I have a relatively new pizza stone and my pizza bases keep on sticking to it in the oven. I've tried oil (which the stone just absorbs) and flour, but my bases still stick - although what I scrape off the stone is always very tasty, if a little ragged. Any tips?
We assume you are having problems with home-made pizzas with fresh dough. Store-bought pizzas rarely stick as the bases are usually part-baked before the toppings are added. First make sure that your pizza stone is thoroughly preheated. Always start with the stone in a cold oven and switch the oven on, letting the stone heat up as the oven does. If you put a cold pizza stone into a hot oven then there is the risk that the sudden change in temperature will casue the stone to crack. You will need to let the stone heat up thoroughly and this may take slightly longer than it takes for the oven to come up to temperature. Most pizza stones will need at least 30 minutes to heat up. Also be very careful with the preheated stone as it will be very hot and even oven gloves may not provide adequate protection. Avoid lifting or handling the stone when it is hot.
To prevent the dough from sticking then it may be better to use fine polenta, cornmeal or semolina rather than flour. These are slightly coarser than flour so won't turn into a gluey paste as quickly if they come into contact with water. Also you will need to slide your pizza off a "peel" (an implement little like a flat shovel) or a flat baking sheet onto the preheated stone and if you generously coat the peel with one of these before you put the pizza on it then they can act as tiny rollers, helping the pizza to slide onto the stone. Usually a good dusting on the peel is all that is needed as some of the polenta will stick to the base of the pizza and help to prevent it from sticking, but you could carefully scatter a little on the hot stone before sliding the pizza on to it. If your pizza still sticks then you could also try forming the pizza on a piece of baking parchment and sliding the pizza and parchment onto the stone, though the crust may not be quite as crisp.
Don't overload your pizza with toppings as this will create more moisture, preventing the crust from crisping and increasing the chances of the pizza sticking. Also if you are using vegetables then it may be wise to pre-cook vegetables with a high water content (or slice them extremely thinly), again to prevent too much liquid seeping towards the pizza base.
You shouldn't need to oil the pizza stone but the oil will not hurt it. Only clean the stone with fresh water. Don't use detergent as the stone will absorb this and will give a soapy taste to future pizzas.