Traditional pizza baking methods call for a wood-fired oven, but many restaurants do not have the time or resources to manage and operate a wood-burning oven. As an alternative, both pizza shops and people who want to make homemade pizza can make authentic quality pies using a pizza stone. Pizza stones are made from terracotta, which is unglazed ceramic made from natural clay. The term terracotta literally means baked earth and usually has a reddish brown color. The clay was widely used by ancient societies to make decorative artwork and statues, some of which have survived to this day. Pizza stones made from the same clay are durable, retain heat well and will eventually absorb some of the pizza flavoring, giving each pie a taste unique to your kitchen. Though the pizza stones provide excellent heat retention, some heat will be lost to the pizza, so you will want to wait a few minutes between pizzas to allow the stone to regain some of the heat.
Though the clay is more resilient than other ceramics, you have to take care when using a stone to make pizza. For example, you must preheat the pizza stone inside the oven. Placing a cold pizza stone in a hot oven can cause it to crack. For the same reason, the stone needs to cool completely before you wash it, to avoid thermal shock. When washing the pizza stone, you should not use any soap, because it will absorb some of the flavoring and could make all of your pizzas taste like detergent. Warm water and a mild abrasive pad should do the trick.