Long before metal oven racks were invented, many people would place the things that they wanted to bake onto stones to keep them from burning in ovens or even directly on heat. Traditional recipes for dishes like Native American flat bread employed a thick heavy stone onto which corn was spread. This was often set directly over a low fire to produce a tortilla like product that was a staple of certain Native American tribes. Today, the baking stone is associated most with cooking pizza, but there are actually many applications for its use in baking.
Typical baking stones can be made of a variety of materials, and tend to be either round or rectangular in shape. Clay stone is popular, but some people prefer marble. Some are glazed and others are not, so there’s a great deal of choice on the market. A few companies make stone cookie sheets, muffin tins, and others to widen the applications possible for stone bakeware.
Some people suggest that heading to the local kitchen supply store to purchase a baking stone is a waste of time and instead they purchase tiles from kitchen or gardening stores. The one disadvantage to this method is that most tiles manufactured for home or garden are not rated for safety in cooking. They may contain high amounts of lead and cooks would need to test them for presence of lead prior to using them to cook.
The baking stone method of cooking tends to produce more desirable qualities, especially in the production of pizza or bread. Bottom crusts are light and crunchy because the stone absorbs more moisture than does a cookie sheet. The stone is also praised for its ability to evenly heat the crust and lessen chances that a pizza or other bread will burn. There are differing opinions on whether the cook should construct a pizza on the stone and then transfer it to the oven, or place a prepared pizza directly on a heated stone in the oven. For the most even heating and quicker cooking, the second method tends to be most effective.
Artisan bakers use commercial sized baking stones, and sometimes stone ovens, in the preparation of bread. Cooks can frequently duplicate these results at home. Many experts advocate substituting stones for just about anything a cook can imagine putting in an oven, but bakers should think carefully before they begin baking everything on stone.
First, if a cook is thinking of substituting a baking stone for a cookie sheet, unless he buys a stone cookie sheet, he loses the lip that helps keep things from running off the flat surface into the oven. While cookies on large enough stones may not pose a problem, other foods that have a tendency to run, including pizza, might cause a lot of extra oven cleaning work. When a cook wants to use stones in a variety of applications, he should consider buying cooking sheet styles with the lip present, instead of the round or rectangular flat stone.
A few people also have trouble cleaning baking stones, especially those that are not glazed. Cooks can avoid cleaning problems by using non-stick spray on the stone, and by regularly seasoning it with oil. Unglazed stones should not be washed with soap, since most will absorb some of the soap flavor. Instead, cooks should use warm water, and try to work off any stuck pieces of food with a spatula or dull knife.