Talking to a friend about pizza stones the other day, she asked me, “Is it okay to leave my pizza stone in the oven all the time?” I have to admit, that’s a good question. Baking stones or steels can be really heavy to move around. And, if they can help you make such good pizza, could they be useful when you bake other foods in the oven as well?
As someone who’s bought, used, and cracked multiple pizza stones in his cooking experience, I’ve done my fair share of research, experimentation, and mistakes when it comes to this baking accessory. In this post, I’m going to share with you my two cents on the topic.
You can keep your pizza stone in the oven, even when you’re not making pizza. Your oven will take longer to preheat, but the pizza stone will hold on to that heat well—and help to distribute it more evenly. Place the stone on the lowest rack and wrap it in aluminum foil, so that no liquids from your food drip down on it.
Your home oven works by using air to transfer heat. The oven burns gas or heats a bake element at the bottom, heating the air and making it rise to the top. This makes the top of the oven significantly hotter than the bottom, which is often problematic for baking bread, pizza, and pastry.
Uncooked dough is moist because, in its purest form, it consists of flour and water. To make baked goods with a crispy crust and browned bottom, you need a hot cooking surface and a stable temperature in the oven to draw out the moisture from the dough. This is where a pizza stone can come in handy.
A pizza stone (or its metallic counterpart called “baking steel”) will conduct and hold on to heat, making the temperature of the air in your oven much more stable. It also ensures that the air on the bottom of your oven is hotter than usual, which produces a crispier crust and cooks the dough more evenly.
Why Would You Keep a Pizza Stone in the Oven?
You can use a pizza stone or steel for much more than making pizza or baked goods as a whole. Just keep it on the lowest rack of your oven and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil to keep food liquids from dripping down on it—especially when you’re baking foods likely to start boiling and spill over.
Don’t put the pizza stone directly on the bottom panel of your oven. The thermal shock it will give to your stone as it heats up will most probably cause it to crack. When you’re not making pizza or baking goods on the stone, keep it on the lowest rack.
Keep in mind that your oven will take longer to heat up and cool down, which can cause a small increase in your monthly electricity bill.
If your oven is cheaper or older, it probably has a few design flaws or mechanical problems that cause hot and cold spots inside it. Keeping your stone or steel in the oven could help you to compensate for this.
“The biggest problem with [my oven] is that the thermostat is old, and causes the elements to kick on more often than normal,” says one home cook on Stack Exchange. “For the most part, it’s not a big deal, but for bread or muffins, or whatever, I make sure to keep the stone in the oven.”
Will a Pizza Stone Affect My Oven’s Thermostat?
There’s no need to worry about the pizza stone affecting your oven’s thermostat. The baking stone will alter the airflow in your oven.
When the oven heats up, it will stabilize at a slightly lower air temperature than without a stone because the thermostat will think the oven is slightly hotter—decreasing the heat in response.
In fact, many home cooks with cheap or old ovens share in forums that a pizza stone can help to compensate for hot/cold spots and old thermostats, which can otherwise cause food to bake unevenly.
Can I Leave a Pizza Stone In the Oven During Self-Cleaning?
If your home oven has a self-cleaning function, never leave your pizza stone in the oven during a self-cleaning cycle.
If your oven has a self-cleaning function, never leave your pizza stone in it during one. Ovens self-clean by blasting high heat or steam inside until no hardened food residue is left.
Typically, self-cleaning cycles heat up your oven to as much as 900°F (482°C). This can cause thermal shock to your pizza stone and fracture it, damaging it beyond repair. The stone can also start to outgas (start to smoke), emitting toxic fumes that you should avoid inhaling at all costs.
Yes, you can leave your pizza stone or baking steel in the oven. This way, especially if you have a cheaper or older oven, you can even out the hot and cold spots. If you have a newer oven that distributes heat more evenly, you probably do not need to do that.
What to Read Next?
Here’s why your pizza stone will probably crack if you use it on an outside grill (and why a solid and sturdy baking steel is a much better accessory for the purpose).