Much as we love them for making our homemade pizza crispy, airy, and deeply browned, baking (a.k.a. pizza) stones have a fatal flaw: Made of ceramic, they can crack or break into pieces. This is one reason we slightly prefer a baking steel to a stone, since you’d be hard-pressed to shatter a 15-pound slab of steel.
That said, if you’re using a stone and baking gorgeous pizzas, there are a few things to know to help prevent it from cracking or breaking.
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What to do If Your Pizza Stone Cracks
If it cracked into a few large pieces, don’t throw it away. Just push the pieces together on your oven rack and keep using it. Provided that the pieces are reasonably close-fitting, nothing bad will happen. The function of a baking stone is to absorb and radiate intense heat; it doesn’t have to be intact to do that.
In fact, our Best Buy baking stone is a set of four tiles that you gently push together. We tested them extensively, and nothing fell through the cracks. When the pizza was done, you could barely see the traces of the edges of the tiles if you examined the bottom crust (and who really does that? Just eat it!).
But if your stone did shatter into a thousand pieces, it’s time to bid it farewell, thank it for its service and buy a new one. Maybe this time choose a steel?
The Best Baking Stones and SteelsFor professional-level pizza at home, you need a baking stone—or steel. There are plenty of styles and materials, but which model works best?
Tips for Preventing Your Pizza Stone from Cracking
If your stone cracks, it's not the end of the world. But there are a few easy ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.
1. Never soak your pizza stone. The porous ceramic absorbs water and even if the surface looks dry, chances are there’s still some moisture trapped inside. When you heat it up, the water expands and boom—cracked stone.
2. Don’t wash your stone. Just scrape it with a sharp metal spatula or bench scraper, and brush off any ash. We always recommend preheating the stone for a full hour at 500 degrees before baking a pizza on it, so any traces of food on the stone will burn off, making it food-safe. (Also, it’s fine that it’s stained. That happens. It does not need to be pristine to bake well.)
3. Handle gently. Or not at all. Remember that it’s a big slab of ceramic, so handle with care when you’re hoisting it around. Better yet, do what we often do: Just leave it in the oven. It will act as what engineers call a “heat sink,” literally anchoring the oven at whatever temperature you set. Ovens normally fluctuate above and below your desired temperature, and this will keep your oven closer to the target.
Just don’t leave it on the floor of the oven, because this may damage some ovens. And don’t put any baking pans right on the stone if you don’t want extra heat on the bottom of that pan. Of course, we harness that extra heat in our Easier Roast Turkey and Gravy; the baking stone speeds up the dark meat to match the faster-cooking white meat.