Put down the soap — here's the right way to clean a pizza stone

Unless you want your pizza to taste like soap, that is . . .

By Caroline Mullen

Published March 3, 2022 6:45PM (EST)

 (James Ransom / Food52)
(James Ransom / Food52)

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A pizza stone is a circular (or rectangular!) stone that emulates the heat distribution of a brick oven, giving you the ability to bake Napoli-level pizzas at home in your oven. The porous stone also draws moisture out of the dough as it bakes, giving your pizza a much crispier crust than a baking sheet would allow for.

Cleaning a pizza stone, though, is not the same as cleaning any other piece of cookware in your arsenal. Since the stone is porous, it tends to hold onto water and any kind of cleaning agent, and similar to glass, it requires cool-down periods after use to avoid temperature shock and cracking.

However, according to Giordano's, Chicago-style pizzeria, cleaning a pizza stone is actually quite easy, and you likely have the materials on hand already.

First, what not to use:

  • Soap: Yep, just like your mom's cast-iron skillet she warned you not to go near with soap, a pizza stone builds up a seasoning over time, making it a nonstick surface. Soap can strip the stone of its natural nonstick properties, as well as leave behind a soapy residue that could transfer to your pizzas.
  • Oils: Even though a pizza stone does end up absorbing oil as it crisps up your pies, adding extra oil to it in order to lift away grime is not the solution.
  • Excess water: You'll want to keep water use to a minimum when cleaning your pizza stone, as they take a good chunk of time to dry completely, and if you put it in the oven before it's completely dry, you run the risk of cracking it.

Next, what you'll need:

  • Bench scraper or metal spatula
  • Stone brush, scouring pads, or sandpaper

You'll want something flat (but strong) to slide under crusted-on bits and lift them away. A bench scraper or metal spatula (like a fish turner) are the perfect options for dislodging particularly stubborn crud. The other thing you'll need is something abrasive, ideally a stone brush meant for this exact purpose, but you could also turn to a scouring pad (without soap), unused toothbrush, or even a fine-grit sandpaper to scour away any remaining debris.

What you'll do:

  1. Before introducing any water to the stone, try scraping away any debris with your bench scraper or spatula. Sometimes this is all it takes, and water isn't necessary at all.
  2. If there are more stubborn bits that need loosening, introduce a quick stream of water to the stone, just enough to get the surface lightly damp.
  3. Use the stone brush or one of the above alternatives to scrub all remaining debris off, then wipe clean with a damp cloth.
  4. The final, and possibly most important, step: Let the stone dry completely before putting it back in use or in the oven. Any leftover moisture can cause the stone to crack when reheated, so it's best to let it dry for at least 24 hours.

For stubborn stains:

Similar to a sheet pan, pizza stones will acquire stains and signs of use over the course of their life. While this is totally normal, you might find yourself wanting to rid the stone of these pesky stains. In this case, a trusty paste of one part baking soda to one part water is your ally. Once you've completed the initial cleaning outlined above, you can scrub the paste into any lingering stains to lift as much oil as possible. Wipe clean with a damp rag and allow to dry completely.

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Caroline Mullen

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