I love pizza and all kinds of artisan breads. As a matter of fact, at some point I plan on building my own wood burning, brick bread oven. Not today, though - it's raining.
The reason the crusts are so amazing on those breads is simple. Stone and brick hold the heat and create a unique crust that cannot be replicated. The stone pulls moisture out of the dough making a crisp crust. The problem is those commercial baking stones are expensive. They are a little too pricey for a homesteading diva like me, and I don't like that they often don't last more than a year or so. There has to be something better.
Unglazed Quarry Tile
Did you know you can easily make a homemade pizza stone for around five dollars?
Although I never thought I would stroll through the aisles of Home Depot for my gourmet baking supplies I find, more and more, that is exactly what I do. Your local home improvement store is an amazing place and best of all they have unglazed quarry tiles.
Now, glazed tile often has lead in it so you want to be careful to get an unglazed slab. Most of what you are going to find is going to be red and about one half of an inch thick. Generally it comes in two sizes:
6" x 6"
11" x 11"
You will want to choose unglazed tiles that are at least ½ inch thick, although 1" is better. That is a pretty standard size and shouldn't be hard to find. If you have any concerns about there being lead in the tiles you will want to contact the manufacturer to be sure. As long as the materials are things like "all natural clay and shale" you are good. Concrete is not a good choice. Some of the tiles at Home Depot are called Saltillo Tiles. Other places have other names. You can expect to pay a little over a dollar per square for the smaller ones. Fireclay is a manufacturer that makes lead free tiles. You may also have some small, local manufacturers if you look around your area.
Which Size Should I Use?
Here is where you have some decisions to make about your homemade pizza stone. The quarry tile needs to fit in your oven so that there is at least an inch or so space all the way around it. Be sure to measure the inside of your oven carefully.
Some people use just one of the big tiles which works well if you are going to make small pizzas. However, it is easiest to buy several six inch tiles and fit them in your oven. That way you have a lot of versatility. If you do not have a heating unit on the floor of your oven you can lay the tiles on the oven floor and leave them there all the time. The tiles absorb heat and you can turn your oven off about half way through cook time and finish the cooking with the heat emanating from the tiles.
Another item that some people have used successfully is a kiln shelf. This kind of defeats the purpose though as some of these are more expensive than commercial baking stones. If you know a potter who is getting rid of one you may get a great deal.
Using Your Homemade Pizza Stone
1. When you get your stone home you will want to wash it thoroughly with water. Since the stone is porous it absorbs everything and soap flavored pizza, even organic soap flavored pizza, is nasty. Always just rinse your stone when needed. Make sure it has cooled down thoroughly and then use warm water to rinse. Easy?
2. Allow it to dry for several hours. It must be all the way dry or you run the risk of it cracking in the oven.
3. Place the stone or stones in the cold oven making sure to leave at least 1" of airspace around the stones.
4. Preheat the oven to 500F with the stone in it. Allow to heat for about an hour.
5. Using a paddle or rimless cookie sheet slide your pizza onto the stone. If you roll your dough out on cornmeal it won't stick to the paddle.
6. Bake until done and then remove the pizza with the paddle.
Bake All Day on Stored Heat
Now, if you are organized enough you can now do your week's baking without any electricity at all. The homemade pizza stones will hold that heat for a long time. You can more than likely bake severalloaves of artisan bread and heat up a casserole on the stored energy. This will take a little experimenting to find out what works for you but technically you could bake a special pizza for lunch and use the heat to cook a variety of other items for the entire afternoon.
You can cook breads and such directly on the stone. Just be sure to always let the stone cool completely before washing.
Making your own pizza is delicious, easy, and eco-friendly.