Author Topic: What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?  (Read 3485 times)

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Offline PapaJon

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What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?
« on: January 08, 2011, 04:57:19 AM »
I'm looking at picking up a cordierite stone as I haven't been able to locate a place that has soapstone in stock or at a reasonable price.  What's got me stumped is I'm not quite sure what the best thickness is to get.  Does more always mean better?  I understand that the greater the mass the longer it will take to heat up, but are there any other reasons to consider one thickness over the other?  Here is the place I plan to buy from Aardvark Clay & Supply

My oven's inner dimensions are 23 x 18 so I'm thinking about getting a stone size of either 16" x 20", 16" x 18", but if an expert chimes in here and says something else I'm all ears.  My choice of thicknesses are 5/8", 3/4", or 1".  I'm leaning towards the 1" but only because some manly instinct is telling me bigger is better, but I know that's not always true.  I quite often host pizza parties at friends houses so I may take this stone with me places.  If that is taken into consideration do i try to keep it thinner so it weighs less and is more easily transported, or thicker so it's more durable (assuming that thicker is more durable that is).

FWIW, my oven is a standard gas oven without a broiler, I believe my max temp without mod is in the 500-550F range.  I currently have a cheapo pizza stone I think I picked up at Ross For Less for around $7.  It's held up greatly, but I'm looking for better and will graduate this guy to top stone once I have a new one.

Replies are greatly appreciated as I may pull the trigger on this as soon as tomorrow morning.

TIA!
« Last Edit: January 08, 2011, 05:00:58 AM by PapaJon »
Jon


Offline PapaJon

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Re: What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2011, 01:37:56 PM »
Bump...  At the store last chance for advice
Jon

Offline scott123

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Re: What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2011, 02:45:52 PM »
1" cordierite @550 will probably give you a quick baking time (less than 5 minutes) with good oven spring, but if the temp is lower than that, you're going to have long baking times/oven spring issues. Unless, of course, you mod the oven in some way. Getting an extra 50 degrees with some sort of oven trick shouldn't be too difficult, but it is convenient having a stone material that's conductive enough to give you quick baking times without oven tricks.

Soapstone is more conductive than cordierite, and will give you 4 minute pies @525, but, if your oven can only do 500, then even soapstone can't do much with that.

It's taking me months to come to this conclusion, but, for the seemingly large number of 500 degree or less oven owners, the only answer is 1/2" (or thicker) steel plate. Cordierite has a conductivity of 3, soapstone is 6 and steel plate is in the 30s.  This will deliver a LOT of heat to the pizza at much lower temps. As much as I've loved soapstone in the past, because of it's

1. relative lack of availability
2. vast pricing fluctuations
3. identification issues
4. unsuitability for lower than 525 ovens

I've made the decision to start recommending steel plate. It's not dirt cheap, but, because it will give you the fastest possible baking times,  it's the superior choice.  Using a more conductive material, and, if necessary, turning the oven down, is always be easier (and safer) than using less conductive materials and having to potentially mod the oven. Unless someone happens to have a freakishly low 450 or less oven, steel plate is the only material that can guarantee quick baking times without oven tricks.

As far as the lack of absorption goes, this has been discussed extensively.  Cordierite, the traditional pizza stone material, absorbs very little water, so with non absorptive materials such as soapstone and steel, the difference is negligible.

Offline scott123

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Re: What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2011, 03:00:14 PM »
As far as the size goes...

I've seen ovens that were 15" or less deep.  As you go smaller, you do increase the likelihood of having your stone fit a friends oven, but... it also makes it more difficult to make the traditional 16" NY style pie. Launching a 16" pie on a 16" stone can be done, but it isn't easy.

And 16" pies are classic, but 18", for NY style, is the ultimate. With the right thickness factor, there's nothing more beautiful than an 18" pizza.

In other words, it's nice to be a good friend, but, imo, it's better to be able to bake 18" pies for yourself  >:D Ovens that can accommodate 18" pizzas are hard to come by (I'd kill for one).  Don't waste that golden opportunity by getting a smaller stone. If you want to bake at friend's houses, get two stones- a large one for you and a 16" for them.

Offline PapaJon

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Re: What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2011, 01:35:32 AM »
Hey Scott thanks a ton for the input, much appriciated.  I ended up getting a 18" sq stone and had them saw 2" off one side to make it a 18" x 16".  My thickness dilemma was solved for me as the only thickness in that dimension was the 1" I was leaning towards anyways as they were out of stock of the 5/8" and 3/4".  When they were sawing my stone the blade caught a little and so the cut was not as perfect as it could have been so they waived the cutting fee which would have been $0.50 per inch or $9.00 for the 18" cut.  I pressed my luck and asked them to also trim the 18" x 2" scrap down by 2" to form a 16" x 2" piece which they also did for free.  My theory is that I could line that up next to the 18" x 16" piece to form a 20" x 16" stone.  All in all after tax I spent $29.09.  Is that a fairly good deal?  From my brief web searching etc this seemed quite reasonable especially for a custom cut of 1" thickness.

In regards to your comments on the steel plate I understand your point very well.  My day job is actual dealing with high end heat sink materials for semiconductor applications such as CuMo, CuW, AlN, etc and so I deal with thermal conductivity and thermal expansion issues daily.  Just because I now have my cordierite stone though does not mean I wont keep an eye out for a good deal on soapstone.  I'll also keep steal plate in mind too.

Funny how you mentioned the potential size of my friends oven's.  This thought did cross my mind too.  I do have a 14" round cheapo stone (material unknown) which will have to fill in for now if their ovens wont fit my new toy.

Jon

Offline scott123

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Re: What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2011, 04:17:16 AM »
Wow, 18 x 18 x 1 with a cut for $29, that's fantastic.  That's also a great idea on keeping the 2" piece.  Trust me, you'll eventually need it.

I do have a 14" round cheapo stone (material unknown) which will have to fill in for now if their ovens wont fit my new toy.

If your friend's oven can't handle a 16" stone... either invite them to your place or make something else  ;D  Great pizza is SO contingent on short baking times and with those cheap 14" stones, you're talking forever to bake a pie.

Keep us in the loop on the baking times for the cordierite.  If your oven can hit 550, I'd be fascinated to see if the cordierite can bake a NY style pie in 4 minutes.

And whatever you've read about soapstone (a lot of it probably coming from me), don't get too caught up in the hype.  I'm not saying I was wrong or that soapstone is bad  ;), just that steel plate has the thermal properties to pretty much blow it out of the water.

Offline PapaJon

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Re: What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2011, 04:42:03 AM »
BTW almost forgot to ask... is there anything I should do other than a good wash with water (no soap) before using a cordierite stone for the first time?
Jon

Offline scott123

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Re: What is the ideal thickness for a cordierite stone?
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2011, 05:33:55 PM »
If there's any small bumps or imperfections, you can sand them down with a fine grit sandpaper, but giving it a good rinse should be fine.

And, although cordierite doesn't really absorb much water, it's probably a good idea to pre-heat it slowly after getting it wet- possibly something like 150 for an hour and then 200 deg. for another hour before cranking the heat to max.