Is it worth investing in a genuine pizza stone or will a modest pizza pan do? Is there even a difference in terms of the end result between the two? These two commonly asked questions essentially capture all there is when comparing pizza pans with pizza stones. Now I strongly believe that the two aren’t mutually exclusive – they both come with their own pros and cons and require you to adapt your baking approach in different ways, though this point isn’t often emphasized.
With passionate pizza lovers sitting divided on both corners of the ring – the pan in one corner and the stone in the other -, finding a voice of reason through heated discourse isn’t always the easiest thing.
This is where I step in though! Right down below I’ve covered the key differences between the two and have provided our honest verdict on the divide.
The Pizza Stone
As the name implies, pizza stones are made out of a solid slab of stoneware (usually terra cotta) and come in the shape of either a circle or rectangle. The beauty of a pizza stone is how it is an excellent heat retainer. Its stony surface will also reveal little pores that’ll work to absorb any excess moisture from whatever pizza (or even bread) you’re baking up on its surface.
This may seem like an unnoticeable little addition but trust me when I say it goes a long way in ensuring that the bottom side of your pizza cooks properly and as evenly as possible. Without this little feature, getting that perfect crust will be pretty tough!
It isn’t all roses here though. Pizza stones are quite heavy so extra caution should be used when handling one – a single accidental knock or drop will easily cause cracks and fractures to form. Besides exercising common sense and proper care, damage to the stone can be easily minimized by purchasing a quality pizza stone.
The general rule of thumb is that the cheaper the stone, the easier it will crack because of its inferior composition.
Now when it comes to using a stone, you absolutely have to preheat it properly before placing your pizza dough on top. To do this, get your oven ready and simply place the stone into its middle rack. Slowly bring the temperature up to around 420ºF (we strongly suggest placing your stone in the oven before you introduce any heat as sudden changes in temperature can cause damage to your stone) and when ready, you can proceed to place your pizza onto its surface.
Just be careful so as not to burn yourself and to do this step as quickly as possible! You’ll want to keep all that vital heat inside the oven after all.
Once everything is done and baked, cleaning your stone couldn’t be a simpler affair. That being said, less is truly more here. Because of the porous nature of the stone, using harsh liquids like detergent will cause lasting damage that’ll drastically reduce the lifespan of the stone.
All you really need to use is a generous amount of warm water and either a gentle brush or cloth to wipe off any stains and you’ll be all set.
The Pizza Pan
Compared to its sibling product, a pizza pan is far lighter and thinner. Cast out of metal (usually cast iron or aluminum), a pizza pan is designed first and foremost to do pretty much what a pizza stone does so what’s the difference? Well, though it may appear similar and may seem to do the same thing (e.g., retaining heat extremely well), there are some key differences to note.
A pizza pan will often feature several small holes which are called ‘perforations’ on its surface. These essentially serve to form the porous texture you’d find in pizza stone and will help you eliminate any moisture on the underside of your pizza, leading to a well-cooked crust.
Of course, you won’t always find perforations in every pan – some pans will totally omit them if they are thick enough. Both seem to perform equally well so it’s really up to you to play around and experiment with your preferences here. Regardless, with the pizza pan you won’t ever have to worry about the bottom of your pizza turning out either undercooked or burnt.
Now where the pizza pan shines are in terms of its durability. Because of its metal composition, it will easily weather the occasional knock or fall. At worst, you’ll just get a little dent or two, but you can rest easy knowing that a little deformity like that won’t impact the overall baking process unlike a crack in a stone.
You can also totally skip the preheating phase here too as a pizza pan won’t warp or crack when subjected to sudden changes in temperature.
And best of all? Washing couldn’t be a simpler affair. Feel free to use as much detergent as possible! Just don’t forget to wash all of it off before leaving it to dry.
Unfortunately like most answers when it comes to cooking and baking, neither stone nor pan is better than the other if I’m being honest! Sure, you’ll find hardcore purists on both corners of the ring when it comes to this debate, but we beg to differ. Each has their own merits and what may work for one baker may not work for the other.
A cursory glance on culinary forums across the board will suggest that a pizza stone is a better pick when making a pizza but even if this was true (we aren’t fully convinced yet!), you still have to factor in a million other things.
Who’s doing the baking? Is it a child or a careless cook who can’t be trusted to handle an expensive stone with care or remember that preheating is crucial?
Further, what if you’re strapped for time and can’t deal with meticulously cleaning your pizza stone after every bake? I’ve even seen multiple reviews on Amazons on all sorts of pizza pans where pizza lovers have reported how their pizza turned out exactly the same on a pan as it would have on a stone!
Likewise (so as to not seem biased towards pans), if you’re an avid cook and baker who intends on taking full advantage of something that can be used beyond just pizza, a stone might be a better pick for you. From boules of homemade sourdough all the way to elegant English muffins to even double chocolate chip cookies, a stone will allow you to take full advantage of its properties on just about any baking escapade within the confines of your oven.
So, if you’re willing to invest in a quality pizza stone and want to keep your options fully open, there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t go for it either.
All that being said my point is simple: look to your own needs and preferences before making a commitment to either pan or stone. Or heck, why not try giving both a go and then decide for yourself!