Everybody Must Get a Stone

(Public Service Announcement: Even if you know all about baking stones, you may find it worthwhile to read this post through to the end.)

You can spend a fortune on bread-baking tools and gadgets if you want to (and I admit I’ve done my part to stimulate that little piece of the economy). But when you get right down to it, the most glorious loaf can be produced using only a minimum of tools: your hands, a surface or container for mixing the dough, an oven of some kind, and something to hold the bread in the oven.

If you’re after crusty artisan (or artisanal, if you’re so inclined) hearth-style breads, that thing that holds your bread in the oven should be a baking stone.

When you put a loaf into any hot oven, the bread bakes by radiation (heat coming at the loaf directly from the element and oven walls) and by convection (hot air circulating in the oven chamber).

When you put a loaf onto a hot stone within a hot oven, the bread bakes by conduction as well; heat is transferred to the dough via direct contact with the hot stone. Conduction allows heat to be quickly and efficiently transferred through the entire mass of dough, which allows the interior to rise in the oven, and water to be evaporated away, before the outer crust has a chance to set and limit its expansion. The end result is that these loaves generally have greater “oven spring” and a crisper crust than pan-baked breads.

Another advantage of a stone is that it helps to maintain the oven at a constant temperature. The stone increases the thermal mass (heat-storing capacity) of the oven, so once the oven and stone are hot, the oven has to work less hard to stay hot, and the temperature recovers more quickly after opening the oven door than it does in a stoneless oven.

A baking stone can be as simple as unglazed terra cotta tiles available inexpensively from any building supply store, and of course there are several products specifically sold as baking stones.

For the past three years this Fibrament stone has been my stone of choice (you can tell because well-stained means well-used). It is thick and heavy, and while I can honestly say that other stones I’ve used have gotten the job done, there are a number of things that make the Fibrament my favorite:

  • It doesn’t break. Every other stone I’ve used has broken within a year. (The Fibrament might break if you dropped it on the sidewalk, so don’t carry it around outside.)
  • The Fibrament’s 3/4-inch thickness gives it more thermal mass than other stones, which are typically 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. This thing retains heat like nobody’s business.
  • The stones are available in several stock sizes but can also be custom-sized. A custom size allows you take full advantage of your oven’s capacity. Fibrament advises a one-inch gap between the stone and each side of the oven. (I left a little more space on one side, so that the steam from my steam pan underneath the stone has an escape route up to the baking bread.)

So you’re still with me. As promised, there’s a payoff:

— UPDATE: The giveaway has ended. —

Mark of Fibrament has very generously agreed to send a custom-size stone to one of you, provided you live in the continental USA. Leave a comment about why you love to bake, or why you want to learn, by 11:59 PM on March 9, and if yours is the one I choose at random, I promise you will be a very happy camper.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Debbie Smothers says

    I’ve been using a circular Pampered Chef stone for over 10 years but would love to have a larger stone so that I can bake more than 1 loaf of bread. Bread baking is one of my favorite hobbies. It makes the house smell absolutely wonderful & the taste is pretty good too. Thanks for giving us this opportunity to win a stone & thanks for your great website!

  2. Lisa says

    I would love one of those stones! I’m a beginner baker and I’m learning to bake so I can put yummier and healthier food on the table for my family to eat. I’m enjoying the process and have become addicted to baking, it’s become my happy place. I find it relaxing and always feel better after a beautiful loaf comes out of the oven. I love your blog!

  3. Sam Persons Parkes says

    I’m currently using unglazed 4X8 quarry tiles. However, they’re very thin in comparison to this wonderful stone. We’re about to move to Toronto and would love to start my bread life there with a new stone! Thanks, Susan, for all that you have done to enhance my addicti…er, hobby.

  4. says

    . First adventure in baking bread: 30 years ago, Tasajara Bread Book, with designated dish pans for prep!, serious bread baking!
    . Next: children, less time, less bread baking!
    . Next: employment, less time, no bread baking!
    . Now: retirement, craving connections with the ‘too far away’ children and their requests for “a good crusty bread and soup” on their visits home. The stone would be a great fulfillment toward their request. From their memories, “home is the aroma of freshly baked bread!”

  5. Jane says

    For me, baking is something I do to center myself — when I am mixing and measuring, working to create something that can be enjoyed by others, I feel peaceful — and a bit excited in anticipation of the outcome. I bake to create.

    Jane

  6. Daniel says

    I’m an addicted sourdough baker, had a small oven with a 12 inch paving stone (from Home Depot), just moved and have a regular size over, so it would be great to have a bigger stone to keep my addiction going – my coworkers will be happy too!
    Love the blog, love the bread, love the photos, love the advice and techniques!

  7. Sheila says

    I love my pizza stone, but it’s thin and only big enough for a medium-size pizza. Bread-baking is the one thing I’d like to excel in, in the kitchen — all the rest is extra.

  8. says

    I love using a baking stone and I too have gone through a few. I have had several that were too thin and cracked on my grill (we also use them on the grill for pizzas). I currently have a decent sized one, but I wish it were bigger so I could fit a few more loaves on it.

    I love to bake bread because it’s makes the people in my home happy. There’s just something about homemade bread that says, “I love you”.

  9. says

    Thanks for the link! I’ve been looking for a baking stone for a while, but my local baking supply store doesn’t carry them. I can’t wait to check out the one you have! Thanks.

  10. says

    I am already a happy camper….I get that way each time I read your latest post. BUT…Oh, how I would love to win this beauty!

    Thanks so much for posting your video, Susan. A year ago I would have just rolled my eyes and taken out the back door if someone had told me a wet dough could be ‘man-handled…er..lady-wrangled’. But today I am living proof that folding and resting are the keys to success when playing with my food..er..dough.

    As always…I LOVE your work. :)

  11. Carolyn G says

    I love to bake because it relaxes me. And not only that but it saves me money and my bread is totally heallthy because I know what goes into it.

  12. Maja says

    Your blog is such an inspiration! I love baking and trying new recipes and techniques. I have been wanting a baking stone for years, but haven’t had the funds to purchse one. It’s definitely on my Christmas list this year.

  13. Rachel Ward says

    Oh My! What an incredible opportunity, one I certainly can’t pass up. I have only recently gotten wrapped up in this blog. I am a baker at Great Harvest Bread in Iowa, and as we have experimented with a new sour dough, have been disappointed with our results. I began reading your blog and gained so many tips and pointers on how we could improve our bread. Today I am making my first sour dough at home following many of your suggestions. I don’t yet have a stone, but that will be next on the kitchen must-have list! Thanks for all the knowledge you have given to the home baker!

  14. Nick says

    I love almost everything about baking bread, from the tactile feel of various textures that different doughs take on when kneaded, to the smell of a nicely browning loaf in the oven, even the bread soup that I end up making with the inevitable stale ends of loaves. I like that it’s less expensive than purchased artisan bread, and much higher quality than standard grocery store bread (at least where I live). Mostly though, I think I just like doing it for myself, and getting to eat the results.

  15. says

    Thanks for the post about the baking stone. I’m going to have to look into getting one of those. As for my response to why I bake or like to bake . . . it’s cheaper than buying things already made, the results are fresher and contain natural ingredients. I’m mainly a self-taught baker. My mom didn’t bake, but I’ve been experimenting with many different things. Since we got a KitchenAid for our wedding, I’m more apt to making homemade bread. The KitchenAid does all the work! Next purchase for this endeavor will be the baking stone.

  16. Jazzinx says

    Oh awesome – I’ve been wanting to get a baking stone for a while now, I was considering the terra cotta tiles but I didn’t know much else about the actual process once they go into the oven, so thanks for this post ;) it was really helpful!

    I love to bake because bread is the best thing ever invented by man, ever. Ever. I have intermediate experience when it comes to the art of baking bread, I’ve moved from simple straight doughs to three-day preps and hearth methods (though for these I’ve been whipping up some ghetto-tastic contraptions because I lack both a baking peel and a stone.) The baking stone looks awesssooome – pick me pick me!

  17. Kat says

    Great giveaway! I would LOVE to have a baking stone. I’ve been baking bread for almost one year now, but I’m still not quite able to get the oven steamy enough for that perfect crust, and oven spring can be inconsistent. At least the stone would help with ONE of my problems. :)

  18. says

    I love baking because it makes the whole house smell so yummy. And when you walk in the door and there is something baking it make you so happy to be home.

  19. says

    I’ve been a baker since I was about 11 years old. It’s one of my creative outlets, and it’s something that brings me back to memories of my mother’s kitchen. She was also a baker, and my inspiration, and I feel closer to her when I’m baking.

  20. says

    I love to bake and give my family wholesome bread without breaking the bank. My current stone just broke. I’m crossing my fingers. Pick me! Choose me! Seriously;)

  21. Lindz says

    Oh how I miss my baking stone… We moved ourselves half way across the country a year and a half ago and left the stone in the oven of the house. I keep meaning to get a new one, but other things keep getting prioritized before baking stones. I really miss having one. I haven’t tried baking with steam yet and I’m waiting to do so until I have a baking stone.

  22. Denton Romans says

    I love to bake bread because I like to beat the heck out of the dough. I can channel all my frustrations into a productive task and make something comforting and beautiful.

    And I’m a glutton for bread.

  23. Kim says

    We have been bakers on-and-off again for the twenty years we have been together. About a year ago we heard a guest of The Splendid Table public radio show describe an artisan bread recipe that takes only minutes to prepare. Since failing at low-carb diets, we have a heightened appreciation for bread. Not just any bread, but that with really crusty exteriors and flavorful, chewy, moist and bubbly interiors. We gave the “five minute artisanal bread” a try and have since rarely been without a loaf in the house. The dough makes incredible pizza, too. We have learned that home baking doesn’t have to be a time-intensive task and that there is no store-bought substitute for the flavor, aroma, and texture of home baked bread.

    As for the stone, it is essential for a good crusty loaf. I had a stone that I foolishly wiped off with a damp sponge when it was still warm to the touch. POP! It shattered. I shop second hand stores for most houseware items and did not find a replacement until we were visiting friends in Seattle, WA. There, I found a stone with Mickey Mouse embossed on one side. I lugged that stone in my luggage from Seattle back to our home in Wichita, KS. The size is small and I don’t understand the mouse thing, but it works.

  24. walt says

    I love fresh homemade bread.
    I’ d love to have a really good baking stone in my oven.
    LET IT BE!!! LET IT BE!!!

  25. Carl T. Knox says

    Bread baking does not require much equipment.
    It is both relaxing and therapeutic working the dough.
    Dough is alive, bread is the result of baking it.
    The fragrance while baking will make you hungry.
    It’s color is warm and inviting.
    It can not be any fresher than when you remove it from your own the oven.
    Feeds you and your family, while you strive for the perfict loaf.
    It will make you many friends.
    And yields great satisfaction.

    There are many worthy entries posted,
    maybe more than one will be given out.

    Carl

  26. says

    I don’t know how I’d manage without my baking stone now, it’s so very well used and so useful. I have however just invested in a perforated stainless baking tray from a professional bakery and it’s supposed to be great for bread rolls and baguettes – we will see.

  27. NS says

    For months, I have been talking about getting a baking stone. With my current budget, it would have to be one of the cheap kind, but I would love to have a real one for my really lousy oven.

  28. Kathy says

    I love to bake, and want to start baking bread regularly. A landlady of mine used to bake wonderful bread for the whole house in an old-fashioned gas oven, and she used a stone. I’ve always wanted one! Thanks for the give-away!

  29. Sue says

    I come from a long line of bread bakers. I know my great grandmother, mother (Yes, it skipped a generation), brothers and sisters and, now, neices and nephews all bake. While my mother never dreamed of using a baking stone, I used mine all the time. I usually left it in my oven just to smooth out the temperature fluctuations. Then mine broke. While I still use it occasionally by putting the pieces (2) together, I would love a new (and improved) one.

    BTW, your blog is now one I check almost every day. I’ve just got my starter going good and am have made the English Muffins. So Good!

  30. says

    Just added you to my reader – I am going to be spending a lot of time here, I know!

    I just got a new double oven and a new baking stone would make me *very* happy. :-)

  31. Kelly says

    I started baking sourdough this summer and I’ve been wanting a stone ever since. My roommates go crazy on the nights when I bake bread. It’s been a few weeks, I hope I have time this weekend. :)

  32. Maureen says

    I love to bake because it is a creative outlet for me. I do knit but then there is the need to eat and I like to eat good tasting food. I had to learn to bake also because I was the oldest of 7 sibling (the youngest was just 10 1/2 yrs younger). We had to make some things and this was a way of entertaining ourselves as we were gowning up.
    I have begun to bake with my little nieces and nephews who love being in the kitchen with me making things.

  33. says

    I love to grind my own wheat, and make fresh bread because it’s healthier, and tastes awesome!
    It’s one way I like to make my family feel special.

    I’m sure it would taste even better baked on that wonderful stone!

    Sharri

  34. Janie says

    Wow . . . I hadn’t heard of this. I use two standard 1/2″ stones (well marked from years of use) and would love to give the Fibrament a try. If nothing else, I’ll try stacking my stones and see what happens. Thanks, Susan! I’m always inspired by your site.

  35. Nully says

    That baking stone sounds wonderful! I’ve never baked with one, but I enjoy making breads and cakes at home for my friends and family. It also sounds perfect for pizza crust.

  36. says

    Oh dear. I think it’s gotten to the point where I’ve been obsessing with bread for more than a year and a half, and still no stone! (Or a starter, for that matter!)
    I’m a geeky grad student through and through, but who cares about research lab experiments when you can whip up baking experiments at home and EAT THEM afterwards?

  37. says

    Is there anything better than the smell of bread baking – well maybe cutting a piece of it when it is still warm and putting orange marmalade on it for a snack – heaven is nice warm bread with a good crust and marmalade ;)

    And not only is homemade pizza baked on a stone better than any you can buy but it has just what you want on it and costs a lot less than pizza from a pizza place.

    oh and calzone, and pita bread, and english muffins – the things you can do with one nice baking stone.

  38. Jill O'Saur says

    I love baking because, firstly, it gives me something to do. I feel accomplished when I finish, and when somebody I care about LIKES what I’ve made. It’s also great to see what my mother (A woman with a culinary degree.) and grandmother (Who’s been cooking for over 40 years.) think of the things I can make, as well. To be honest, I sort of like the chemistry nerdy part of it, too and to just test my limits and learn something new. :D

  39. Melody says

    Oh I am so jealous of your baking stone. I can only find glazed tiles in the store and any baking stones sold are way too expensive and way too small for the breads I bake. My favorite is a smoked gouda and guiness bread. I would love to have a baking stone of my own for making naan, pizza, focaccia, and my current goal – ciabatta!

  40. Stig says

    I love making pizza doughs, ever since I discovered overnight rising about 4 years ago I’ve been on a bonafide pizza making tear.

    It’s tons of fun hunting down different sourdough strains and reconstituting them, playing with different salts and sweeteners, and seeing what flavors I can add to the dough that compliment the toppings. I’ve hunted down a dozen different clones, studied stretching and shaping techniques on youtube, and read just about everything Tom Lehmann has ever posted on the internet.

    Even when I screw up the pizza is edible, it’s such a great, forgiving way to ease into baking… and when I eased in I loved the results so much that I kind of got stuck.

  41. says

    A custom size stone would be great, apparently from the information I have read here, my oven is medium at best. Darn! The folks that owned the house before must not of cooked very much, can’t wait for it to wear out/break down/or disapear!!!!!

  42. Elizabeth says

    My mom loves to cook, and baked homemade bread for myself and my little brothers all through our childhood. Now, as a young adult, I’m in the process of establishing my own home. I’ve kept the eating habits Mom instilled in me (healthy, homegrown, homemade is best!) but on a fledgling budget in the current economy, my cooking and baking is often of the “best I can with what I’ve got in the cabinet” style. Still…I try to make at least a loaf of bread weekly, it’s better tasting, more healthy, and I can make at home breads I can’t afford to “splurge” on at the grocery store. A stone like the one you’re describing would be a much welcome addition to my kitchen!

  43. Norma Johnson says

    I am currently reviewing my recipes in order to make cookbooks for my three granddaughters, ages 13, 11, and 9 to eventually have. Many changes have occurred in 51 years of cooking and baking, and I consistently run into recipes I want to use again now! I had looked for potato bread and found one in Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book I had used 30 years ago; then I found one for potato rolls in my mother’s box of recipes just sent me by my brother. Then, of course, I start reading the blogs and wow!!

  44. FAC woman says

    I am a foods and nutrition teacher who used to have a stone (it broke) and loved to make homemade pizza and breads for my family, just not the same on a metal sheet. I have been researching more about bread making for my students and realize the critical importance of a quality baking stone to a really great bread or dough. I would love to teach more about the money saving, health benefits, and pure joy of home baked bread to a new generation. Unfortunately, the income of a public school teacher leaves little room for expensive luxuries such as $80-100 stones. Thanks for considering my plea.

  45. Diane Pigg says

    Love to bake bread – love the smell, the taste, the control over ingredients, the experimentation, and the product!

  46. dawn says

    I’ve baked since I was a little girl. Which means that I’ve been baking for 40 years. It’s been one of the ways that I’ve kept my brood well fed economically. Since the kids are launching out on their own now, it’s really nice to have homebaked bread when they come home for meals. I’ve not cooked less, I’ve simply shared more, with friends and family and folks who need it more than we do. I’ve never had a stone like that before… I can see it’s merits.

  47. says

    Oh man count me in. I have learned so much from your blog. I love that title to the post, had me singing.

    You know Susan you are my new go to blog for bread. Between you and all the lovely Yeast spottings, I have one heck of a resource in you!

  48. says

    I love baking hearth breads and have been using a thiner stone than this but would love to have a nice thick stone. I love your blog, thanks for all your hard work on it

  49. Jim Scribner says

    I was raised on homemade bread. Very fortunate childhood. My cousins would stop by on baking day and some would eat a whole loaf- it was only two slices the way they cut it. Yes, Mom was a very patient woman.

    I have tried to extend this to my kids. They are all grown, but what smells like home like fresh bread? And I can tell their friends think so, too.

  50. says

    Ooh! I would love a stone but not actually for myself. I have a friend whom I’m slowly introducing to bread baking, and this would be the perfect treat to get her baking!!

  51. says

    I learned to bake when I was in grad school, as it was a fantastic distraction from writing my thesis. Now, I still bake whenever I can, in particular bread, because it’s a very simple, satisfying pastime…and you can eat the results.

  52. says

    I’ve seen those stones, but haven’t been able to afford them.

    I’d like to get my gear in bake more so that I control what chemicals and preservatives are getting into my food and body. Really need to cook from scratch much more in general, really.

  53. Michelle says

    I love to bake because it gives me time to spend with my daughter. We both like to bake, so it is a love with both share.

    yzgirl4[at]verizon[dot]net

  54. Halyna says

    Mmmm, your breads always look so fabulous! I am still in the process of perfecting a hearty, thick crusted bread and your blog always inspires. This is the first I’ve heard of baking stones but hopefully we’ll be able to budget some money for one soon.

  55. Art says

    I just tried your melon pan recipe… it is great… then I stumbled unto this blog about the baking stone. I have been baking with baking sheets only up till now and I have to say I am most of the time somewhat dissapointed with the rise I get… I would love to try a stone…

  56. spark says

    As a displaced New Yorker, I can’t get a decent enough bagel or pizza. Baking at home is cheaper than flying back.

  57. Lisa says

    I love baking bread because I love eating bread and you just can’t get anything like a loaf of homemade bread in the store. If I had to give up either chocolate or bread forever, I’d give up chocolate in a second.

  58. Bruce says

    The heavy weight, unglazed quarry tiles have worked well – recently have a begun to place tiles on a rack higher in the oven above the breads. Getting good results!

  59. Lari says

    I bake because I like creating, but basicly because I love eating. However bread it is a challenge because my bread never looks as profesional as yours. Maybe I need the Stone!

  60. Mike says

    I haven’t used one of these, but a good friend of mine raves about his all the time. I suppose I’ll have to cave and get one of these….

  61. Brett says

    I’m new to the baking world and primarily want to bake my own bread and pizza so I can stop wasting the plastic and packaging required from store bought foods. The mad scientist in me also wants to try many different types of breads to eat and share with my family.

  62. C. says

    Why do I love to bake? It’s the best stress relief I’ve EVER found — especially kneading dough! and then you get tasty baked goods at the end of it. And there’s so much to learn and try out, I don’t think it’ll ever get old…

  63. says

    Hello Susan!

    I have to say – you’re a bad influence! I bought the scale you recommended (and love it) and I just purchased the Fibrament – can’t wait to receive it! I love that its so thick! Thank you for the recommendation!

    I should be in San Fran in the near future – I’d love to meet up! I’ll email you when I know more!

    ~Melissa

  64. Cathy says

    Baking is such a completely soul-satisfying experience! Watching the dough transform into pillowy shapes, the smell of the product as it bakes, and taste is the ultimate reward. What more do you “knead”?

  65. Julie says

    Hi,
    I am planning to try out your Rustic Flax Seed-Currant Bread soon… and I was looking for your steam method recommendations when I saw this post. I have pretty much the same stone you have you but I was wondering what you have in the bottom of the oven… are those lava rocks on a sheet pan? for extra heat? are they on the lowest shelf? where do you get them? very interested. Thanks Julie

  66. Janet says

    Hello,
    Many years ago I use to bake bread but it was very time consuming. Had to go back to work outside of the home and found out about the 5 minute no knead breads. I know you have already given the free stone away, but I thought I would take a chance to see if you were giving another one away in 2010.
    Thank you for your time.
    Janet

  67. Jawad says

    Hi I just wandering wear I can get good baking stone for my bakery oven in Melbourne ??? If any can helpe me please .

  68. Trish says

    I baked my first loaf of bread today. It was edible but not remarkable? I wanted to start with a simple recipe for my first try. Now that I’ve taken the first step, I’m ready tog begin my journey. A few years ago, I gave up wheat by choice as part of my personal experiment to reduce inflammation in my body and carbohydrates. I missed the smell and taste of sourdough and artisan bread. Recently, I discovered einkorn, the ancient wheat our ancestors used before wheat became hybridized in its current form. I’m hoping to make bread using einkorn. I hope you will consider me for the baking stone.

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