What’s The Difference: Pizza Pan vs. Pizza Stone
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Pizza: The ultimate Italian-American food. Is there a meal that can quite compete with it? From the $1 freezer section pizzas you ate in college (no shame), all the way to homemade wood-fired masterpieces, pizza has the rare ability to be all things to all people. In the world of home cooking, however, pizza often feels unattainable.
Let me be the first to tell you that you don’t need fancy equipment or massive wood-ovens to make incredible pizza. In fact, all you need is an oven and one special kitchen essential. The tough part is deciding between a pizza pan and a pizza stone!
Pizza Pans & Pizza Stones – What To Know
Essentially, pizza pans and stones provide the same basic purpose in a kitchen: making better pizza. What’s more though, is their utility in the kitchen. Pizza pans are different than stones in more than a few ways. When considering which one to buy, it’s important you pick the one that fits your lifestyle and kitchen needs perfectly!
Whether you want something cheap to quickly cook up frozen pizzas or are looking for something to crisp up your homemade crusts on, you can find it here. This guide will help you choose which one is best for you (and teach you about both, to boot).
Are Pizza Pans Better?
Between our two options, pizza pans have the most variety in almost every way. They come in all sorts of materials, shapes, and price points, ultimately resulting in a confusing market for the average buyer. Here is a basic breakdown of pizza pans.
Pizza Pan Materials
By far the most diverse piece to this puzzle, it is also the most important.
At the bottom of the barrel, we have aluminum. A quick Amazon or Google search shows you just how prolific these pans really are. Almost every house has one of these stashed away somewhere, and they can be used in a TON of cooking applications.
What the aluminum pan has in utility, however, it lacks in efficiency. It doesn’t hold heat well and, as a result, can heat unevenly. An aluminum pan is basically the next step up from placing a frozen pizza directly on the rack. If you want to slightly bump up your frozen pizza’s crust without investing a ton, this is the perfect solution for you.
After aluminum, we have cast-iron. Cast-iron is the ol’ faithful of cookware and has kept that reputation for a reason. It will probably outlive you, it’s unbreakable, and it is amazing at retaining heat. Cast-iron takes forever to heat up as well as cool down, making it a great way to evenly heat pizza crusts up as soon as they hit the metal.
Finally, we have steel. Although some call it by a different name, “pizza steel,” a thick stainless steel pizza pan is about as good as you can get when cooking in a conventional oven. Its thickness is part of the key! Stainless steel is one of the best conductors around, AND its thickness allows it to retain heat. Essentially, it combines the best of aluminum and cast-iron pans into one.
Our Favorite: Wilton 14″ Premium Pizza Pan
This standard steel pan is a great addition to anyone wanting a simple way to improve their pizza game at home but save a few bucks in the process.
Runner-Up: Cuisinart 14″ Perforated Pizza Pan
This is a durable, perforated pan. If you are looking for a pizza pan with holes in it, this is a great start. My favorite part about this pan is how well it distributes heat. It really makes a difference and provides a consistent result every single time!
More Versatile Option: Conductive Cooking Pizza Steel
If you want the best pizza pan that you can find, a pizza steel is the way to go. It’s simply the most conductive, the most heat-retaining, and easiest to clean of all the pans. If you use a pizza steel correctly, we promise you will get the best crust of any pizza you’ve ever made at home.
Pizza Pan Design
When it comes to design, there isn’t too much variance across our pizza pan options. The two main factors in the design are size and holes.
Generally, pizza pans come in circles. Incredible, right? Almost like they were made for pizzas. The only exception to that is the pizza steel. A pizza steel usually comes in a rectangle, allowing you to use it in more situations than just making pizza.
Outside of the size and shape of your pan, however, is something that people debate about a bit more fiercely. Holes. Yep, holes. Some pizza pans come with holes punched through the metal, looking almost like someone flattened out a colander or something. This perforation is designed to allow steam to escape from the crust, helping it crisp up better and faster.
Here’s where I have a problem with perforation. A few sources online claim that using a pan without holes creates a wetter or chewier crust. While that may be true, I believe that the sources that promote that aren’t thinking about the home cook. From what I can see, a perforated pizza pan is the go-to for many professional pizza chefs, but they are all using pizza ovens that top 900 degrees.
From personal experience, when using a non-convection home oven, direct heated contact creates a crisper crust than a thin, perforated pan.
What Are Pizza Stones?
Humans have been cooking on stones for a very long time. Why? Well, it’s a great way to get direct contact with a surface that stays hot for a very long time. Let’s talk details:
Pizza Stone Materials
This section will be MUCH shorter than the previous materials section, mostly because pizza stones are simpler themselves. As far as materials go, you can classify stones into two categories: ceramic and cordierite.
Ceramic stones are the most common and cost-effective of the two. Ceramic/clay stones are molded then fired in a kiln (yes, like your art class in 4th grade). They are great at retaining heat and are cost-effective as compared to other materials of the same thickness. It is breakable, however. A hard drop into the sink or thermal shock (moving it from hot to cold too fast) can cause cracking or even shattering.
Our Favorite: Unicook Ceramic Pizza Stone
This is a great option for ceramic stones. It’s a simple rectangle and sometimes, simple is best. It can work on the grill or in the oven, making it a versatile and excellent choice.
Cordierite is a mineral that stands up heat extremely well. It’s similar to ceramic in its looks (that dull tan color), but its distinguishing factor is its resistance to thermal shock. Be ready to pay a bit more for it than clay, however.
Runner Up: Thermarite Pizza Stone
- Shock-resistant cordierite
- Includes food scraper
- Circular design
- Perfect size for home pizzas
For those of you wanting that added security, check out this cordierite stone. All of the heat retention of ceramic without fear of it ever cracking from a temp change. This is our go-to when it comes to picking a cordierite stone!
Pizza Stone Design
Pizza stones are about as simple as they come. A typical ceramic stone often comes with a shiny glaze on it (a product of the firing process). This often helps keep it non-stick and stain-resistant. When picking a stone, they usually come in a few standard options: circles and rectangles. It’s mostly a preference thing, but consider anything else you might want to cook on a high-temp stone when choosing your size.
Now Onto The Important Stuff…
It’s finally time. You may have even scrolled all the way here to read my final words on the topic without looking at all my other hard work before this. It’s ok, I forgive you. Onward!
Pizza Pan vs. Pizza Stone Pricing
As far as price goes, pizza pans win this one almost every time. WAIT, though, before you go searching on Amazon for pizza pans. Just because they are on average cheaper than their stone counterparts doesn’t mean they are better.
Aluminum and cast iron pans are typically going to run less than the most basic stones, regardless of if they are ceramic or some rare mineral. Where pans DO make a comeback, however, is with the pizza steel. A pizza steel will typically be the most expensive out of the entire bunch, pan and stone alike.
Which Has Better Performance – A Pizza Pan Or Stone?
At the core of this, we have to ask the question that really matters:
What do YOU want in a pizza!
Not what do people online tell you, not what does your mom tell you, but how do YOU like your pizza? Once we answer that, we can answer the pan-stone conundrum.
Personally, I love a crispy crust with a good chew on my pizza. Part of that is the dough (if making it homemade), and part of that is the cooking method. To get a PERFECTLY crispy bottom and melty cheese, you can’t beat a pizza oven. Without that, we need to find a way to heat the dough quickly and evenly while the rest of the pizza cooks. The best way to do that is with a pizza steel.
You simply can’t beat the high conductivity and heat retention that you get from a good steel. Yes, they are more expensive, but they truly provide the closest thing to a neighborhood pizzeria that you can get in a home oven.
In a close second place to the steel is a stone. If we are going to be technical, some people consider pizza steels to be more of a stone than a pan, but we just mean ceramic or cordierite when we say stone for the purposes of our research. They are cheaper than pizza steels but give great heat retention and a crispy crust. I use a pizza stone in my own kitchen at home.
Finally, we have aluminum pans and the rest. If you are going to settle with a cheaper option (no shame in that game), do yourself a favor and get a cast-iron one. From our perspective, an aluminum pizza pan can easily be substituted for any old oven tray and isn’t worth the extra drawer space. Generally, the thicker, the better when it comes to home ovens and cooking pizzas.
Final Tips And Tricks
Before you head out on your journey to make the best pizza the world has ever seen, check out a few tricks we have learned along the way!
1. Don’t thermal shock your ceramic stones! You could find yourself in a world of trouble. Instead, allow your stone to come down to room temp on top of your oven before running cold water over it for cleaning.
2. If you want REALLY crispy crust, use your broiler to heat your stone or steel before sliding your pizza on. This gives your crust a head start and really helps get that delicious browning on the bottom that is so sought after in good pizza. If you don’t want to use your broiler, at least wait 20 minutes for your stone to get up to temp before putting your pizza on.
3. Experiment! Use your stone or steel for baking bread with a delicious crust, try the stone+steel method when making a homemade pizza, and reheat old pizza to its former glory by using a stone!