Experienced pizza chefs know the secret to making delicious homemade pizzas: use a pizza stone. This cooking aid is literally a square of stone or unglazed tile that you heat in the oven and use as a surface on which to bake your pizza crust. The stone adds instant heat to the bottom of the crust, drawing out moisture and producing a crispy texture. Done incorrectly, this can result in a pizza that sticks hopelessly to the stone. There are a few tricks that professionals have used for years to make sure that the pizza comes off the stone as easily as it went on.
Make Smooth Dough
To prevent sticking, make sure the pizza dough is thoroughly kneaded and smooth with no air bubbles or bumps. Mix and knead your dough until it is smooth and glossy. If the dough sticks to your hands when you pick it up, add more flour, one tablespoon at a time until the dough is smooth. Stretch the dough and roll it into a ball. If the surface is satiny smooth, your dough is ready.
Use a Cool Stone
Never add a cold pizza stone to a hot oven. The difference in temperature can crack and break the stone. Instead, place the pizza stone on the center rack of the oven while the oven is still cool. Turn the oven on and allow the pizza stone to preheat along with the oven.
Add Corn Meal
Corn meal can keep your pizza from sticking to the hot surface. Sprinkle corn meal over the surface of the stone before inserting the pizza. The corn meal acts as a separate surface for the dough to sit on, and keeps it slightly above the hot stone. Form your pizza on a pizza peel or paddle, or use a corn meal-strewn flat metal cookie sheet. Slide the finished pizza off the surface onto the top of the pizza stone.
Unlike frozen pizzas, a freshly made pizza on a stone needs consistent monitoring to make sure it is not burned. Keep an eye on it to make sure there is no smoke or falling toppings. Check your pizza halfway through the recommended cooking time. Slide the pizza peel or a large spatula underneath the pizza and spin it around, turning the back part of the pizza toward the front of the oven. This will ensure even heating of the dough, and help make sure that the crust is loose on the stone.
Keep the Stone Clean
Pull out your pizza with a pizza peel or a large spatula and place it on a serving tray. Turn off the oven and allow it to cool down. Remove the stone when it is completely cool. Use a plastic spatula to scrape off any burnt food and remaining cornmeal on the surface. Wash the stone with clear warm water, but never use soap or detergent. The residual oil that bakes into the stone each time that you use it will help to make it even more stick-proof every time that you make pizza.