Clay, Cast Iron, Steel: Which Pizza Stone Material Is Best?

In every pizza lover's quest to approximate a fiery-hot brick pizza oven at home, a pizza stone is first on the list of necessary equipment. But of the variety of materials available — stone, cast iron and even steel — which one is the best pick for you?

Picking the right pizza stone depends on your personal needs and kitchen habits. Are you looking for a stone that produces an ultra-crispy crust? Does it need to move easily in and out of the oven? Are you a pizza professional, willing to pay any price for the latest equipment? Here are some of the pros and cons of each material.

Clay or Stone:
The classic pizza stone absorbs moisture as the pizza bakes, resulting in a crisper crust. Stones come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and some people even DIY stones with inexpensive unglazed quarry tiles.

Pros: There are a wide variety of stones to choose from at various price points. Produces a crisp pizza crust.
Cons: Must be preheated in the oven for at least 30 minutes (longer for thicker stones). Difficult to clean. Can crack or break.

Cast Iron:
If you want to make pizza without buying any new equipment, you can use a cast iron skillet to cook pizzas on the stove. Or you can try Lodge's cast iron pizza pan, which heats up in the oven quickly.

Pros: Heats quickly. Easier to clean than stone. Has handles for maneuvering in and out of oven. Won't break or crack.
Cons: Heavy. Lodge pan has a lip that some reviewers have complained about. Lodge pan is recommended only to 400°F, which is cooler than ideal for cooking pizza at home.

Find it: Lodge Cast Iron Pizza Pan, $46 at Amazon

Steel:
The baking steel is a new product that we learned about through the folks at Serious Eats Pizza Lab, who give it a big thumbs up. (Watch for our own review later this week.) Baking steels conduct heat better than stone, and can cook food more evenly at lower temperatures.

Pros: Cooks pizzas more quickly and evenly. Stabilizes at a lower temperature than stone. Won't break or crack.
Cons: Expensive ($72 for the 1/4-inch version). Very heavy and does not have handles, so it can't be easily moved once it is hot.

Find it: Baking Steel, $72 at Stoughton Steel Company

What kind of pizza stone do you use?

Related: How Do I Take Care Of My Pizza Stone?

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