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Baking The Perfect Homemade Pizza: How Do Pizza Stones Work?

Chemist Leigh Krietsch Boerner explains why pizza stones produce such scrumptious crusts.

Tomato pizza on a pizza stone

Photo: mccun934

Pizza stones are just a type of ceramic, so the cheap ones will work just as well as the expensive ones.

Pizza stones. Plenty of amateur pizza chefs swear by them, and if you’ve never used one before – it’s not just a gimmick – using a pizza stone when you cook pizza at home is a great way to ensure your crust will be baked all the way through, without burning the edges and leaving soggy dough in the middle.

But WHY do they work better than metal cookie sheets?

Capillary Action

Chemist and science writer Leigh Krietsch Boerner helps explain.

She says that it has to do with water distribution. Remember studying capillary action in high school? How when you put the end of a piece of paper into water, the water travels right up the paper?

Boerner says that a pizza stone basically does the same thing.

“It has pores where the water will travel into,” she says. “If you have an area that has a lot of water and an area that is dry, the areas  like to even out – nature really loves to make things even out – so the water will travel from the crust into your stone.”

That’s why there isn’t a gooey, undercooked spot in the center of your pizza crust – the stone enables water to escape even from the parts that don’t have good contact with the hot air in the oven.

Are All Pizza Stones Created Equal?

Since pizza stones are just a type of ceramic, the cheap ones will work just as well as the expensive ones.

You can even make your own pizza stone with a trip to the hardware store and $5 in your pocket. But read the instructions completely – buying the wrong material can put you at risk for lead poisoning.

Once you have a pizza stone in your possession, the pros recommend you cure it. This prevents the dough from sticking and ensures you and your stone will have a long, delicious relationship.

This Week On The Podcast

We’ll be talking more about pizza with recipes and more tips to make your home pizza baking a success. Subscribe in iTunes to be sure not to miss it!

Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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