chewy. However, it didn't produce quite the level of browning as the baking steel — the pizza was good, but still distinctly home-baked pizza not reminiscent of restaurant pizza. Still, the results are much better than what you'd get from a pan or baking sheet, and this stone excelled in one area where the Baking Steel couldn't: baking bread.
Unlike steel, which gets hot fast and channels all that heat right into the pizza, cordierite stones like the Solido absorb and release heat slowly. They take about two hours to preheat in the oven and a very long time to cool down enough to handle after cooking. This slow heat is decent for pizza, but exceptional for baking bread, which relies on consistent heat over a much longer bake time. The Solido stone made loaves that were beautifully browned and is well-shaped to accommodate longer, oblong loaves like baguettes or rustic breads.
Design-wise, it's pretty basic: a 14 inch by 16 inch rectangular slab of cordierite, similar to most cordierite stones out there and a good shape and size for making both pizza and bread. However, the Solido stone has one small feature that gave it the edge over the other cordierite stone we tried: feet. The stone has raised grooves along the bottom that lift it off the oven rack and make it much easier to grab and move around. While this is a minor design feature, it distinguished the Solido stone from other very similar stones.
Its rounded corners also fit better when I tried it on a charcoal grill. However, like all cordierite stones, it takes a long time to preheat, which makes it an inefficient option for grilling unless you want to waste a ton of propane or charcoal.
This is a great stone if you loathe the idea of a unitasker — it made great oven pizza and excellent bread. It was also simple to clean, though it retained stains like all cordierite stones are prone to do. Cordierite is prone to cracking or breaking if not cared for properly, so we don't expect this stone is any different, though we didn't see any cracking during testing.$59.99 from Amazon
Pros: Good thermal conductivity for well-browned pizzas, cleans up easily, doesn't show stains, circular shape fits well on round grill, handles make moving easy
Cons: Difficult to slide a pizza onto its circular shape
While you can make pizza directly on your grill's grates (in fact, this is the method Janjigian recommends if you're interested in grilled pizza), a stone makes the process less daunting and potentially less messy. However, using a pizza stone on the grill requires some adjustments to standard pizza stone best practices. While the Baking Steel will heat up super quickly, it will also burn your pizza in minutes in the ultra hot grill. By contrast, cordierite stones make underbaked pizzas on the grill unless you preheat the stone for an hour or so beforehand, using a lot of fuel.
That's why the Lodge 15 Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Pizza Pan is really well-suited to cooking on the grill; it offers a happy medium between steel and cordierite in how quickly it heats up and how fast it transfers heat to your pizza. In testing, the Lodge pan was ready to go after about a half hour of preheating on my gas grill, and it cooked a beautifully baked pie with good spotting on the top and excellent browning on the bottom. The built-in handles made it easy to transfer the stone in and out of the grill, and it cleans up easily with just a sponge and some water. Note that it's best to use soap sparingly when cleaning cast iron, so you don't strip the slick nonstick seasoning.
Grilling was also the only situation where I found the circular stone to have an advantage over rectangular stones; you can read more about circular versus rectangular stones here. While the rectangular stones fit fine on my gas grill, some didn't fit at all on my small kettle charcoal grill. The round stone fit nicely in both the gas and charcoal grill, and left plenty of room for air circulation.
The stone isn't just for grilling though; it made excellent pizza in my oven, but I found its circular shape was less forgiving than rectangular stones. With a round stone, you have to aim perfectly. If I was off center by just a bit when sliding the pizza off the peel, the dough hung off the edge and made a mess in my oven. This stone is a great option if you're a seasoned pizza pro or are dabbling in the world of grilled pizza, but most other users will get better benefits from one of our other rectangular picks.$42.95 from Lodge
In addition to interviewing Andrew Janjigian, a pizza expert, we put each pizza stone through a series of tests to judge how well they made pizza, and how easy they were to move, use, and clean. Here's how we tested and rated pizza stones:
Shape: I researched dozens of stones, but after conferring with Janjigian, focused on rectangular stones when I could because the shape is more versatile and easy to use.
How it made pizza: We preheated each stone in a 500 degree oven for two hours and then used it to make three thin-crust pizzas using a recipe from Serious Eats, a website known for its science-based, well-tested recipes over the course of several weeks, adjusting cook time, oven temperature, and stone position in between pizzas in pursuit of the best results. A good pizza should have a well-browned, bubbly crust that is crisp on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside; cheese should be fully melted in the time it takes to cook the crust. My husband and I both sampled each finished pizza for flavor and texture.I only tested the cast-iron pan on a charcoal grill because its size, shape, and material were best suited for that use.
How it made bread: Many people bake bread with their pizza stones, so I used each to make an easy recipe for crusty white bread from King Arthur, a respected flour company where Janjigian teaches baking classes. I looked for loaves that were well-baked inside, and browned (but not burnt) on the bottom.
Ease of Use: I frequently moved the stones in and out of the oven using oven mitts, and with my bare hands when the stones had cooled down, noting how easy and comfortable they were to move. After each use, I cleaned the stone according to manufacturer instructions, evaluating how easily they cleaned up and noting their appearance after use and cleaning.
Durability: I didn't intentionally drop any stones during testing, as I know that cordierite in particular is prone to cracking and breaking, having broken a few of these stones in the past. Instead, I consulted with an expert and did my own research about the durability of different materials.
Here are some considerations to think about when looking for a pizza stone:
Shape: One might think that since pizza is round, a pizza stone should be too. But we actually think you'll get much better pizza out of a rectangular stone. "With a round stone, if you miss that target by a little, [the pizza] is going to hang off the edge," said Janjigian. "You don't have to aim perfectly with a rectangular stone." Rectangular stones are often larger, so they also hold more heat, which can make a pizza with better browning. Finally, rectangular stones are more versatile. "I want the real estate for things that aren't perfectly round," said Janjigian, who also uses a pizza stone to bake bread. The only time we see a round stone having an advantage is for grilling, since larger rectangular stones sometimes don't fit, especially on circular grills. For almost all uses, rectangular is the way to go.
Size: "I want my stone to be as big as my oven rack, minus some space for air flow," says Janjigian. A larger stone not only holds more heat, but provides plenty of real estate for larger pies and long baked goods like baguettes. We found a stone that is about 16 inches by 14 inches to be the ideal size for most home ovens. If you're looking for a cordierite stone, thicker is also better, says Janjigian, because thicker stones are less prone to cracking. Our favorite cordierite stone measures ¾ inch thick, and we found this size to be a good compromise between durability and maneuverability.
Weight: While lighter stones may be easier to transport in and out of the oven, Janjigian says that heavier stones will produce better pizza. "The lighter it is, the less mass it has, and the less it can heat the pie," he says. A heavier stone will hold a lot of heat, and make a well-browned pizza. Pizza stones usually weigh about nine pounds, but most of our top picks are 13 to 16 pounds because they're thicker or made with heavier material like steel or cast iron.
Material: We looked at stones made from steel, cordierite (a heat-resistant mineral), and cast iron, all of which have different thermal properties, and thus, different uses. Of these, steel absorbs and transfers heat the fastest, which makes it ideal for pizza in the home oven. If you're serious about good home pizza, we recommend opting for a pizza steel. Cordierite stones make decent pizza, but have less thermal mass than steel, so the crust tends to be paler and less developed. However, cordierite is a great choice if you plan on using your stone to bake bread, since other materials tend to burn loaves. If you hate the idea of a unitasker and have a robust baking repertoire, a cordierite stone will absolutely do the trick. Finally, cast iron offers a happy medium between steel and cordierite in terms of heat conductivity. However, we have yet to find a rectangular cast iron stone, only circular pans, which are trickier to use. We think circular cast iron pizza stones are a good option if you're interested in grilled pizza, especially if you have a round grill.
Price: Pizza stones are basically just slabs of materia so be wary of any stone priced significantly more or less than competitors made from the same material. Expect to pay about $40 to $60 for a cordierite or cast iron stone and $70 to $90 for a steel. You won't get a significant increase in performance from something priced higher.
A pizza stone can help you make restaurant-quality pizza at home. Many pizza joints use commercial or wood fired ovens that can reach 900+ F, creating the well-browned crust you expect from a restaurant pie. Home ovens don't get that hot, so pizza made in a pan or sheet tray usually comes out doughy and pale. A pizza stone recreates some of the restaurant experience by providing a super hot surface to cook the pizza one, resulting in better browning and bubbling.
Can I use a pizza stone in a countertop or toaster oven?
The stones we tested are too big for most toaster ovens, and most toaster ovens don't reach the temperatures needed to churn out good pizza (many max out at 450 F). Some circular stones may fit in large countertop smart ovens like the June Oven.
Do I need to preheat my pizza stone?
Absolutely. You'll only get the benefits of using a pizza stone or steel if you preheat it. You should preheat most stones and steels for one to two hours, enough time for the stone to get as hot as the air around it. If you don't, the results won't be much different than what you get from using a pizza pan or baking sheet.
Why does my stone look discolored or dirty, even after cleaning it?
Discoloration is totally normal and, while your pizza stone will never look as pristine as the day you bought it, those stains and smudges can actually help make your pizza stone more nonstick over time. Materials like cast iron and carbon steel become more "seasoned" with use, as oils bond to the surface and form a naturally protective coating. It's important to clean all types of pizza stones gently and without soap when you can; cordierite is very porous and that soapy flavor can soak into the stone and impact the flavor of your pizza. Steel and cast iron should similarly be cleaned lightly so as not to disturb the built-up seasoning. Use a metal or plastic spatula to scrape big chunks of debris off of the stone when you're done cooking, and wipe the surface lightly with water and a soft sponge. Any leftover stickiness or stuck-on bits will likely burn off the next time you preheat the stone. Those leftover marks might be unsightly, but they won't impact performance.
Why did my stone crack?
Cast iron and steel stones should never crack, as both are extremely durable materials. Almost all cracking occurs with cordierite stones. Despite being "stone," cordierite pizza stones are relatively delicate. A common cause of cracking is thermal shock, which is when the stone is rapidly exposed to a drastically different temperature. You should never put a room temperature stone in a hot oven; always put the stone in a cold oven and allow it to preheat. Similarly, avoid putting frozen food onto a blazing hot stone (yes, that includes frozen pizza) and let the stone cool completely in the oven before removing or washing it.
Stones can also crack from too much moisture. Cordierite stones are very porous; they'll absorb moisture from the food cooking and from washing. If you don't give your stone time to dry after washing it, the water can remain in the stone and cause a build-up of steam the next time you heat the stone, resulting in a crack. Finally, stones can crack from even minor drops (this is how I broke my first stone); treat your stone as gently as you would a piece of pottery when handling or moving it.
Making great pizza at home takes practice. Here are some tips and tricks I've learned over seven years of working in professional kitchens for getting the most out of your pizza stone.
Crank up the heat: Heat is your friend when cooking pizza. Some pizza aficionados have been known to toggle with broiler settings and even try to hack their oven's self-clean cycles in pursuit of perfect home pizza. While we don't think you need to go that far, we recommend cranking the heat in your oven up to 500 F if you're using a steel or 550 F if you're using a cordierite stone.
Preheat your stone in the oven: Put your stone in the cold oven and preheat both stone and oven together for one to two hours. This step is essential for achieving a well-browned pizza.
Use a pizza peel: A peel is a tool to shuttle your pizza on and off the blazing hot stone. After years of using makeshift peels, including the back of a skillet and an overturned sheet pan, I finally took the plunge and purchased a pizza peel. It makes the process significantly easier and less daunting. I build my pizza right on the peel for an easy transition from the counter to the oven.
Rotate the pizza: Give the pizza a turn once through baking with the help of your peel or a good set of kitchen tongs. The back of the oven tends to be hotter than the front, so rotating your pizza once during cooking can help prevent burning.
Tweak and refine: It takes practice to make great pizza at home. Don't be discouraged if your first pizza ends up burnt or too doughy inside. Try different recipes and tinker with cooking times and temperatures until you find what works for your oven.
Turbocharge your pizza making: If you're really wild about homemade pizza, Janjigian says you can buy both a stone and steel and put them together to "supercharge" your pizza making. "If you put the steel on top of the stone, the stone acts like a battery to continually pump heat into the steel," he says. This tip is primarily for those super-invested in making pizza at home, but the steel-on-stone method can be great for churning out pie after pie, or getting the char and bubbling on the crust you normally only really get from wood fired ovens.
Let your stone cool: After you take out your pizza, let your stone stay in the oven until both are completely cooled to avoid any potential cracking. This can take several hours, but it's important for maintaining the durability of your stone.
Use soap and water sparingly: Use a spatula and a dry cloth to scrape any burnt bits off the pizza stone; this should be enough for most messes. With all materials, be reserved with soap, which can strip the seasoning off of steel and cast iron and impart a bad flavor onto pizza made with porous cordierite stones. If you use water to clean a cordierite stone, let it dry for at least 48 hours before you use it again.