Isn’t it funny how, with something as simple as a pizza stone, literally a flat rock you preheat in the oven and bake pies on, 1,001 things can go terribly wrong?
And they don’t go wrong because you know how to use it. Before buying one, I’m sure you saw it in a recipe, magazine, blog, or YouTube channel you followed. They go wrong because of the things you don’t know you shouldn’t do.
Since you’re here, you probably found yourself in one of these situations when your pizza stone all of a sudden became sticky. Fear not: I know how you feel, as I’ve been there and done that.
Which is why, in this post, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know on the topic so that you can troubleshoot what happened and not make the same mistake twice.
So keep on reading if that sounds like what you came here to find out.
Don’t Season Your Pizza Stone
A common mistake first-time pizza stone owners will often make is to think that it needs to be seasoned. Sometimes, they are misled by others to believe so.
I’ve seen multiple threads where home cooks allegedly heard this from a TV chef, YouTube cook, or food blogger… who clearly hadn’t practiced what they preached, nor had they done the minimum amount of due diligence before telling their audience what to do.
“I recently purchased a baking stone from a cooking show,” one person shared on Houzz a few years ago, “and have used it about three times.”
“I was told to cook high-fat items for the first few uses or to lightly brush the surface with oil if the item was low fat. Well, the last time used it the item was low fat, so I lightly brushed the surface with oil. The stone came out all sticky after baking my bread!”
What ends up happening is that, for one reason or another, someone will spread a generous amount of animal fat, vegetable oil, or cooking spray on the stone’s surface before preheating it in the oven—only to see it turn into a sticky (and possibly smoky) mess.
The thing you need to know is that there’s absolutely no need for you to season your pizza stone.
As you can tell from the anecdotes of home cooks who already made that mistake and shared their frustrations from it on Chowhound or Reddit, this technique does much more harm than it will do good.
All you need to do is preheat your pizza stone for 45 minutes in the oven before baking the pie on it.
When the room-temperature dough comes into sudden contact with the scorching-hot surface of the stone, it will initially stick. Soon after, it will puff up, lose moisture, and release itself naturally as it turns crisp. By the time it’s cooked, you won’t need to worry for a second about sticking.
Don’t Soak Your Pizza Stone
So far, so good.
We’ve established that you shouldn’t season your pizza stone as you can damage it. Instead, you should simply give it enough time to get up to heat in your oven before baking with it.
After a few uses, pizza stones will get dirty and need to be cleaned. This is where many of us make the mistake of cleaning them the wrong way (which may be why yours turned sticky; see below).
Don’t try to clean your pizza stone with soapy water and never put it in the dishwasher. The porous material will soak all of it right up, causing the subsequent batches of goods you bake on it to come out tasting like chemicals.
Some home cooks clean theirs by pouring boiling water on their surface, which will probably work—but not the correct technique. There’s no need to use water or soap on the stone at all, as the high heat from your oven will eradicate any bacteria every time you use it.
What you need is a pizza stone cleaning brush. Good brushes, like the one in the link, have two features on them: fiber bristles for scraping off caked-on messes and a stainless-steel scraper for scraping off stubborn bits and pieces of food from the stone (for example, burnt mozzarella, pepperoni, or sauce leaks).
Always remember to cool the stone entirely before cleaning it with the brush. Otherwise, you risk burning the ends of the fiber bristles and having to buy a replacement brush.
How to Clean a Pizza Stone In-Between Uses
Suppose you have family or friends over, and you’re cooking a big batch of pizzas one after the other on your stone. At pie number three or four, it will can dirty and sticky. How can you clean it then?
The key takeaway is that you don’t need to do sanitization, as it already happens in the heat of your grill or oven. So soap or any other homemade solutions, like white vinegar, are out of the question (unless you really want the following few pizzas to taste like them).
The tricky part about cleaning the stone between uses is that it’s really, really hot. Since it will damage the bristles on most brushes, this is not something worth trying. What you’re looking to do is scrape off any caked-on dough or burnt-on food from the surface.
This is best done with a stainless-steel scraper, like the one that the brush I recommend has (or why not a standalone scraper you already have at hand, and you’re already using for your outside grill). Yes, it will take a bit of elbow grease, and leaning over a hot grill or oven isn’t the most fun thing to do on earth. But, hey, the things we do for pizza!
A Few Other Considerations
I gave my parents a pizza stone as a present last Christmas. Unluckily for them, they managed to soak it, make it sticky, then break it in a matter of days. Luckily for me, I saw the things that can go wrong when someone uses one for the first time, taught them what to do, and bought them a replacement.
Sometimes, the pizza stone’s just fine, but its user needs a little patience. My mom, for example, had this instinct of poking and moving around anything that went in the oven and as soon as it went in the oven.
The lesson learned here is that if you don’t give the pie enough time to bake and crisp up, it will stick to the surface of your stone. So don’t be in too much of a hurry to rotate it. It needs a good 50-60 seconds before the dough has cooked enough to release itself from the surface.
A close friend who, rather detrimentally to his weight, I hooked onto homemade pizza on a stone, once made dough so hydrated and watery, it had a hard time not sticking (and that wouldn’t have been any different if he had used a cast iron skillet or pizza steel).
Pizza stones are must-have tools for seasoned home cooks. But they can also be tricky to use, care for, and maintain. Now, you have a few tricks up your sleeve for cooking with and cleaning your pizza stone in a way that won’t cause it to get sticky.
What other tips do you have? Let me know in the comments below!