Author Topic: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?  (Read 9852 times)

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Offline heuristicist

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Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« on: June 18, 2012, 02:53:15 AM »
So a couple of months ago, the pizza stone that I bought from Superstore finally gave way and cracked through. This only happened after I started my self-cleaning-cycle experiments, so I assume that's at fault (pun intended). I'm now looking for a new stone, and have spent a couple of hours looking around here and there and skimming through various threads, but there's a lot of info and I'm having trouble synthesizing it all... hoping I can get some advice.

I mainly like Neapolitan-style pizzas, but also like New York-style. I've got an electric home oven that goes up to 550, but I've also had success with accessing it on self-clean, where I measured up to 750 or 800 at the peak on my old stone. My oven measures roughly 16" deep by 20" wide, although the rack only goes about 14.5" deep.

Given this, I've considered Fibrament, cordierite, and soapstone. Soapstone I generally find to be more expensive than I'd like to pay, but if someone can let me know where I can find it, I'd be open to being convinced that it's worth the premium (given evidence). Members here seem to like cordierite over Fibrament, so that's what I'm leaning towards, but I'd also like to find it cheaper if possible. I'm not sure about thickness though, particularly how it might change given my pizza preferences and oven info. These American Metalcraft ones are 0.5", which I fear may be too thin: http://www.akitchen.com/store/pizza-stones.html although I think the 14" x 16" dimension would be good for me.

I'm currently in Mountain View, so if anyone knows of a supplier in the SF Bay area where I could get one of relevant dimensions, I'd be very grateful. I'm also heading back to Toronto in September, so finding one there would work as well (and would mean less stuff for me to bring back with me).

Secondly, I'm considering buying two such stones. My initial reasoning for this was to provide a closer (reflective, but also radiative) heat source on top, but I don't think my oven can heat from both the top and the bottom simultaneously. (It may do so in self-clean, but I don't know for sure, and since I'm not back in Toronto until September, I can't check until then.) I also figured there would be the added benefit of an additional cooking surface in case I wanted to make more than one pizza at a time. Would a second stone be amenable to either of these goals?

TIA for any tips, advice, etc.!


Offline bfguilford

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2012, 07:30:16 AM »
I went with a 5/8 inch kiln shelf (cordierite). Found it at a pottery supply place at around $23 for a 20x12 piece (if 14x16 isn't a standard size, it can be ordered) I'm not in your area so no ideas on local sources for you. I am also thinking of getting a second shelf, but only if I decide to set up my grill. I'm finding I can get acceptable results in my oven at 525 degrees (max for mine) with the right placement and using my convection fan. Hope that helps. Good luck with the move back to T.O. I miss Canada.

Barry
« Last Edit: June 19, 2012, 03:54:25 AM by bfguilford »
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Offline scott123

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2012, 09:26:02 AM »
Heuristicist, first of all, don't buy soapstone.  It varies too much to be dependable for baking.

Secondly, choosing a stone for Neapolitan bake times in a home oven can get complicated, especially if you're incorporating a cleaning cycle.  Before you go through the trouble, it's critical that you ascertain whether or not your broiler can actually achieve Neapolitan top browning.  This can be done in one of two ways.

1. Take a photo of the broiler and post it here. We'll be able to tell you if the coils are numerous enough to do Neapolitan.

or

2. Track down the manual of the oven and/or contact the manufacturer, get the wattage for the broiler element and post it here. Again, we have a pretty good idea of the kind of wattage you'll need.

I would say that maybe 1 in 100 ovens will have a broiler that can do Neapolitan, so the odds are against you.  You might get lucky, though, and, if you do, you'll want to choose a stone that gives you Neapolitan undercrust leoparding at cleaning cycle temps.

Otherwise, if it turns out that your broiler doesn't have the necessary strength to do Neapolitan, nix the cleaning cycle, accept the fact that you'll only be making NY style pizza and just work with 1/2" steel.  Not only will 1/2" steel will give you NY bake times at 550, but you can avoid using the cleaning cycle, as it can be hard on the oven.

14.5" is ridiculously small for a NY style pizza, so, rather than setting the plate on the rack, you'll want to run two steel bars across the oven (sitting on the rack lips) and setting the plate on that. That way, you can work with a 16" surface.

Offline heuristicist

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2012, 04:42:00 PM »
I'm constantly amazed at the amount of knowledge you guys possess :O

Unfortunately, since I'm not in Toronto, I can't check my broiler nor can I find out the model number for the oven to look up the manual. I imagine it will be more difficult for me to find the relevant kind of stone for cheaper there, which is why I'm looking into it now while I'm in the SF Bay area.

I should also be careful: I've been to exactly one Neapolitan place (Famoso's in Edmonton) and one New York-style place (Amici's in Mountain View) so I don't really know that well what I prefer. I really liked the Famoso's pizza and also liked Amici's, so that's what I'm basing my stated preferences on. I also don't care about pizza size; I cook for myself so I make as much as I can eat. A 12" of Neapolitan thinness about does it for me; I was quite full after eating  Amici's 12" margherita. So no need to get into 16" sizes (might be useful for parties and such, though...).

To get an idea of how my self-clean experiments went before, I'll say that a few times I just got a burnt bottom. But after a while it started getting better; I can't remember now exactly what I did differently that made it better, but here is one of the best ones:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/103867298799873643961/albums/5717690035129765265

I don't know if that helps you judge the capabilities of my oven or not. That was done on the stone that I bought from Superstore (which, all things considered, did pretty well, particularly for the price of around $10).

If you still think my oven can't do it, then I have two options: just buy steel now, or else wait until I'm back in TO and can give proper info about my oven and go from there. However I'd only want to do that last case if someone can tell me where I can buy the steel around Toronto, or else a relevant stone.

For reference, what can you say about the required wattage and the type of stone? I'd like to keep such information around for if I ever am in a position to be buying a new oven. (I don't imagine I'll have some place outside to put a WFO, and even if I did, I don't want to clean it.)

Does anyone know where I can buy the recommended thicknesses of steel, cut to relevant dimensions, in the bay area? And should I buy as large a plate as will fit, or should I go a little smaller to let some hot air rise around it to get to the top?

Also, what say you about the second stone on top? Would there be enough heat up there to serve as a second cooking surface? Would it work to provide a lower ceiling so that the pizza on the lower stone would have a nice heat radiative and reflective heat source on top as well?

Thanks again for the advice :)

Offline heuristicist

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2012, 12:24:33 AM »
Scott, I should also mention that I can't have both the top and bottom elements on at the same time. Possibly during self-clean, but under normal operation, it's either bake or broil but not both... and I can't adjust the broil temperature either (beyond high/low).

Offline heuristicist

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2012, 01:52:46 AM »
Just came across this one in a semi-old thread (which, of course, I've lost):

http://www.amazon.com/Cadco-CAP-H-Half-Pizza-Plate/dp/B003TSTBA0/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1296668887&sr=8-2-fkmr2

Would that suffice? It seems perfectly sized in terms of width and depth but it's only 1/4" thick. Is that enough or should I try and find 1/2"?

Offline scott123

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2012, 03:49:40 PM »
Aditya, I'm seeing photos of some Famoso pizzas that look Neapolitan-ish, while others lean a lot more towards the NY side.  Amici's is pretty firmly in the NY style spectrum, but, I'm not sure it's the best example.  Neapolitan pizza in a home oven, even with a 1 in 100 powerful broiler, is a daunting task.  Before you even think about setting up your oven for this purpose, I'd like to see you experience a solid Neapolitan slice.  Del Popolo is a bit unconventional, but it should be an inexpensive way for you to experience a fairly authentic Neapolitan pizza.

http://delpopolosf.com/twitter.php

I would also, if you're in the neighborhood, swing by Avellino for a NY slice, not that we really need to confirm your love for NY style, but just because it should be superior to Amici's and a worthwhile experience.

Larger pizzas are helpful when entertaining, but, more importantly, as you start to really get into NY style, you'll begin to recognize the innate superiority of a larger slice.  Bigger is better. Larger pies have a better aesthetic, the rim to cheese ratio changes and it feels better in your hand.  Cutting steel bar to support steel plate is no walk in the park, but it's way better than sizing your stone to a 14.5" shelf.

If you feel like you absolutely have to go with a 14.5" stone, I won't judge you, but you will find a day when you yearn for larger pies.

It's easier, at this point, to tell from a photo than by wattage specs, but I would say the broiler element has to be a minimum of 5 kW. I've been meaning to touch base with Marlon (Bakeshack) about the particulars of his oven, as the oven he has is the best example of a Neo capable broiler. If we could get the brand, model and source from him, I think that would be helpful for those going oven shopping.

There is no potential top stone material on the market that can provide more radiant heat than an electric broiler.  The only candidates suitable for a second stone setup are those without broilers.  Your broiler, regardless of how strong it is, will give you superior top browning to any possible second stone.

As you move up in the pizzamaking world, stones are more commodities and less retail products.  A steel plate distributor in SF will most likely charge you the same price as a steel plate distributor in Toronto. I also believe that a ceramics supplier will have pretty much the same price on a kiln shelf (should you take that route).  Should you go the Neapolitan route and need the reduced conductivity of a Fibrament stone, shipping to Canada might be cost prohibitive, but, I really think a Neapolitan setup is a long shot.

Member Essen1 (Mike) bought steel plate in the SF area.  You could touch base with him to see where he got it. Otherwise, find a yellow pages, look under metal and start calling/getting prices.

You do need to size a stone so that there's clearance for air flow, but the clearance doesn't have to be on all sides.  Since your oven is wider then it's deep, you'll want the clearance on the sides- so either a 16 x 16 x 1/2" plate or a 14.5 x 14.5 x 1/2" plate will be fine. As I think about sizing the plate, it occurs to me that you generally don't want to size a plate without access to the oven. Every fraction of an inch of real estate matters, and, if you size it a bit too large, you won't be able to use it because the door won't close. In other words, I'd wait until you get back to Toronto to buy the plate.

Btw, I went through some of your previous posts and noticed you're playing around with sourdough.  Sourdough is pretty advanced pizzamaking and isn't a big part of traditional NY style pizza. For now, I'd stick to IDY.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 04:06:42 PM by scott123 »

Offline scott123

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2012, 03:52:12 PM »
Scott, I should also mention that I can't have both the top and bottom elements on at the same time. Possibly during self-clean, but under normal operation, it's either bake or broil but not both... and I can't adjust the broil temperature either (beyond high/low).

For NY with 1/2" steel plate, you won't need both elements on at the same time, nor should you need the self-clean cycle. If you have a powerful enough broiler for Neapolitan, though, then the question of whether or not the broiler will work during self-cleaning will need to be answered.

Offline scott123

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2012, 03:59:31 PM »
Would that suffice? It seems perfectly sized in terms of width and depth but it's only 1/4" thick. Is that enough or should I try and find 1/2"?

I'm a big proponent of the idea that if there's a material that will allow you avoid modding or cleaning cycles, you should use it.  For a 550 oven and NY style aspirations, that's 1/2" steel.  1/4" steel or iron will require higher temps. i know you can and have gone higher, but 550 is so much easier to work with as well as easier on the oven itself.

If you can ascertain that your broiler will kick in during the cleaning cycle, and are perfectly comfortable using the cleaning cycle every time you bake pizza, then you can get away with something as inexpensive as quarry tiles.   Quarry tiles + 675 + some broiler = kick ass NY style pizza.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 04:24:57 PM by scott123 »

Offline heuristicist

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2012, 05:12:27 PM »
Thanks again Scott. I have a list of places I want to check out while I'm here, including Una Pizza Napoletana in SF and Napoletana Pizzeria in Mountain View (the latter first, since I actually live in MV...). Despite the name I thought I heard of Una in an NY context, but I'll be sure to check it out regardless whenever I happen to be in SF. I have a couple others on my list that I don't recall at the moment, since I have the list on my personal laptop at home.

I'm a big proponent of the idea that if there's a material that will allow you to not have to mod or use the cleaning cycle, you should use it.  For a 550 oven and NY style aspirations, that's 1/2" steel.  1/4" steel or iron will require higher temps. i know you can and have gone higher, but 550 is so much easier to work with as well as easier on the oven itself.

I agree. I don't like the idea of putting my oven through self-clean every week. It's annoying, it takes time, the entire apartment heats up, and I usually mildly burn myself. Plus the stress on the oven. But, if it will get me the taste, colour, and texture I want, I'll do it more or less gladly  >:D

For NY with 1/2" steel plate, you won't need both elements on at the same time, nor should you need the self-clean cycle. If you have a powerful enough broiler for Neapolitan, though, then the question of whether or not the broiler will work during self-cleaning will need to be answered.

OK, I'll have to find out when I'm back in TO. If I can get my hands on a 1/2" steel plate, I'll do that, which will let me stay at 550.

Aditya, I'm seeing photos of some Famoso pizzas that look Neapolitan-ish, while others lean a lot more towards the NY side.

Apparently the owners of the chain send new owners to Italy to learn how it's done, but I'll trust your judgement :)

I would also, if you're in the neighborhood, swing by Avellino for a NY slice, not that we really need to confirm your love for NY style, but just because it should be superior to Amici's and a worthwhile experience.

Thanks for the tip, I'll add them to my list.

Larger pizzas are helpful when entertaining, but, more importantly, as you start to really get into NY style, you'll begin to recognize the innate superiority of a larger slice.  Bigger is better. Larger pies have a better aesthetic, the rim to cheese ratio changes and it feels better in your hand.  Cutting steel bar to support steel plate is no walk in the park, but it's way better than sizing your stone to a 14.5" shelf.

My biggest problem is that I just won't eat that much, and to me pizza just doesn't taste as good the next day. I might make a few large ones with some friends over to get the practice and so I know the difference and technique, but I wouldn't do it regularly. In addition to looking into getting a steel plate in TO I'm thinking of buying a 14x18 cordierite kiln shelf from a ceramics place in SF (they sell 18x18x1, but they said there's a place around the corner that can cut it down... worst comes to worst I can just buy a cordierite stone from Amazon, which would cost a bit more, but whatever). I won't be able to use a bigger-depth stone unless I take out the rack and put the stone in directly, but then I would need to get it in there by some other means.

If you feel like you absolutely have to go with a 14.5" stone, I won't judge you, but you will find a day when you yearn for larger pies.

We'll see :p If I never try it, I'll never yearn for it, so that's always a strategy!

It's easier, at this point, to tell from a photo than by wattage specs, but I would say the broiler element has to be a minimum of 5 kW. I've been meaning to touch base with Marlon (Bakeshack) about the particulars of his oven, as the oven he has is the best example of a Neo capable broiler. If we could get the brand, model and source from him, I think that would be helpful for those going oven shopping.

I'll send him a PM now. It'll be good info to have, though I doubt I'll be doing any oven shopping for a few years unless I manage to trash mine via self-clean abuse.

There is no potential top stone material on the market that can provide more radiant heat than an electric broiler.  The only candidates suitable for a second stone setup are those without broilers.  Your broiler, regardless of how strong it is, will give you superior top browning to any possible second stone.

So would I want to start the stone on the bottom, let it cook a couple of minutes, turn the broiler on, and then move it to the top? Or should I buy a second stone to put near the broiler and then move the pizza only from the bottom stone to the top one? I expect these would be similar, with the former being 50% cheaper...

As you move up in the pizzamaking world, stones are more commodities and less retail products.  A steel plate distributor in SF will most likely charge you the same price as a steel plate distributor in Toronto. I also believe that a ceramics supplier will have pretty much the same price on a kiln shelf (should you take that route).  Should you go the Neapolitan route and need the reduced conductivity of a Fibrament stone, shipping to Canada might be cost prohibitive, but, I really think a Neapolitan setup is a long shot.

I'm a fan of probabilistic, evidence-based, reasoning. Since you have pretty much all of the info that I have and you're still saying it's unlikely, I'm fine forgoing the Fibrament for now. They might charge a bit more for shipping to Canada, but given that the odds that I will need it are stacked against me it's the better choice to hold off. Plus I will probably be back in the US at some point in the future---I've crossed the border every year since 2009, though usually only for a week at a time :\.

(OTOH, it can't hurt to have the extra stone... More experiments are always good!)

Member Essen1 (Mike) bought steel plate in the SF area.  You could touch base with him to see where he got it. Otherwise, find a yellow pages, look under metal and start calling/getting prices.

You do need to size a stone so that there's clearance for air flow, but the clearance doesn't have to be on all sides.  Since your oven is wider then it's deep, you'll want the clearance on the sides- so either a 16 x 16 x 1/2" plate or a 14.5 x 14.5 x 1/2" plate will be fine. As I think about sizing the plate, it occurs to me that you generally don't want to size a plate without access to the oven. Every fraction of an inch of real estate matters, and, if you size it a bit too large, you won't be able to use it because the door won't close. In other words, I'd wait until you get back to Toronto to buy the plate.

That sounds like something rather heavy to be putting on my rack. Is that a valid fear? As for sizing, there's a chance that 16" would be too deep, so I'm hesitant to get one. I would like one bigger if possible, so I can make multiple smaller pizzas if necessary, hence why I mentioned the  14x18 stone above. I'd still be diameter-limited to 14" but it would give me some more space, and leave an inch (ish) on either side of clearance. Now that I think about it, that may be a bit small, so I might opt for 14x16 instead (cut down from 16x16). This is starting to sound more and more like the one I can buy from Amazon, which is about $40. The guys I talked to would sell the 16x16x1 for $37, and then I would have to pay to get it cut, so I could just get the 14x16x7/8 stone from Amazon instead. 1/8" hopefully won't hurt that much...

(In case there's any confusion, I'm still probably going to get a steel plate, after I can find a supplier in TO or, failing that, find one here and then ship it to myself (I don't think TSA will like it, so shipping is the way to go). But I still want a cordierite stone for experimental purposes, possibly some bread, as something to use here, and as some sort of stone option in case my oven does end up being capable of going Neapolitan.)

Btw, I went through some of your previous posts and noticed you're playing around with sourdough.  Sourdough is pretty advanced pizzamaking and isn't a big part of traditional NY style pizza. For now, I'd stick to IDY.

I stopped doing too many more experiments with sourdough just because I didn't have the time for it. It really did taste so much better though. Once I start experimenting with new things though I fall back to IDY-only, but once I have the new thing down I start bringing the sourdough back. It's been a while now though, I didn't really make any pizza at all the month before I left, and I've been out of TO for almost three weeks now. *gasp* No self-made pizza in almost two months. Oh god.

Thanks again for your response and advice Scott, I really appreciate it!

-Aditya
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 05:15:53 PM by heuristicist »


Offline scott123

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2012, 06:52:12 PM »
UPN originated in NY (technically, NJ), but is authentic Neapolitan pizza.  I mentioned Del Popolo because it's still pretty authentic and less than half the price of UPN.  Del Popolo also has the kind of hunger you see with a brand new business, which should reveal itself in some stellar pies.

This is how you work with a 16" stone/plate:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,12692.msg126602.html#msg126602

Repeat after me: As long as I own an oven with a broiler... I will never require a 2 stone setup :)

It depends on how strong your broiler is, but you always want the stone in the top of the of the oven.  Start with the stone 6" from the broiler and see how it broils.  A lot of people (too many) bake the pizza on the stone for a bit and transfer it to the top for broiler time.  This is counterproductive.  The crust needs heat from below and above at the same time.

Fully pre-heat the stone on the highest setting (for steel this could be 45 minutes), turn the oven off for a minute or two (to let the temp drop so the broiler turns on). Launch the pizza, wait 1.5 minutes, turn on the broiler, wait 1.5 minutes, rotate the pizza, wait 1 minute, retrieve.  You'll want to personalize this for your setup, but this is how I do it.


Cordierite will guarantee the need for some sort of mod/cleaning cycle. Also, ff you do have a freakishly powerful broiler, cordierite will be too conductive for Neapolitan, since, regardless of how strong the broiler is, you will most likely want to get a little more radiant heat from an 800ish cleaning cycle ceiling, and, at 800 cordierite will burn the bottom of your pizza too quickly.  If that's the route you're taking, you want either fibrament or quarry tile. Cordierite is good for bread, but, then again, so is quarry tile- which is probably less than 1/4 the price. You may perceive cordierite, either purchased locally or through Amazon, to be a happy medium, one-size-fits-many-things solution, but, in reality, it falls short in many areas.

Based upon your two favorite pizzerias, we can say, with complete confidence that you're a NY style fan.  Since NY style at 550 on 1/2" steel is a no brainer, and since you're relatively certain that you're close to 550, if you want to play the percentages, this is where you want to put your money.

If you don't mind traveling with steel, I say buy the steel now. One thing to bear in mind regarding sizing- even if you're happy with 14" pies, don't forget that launching can be a bit imprecise, so, if you're doing 14" pies, you'll want at least a 14.5" hearth. I've you've measured the shelf to be 14.5", then get a 14.5" square plate.

This ALL being said  ;D, I personally own 5 different baking stones, and, while I'm kind of hoping I can help you avoid the mistakes that I did, I can understand your desire to play around with different materials.

We have quite a few forum members purchase larger steel plates than what you're considering (18 x 18 x 1/2) and, so far, none of them have caused the oven shelf to fail.  When people have gone up to 3/4", I've generally recommended setting the stone on bars, (like above), but 1/2" steel is generally no heavier than a large Thanksgiving turkey, which most ovens are made to handle.  If you take the 14.5"ish route, then that should be even lighter/less of a concern.

While a 14.5ish plate has shortcomings, it does have one really nice benefit.  It should be pretty portable and will fit in just about any oven, so if you want to bring it to a friends place, you should be able to.

Offline heuristicist

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2012, 08:08:25 PM »
UPN originated in NY (technically, NJ), but is authentic Neapolitan pizza.  I mentioned Del Popolo because it's still pretty authentic and less than half the price of UPN.  Del Popolo also has the kind of hunger you see with a brand new business, which should reveal itself in some stellar pies.

Oh holy crap, I didn't notice UPN's prices. That is rather discouraging. I'll try and find Del Popolo when I'm in SF but it will be tough since they aren't a fixed restaurant and I will be in town to take care of other business as well. But I might give UPN a shot if I can't find them or if they're too far from where I'll be, if only to get a proper Neapolitan taste...

Repeat after me: As long as I own an oven with a broiler... I will never require a 2 stone setup :)

It depends on how strong your broiler is, but you always want the stone in the top of the of the oven.  Start with the stone 6" from the broiler and see how it broils.  A lot of people (too many) bake the pizza on the stone for a bit and transfer it to the top for broiler time.  This is counterproductive.  The crust needs heat from below and above at the same time.

As long as I own an oven with a broiler... well hang on a sec. I had tried putting the stone under the broiler a few times but found that it didn't really heat up as much as I would have liked. In retrospect I should have repeated this after getting my IR thermometer to be sure, so I'll definitely try that out when I get back. After a few (not logged, not very precise) experiments I felt the best position for the stone was the bottom. Given the stone (my old, broken one that you may have glimpsed on my G+ page), the cooking time was usually in the ~5 minute range and I felt it was pretty well done on top too. It did vary a fair bit here and there though.

Fully pre-heat the stone on the highest setting (for steel this could be 45 minutes), turn the oven off for a minute or two (to let the temp drop so the broiler turns on). Launch the pizza, wait 1.5 minutes, turn on the broiler, wait 1.5 minutes, rotate the pizza, wait 1 minute, retrieve.  You'll want to personalize this for your setup, but this is how I do it.

Doesn't the broiler take a fair bit longer than that to heat up, though?

Cordierite will guarantee the need for some sort of mod/cleaning cycle. Also, ff you do have a freakishly powerful broiler, cordierite will be too conductive for Neapolitan, since, regardless of how strong the broiler is, you will most likely want to get a little more radiant heat from an 800ish cleaning cycle ceiling, and, at 800 cordierite will burn the bottom of your pizza too quickly.  If that's the route you're taking, you want either fibrament or quarry tile. Cordierite is good for bread, but, then again, so is quarry tile- which is probably less than 1/4 the price. You may perceive cordierite, either purchased locally or through Amazon, to be a happy medium, one-size-fits-many-things solution, but, in reality, it falls short in many areas.

Yes, that was my perception. Thanks for disabusing me of it. I don't know what my old stone was made of, but I did have the problem of a burned bottom on several of my self-clean experiments. (But other times it came out frakking delicious!)

Based upon your two favorite pizzerias, we can say, with complete confidence that you're a NY style fan.  Since NY style at 550 on 1/2" steel is a no brainer, and since you're relatively certain that you're close to 550, if you want to play the percentages, this is where you want to put your money.

I'm not comfortable with this statement just yet, partially because I've always perceived NY pizzas to have too much cheese. I am not a fan of a layer of cheese over the sauce (I'm more of a sauce nut), but rather prefer the Neapolitan style of small bits of mozzarella distributed throughout (vs. a layer of shredded mozzarella). I like it when the cheese is treated like any other topping. If this isn't a vital aspect to the definition of NY style, as I've thought it to be, then I'll be less reluctant to adopt the mantle of an NY lover. The remaining reluctance would be from having too small a sample size! Like I pointed out I've only really been to Famoso's and Amici's, so it seems that I need to be less cheap and check out more pizzerias, especially now that I am living somewhere that I can find them. Edmonton only had Famoso's, AFAIK, and the ones in Toronto are further than I like to go (if I can't walk there within 30 mins in TO, it's too far :p... I'm too cheap to pay for the subway).

If you don't mind traveling with steel, I say buy the steel now. One thing to bear in mind regarding sizing- even if you're happy with 14" pies, don't forget that launching can be a bit imprecise, so, if you're doing 14" pies, you'll want at least a 14.5" hearth. I've you've measured the shelf to be 14.5", then get a 14.5" square plate.

I probably wouldn't travel with the steel. I don't think I will have enough room nor do I want to be carrying such a heavy thing (on top of everything else I'll have). I'll ship it to myself if I buy it here. My hesitance on buying it here was your suggestion to make it bigger if I can (like 16" x 16"), which I didn't want to do without taking another gander at my oven. My rack has an upwards bend at the end of it, and including that it is 14.5", so I could get a 14.5" square plate and I know it will fit. My old stone was 14.5" in diameter. I guess I'll start hunting :D

And for reference, I usually do something in the range of 11" to 14", depending on hunger and who else I'm feeding.

This ALL being said  ;D, I personally own 5 different baking stones, and, while I'm kind of hoping I can help you avoid the mistakes that I did, I can understand your desire to play around with different materials.

Yeah, I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand I do prefer to rely on the expertise of others. I'm lazy! But on the other hand, I also think that everyone's situation is unique and experimentation is really warranted. A reasonable middle ground would be to start from your expertise and then experiment from there. <CSjoke>After all, optimization algorithms perform better and converge faster with informed priors!</CSjoke> (Oh, boy, and another joke based on domain adaptation just popped into my head...)

We have quite a few forum members purchase larger steel plates than what you're considering (18 x 18 x 1/2) and, so far, none of them have caused the oven shelf to fail.  When people have gone up to 3/4", I've generally recommended setting the stone on bars, (like above), but 1/2" steel is generally no heavier than a large Thanksgiving turkey, which most ovens are made to handle.  If you take the 14.5"ish route, then that should be even lighter/less of a concern.

Good point, although in my defense I have no earthly clue how much a Thanksgiving turkey weighs. I've been a vegetarian my whole life :)

Many thanks, yet again!
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 08:16:27 PM by heuristicist »

Offline heuristicist

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2012, 08:50:22 PM »
I'll also add that I feel like having a stone around would be good to try other styles or for further experimentation. Maybe I'll end up nabbing cordierite and FibraMent...

Offline Tatoosh

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2012, 06:15:33 AM »
While I have a nice 21 inch D shaped stone from Red Sky Grilling, I am considering getting a cordierite kiln shelf to add a ceiling to my Weber/Pizza Kettle.  I am fairly certain cordierite shelves are okay for food provided they have not been used for firing pottery which can have glazes that are not food safe.  What I like about the shelf is it is 21 inches so it should fit my Weber pretty nicely, it is 3/4 inch thick so it should be pretty good for retaining heat.  It is much less costly than the pizza stones of similar size.  I like it because it won't rust compared to having one cut out of steel.  I do worry about it cracking due to humidity.  I am in the Philippines and 85 percent humidity is a low day.  

I am thinking I will use it as a ceiling, but I may park a steel pan on it with hot charcoal in it to add heat from the ceiling.  That may give me the closest thing to a WFO without building one.      

Axner's cordierite kiln shelves: Axner
« Last Edit: June 21, 2012, 06:17:43 AM by Tatoosh »
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Offline heuristicist

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2012, 08:19:14 PM »
If I buy a steel plate, as well as FibraMent, have I any need for cordierite? Is there anything (perhaps a different variety of pizza than NP or NY, or something outside the pizza realm like bread) that would work better on the cordierite than on either the FibraMent or the steel?

Offline scott123

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2012, 10:42:53 PM »
Aditya, the chances you'll need fibrament are incredibly slim.  Sometimes it's poor conductivity makes it useful, but usually it doesn't, and it's one of the weakest materials you can buy.

If you want a selection of stones that will give you the ability to experiment to the fullest, then I'd go with

1/2" steel
3/4" (or 1") cordierite
1/4" or 1/2" quarry tiles

and, if you have $150 burning a hole in your pocket and want to go where (almost) no man has gone before, then try 1" aluminum plate.

Offline scott123

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2012, 10:48:26 PM »
I had tried putting the stone under the broiler a few times but found that it didn't really heat up as much as I would have liked.

The broiler is only used during the bake, not the pre-heat.  The stone goes in the upper quadrant of the oven and is pre-heated with the bake (bottom) element.  Heat rises, and the thermostat at the top of the oven is cycling the element on and off anyways, so, where ever you put the stone in an oven, the bake element will pre-heat it to the oven's peak temp. You might get a little bit hotter stone when you put it on the bottom shelf, but not not much. It's far more important to zap the pizza with the broiler while the pizzza is on the hot stone, and not move the pizza from shelf to shelf during the bake.

Offline Tatoosh

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2012, 12:05:45 AM »
I have one friend in Colorado using 1/4 inch aluminum and giving good reports.  To quote Amy:

I no longer use a stone. I use a piece of 1/4" dressed aluminum, and place it on the highest rack just below my broiler, although I'm still experimenting with this given my new range. It's the technique touted in Modernist Cuisine, and I must say every time I've tried it, it's produced a superior crust.

This was a post in a thread discussing Jim Lahey's My Pizza book on a different forum. 
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Offline heuristicist

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2012, 12:46:56 AM »
What's "dressed" aluminum?

Offline Tatoosh

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Re: Need a new stone; advice? Are two stones useful?
« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2012, 04:03:10 AM »
I think it is related to removing any rough spots and jagged or sharp edges.  Think sanded and polished but not necessarily to a "high polish".  I suppose it is related to the idea of "finished" versus raw or rough cut. 
Banana Ketchup Is Not Pizza Sauce - Weber 22.5 OTG, Smokenator 1000, Kettle Pizza Insert, White Mountain 6qt Elec, Cuisinart ICE-20 1.5qt, FMS 1500D sous vide - Mabuhay Pizza!