Pizza crispers. Pizza stones. Neither is stone cold, that’s for sure. So which one offers more value for money?
If you’ve ever tried to bake a pizza on a sheet pan, you know firsthand that, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get the pie to come out as airy, crispy, and well-browned as your favorite restaurant.
Assuming you got the dough right, the root cause is usually in your oven and bakeware. Most convection ovens reach their maximum temperature at 500°F (260°C), far from the 800°F (425°C) of a coal- or wood-fired masonry oven at a traditional Italian pizzeria.
Even if your oven gets really hot and distributes temperature very evenly, it’s one thing to slide a pie on red-hot bricks and have it cook in 60-90 seconds, and another to bake it for 10-12 minutes on a sheet pan on the middle rack. When it comes to pizza, the hotter the cooking surface, the airier, crispier, and better-browned the pie.
As you can expect, cookware manufacturers have found a way around this problem. They have come up with special bakeware for making pizzas; one that compensates for the disadvantages of our flimsy ranges and imitates the effect of cooking in cast-iron stoves or masonry ovens.
You’re here, so you’re wondering between two items in particular: the pizza crisper and the pizza stone. We strongly advise that you ditch the former and opt for the latter, and we are about to tell you why.
What Is a Pizza Crisper?
A pizza crisper is a round aluminum or stainless steel pan with a perforated baking surface for preparing pizzas. Most pizza crispers are 0.039-0.11 inches thick, about as much as a sheet pan, and 12-16 inches in diameter. Some have non-stick coatings, and others have an all-metal baking surface.
The premise of using a pizza crisper is that, unlike a cookie sheet or a sheet pan, the perforated baking surface allows air to circulate underneath the pie so that it comes out crispy and well-browned.
The crispiness comes from the drying out of the dough, and the browning from the Maillard reaction that follows.
Pizza crispers, also called “pizza pans,” are inexpensive to buy and easy to maintain. A good model costs no more than twenty to twenty-five dollars. The non-stick surface prevents dough, cheese, and food debris from sticking to the bottom and sides. In addition to that, most makes and models are touted as dishwasher-safe.
What Is a Pizza Stone?
A pizza stone is a round, square, or rectangular stone slab made of clay, ceramic, or cordierite with a flat, but porous, surface for baking pizza pies. Most pizza stones have a diameter of 12-16 inches and a thickness of ½ to ¾ inch.
You use a pizza stone by heating it in a 500°F (260°C) oven for 1 to 1½ hours, then sliding your pie onto its hot surface with the help of a pizza peel and leaving it to bake uninterrupted until puffy, crispy, and browned.
The best results in baking are achieved when room-temperature dough suddenly comes into contact with a scorching-hot baking surface. The pizza stone offers you with such a surface—it absorbs the heat of the air in your oven and releases it to the dough through direct contact.
Pizza stones come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. With that being said, the good ones will cost you anywhere from twenty to fifty dollars depending on the brand, the model, the retailer, and the time of year. The best time to equip yourself with one is on a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale.
Pizza Crisper vs. Pizza Stone
Should you buy a pizza crisper or a pizza stone? After all, both have “pizza” in the name, so you can’t go wrong… right?
Nine times out of ten, you’re better off opting for a pizza stone. A stone absorbs more heat than a crisper, which it transfers to the pie for a crispy crust and a well-browned bottom.
Yes, they are heavy. A quick check at an online retailer reveals that a 16-inch pizza stone weighs 7.25 pounds, whereas an aluminum pizza crisper with the same diameter weighs the meager 1.25 pounds.
Yes, they’re more difficult to care for and maintain. A pizza stone should be heated gradually and allowed to cool down naturally. Otherwise, it may crack from thermal shock. It can only be cleaned by hand, with a bristle brush and without soap and water.
So what makes pizza stones superior to pizza crispers? It comes down to its ability to absorb a lot of heat and release it to the dough.
A pizza crisper is a thin metal pan with holes that allow the hot air in your oven to bake your pies more evenly. That’s where the perks of using one end. A pizza stone is a thick stone slab that heats up and gives off heat, basically a flat brick in your oven that cooks the pie from the second it comes in contact with it.
The crisper facilitates cooking, while the stone does the cooking. If you compare a pizza baked in a crisper with one baked on a stone, the difference in aroma, taste, and texture can be as great as night and day.
When to Go for Each
If you have limited storage space and/or you use a toaster oven, consider purchasing a pizza crisper. Your pizzas may not turn out as well as when baked on a stone, but a pizza cruncher won’t take up too much space in your cabinets and will do a “good enough” job given the appliances you have.
If you have enough room and you cook on a range or wall oven, consider getting a pizza stone. As long as you don’t mind lifting and carrying it around, it will yield consistently puffy, crispy, and wonderfully browned pies like no other.
Unless, that is, you plan to use it on the grill. In which case, your best bet is a pizza steel.