Although once a bit of a rarity in the American foodservice market, artisanal pizza has become quite the trend over the past several decades. CraftÂ pizza shops have become ubiquitous in our modern cities, and as such, many home cooks have taken to their kitchens to try their hands at making their own homemade pizza. To do so, many people have begun purchasing pizza stones: a simple kitchen gadget that allows one to replicate the effect of cooking pizza in a traditional hearth oven.
Most pizza stones are made either literally from stone or from a high quality ceramic, allowing them to be placed in a conventional oven, where they help distribute heat evenly to the pizza on top. The porous nature of pizza stone materials also helps to absorb moisture during cooking, giving the pizza a drier, crispier crust. However, this porosity also means that the stone will absorb a bit of whatever fluid that it is exposed to, making cleaning somewhat difficult. Using detergent can cause your pizza stone to give future breads and pizzas an unappetizing, soapy taste. It is usually recommended that your pizza stone just be cleaned with with a brush and plain water, but there is one step that you can take to ensure that your pizza stone is staying as clean as possible: seasoning.
Normally, when people think of seasoning their cookware, they think first and primarily about their cast iron pots and skillets. But pizza stones and other stoneware cooking tools can be seasoned just as easily. Like with cast iron cookware, seasoning your pizza stone with oil helps to fill the pores of the stone and prevent food and liquid particles from working their way into the material during cooking. Seasoning is a great way to extend the life of your pizza stone, giving it time to develop that same rustic, old-world appeal of a well-used pizza oven. Using the following steps, seasoning your pizza stone is simple:
1. Wash pizza stone with plain hot water. Rub the cooking surface of the pizza stone with a layer of oil (olive or vegetable oil is recommended) and place on oven rack.
2. Heat oven with pizza stone inside to 450F. Heating and cooling the pizza stone gradually with the oven (rather than placing a room temperature stone into a pre-heated) will help to reduce the chances of cracking due to thermal shock.
3. Once the oil has been absorbed by the pizza stone, turn off the oven and allow the stone to cool again, cooling with the ovenâ€until it is safe to touch.
4. Repeat steps 1-3. After the second seasoning, your pizza stone will be ready to use.
Before each time that you use your pizza stone, brush the cooking surface with a light amount of olive oil. Doing this every time will help maintain the seasoning from use to use, and it will help keep the pizza from sticking. Even after seasoning, it is still important not to wash your stone with dish soap. Seasoning is not 100% effective, and will still leave some room for trace amounts of other fluids to seep into the material, so stick with a dry brush and plain warm water when scrubbing, and your pizza stone will last for years.
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