Saturday, April 30, 2011

Technique: Cooking Surfaces for Pizza (Part 6)

Most of the cooking surfaces for pizza have been around for a while. There are a multitude of variations on pizza stones of different thicknesses and different materials. The Emile Henry stone, however, has some interesting features.

First, unlike most of the pizza stones, the Emile Henry stone is glazed. The point of using stone or ceramic instead of metal is that the stone absorbs moisture from the dough, resulting in a crisper crust. So, glazing sounds like a bad idea, right?

According to packaging description, the glaze is "micro-crazed" which sounds a lot like my mental health some days, but it actually means that the glaze has teeny cracks. I'll take their word for it, since my electron microscope is in the wash. Another benefit of the glaze is that grease and sauce aren't absorbed by the stone, so it's easier to clean. And it's dishwasher safe, if you're so inclined.

Another difference is that this stone is "flameware" which means it can be used on the stovetop. There is a whole line of cookware made from this material that's meant for stove use.

While the pizza stone isn't "recommended" for stovetop use, the instructions say it can be done, if the stone is heated slowly on the largest burner. While that might not be a huge consideration when you're making pizza in your oven, it does open the possibilities for using the stone a little more creatively. For example. you could preheat the stone on the stovetop while something else is in the oven.

The stone is also recommended for use on the grill, and there are recipes for using the stone as a griddle rather than just a baking surface.

The stone has handy "ears" that make it easy to grab, even with oven mitts on. The usable surface is 14 1/4 inches in diameter, and the total width, ear-to-ear, is 16 3/4 inches. For the fashion conscious, the stone comes in several different colors.

Esthetics aside, how does it perform?

As usual, I preheated the oven at 550 degrees for 1 hour. The temperature at 45 minutes was 525 degrees and at one hour it was 539 degrees.

I baked the pizza for exactly 8 minutes and removed the pizza - and stone - from the oven. See, that's where those ears come in handy. According to the instructions, the stone is perfectly safe to cut on, so I proceeded to cut the pizza. Oddly, no matter which cooking surface I use, the pizza always ends up in squares.

The bottom of the pie was mottled brown and very crisp. Of all the cooking surfaces tested so far, this one resulted in the crispest bottom.

If you're cooking several pizzas in sequence, you're probably not going to be taking the stone out of the oven. But if this is a one-pie event, the stone does a nice job of keeping a pizza hot during serving. Up here at high altitude food tends to cool off faster, and my husband noted that this was the first time we've had food that was still hot 15 minutes after serving. The heat also kept the crust crisp, and the bits of cheese that oozed onto the stone cooked to nice crispy bits.

I haven't had this stone long enough to discuss durability, and like any clay, ceramic, or natural stone, it could be affected by thermal shock. Otherwise, there's not much downside to this product. It's more expensive than cheap quarry tiles, but in the same ballpark as many other stones. It sells for $50 on Amazon, and there's a new rectangular stone that's available for the same price.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for testing each type of stone and letting us know the results. My baking stone is used primarily for bread, but it was just one purchased at Costco and I have often wondered if there was something better out there. Being able to clean this one would definitely be a plus.

It would be interesting to know if you plan on testing more, and which one you decide to stick with.

Donna Currie said...

Oh, I'm still testing. And when I'm done with pizza, I'll pick a few and bake bread as well. I'm sort of curious whether the best for pizza is also the best for bread.

It's become a running joke at home that when I'm done with this, we might have enough to pave the back year.

Anonymous said...


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