What is stoneware?
A: Stoneware, first discovered by the Chinese for baking, has been around since ancient times and
is made from natural clay products,hand-finished, and will vary in both color and texture.
Stones develop a durable nonstick surface, that will outlast most other finishes when looked after properly. Chefs have relied on stones for hundreds of years because of its evenly heating and because food maintains the warmth for an extended time when removed from its heat source.
Q: If I’m not using soap to clean my stone, then how can it be clean?
A: Soap does not kill bacteria. Soap (and detergent) when combined with water molecules penetrates the pores of food residue to soften it. This softening of food residue just makes it easier for the residue to be removed. Hot water alone makes oil and other food substances more fluid and therefore easier to dislodge, especially when used in combination with the nylon pan scraper. This rubbing action will effectively remove food residue.
Stoneware should never be soaked in water because soaking a stone will weaken it and eventually cause it to break or crack. Before using it for the first time, simply rinse it under warm water (no soap) and dry it completely. Just as you would never soak the stone in water, never, ever wash it with soap or other cleaning products. If you do, the food you cook forward will taste of soap. After your stoneware has cooled you can use a nylon scraper to loosen any food residue and the wash with a nonabrasive sponge or cloth under warm water and then completely towel drive. I have had excellent results cleaning stones with a nonabrasive kitchen brush while it is rather warm but I use hotter water so the stone is not shocked by temperature differences.
Q: I keep hearing about seasoning but I really don’t understand it. Help!
A: With use, seasoning will naturally occur in Stoneware. Try cooking cookies and frozen fries on it first. Fats and oils are absorbed onto the surface of the stone. The seasoning forms a non-stick coating, making greasing almost obsolete. With every cooking, the stone will turn from a light tan to darker shades of brown. As the oils soak into the stone, it will become a nonstick surface. Once this occurs, it is not necessary to continue applying oil prior to cooking.
Q: My Baking Stone is sticky. Why?
A: If a stone is over-oiled during the seasoning process, a sticky build-up can occur. This build-up can also cause food to stick to the stone. If this occurs, coat stone surface with a baking soda and water paste, let it sit for approximately 30 minutes and clean as usual. Although not recommended by most companies and voids the warranties, people have found by placing it in a self cleaning oven it will bring a stone back to its original state. Because many companies will void their warranties on the stone, I would only suggest this if you have decided you are at the point of tossing it anyway.If you decide to try this method, you will have to begin brushing it with oil again until it becomes seasoned.
Q: What is the correct seasoning process?
A: To start the seasoning process, simply brush the stone with vegetable oil for the three to five uses. I would not recommend spraying with cooking sprays. Baking high fat content foods also helps with the natural seasoning process.As mentioned above, begin with frozen fries and cookies.
Q: Why are there indentations on the bottoms of some stones?
A: The “indentations” were added to stones by some companies to allow air circulation around the stone. This improves baking results.
Q: Why are baking stones better than glass or aluminum?
A: Aluminum simply cannot absorb the heat from the oven and hold it evenly. Aluminum, and glass, does not stop at the temperature of the oven as stoneware does. Aluminum, is actually a good conductor of heat, it continues to rise in temperature. In an oven, heat is not directly applied to the aluminum, as on a stovetop, and therefore does not hold and maintain temperature. This is why underbaking and overbaking occur.
Q: I’ve seen stoneware in stores and from direct sales companies. What is the difference, other than prices?
A: Be aware stoneware quality varies among companies. Choose wisely. Cheaper does not mean it is the best buy for your money. Look for companies who offer warranties. Also be sure to read about the stones. Some stones are only to be used for frozen foods such as pizza. These type of stones are just for reheated processed foods. These foods are not meant to cook raw food on. Choose a stone you can cook raw meat on or cookies. Buying two different stones is just money wasted. Choosing wisely you can spend your money wisely.
Q: There is a baking stone on the market that never breaks and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Why do you think of this?
A: yes, this type of stoneware is called Kiln Brick (this is the company that makes stones sold through department stores–such as Wal-Mart, etc.) While Kiln Brick is less susceptible to breakage, it has the disadvantage of actually being too porous. When high fat items are baked on a Kiln Brick stone, the grease soaks up into its interior. The next time the stone is heated up, the grease caught in the center of the stone also heats up and starts to smoke, giving off a noxious odor.
Kiln Brick Stones are suited only for baking pizza or bread. Another disadvantage of Kiln Brick is that it must be pre-heated for at least 30 minutes before using it. Also, a 13-inch Kiln Brick weighs well over 2 pounds.
Q: What about the really low-priced stones sold in mail-order catalogs?
A: These stones are from the Far East and are very different. Imported stones do not have thermal expansion properties, making them more likely to break.
Q: Can I use aluminum foil with stones?
A: Aluminum foil can be used to cover the top surface of foods, such as pizza, or placed over the top of bakers, to act as a cover. However, foil should not cover the baking surface of the stoneware because it will block the beneficial effects of the stoneware. Remember, you can cover the top of foods with foil or use it as a cover, but you do not want direct contact with the baking surface and aluminum foil.If you find foods browning on top before they are done when using a convection oven, use aluminum foil loosely on top to remedy this and as always follow the cooking instructions that come with your convection oven.
Q: Is it possible for stoneware to become saturated and not absorb any more fat or oil from foods onto its surface? Would this affect the baking quality if the stoneware were saturated?
A: The stoneware will gradually absorb fats and oils onto its surface to form a non-stick coating. The seasoning on the stoneware will not affect the baking quality. Moisture will still pass through a very seasoned stone and heat will continue to be distributed evenly.
Q: Can the stones be used on a grill?
A: Stoneware was intended for oven use only. Stones cannot handle a direct flame and on grills, the flames cannot be controlled. Use of stones on any grill is discouraged and will void the warranties from most companies. I have personally used a bar stone on the warming rack of a gas grill and it did fine but again, I would not recommend it because the warranty could be voided.
Q: What about a broiler?
A: A stone should not be used under a broiler or on top of a direct heat source. For this reason, it is not recommended to cook stoneware in an oven above 500 degrees because the broiler element will be turned on at or above 500 degrees.
Q: Can my stone be stored in the oven?
A: Yes, your stone can be stored in the oven…however, it is not recommended to leave the stored stone in the oven while baking other foods because of thermal shock. I would store the stone on an oven rack or in a sturdy storage cabinet. Do not store other items on top of the stones.
Q: Should I preheat Stones before use?
A:Thermal shock, excessive or sudden temperature changes is the result of most stones breaking or cracking. You can avoid this by following these simple instructions. First, never put a hot stone in cold water and never bake frozen dense/solid foods. Frozen meats should be defrosted first. Pizzas and potatoes evenly distributed can be because they are more porous.Do not preheat a stone in which you are going to cook a frozen pizza. Preheat the oven according to the directions on the package and place the frozen pizza on the stoneware n advance. Give the stone the chance to get adjusted to the temperature of the pizza before placing it in the hot oven. You may have to add a few minutes to the baking time and in other ovens you may have to reduce the cooking time. Appearance of color and a thermometer are the best indicators if food is cooked enough.
Q: Why does dish soap leave a flavor but garlic and fish don’t?
A: Soap or detergent works to actually form a bond with fats and oils. Because fats and oils are part of the seasoning of the stone, when you try to rinse the soap away, it has actually bonded to the surface seasoning making it difficult to remove. A soap taste may then exist during your next usage. When you bake food with strong odors and flavors, there is nothing in the food that binds to the stone or seasoning. Garlic, fish, onion, etc., are natural food products and do not adhere to the stone. That’s why you can bake fish one night and cookies the next without having a “fishy” cookie taste.
Q: Can stoneware be used in a convection oven?
A: Definitely. A convection oven is an oven with a built-in fan that forces superheated air throughout the oven for a quicker, more even browning and baking. Since the oven temperature is uniform and controlled throughout, convection ovens do require cooking temperatures to be lower. For best results, follow baking time and temperature guidelines that are provided with the oven. And as stated above if browning occurs before the food is done, loosely lay aluminum foil over top.
Q: What is the correct rack to put a stone in the oven?
A: The second from the bottom. Some ovens are labeled “A”, “B”, etc. “B” is the correct position-the most “central” part of the oven. Before pre-heating the oven at your shows, always check rack position and adjust if necessary.
Q: Can I place another pan directly on top of the stoneware to bake?
A: No. This will create thermal shock and break the stone.
Q: Why can’t two chicken breasts be baked on the larger stones?
A: It is very important to evenly spread out foods over surface of the stone before baking. When two chicken breasts are placed on a stone, the area on which the food is placed remains cold while the remaining parts of the stone heat up. This puts a strain on that portion of the stone and could cause a thermal shock. Foods should be baked on stoneware pieces that match the size of the food item being baked. Rule of thumb: 2/3 of the surface of the stone should be covered with food.
Q: Can you bake with two stones in the oven at the same time?
A: Yes and no. Two stones can be used for baking at the same time if they are on the same rack. “Stacking” or placing stones on separate racks, one over the other, is not an efficient way to use the stones. The stone on the bottom actually absorbs most of the heat from the element and the upper stone does not heat properly.
Q: Can stones be used in the microwave?
A: Yes, food can be baked or reheated in the microwave. Stones actually work best with dry heat, as in a conventional oven, so the results will not be the same in a microwave. Stones with a stone lid does do well in the microwave and there are companies who offer these type of stones. These stones will cook food deliciously in a small window of time.