If you're not down with pizza stones, it's time. Bread-bakers and home pizza afficionados praise them for their heat-retaining, moisture-wicking ability to imitate the floor of a brick oven. You put it in your oven and it not only provides a rustic surface to bake the bread on, but it also keeps the heat of the oven steady. Especially when it comes to pizza, that ever-important underside char and blistering (sometimes known as the "upskirt") will only ever come with a stone, which you can get absolutely blazing hot over a long oven preheat.
Awhile back, my pizza stone cracked in half, and I never got around to replacing it. But rather than spending $40 on a slab of stone from Williams-Sonoma on which to bake my pizza, though, you can instead go to Home Depot and cobble it together for a few bucks. Mine, in fact, came out exactly at $2.98.
This discovery was lost amidst the technical aspects of fermentation and gluten-development in my homemade square pizza post last week (even I was confused by the end). It seemed news-worthy enough to merit its own post.
I'd read about people who were cool and did this, eschewing the overpriced piece of stone and visiting building-supply stores instead, where they bought unglazed tiles for pennies. Well, now I've joined them.
After confusing a couple of Home Depot employees and having them look up some specs on a few tiles I found at their store, I was successful. Here's what you need to know.
The tiles have to be unglazed
It is absolutely essential that they are unglazed. A glaze on the tile can contain lead, and when subjected to the heat of the oven, this can transfer to the food you're cooking, possibly into the air.
Quarry tiles is another name for them, and they look like terra-cotta pots
These things are essentially just really cheap tiles often installed in commercial settings or other high-traffic areas. The best way to pick them out is to look for something in the brownish-red hue of flowerpots. These were the only tile in the store that resembled terra cotta pots.
They should be among the cheapest tiles in the store
I've read about them for prices as low as 30 cents. Mine went for a cool $0.45. Six of them line up to make plenty of room (one added advantage is that the surface is a rectangle rather than a circle).
That's it. Though I've just used them once, the worked very well for my pizza, and withstood over 500 degrees of heat for more than an hour of preheating.
Are they as good as the highest-quality tones, like the Fibrament that pizza afficionados rave about? For me, they get the job done and the price is right.