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How to Prevent Too Much Smoke When Baking a Homemade Pizza

A.J. Andrews

Nothing short of a natural disaster ruins a well-crafted, homemade pizza, but smoke billowing out of the oven during cooking certainly makes the kitchen uncomfortable.

Always cook with a clean, dry stone.

Unless you incinerated the pizza, the smoke usually comes from fat that dropped on the floor of the oven, or from a buildup of residual oil on the stone. Pizza stones are basically blocks of sand formed under intense pressure and heat, and, like sand, they absorb liquids and fats. That’s why nothing sticks to a well-seasoned stone, and why you should never clean them with soap. But they do need cleaning after a while -- especially if they smoke -- using organic products you probably already have.

  1. Check your oven for any food bits or spills might cause smoke when you heat it. Remove any oil, crumbs and other food debris, and rinse when finished.

  2. Submerge the pizza stone in a mixture of 3 gallons of water and 1.5 cups of baking soda a few hours before baking the pizza. Soak the stone for 2 to 3 minutes. You can use as much water as you need, just use 1/2 cup of baking soda for every gallon.

  3. Scrape the stone with a plastic pot scraper to remove any food debris after soaking it for 20 minutes. Even if you don’t see any debris, scrape it anyway; the baking soda and water lifts a barely visible patina of oil and food residue to the surface.

  4. Examine the stone for dark stains and sprinkle some baking soda on them. Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on the baking soda followed by a couple teaspoons of kosher salt.

  5. Moisten a kitchen cloth with water and scrub the stains vigorously. Rinse the pizza stone with warm water.

  6. Run fresh, hot water over the stone and scrub it vigorously with a nylon cleaning pad. Rinse the stone again and dry it with a lint-free cloth. Place the stone on a dish rack and let it dry completely, about 1 hour.

  7. Check the pizza peel, if you're using one, for any food debris and scrape it off with the pot scraper.

  8. Brush the pizza stone with a vegetable oil that has a high smoking point, such as peanut oil or canola oil, just as you would if using it for the first time. As always, place the stone on the bottom rack of the oven and let it heat up in tandem with the oven before placing the pizza on it.

  9. Dust the stone and peel with cornmeal, semolina or the flour you used to make the dough before placing the pizza on it. A dusting prevents the dough from sticking on the way into the oven, which can cause toppings to fall and burn on the hot stone or oven floor. Jiggle the pizza on the peel to be sure it will slide before transferring it to the stone. If it sticks, gently lift the dough and add more cornmeal underneath.

  10. Tip

    If you're using a wood-burning oven, make sure the dampers and vents function and aren't clogged before firing it up. If you sprinkle flour on your pizza peel and build the pizza on the peel, you can can slide it directly onto the stone without the trouble of moving it by hand. It takes about 45 minutes to one hour to heat a pizza stone thoroughly in the oven. A fully heated stone goes a long way towards preventing the dough from sticking.