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Everybody Must Get Stones

Bob Dylan was right. We should all have a baking stone.

A well-used five-year-old FibraMent stone. The patina is a good thing. (AWMCO Inc.)

Lots of you are probably way ahead of me here. You’ve had your stone for years. It lives in your oven, where it creates a dependable, sturdy, super-hot platform for pizzas or breads or pans. Sometimes you move it to the barbecue grill grate, where it is equally at home.

Yes, you rock.

I, however, led a stone-free existence until two weeks ago. Two factors pushed me to do the Internet research that ended with my buying a rectangular FibraMent.

First was my foray into sourdough as a Food section recipe tester. After having to make and then nurse along my own sourdough starter, then turn some of it into pancakes, there was no way I was going to toss out the unused portion. So it lurks in my refrigerator, ready to be turned into bread, and the recipe I have my eye on suggests using a stone.
Second was a strata recipe I made from Shirley O. Corriher’s latest book, “BakeWise.” It called for baking the strata in a pan on a hot stone, and it promised "browned billows of cheesy puff." Well, it tasted great, but there was little of the impressive expansion I’d expected. I figured it was because I hadn’t used a stone.

So I researched; I ordered; UPS delivered the (heavy) box. It came with instructions for tempering the stone so it won’t break, and I followed those. Then I preheated the oven (with the stone inside) for 45 minutes and made a pizza.

I won’t say it was perfect, but it was eye-opening. The crust was terrific. The stone was so hot that it cooked in a flash, so the toppings didn’t get overdone and soggy. I will bake every pizza on it from now on, and bread and other stuff, and I expect I’ll get better at it.

But my first experience made it clear that I have another purchase to make: a peel. That’s one of those flat wooden paddles used by pros (or just people smarter than me) to transfer the pizza to the stone. I didn’t have one, so there was some bunching and tearing when the time came for my dough to go in. Lesson learned.

My FibraMent, not a real rock but made of a composite material, arrived a pale gray color. I’ve read that a stone darkens with age and use and all the crud that drips or oozes onto it, and so a black and disreputable-looking surface is actually a badge of honor. My stone already has picked up some honor, thanks to my lack of a peel.

When a piece of kitchen equipment isn't supposed to stay clean, doesn't that just seal the deal?
— Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  June 12, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Jane Touzalin, Shirley Corriher, baking, cookbooks, equipment, pizza  
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We have been using a stone from Pampered Chef for a long time and the only downside I am finding now is that it is really too small. When I have some surplus $$$ for kitchen gadgets the FibraMent might be a good option to try.

The only thing that I use it on a regular basis is pizza - fresh and frozen - and the results are very good.

Posted by: skipper7 | June 12, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I've found that some unglazed quarry tiles from Home Depot is a cheap alternative to an expensive quarry stone. Check with the manufacturer to ensure there is no lead in the tiles.

The best part is that you can cut them to size so you will be sure to have a large deck for baking your pizzas and bread. This costs less than $10 rather than $50 plus for Fibrament and other stones. Plus, if any of the tiles break, you can readily replace one instead of the entire stone.

Pair with some refractory/fire bricks for a close to authentic pizza oven at home. Adding the bricks and stone will make your oven take longer to heat up, but the results are well worth it!

Posted by: jlquandt | June 12, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I've had a pizza stone for, oh, 15ish years now (I can date it only because it predates DH!). My only regret is that it is round, not rectangular, so I can't fit as much on it! Pizza parties are really, really fun -- dough is incredibly easy to make (Kitchen-Aid) or cheap to buy (Trader Joe's/Wegman's); I roll out the dough and set out a bunch of different sauces, cheeses, and toppings, and people make their own.

jlquandt, my brother lines his whole oven with those tiles for a homemade pizza oven, and he swears by them. I might need to pick up some and do a head-to-head comparison. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | June 12, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I'll never go back to stone-less pizza again ... except maybe if it's on the grill

Posted by: afulton | June 12, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I hear seasoning fibrament smells like a chemical experiment gone awry. True?

Posted by: MelissaMcCart | June 15, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I love our fibrament. The instructions were a little scary (something about it blowing up if it gets wet) and the smell was horrific when treating it in the oven - something like 4 or 5 hours.

Posted by: dcgdc | June 15, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

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