The Best Pizza Stones and Peels for the Crispiest Homemade Pies
Want to bake homemade pizzas that rival the crispy-crusted, charred-in-spots Neapolitans from wood-fired pizzerias? Armed with a good pizza stone or steel and at least one peel, you’ll be on your way to pizzaiolo greatness.
My arsenal of pizza-making tools has evolved a lot since I started my recipe website, Thursday Night Pizza, in 2014. I made my very first pizzas on flimsy baking sheets, graduated to a ceramic baking stone and metal peel to develop recipes for the TMNT Pizza Cookbook in 2017, and then added more sophisticated tools when I got my first outdoor pizza oven a year later.
Now, I’ve got a separate stand just inside the kitchen door filled with five metal and wooden peels of various sizes and shapes, and my Baking Steel and a rectangular pizza stone alternate as permanent fixtures on the bottom rack of my oven.
I still maintain that you can make great pizza with nothing more than a baking sheet. However, if you want to make restaurant-style Neapolitan and New York–style pizza at home, you’ll need to transform your oven into something more like a pizza oven. And to do that, you need a pizza stone or steel to amp up the heat, and a peel to get the pizza directly onto the super-hot baking surface.
What is a pizza stone?
A pizza stone (aka baking stone) is a flat, unglazed ceramic slab that helps mimic the environment of a fancy brick oven in your own kitchen. When preheated to 500°F (or as high as your oven will go) for 40 minutes or longer, the stone absorbs and retains the heat, providing an ideal surface for baking crispy, thin-crust pies that rival your favorite pizzeria’s.
What materials are best for a pizza stone?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the variety of materials, sizes, shapes, and prices when you start shopping for a pizza stone. But here’s the thing: The best stone is the one that fits your kitchen and baking habits. If you’re on a budget and/or don’t plan to make pizza that often, all you really need is a basic ceramic stone that’s easy to take in and out of the oven. Just remember that these are the most breakable versions, so it’s extra important that you put it on the rack before you preheat your oven (otherwise it will crack from a drastic change in temps). If weekly pizza nights are a thing in your household (or if you want a sturdier stone), spend a little more for one made of cordierite, a mineral known for its high-heat durability and thermal shock resistance. Cordierite pizza stones are much less likely to crack, and they tend to be thicker than regular ceramic stones, so they can retain more heat.
Want to really up your pizza game? Scurto tricks out her home oven with two stones: one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack. “That way, you’re getting radiant heat from both directions,” she says. Translation? A crispy underside and perfectly browned crust.
What’s a pizza steel?
A pizza steel (aka baking steel or steel baking plate) is a thin, flat piece of food-grade steel used to create a high-heat environment for pizza, bread, and other baked goods in regular home ovens. Although they are considerably heavier and more expensive than pizza stones, the main benefits of steels are that they are virtually indestructible, thinner and easier to store than stones, and retain more heat for longer, allowing you to make multiple pizzas in less time.
Stalewski, winner of Best Pizza in the Northeast at the Las Vegas International Pizza Expo in March 2022, alternates between a NerdChef Steel Stone and Baking Steel in his home oven. “I mainly [bake] my pans on top of the pizza steels, [then] de-pan the pizzas [directly] onto the steels to get extra crisp,” he says.
What is a pizza peel?
Pizza peels are giant paddles specifically designed to launch topped dough onto hot baking surfaces and retrieve finished pizzas from the oven. There are two different types — wooden and metal. Raw dough is less likely to stick to wood, so those peels are typically used for topping stretched-out dough and shimmying it onto the preheated stone (or, in pizzerias, into the blazing hot wood-fired oven). Metal peels are much thinner than wooden ones, so those are used for rotating the pizza on the hot stone and quickly whisking it out of the oven when it’s perfectly baked.
“The perfect combo for most pizza styles would be a wooden peel and a metal peel,” says Federighi, co-owner of Kim’s Uncle Pizza, Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream, and E.F. Pizza in Chicago. “You can build your pizza on a wooden peel, drop in the oven, and then pull it out using a metal peel. American Metalcraft makes great pizza products for the home chef.”
Do you really need two pizza peels?
Any pizza chef will tell you that it’s most efficient to use a wooden peel for launching and a metal peel for rotating pizzas and taking them out of the oven. However, if you’ve only got room in your kitchen for one, choose at least 14-inch-wide wooden or bamboo peel that is tapered at the end of the paddle so it can slide under the pizza to turn and retrieve it. “If you build on top of a metal peel, you have a greater chance of the pizza getting stuck,” Scurto advises. “It’s a lot harder to get good at [using a metal peel] than it is to just shimmy the pizza off your wood peel onto [the hot stone or steel in the oven].”