Pizza is one of those dishes (one of the many actually) part of our local cuisine of which every Italian is incredibly proud and which in many cases leads him to be deeply critical of innovative proposals that undermine tradition (which can come from abroad as well as from our own country). It is not uncommon or strange to find even today pizza chefs or restaurateurs who ideologically oppose the use of machinery such as pizza rolls or cooking using gas or electric ovens, instead of the “celebrated” wood-burning model. In the same way, it is possible to generate endless discussions on the recipe and on the single elements such as tomato, mozzarella, dough, other condiments, etc.
Beyond the easy parochialism and the worldwide success of the dish in its originality, there are techniques, materials and innovative solutions that are increasingly emerging in the world of catering. Not only as regards the machinery, as happened with the emergence of gas and electric models that have conquered numerous premises, but also for elements that in both “dimensions” significantly improve the final result: for example, the refractory pizza baking stone.
Present in numerous new generation professional ovens, it has “positioned itself” with excellent results due to its main quality: it evens out and perfects cooking. It also makes it possible to (in part) obviate the low power of domestic ovens. In fact, if we compare a pizzeria model with a domestic one, the difference is nothing short of abysmal, so much so that with the first, at temperatures between 300 and 400 degrees, you can cook in a few minutes, with the other it takes at least 15-20 at maximum power of 220-250 degrees. The final result of the latter is certainly not equal, but at least it is close.
This deficit can be partially remedied by using a refractory pizza baking stone. Its ability to absorb moisture, store heat and distribute it evenly while maintaining a high temperature are decisive for quality cooking in every area, as well as saving time. Due to these characteristics it has become a supplement (already integrated in many professional models) almost necessary for those who make pizza for work or for their own personal pleasure as it allows high-level results.
What is and how does the refractory pizza baking stone inside an oven
The “secret” of a high-level pizza is made up of several elements ranging from the ingredients to season the perfectly leavened dough with quality flours, from the expert hands of the pizza chef to the tools and machinery in his support, to finish with the oven. which completes the process and brings the delicious food to the table. Among all these “components”, for an excellent result, the refractory stone must undoubtedly be inserted.
But before explaining the advantages and how it “works” to optimize the cooking of the pizza, it is necessary to explain well what it is and its composition. Generally by refractory stone we mean a slab made of refractory materials, such as clay or cordierite (polymorphic rock composed of aluminum, iron and magnesium) which are the most common on the market, but terracotta or even mortar are not disdained. Obviously, according to the type of basic composition, their coloring also changes (stay away from refractories in which layers of other material have been added, they could harm people’s health).
We are therefore talking about compounds cooked at remarkably high temperatures, thanks to which they become ideal for cooking. If for professional reasons it is enough to look for ovens equipped with the same refractory inside the cooking chamber, for domestic use it is possible to indulge in different shapes and sizes, to be chosen based on the use you want to make of them and the size of the oven or barbecue ( one of the most recent growing trends).
The refractory pizza baking stone slabs for pizza allow, thanks to the porous material with which they are made, to achieve almost perfect results and much better than a cooking without them: a well-cooked, soft and fragrant dough, the sauce still moist and not dried.
- The refractory stone is capable of storing a significant amount of heat
- Withstands very high temperatures without causing chemical reactions with food
- It absorbs all the moisture present in the dough to achieve fragrance and crunchiness
- It is capable of evenly distributing the heat stored on the entire surface of the pizza
- It helps the oven to maintain a constant temperature even if the door is opened
- Speed up the cooking process
All these qualities of the refractory stone are strongly found in the final yield of the pizza product, so much so that no one, once tried, would dare to go back given the excellence of the result.
Structural differences and advantages of refractory stone
As we briefly mentioned before, the ideal cooking of a pizza should take place at such a temperature (between 300 and 400 degrees) that domestic ovens are unable to reach, while wood, gas or professional electric ones have no problems. to reach those levels of heat.
Using the refractory in both cases, the result improves in a decisive but at the same time different way: in the home environment it brings the final quality closer to that of pizzeria models, enormously speeding up cooking (from 15 to 3-4 minutes), in the professional field , what most pertains to us, more “simply” optimizes cooking according to all the qualities highlighted above.
In any case, beyond the scope, it also becomes important to understand what can change between the structure and thicknesses of different sizes of the refractory stone, while the best yield compared to a metal pan remains established. The stone can in fact be compact or perforated, thick or thin, with its differences:
- A compact structure offers all the highlighted qualities of the stone without “proposing” anything different.
- A perforated structure, on the other hand, with longitudinal channels, helps the convective movement of the heat, offering a decidedly faster heating.
- In terms of thickness, the advantage of a thin stone settles in the greater speed to heat up and in the best absorption of humidity, but at the same time it will tend to cool down sooner since it stores less heat.
- A thicker thickness will take longer to heat up but will be able to absorb more heat and keep it longer.
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Ovens equipped with refractory stone for pizza (including tunnel ovens) can also be safely used to cook other dishes, acting almost as a plate: bread and other leavened compounds, meat and fish, vegetables and other dishes. The only thing to take into account are the condiments that must always be added afterwards.
Cooking with a refractory pizza baking stone
In reality, cooking in the oven with refractory stone for pizza does not present particular “problems” compared to cooking carried out with types of oven without it. What changes is “only” the final result which, for the beloved pizza, reaches quality levels that are often unmatched. It is not the only way to cook pizza, but in some ways the possibility with the higher quality yield.
At the operational level the same statement applies, at least in the professional field. When the necessary temperature is reached, it is possible to bake as it happens for any other oven. At that point the pizza will cook using the heat generated by the cooking chamber (based on resistances or combustion), while the refractory surface will help make the base less humid, more fragrant and homogeneous, making even the most demanding Neapolitans happy.
As for the preparation, the process and the tools are the same: wooden or metal shovels, the skilled hands of the pizza chef or any pizza maker.
Cleaning the pizza refractory stone: precautions
The refractory slabs present in the ovens do not require specific measures or treatments for their cleaning and maintenance of the hob in its integrity. However, there are some small precautions that should be taken into account because the material is fragile, especially in the event of sudden temperature changes or incorrect maintenance products.
Being characterized by a certain porosity, it does not require a large use of water, much less to be oiled or sprinkled with detergents: the excessive use of water could compromise the resistance of the stone as it would be absorbed, while the oil would cause unpleasant odors. for the same absorption capacity (moreover it is not useful as it is already naturally non-stick). The same is true for cleaning products which in turn could add harmful effects.
The overall indications for its maintenance are instead simple and immediate and must be carried out once the surface has cooled:
- Remove any food residues left over during cooking with a brush and spatula
- Give a quick wipe with a wet but well wrung abrasive sponge
- Rub with salt to remove the last traces of food
- Finally, it can be wiped again with a cloth moistened with water and vinegar
Some stains and residues may remain on the shelf, but will not affect subsequent cooking in any way.