Archive for Lauren Savoie

Our honest review of FTD, the best flower service for same-day and international delivery

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Best flower delivery 2021 FTD 4x3

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyFlower Delivery Service (small)

Sometimes you really just need to send some flowers fast - moments of sympathy or apology, last-minute gifts, or when an unexpected celebration is in order.

While many popular online flower delivery services like the Bouqs and UrbanStems offer next-day delivery options, they stop short of same-day delivery, or they only offer it in select urban areas.

For same-day flowers, your options are usually: pick something up from the store, find a florist, or use a floral wire service like 1-800-Flowers, Teleflora, or Florists' Transworld Delivery Service (FTD). While I always prefer to support small businesses when I can, floral wire services are a great option when your recipient lives far away and you don't know a local florist.

I've used both 1-800-Flowers and FTD in the past to send flowers in a pinch, but never seen the end result. Recently, I had the opportunity to try both as part of our guide to the best flower delivery service, and I was far more impressed with FTD's selection, prices, quality, and delivery experience. Here's why FTD is now my go-to for same-day flowers.

How it works

FTD has been in the flower delivery business for more than 100 years and offers delivery to all 50 states and more than 150 countries. In most cases, as long as you place your order before 2 p.m. at your recipient's local time, you'll have the option of getting it delivered the same day. In order to make this happen, FTD often partners with local florists to fulfill and deliver orders (though some products, like plants, may ship via UPS from FTD).

Once you put in your delivery address and choose a delivery time, you'll be presented with a range of floral design options in different styles and at different price points. Shipping starts at $17.99, but you may have to pay more for weekend delivery or expedited delivery to Hawaii and Alaska. Expect to pay at least another $5 for a "same-day" fee on top of shipping.

Review of FTD

FTD's product selection encompasses flowers, plants, gift baskets, edible arrangements, chocolate, and other gifts. While there are lots of options, the site is surprisingly easy to navigate. I put in my address and a few different delivery dates to see how that impacted what was available.

FTD flower delivery service review 2021 plant
The Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant we ordered from FTD.

According to the website, 114 bouquets are usually available in my area with enough lead time, but with same-day delivery, my options were limited to about 37 (though this still represented a wide range of styles and prices). The available arrangements primarily include flowers like roses, lilies, carnations, and sunflowers, in bright colors like yellow, red, and pink. While this makes sense since those are fairly hearty flowers that are popular and almost always in stock at florists, the overall vibe of the arrangements is more traditional than modern.

I placed one order to be delivered to myself and one to a coworker in Seattle. We ordered the Charm & Comfort Bouquet for same-day delivery and a Fiddle Leaf Fig Plant for delivery later in the week to evaluate the experience of receiving an arrangement delivered by a partner florist and a plant from FTD via UPS.

FTD flower delivery service review 2021 bouquet
The "Charm & Comfort Bouquet" we ordered from FTD.

Your delivery experience will vary based on the florist that fills your order, but both our Seattle tester and I received fuller, fresher flowers and plants from FTD than from other similar same-day services like 1-800-Flowers. The colors in my bouquet were more muted and the vase I received was different than in the picture on FTD's website, but I actually ended up liking the colors I received better and some variation is expected with all flowers based on what's fresh and available. My bouquet was in excellent condition and lasted a little more than two weeks.

The delivery experience was a bit odd; I got a message saying my flowers had been delivered when they very clearly had not. A few hours later, my doorbell rang and my flowers actually appeared. While it was still within the estimated delivery times, the false delivery message threw me for a loop.

I also, of course, included an encouraging note to myself to be delivered with the flowers. The florist who delivered the arrangement hand-wrote the note, but did so on a "get well" card. I had a good laugh about it, but it may not have been so funny if I was delivering to a loved one. A big caveat on all this, however, is that all these delivery quirks were a product of the florist that delivered my arrangement and not FTD. So just keep in mind your mileage may vary.

FTD flower delivery service review 2021 note
The note that came with my bouquet. I wrote an encouraging message to myself. Oddly, it came hand-written on a "get well" card.

Cons to consider

To me, the fact that your experience can vary wildly based on who fills your order is the biggest con of using any floral wire service. While FTD vets all of its floral providers, there's still no way of knowing just who might end up filling your order.

The arrangements also lean more toward traditional colors and flowers, which may not be everyone's style. Traditional arrangements aren't particularly my cup of tea, though I was able to find something I liked a lot after weeding through the options.

The service was also quite pricey. The bouquet itself was priced reasonably, but once you tacked on tax, delivery, and a "same-day fee," my bouquet ended up costing around $140. This was a bit sneaky, because the upfront cost of the bouquet made it look cheaper than other options like UrbanStems or Farmgirl Flowers, but the added fees actually made FTD pricier overall.

What are your alternatives?

If you have more than a day to get flowers to your recipient, you have many more options that may suit their tastes or preferences better. We particularly like UrbanStems, which we named the best flower delivery service in our guide. It offers next-day delivery to most of the US, and same-day delivery in New York City and Washington, D.C.

If you're pressed for time, need to send flowers internationally or to harder-to-reach parts of the US, a floral wire service like FTD is your best bet. There are other similar services like 1-800-Flowers and Teleflora, but we have been less impressed with bouquets we've received from them.

The bottom line

If you need flowers in a pinch, FTD is the best same-day service we've found. It's also a great option if you need to send flowers internationally or to Alaska or Hawaii, where many other services don't deliver.

Pros: Orders filled by local florists; a large selection of bouquets, plants, and gifts

Cons: Experience can vary based on which florist fills your order, designs are more traditional and less modern

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The best meat thermometers in 2020

  • A meat thermometer is one of the best tools you can invest in to improve your cooking.
  • After testing 12 models and interviewing the lead chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, the Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4 is the best thermometer for most people because it's fast, accurate, and has thoughtful features like a backlight and auto-rotating display.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

The most-used piece of equipment in my kitchen isn't my Dutch oven, or my chef's knife, or even my most beloved spatula - it's my thermometer. I invested in a good kitchen thermometer almost a decade ago and since then, it's carried me through countless dinner parties and holiday meals (including a pig roast), hundreds of weeknight dinners, and a career in professional kitchens. I use my thermometer to temp everything from a piece of chicken to a loaf of bread to a pot of caramel or a vat of frying oil - I've even taken the temperature of a baked potato. 

Using a thermometer to take the temperature of food is one of the first skills students learn in culinary school. Tracy Wilk, the lead chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, said that a thermometer is a core tool that can make you a more confident cook. 

"A lot of home cooks can be intimidated by some techniques like cooking steak or tempering chocolate, but once you're able to work with temperatures, the gates really open up for your cooking abilities," Wilk said. "There's also a satisfaction from a perfectly cooked roast chicken that isn't cut into a million pieces before it's served. Using a thermometer will help you get accurate and delicious results."

Thermometers don't just help make your food taste better, they're also important for food safety. According to the Food and Drug Administration, a food thermometer is the only way to ensure that meat, poultry, and egg products are cooked safely as color and texture are not always reliable. 

In addition to speaking with Wilk, I relied on seven years of experience working in professional kitchens as a product tester for "America's Test Kitchen" and "Cook's Illustrated." During my time, I used a kitchen thermometer almost daily and wrote a number of reviews on specialty thermometers. To find the best thermometers you can buy, I tested 12 different models, putting each through an identical set of tests to determine accuracy, ease of use, and durability. You can read more below about our testing methodology, as well as information on how to use and calibrate a thermometer, and why Thermoworks occupies all of the top spots in our guide.

Here are the best meat thermometers 

Prices and links are accurate as of 12/29/20. We rewrote this guide after comprehensive testing and consulting an expert.

The best thermometer overall
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The Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4 is lab-calibrated, accurate, and thoughtfully designed with features like an auto-rotating display, large numbers, a backlight, and a superfast read time. 

Pros: Lab-calibrated, displays accurate temperature within seconds, large and easy to read display, automatic backlight, automatically turns on and off, display automatically rotates, can be used in Celsius or Farenheit, can be customized to display whole numbers or up to one decimal place, comes in 10 colors

Cons: Might be more difficult for lefties to use

During my time in the food industry, no tool was more ubiquitous than the Thermoworks Thermapen. I've seen it in the hands of chefs, health inspectors, recipe developers, heating and cooling techs, and cooking instructors. It's also been a core tool in my arsenal for almost a decade. The Thermapen is beloved in the industry because it's simply designed, accurate, and fast — it has everything you want and need in a thermometer with no superfluous extras. 

The Thermapen has long been the tool of choice by pros, but I didn't realize just how objectively best-in-class it is until I tested it alongside 11 other thermometers. When I used other thermometers, I found myself squinting to read numbers on tiny, dark, or glared displays; fussing with rotating digits that didn't always turn rightside up; or waiting painfully long for the temperature read-out. Coming back to the Thermapen after using those thermometers was a sight for sore eyes. 

While the Thermapen comes with an instruction manual and a certificate of calibration, it takes zero effort or knowledge to get it up and running: simply unfold the probe and get to temping. The display is large and easy to read; there's no glare from any angle and the display doesn't fog up when you get close to hot foods. The numbers automatically rotate depending on which way you're holding the Thermapen, so it's legible from all angles. A sensor near the display turns on the backlight whenever the ambient light is low; a feature I've found really helpful when grilling in the dark. The thermometer also automatically turns on when you pick it up and turns off when you put it down, so you don't have to worry about wasting the battery by forgetting to press an on/off button.

Most importantly, it's accurate and reads fast. It reported accurate temperatures in both of our calibration tests when we tested it in freezing and boiling water (which have known temperatures of 32 Fahrenheit and 212 Fahrenheit, respectively). When I used it while cooking steak, it reported the temperature within three seconds of sticking the probe in — the fastest of the models we tested. This fast readout is particularly helpful when cooking foods like fish or beef on the stovetop, which can easily overcook if you wait too long.

While the Thermapen is ready to go right out of the box, you can customize it by choosing between Celsius and Farenheit and setting the display to show whole numbers or one decimal place on the temperature readout. These customizations are done by unscrewing the bottom of the Thermapen, so there's no risk of accidentally making an adjustment while in the middle of cooking. Finally, in the event that something ever goes wrong with the Thermapen, Thermoworks has great customer service and you can even send the thermometer back to the company for professional calibration

The only issue I've ever encountered with the Thermapen is that it's not ergonomically designed with left-handed users in mind. If you hold it in your left hand, the display screen will face your palms and you won't be able to hold the thermometer as easily or as naturally as you'd like because of how the probe extends. My husband is a lefty and has remarked that using it in his non-dominant hand has taken some getting used to, though it's doable. Lefties might be more comfortable with our budget pick, the ThermoPop, which is configured better for left-handed use.

The best budget thermometer
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The Thermoworks ThermoPop is a simple and easy-to-use meat thermometer at an entry-level price that's great for those just learning to cook. 

Pros: Accurate, fast, easy-to-read numbers, has a backlight, has a rotating display, can show temperatures in Celsius and Farenheit, comfortable for both lefties and righties to use, comes in nine color options

Cons: Backlight and display rotation have to be activated by pressing buttons, the rigid probe has some trouble getting into tight spots, only displays whole numbers, can't adjust digits if the thermometer needs calibration

While the Thermapen may be unparalleled in its features and accuracy, it comes at a premium price. For those learning to cook or just looking for something a little more simple or inexpensive, the Thermoworks ThermoPop has everything you need to get started, and it's about a third of the price of the Thermapen.

The thermometer is lollipop-shaped with a long, thin probe on one end and a bulbous display on the other. The screen is clear and easy to read with large digits and a backlight. It's accurate and reports the temperature within four seconds of inserting the probe into the food — just a second longer than the Thermapen. Since its probe is upright instead of angled, it works equally well for lefties and righties.

It has all the features you need in a thermometer, however, it takes an extra step to activate some of them. For example, you need to press a button to turn on the backlight or rotate the display while the Thermapen does both of these things automatically. It's also not quite as customizable — you can't set it to display one decimal place temperatures, it only shows whole numbers. And in the event that your thermometer's calibration is off, you can't make adjustments to the numbers on your own; you'd have to send it back to the company. It's also a little less maneuverable in tight spaces or awkward angles since the probe is straight instead of angled. 

That said, it's a great entry-level thermometer that has all the features you'll need for almost every type of cooking project.

The best leave-in thermometer
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The Thermoworks ChefAlarm has many thoughtful features like built-in alarms, a timer, and a probe that stays in your food for the entire cook time, making it a great option for grilling or long cooking projects.

Pros: Accurate, reads quickly, large display, has built-in timer and stopwatch, has high and low alarms, comes with a pot clip and carrying case, can buy and use other probe styles depending on your needs, magnetic base, can be used in both Celsius and Fahrenheit, comes in nine different colors

Cons: Magnet not always strong enough to hold up the unit on grill lid or oven door, takes some time to set up 

While fast-reading handheld thermometers like the Thermapen and ThermoPop are great for most uses, sometimes you need a thermometer that can be left in your food while it's cooking, which is where probe or leave-in thermometers like the Thermoworks ChefAlarm come in. This style of thermometer features a probe that goes into your food and connects via a thin wire to a base that sits outside your grill or oven. It's a handy design for grilling, barbecue, or cooking long roasts in the oven — situations when you want to keep an eye on the temperature without constantly opening the grill lid or oven door and letting heat out.

The ChefAlarm is ideally suited for this kind of use. It features a high-temperature probe connected by almost four feet of cable to a rectangular base that reports the current temperature, as well as the minimum and maximum temperatures your food has reached while cooking. Buttons on the base allow you to set a timer or stopwatch, along with alarms to tell you when your food has dropped above or below a certain desired temperature range. There are four alarm volumes, ranging from moderate beeping to blaring. The base can be folded to sit stably on a counter or attached via a magnet to a metallic surface like a grill lid or oven door. It also comes with a carrying case and a clip for attaching the probe to pots for deep frying or candy making.

In my temperature tests, the ChefAlarm was accurate and relatively fast, reporting temperatures within six seconds. However, between the probe, cable, and base, it has a lot of parts and is a bit unwieldy for stovetop cooking like searing steak or fish. It also takes some time to program its suite of alarms and timer, usually not worth the minutes when cooking something quick. I've found I get the most use out of it when grilling or cooking foods that take a lot of time. These are usually occasions when I've spent a lot of money on a large cut of meat, or invested my time into a cooking project; the ChefAlarm gives me peace of mind that I'll get good results and that my money and time won't be wasted. 

One tiny quibble I have with the ChefAlarm is that the magnet isn't always strong enough to hold the base up when attached to my oven door. I work around this by just setting the base on my counter, but it could be an issue if you have a wall-mounted oven with no easily reachable surface nearby.

The leave-in thermometer on a budget
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The Thermoworks DOT is a relatively inexpensive thermometer with a few simple, but well-designed features. It's an accurate leave-in thermometer without all the bells and whistles.

Pros: Relatively fast, very accurate, clear display that's easy to read from afar, has a backlight, can buy and use other probe styles depending on your needs, magnetic base, alarm alerts when the food has reached its set temperature, can be used in both Celsius and Fahrenheit, comes in nine different color options

Cons: No timer, no minimum or maximum temperature display, only one volume setting, only displays whole numbers

If you're looking for a leave-in thermometer that is a bit simpler and less expensive than the ChefAlarm, the Thermoworks DOT is a more streamlined option. It consists of a circular, magnetic base attached to a 4.5-inch probe connected by a 47-inch cable. The front of the base has just two buttons: up and down, which you use to set your desired final cooking temperature. You stick the probe in the food and leave it there for the entire cook time, and the thermometer will beep loudly to let you know when your food has reached your desired temperature. 

Like the ChefAlarm, the DOT has a backlight that can be activated with a button on the back of the base, and you can buy other specialty probes that work with it to suit your needs (though you most likely won't ever need to). One thing I particularly like about the DOT is that it's lighter than the ChefAlarm, and stays put when I attach it magnetically to my grill or oven. It's also incredibly accurate and a beat faster than the ChefAlarm, reporting the temperature within just five seconds.

The DOT doesn't have a timer or the ability to show you minimum and maximum cooking temperatures, but you may not need either of those functions if you're cooking something simple like a casserole or roast, or you use a separate timer while cooking. 

Overall, it's a great option if you're looking to dabble with a leave-in thermometer, or don't need all the extra bells and whistles that come with a more expensive thermometer.

The best remote thermometer
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If you're serious about barbecue, the Thermoworks Smoke X2 offers both accuracy and convenience with a leave-in probe that can transmit data to a pager more than a mile away. 

Pros: Comes with a pager so you can monitor temperatures from afar, pager works more than a mile away from the base, comes with two temperature probes, accurate, moderately fast read and data transmission time, can set high and low temperature alarms for each probe, has a backlight, can be used in both Celsius and Fahrenheit, comes in nine different colors, can be used with other specialty probes and equipment

Cons: Too bulky for stovetop cooking

If you're cooking something that takes many, many hours or even days — as is often the case with barbecue — you're probably not going to want to spend all that time sitting next to the grill or oven monitoring temperatures. Remote thermometers like the Thermoworks Smoke X2 function similarly to leave-in thermometers, except they have an added pager component that lets you monitor the temperature of your food from afar. 

I first used the Smoke when I wrote an entire buying guide on just remote thermometers for another publication, and quickly found it has the best connectivity and the farthest range of the remote thermometers that are out there. For this guide, I spent even more time with the Smoke, testing its features and evaluating its speed and accuracy. 

The Smoke looks similar to other leave-in thermometers we tested. It comes with two probes that are connected by long wires to a base that sits outside your grill or oven. The base transmits that temperature data to a pager that you wear on a lanyard. Both probes were accurate and took about seven seconds to transmit the temperature to the base — slower than our other top picks, but much faster than any other remote thermometer I've tested. It then took another 15 seconds to report that temperature to the pager. 

The base and pager stay connected up to a mile away from each other, which likely covers all the distance you'll need. While I didn't test the lengths of this claim, I did walk with the pager up to 1,000 feet away from the base and it never lost connection, even when I went upstairs, behind walls, and down the block.

Unless you regularly cook barbecue or other lengthy projects, this isn't a thermometer you'll likely use every day. It's a bit too big and bulky for stovetop cooking, though it could take the place of a leave-in thermometer if you simply use it without its pager. That said, there are much more inexpensive options if you're just looking for an instant-read or leave-in thermometer. The Smoke is primarily worth the investment if you're interested in the pager component.

One neat feature of the Smoke is that it also works with Thermoworks Billows, a product that uses temperature data from the Smoke to adjust the airflow in your grill or smoker for optimal results. I didn't test the Billows because it's a specialty product that most home cooks won't need, but it might help justify the higher price of this thermometer if you're serious about smoking or barbecuing.

What else we recommend
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We tested a total of 12 thermometers for this guide. Here are the ones we tested that didn't make the cut but still recommend as great thermometers:

  • Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo Digital Meat Thermometer ($54.99): This fast-reading handheld thermometer is accurate, easy to use, and gives clear readouts. It has many of the features we love in the Thermapen Mk4, like a backlight and auto-rotating display. While the Javelin is a great thermometer, the Thermapen edged this model out because its features were a bit more reliable; the Javelin's display sometimes rotated when we didn't want it to and you need to press a button to activate the backlight. These are minor quibbles, however, and this is a great option if you want a more affordable alternative with many of the same functions as the Thermapen. 
  • Lavatools Javelin Digital Meat Thermometer ($26.99): This petite thermometer is only a little more than four inches long with a probe length of just 2.8 inches. While it's fast, accurate, and easy to read for its small size, it's a bit too small for everyday use. I found my hands getting uncomfortably hot when holding this thermometer in food that was cooking, and its probe is too short to get all the way into large roasts and cuts of meat. That said, it's small enough that you could clip it to a keychain, or use the included magnet to keep it on your fridge door for easy access when you need a thermometer in a pinch. It might be a good portable thermometer, but not one that I would want to use every day.
What we don't recommend
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Here are the meat thermometers we tested and didn't make the guide: 

  • OXO Good Grips Thermocouple Thermometer ($99.95): This instant-read thermometer is sleek, reports fast read-outs, and has a rotating display, but it was consistently off by one degree in all the calibration tests. While that wasn't a deal-breaker (and hardly enough of a difference to ruin your food), I was regularly thwarted by the rotating display, which consistently read upside down when I tried to use it in a hurry, like while searing steak. The probe does extend further than other models, which meant my left-handed husband could also use the thermometer comfortably in his dominant hand (many instant-read thermometers only extend far enough to be most versatile for right-handed use). It may be a good option for lefties, but I would've liked more accuracy and reliability given the price.
  • Polder Stable-Read Digital Thermometer ($19.98): This thermometer beeps to let you know when it's at a stable reading, which can be useful if you're still figuring out the nuances of using a meat thermometer. However, that was just about its only redeeming factor. It was consistently off by about 3 degrees F, and the display is hard to read, doesn't rotate, and is not backlit. The probe is rigid and the thermometer is long, so it's not good for temping things at an angle. Finally, the probe sheath was really difficult to pull on and off; not great when you're trying to grab the thermometer quickly while your food cooks. 
  • ThermoPro Wireless Meat Thermometer ($56.99): This remote thermometer gets solid reviews, so we decided to try it out. While it was accurate, it was difficult to use compared to the Thermoworks Smoke and lacked many of the features we love in that thermometer. The ThermoPro's display is relatively small and hard to read, it wasn't intuitive to use and program, and it only has a range of up to 300 feet. While this seems like a long distance, it lost connection when I left the transmitter by the grill and took the pager with me into my house and up a flight of stairs. When it was connected to the pager, it took about 45 seconds for the thermometer to report the temperature in all of our accuracy tests — the longest of any product we tried. While this lag isn't likely to make a difference in your food if you're using it to cook barbecue or another long-cooking dish, it's much too slow for stovetop use or quick-cooking foods like steak or fish. 
  • Taylor Commercial Digital Thermometer ($10.29): While this thermometer was the least expensive of any model we tested, its display is teeny-tiny at just 1/4 inch tall. I had to squint to read the numbers, the display often fogged up, and there was a glare if I didn't hold the thermometer at the right angle. It also took a relatively long time to read at about 20 seconds, and in that time, my hand got hot from having to hold the thermometer close to the food for so long. It also wasn't very accurate and was consistently off by 2 degrees F in all our accuracy tests.
  • Taylor Waterproof Instant Read Thermometer ($16.99): Another inexpensive option from Taylor, this thermometer was slightly easier to read and featured a backlight. While it was also faster and more accurate than the other Taylor thermometer we tried, it still wasn't without flaws. The display had a strong glare from certain angles and fogged up when close to hot foods; this was exacerbated by its short probe, which kept the thermometer (and our hands) near the heat. The buttons were also hard to press.
Our testing methodology
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I've been using kitchen thermometers as a core tool in my arsenal for more than a decade, including seven years working in professional kitchens as a product tester and editor for "America's Test Kitchen" and "Cook's Illustrated." For this guide, I leaned on my extensive experience testing and writing about kitchen products and using a thermometer almost daily, and also interviewed Tracy Wilk, lead chef at the Institute of Culinary Education. I tested 12 different kitchen thermometers, putting each through a set of identical tests. Here's what I looked for in the best thermometers:

Accuracy: A thermometer should be, above all, accurate. I looked for accuracy at both high and low temperatures, as well as accuracy over time. I put each model through three different accuracy tests: an ice bath test, a boiling water test, and a sous vide test where I tracked the temperature reported by each thermometer over two hours when placed in a water bath heated by an immersion circulator. You can read more about how I did the industry-standard ice bath and boiling water tests below. Though I used the thermometers while cooking food to evaluate the ease of use, I didn't include food in my accuracy tests since it introduces a number of hard-to-control variables like cooking temperature, size and thickness of the meat, and potential human error.

Speed: In every test, I timed how long it took for the thermometer to report a steady, accurate temperature. Some thermometers read within seconds, while others took up to a minute. For remote thermometers, I also timed how long it took for the base to transmit the temperature data to the pager.

Ease of use: A good thermometer needs to be easy to use and the readouts should be legible and easy to read. I used each thermometer over several weeks as part of my regular cooking routine, seeing how comfortable they were to hold over hot pans filled with searing steak, whether their screens fogged up when I stuck the probes into vats of chili, and generally evaluating how easy they were to handle, use, and read. 

Durability: Thermometers are often used in busy kitchens where bumps and spills happen. I tested the durability of the thermometers by knocking each from the counter onto the ground 10 times and checking for any cracking or functionality loss. All the thermometers passed this test.

Special features: While a thermometer doesn't need to have any fancy features, I looked at any additional functions such as backlights, alarms, timers, and customizability. I checked to see that these functions were helpful and worked as intended.

What we look forward to testing
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There are hundreds of meat thermometers out there, here are some other models we're looking forward to testing soon: 

  • Yummly Smart Thermometer ($89.99): This thermometer is part of a new generation of leave-in thermometers that are completely wireless. The probe stays in your food the entire cooking time, but there are no wires coming out of your oven or grill like there are with the DOT or ChefAlarm. Instead, the probe wirelessly transmits temperature data to your phone, so you can see when the food is finished cooking. I've tested similar thermometers in the past and found that they either suffer from app or connectivity issues. I'm looking forward to trying out the Yummly and see if it improves on either of these issues.
  • Maverick Stake ($79.99): Maverick is a well-loved brand among barbecuers, and it recently introduced the Stake, which is another one of these new-generation wireless leave-in thermometers. We're looking forward to comparing it with the Yummly Smart Thermometer and other more traditional wired leave-in thermometers.
  • Taylor Gourmet Programmable Kitchen Thermometer with Timer ($21.99): This leave-in thermometer has a built-in timer and a more traditional design, similar to our top picks. It may make an inexpensive option for those looking for this style of thermometer.
Types of thermometers
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In this guide, we focused on three primary types of thermometers used most commonly in cooking: instant-read thermometers, probe thermometers/leave-in thermometers, and remote thermometers. Here are the key differences between the styles:

Instant-read thermometer

Pros: Fast read-out, slim design that fits easily in your hand, can check multiple locations in the food quickly, can be used for almost any task

Cons: Not meant to be left in the food so you have to open the pot lid, oven door, or grill lid to check the temperature, which could result in heat loss and a longer cook time 

These devices are handheld digital thermometers that give you a temperature read-out in several seconds. They're the most versatile of the different thermometers, and if you're only going to buy one thermometer, this is the style to buy. They're great for stovetop cooking and foods that cook fast but also work well for checking on dishes you cook in the oven or grill. My instant-read thermometer is one of the most-used tools in my kitchen and the thermometer I reach for most often.

Probe thermometer or leave-in thermometer

Pros: Great for long cooks where you don't want to poke the food too often, good for candy-making and deep-frying, often has alarms or a timer built in

Cons: Slightly slower read-out, not ideal for fast-cooking foods like steak or fish on the stovetop, more parts to keep track of, bigger and harder to operate with one hand

These thermometers have a probe that's meant to be left in the food for the entire duration of cooking. The probe connects by a thin metal wire to a base that sits outside the stove, oven, or grill and shows the temperature read-out. Many probe thermometers also have extra functions like timers or alarms. This style is good for situations where you want to constantly monitor the temperature without having to frequently poke the food or open the oven door or grill lids, like when making large roasts or long-cooked braises. They're also useful for deep-frying and candy-making since you can clip the probe onto the pot and monitor the temperature of the frying oil or sugar for consistency.

Remote thermometer

Pros: Pager or smartphone-connectivity that lets you monitor temperature from afar, good for long-cooking foods like barbecue or roasts

Cons: Most expensive, bulky, slightly longer read and transmission time than leave-in thermometers

Remote thermometers are very similar to probe thermometers in that they have a leave-in probe connected to a base, but they have the added component of a pager that lets you monitor the temperature of your food from afar. This is popular for grilling and smoking, which typically have very long cook times. A remote thermometer lets you walk away from the grill or oven and still keep an eye on the temperature of your food. Many are also smartphone-connected, so you can check the temperature from your phone. While you can use them in all the same ways you would use a leave-in thermometer, they're usually bigger, heavier, and more expensive, so really only recommended if you do a lot of barbecuing or very long cooks.

Why ThermoWorks makes the best thermometers we tested
Best meat thermometers   why thermoworks is best slide 4x3

With Thermoworks occupying all five of our top picks, you might think this guide is sponsored — it most assuredly is not. Our guides are never sponsored and we conduct the same set of tests on all products (you can read more about how we tested in our methodology). We put 12 different thermometers through the same rigorous criteria for this guide. So how did Thermoworks products come to best the competition? Here are some of the reasons Thermoworks thermometers did so well, and why they're worth buying:

Accuracy: A thermometer should be accurate. Thermoworks thermometers consistently gave the most precise and accurate measurements in our tests. Should your thermometer reading be off after doing basic calibration tests (very unlikely in a new thermometer, since many of its products come factory-calibrated, but a possibility with extended use), some of Thermoworks' thermometers are easily adjusted with buttons inside the battery compartment, or you can send the thermometer to the company for lab calibration. 

Thoughtful design: Thermoworks thermometers are thoughtfully designed and simple to use. The thermometers have just the right amount of features — nothing superfluous. Some features we found particularly helpful in our top picks were large readouts, backlit displays, and easy adjustability. 

Trusted industry leader: Thermoworks has been in business for 25 years and only makes thermometers and temperature tracking devices. Its staff is filled with engineers who are laser-focused on thermometry and calibration. Its reputation for doing one thing and doing it well has made it a trusted brand used not only by home cooks and in the foodservice industry, but also by pharmaceutical, construction, manufacturing, utility, heating and air conditioning, plastics and rubber, research and science, and other industries. 

Customer service: While customer service didn't factor into my rankings for this guide, it's worth noting that Thermoworks has some of the best customer service I've ever experienced. I've been using Thermoworks products daily for a decade as part of my job and in my own home. Whenever I've had a question, a call to the customer service line quickly puts me in touch with a technician who can answer questions big and small — from troubleshooting data logging software to basic questions about what thermometer is best for what use. 

Colors: While appearance also didn't factor into my ratings, I do love that most Thermoworks products come in nine to 10 colors, so you can choose one that feels customized and personal to you.

How to calibrate a thermometer
Best meat thermometers   how to calibrate slide 4x3

Before you use your thermometer for the first time, you should make sure it's accurate. This process is called "calibration," but that's a bit of a misnomer since you usually aren't making any adjustments, just checking accuracy. In addition to calibrating your thermometer before its first use, it's also a good idea to check its accuracy periodically, especially if you're using an older model or a dial thermometer. There are two industry-standard ways to calibrate your thermometer: the ice bath test and the boiling water test.   

Ice bath test

The easiest way to check for accuracy is to prepare an ice bath. Here are the steps outlined on Thermoworks' website, which are standard across many brands:

  1. Fill a vessel like a large mug or bowl to the rim with ice.
  2. Add cold water to the vessel to fill the gaps between the ice. Stop filling when you've reached just below the lip of the vessel. 
  3. Insert your thermometer's probe into the center of the ice bath and stir gently.
  4. An accurate thermometer should read 32 degrees F (or 0 degrees C) in the ice bath.

Boiling water test

If you don't have ice readily available, you can also check the accuracy of your thermometer with boiling water. However, keep in mind that water boils at different temperatures depending on your location and the current atmospheric pressure. The boiling water calibration test should only be used in a pinch and only to detect glaring inaccuracies. Here are the steps:

  1. Fill a pot with at least four inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. When the water is at a roaring boil with big bubbles bursting at the surface, insert your thermometer probe into the water, taking care that it doesn't touch the sides or bottom of the pot. 
  3. Compare the temperature read-out to the estimated boiling point of water for your area. At sea level, water generally boils at 212 degrees F (100 degrees C). 

What to do if your thermometer is inaccurate

If you perform either of the above calibration tests and find that your thermometer is inaccurate, first check the accuracy range of your device, which should be listed on the packaging or instructions. Some thermometers allow for a variance of up to a degree plus or minus the target temperature. If your thermometer's reading is within the allowed range, there's no need to make adjustments. 

If your thermometer is off by more than the allowed range, follow any included instructions in the packaging for adjusting the read-out of your device. If your device isn't adjustable you have a couple of options. First, you can send the thermometer back to the manufacturer for calibration. The price and availability of this service will vary depending on the model, your warranty, and the company. Second, you can simply take a small piece of tape and write the amount the thermometer is off by on it and stick it to the thermometer body. Every time you use the thermometer, the tape will remind you to mentally adjust the read-out by the number written on the tape. Finally, if your thermometer was cheap or is old, you may just want to buy a new one.

Check out our other grilling gear guides
Weber Premium Charcoal Grill

The best charcoal grills


The best gas grills


The best charcoal for grilling


The best grilling tools


The best cast iron skillet

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The best early Cyber Monday deals at Walmart: Save on Apple AirPods, Instant Pots, and more right now

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

google nest hub max 1

Headlining Walmart's Cyber Monday deals are Apple AirPods. While prices aren't the lowest we've ever seen, they're still solid — just $140 for a pair with the wireless charging case, down from the usual $199.

You can also grab $50 off the Instant Pot Duo Crisp with an air fryer attachment lid (down to $79 from $129) and 50% off the 6-Quart Instant Pot VIVA (down to $49 from $100). The Instant Pot DUO 60, which we've determined to the best Instant Pot you can buy, is also on sale for $79 — $20 off its normal price of $99. This is a pretty common discount price that we often see on this model during major sales. 

We're also seeing a big discount on Google Chromecast, a small device that fits on the back of your TV and enables streaming from Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and more. The price is down to $18.98, a savings of $11, making this an impactful stock stuffer or gift. 

If you're looking to stay fit this holiday season, the Echelon Connect Exercise Bike is on sale for $497 for a savings of $102. It also comes with a free six-month subscription to its fitness app. This matches the deal we saw during Walmart's competing Prime Day sale back in October.

Walmart and other retailers will continue to add deals throughout the weekend, so keep your eye on all our Cyber Monday coverage for the best deals. 

Best Cyber Monday 2020 deals from Walmart

Viva 6-Qt. Pressure Cooker (medium, Preferred: Walmart)DUO 60 7-in-1 (6-qt) (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Duo Crisp and Air Fryer (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Smart Clock with Google Assistant (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Connect Sport Indoor Exercise Bike with 6-month Membership (medium, Preferred: Walmart)
65-inch HDR UN65TU7000 (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Galaxy Buds (medium, Preferred: Walmart)DNA Genetic Testing Kit (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat (medium, Preferred: Walmart)50-inch 6900 Series Smart TV (medium)2020 iPad 10.2-inch (8th Gen) (medium, Preferred: Walmart)

More Walmart sales

How we select the best Cyber Monday deals at Walmart

  • We only choose products that meet our high standard of coverage, from brands we've tested and trust.
  • We compare the prices against other retailers like Amazon, Target, and Best Buy and only include the deals that are the same or better (not including promotional discounts that come from using certain credit cards).
  • We research price history thoroughly, to ensure that every deal we list is actually worth your time.
Read the original article on Business Insider

Black Friday deals at Walmart: Savings on Instant Pot, Chromecast, and more

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

google nest hub max 1

Walmart has been rolling out new Black Friday deals all week, and some of the most popular products are already discounted. We found deals on Instant Pot, Google Nest Hub, Echelon exercise bikes, Chromecast, Graco car seats, and more. 

Headlining Walmart's Black Friday deals are some of the lowest prices we've ever seen on Instant Pots. The best Walmart Instant Pot deals right now include 50% off the Instant Pot Duo Crisp with an air fryer attachment lid (down to $79 from $149) and 50% off the 6-Quart Instant Pot VIVA (down to $49 from $100). The Instant Pot DUO 60, which we've determined to the best Instant Pot you can buy, is also on sale for $79 — $20 off its normal price of $99. This is a pretty common discount price that we often see on this model during major sales, so if you're interested in this model, it might be worth it to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to see if the price dips even further. 

The Google Nest Hub Max is also seeing a price drop from $229 to $179 (a $50 savings). While its speaker isn't as powerful as the Home Max, it makes up for it with its large 10-inch display that can be used for video calls, home security, web surfing, and streaming. Read our full review of the Hub Max here. We're also seeing a big discount on Google Chromecast, a small device that fits on the back of your TV and enables streaming from Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and more. The price is down to $18.99, a savings of $11, making this an impactful stock stuffer or gift. 

If you're looking to stay fit this holiday season, the Echelon Connect Exercise Bike is on sale for $497 for a savings of $102. It also comes with a free six-month subscription to its fitness app. This matches the deal we saw during Walmart's competing Prime Day sale back in October.

Walmart and other retailers will continue to add deals throughout the weekend, so keep your eye on all our Black Friday coverage for the best deals. 

Best Black Friday 2020 deals from Walmart

Viva 6-Qt. Pressure Cooker (medium, Preferred: Walmart)DUO 60 7-in-1 (6-qt) (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Duo Crisp and Air Fryer (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Nest Hub Max (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Smart Clock with Google Assistant (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Connect Sport Indoor Exercise Bike with 6-month Membership (medium, Preferred: Walmart)65-inch HDR UN65TU7000 (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Galaxy Buds (medium, Preferred: Walmart)DNA Genetic Testing Kit (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat (medium, Preferred: Walmart)

How we select the best Black Friday deals at Walmart

  • We only choose products that meet our high standard of coverage, from brands we've tested and trust.
  • We compare the prices against other retailers like Amazon, Target, and Best Buy and only include the deals that are the same or better (not including promotional discounts that come from using certain credit cards).
  • We research price history thoroughly, to ensure that every deal we list is actually worth your time.
Read the original article on Business Insider

Black Friday deals at Walmart: Savings on Instant Pot, Chromecast, and more

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

google nest hub max 1

Walmart has been rolling out new Black Friday deals all week, and some of the most popular products are already discounted. We found deals on Instant Pot, Google Nest Hub, Echelon exercise bikes, Chromecast, Graco car seats, and more. 

Headlining Walmart's Black Friday deals are some of the lowest prices we've ever seen on Instant Pots. The best Walmart Instant Pot deals right now include 50% off the Instant Pot Duo Crisp with an air fryer attachment lid (down to $79 from $149) and 50% off the 6-Quart Instant Pot VIVA (down to $49 from $100). The Instant Pot DUO 60, which we've determined to the best Instant Pot you can buy, is also on sale for $79 — $20 off its normal price of $99. This is a pretty common discount price that we often see on this model during major sales, so if you're interested in this model, it might be worth it to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to see if the price dips even further. 

The Google Nest Hub Max is also seeing a price drop from $229 to $179 (a $50 savings). While its speaker isn't as powerful as the Home Max, it makes up for it with its large 10-inch display that can be used for video calls, home security, web surfing, and streaming. Read our full review of the Hub Max here. We're also seeing a big discount on Google Chromecast, a small device that fits on the back of your TV and enables streaming from Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and more. The price is down to $18.99, a savings of $11, making this an impactful stock stuffer or gift. 

If you're looking to stay fit this holiday season, the Echelon Connect Exercise Bike is on sale for $497 for a savings of $102. It also comes with a free six-month subscription to its fitness app. This matches the deal we saw during Walmart's competing Prime Day sale back in October.

Walmart and other retailers will continue to add deals throughout the weekend, so keep your eye on all our Black Friday coverage for the best deals. 

Best Black Friday 2020 deals from Walmart

Viva 6-Qt. Pressure Cooker (medium, Preferred: Walmart)DUO 60 7-in-1 (6-qt) (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Duo Crisp and Air Fryer (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Nest Hub Max (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Smart Clock with Google Assistant (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Connect Sport Indoor Exercise Bike with 6-month Membership (medium, Preferred: Walmart)65-inch HDR UN65TU7000 (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Galaxy Buds (medium, Preferred: Walmart)DNA Genetic Testing Kit (medium, Preferred: Walmart)Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat (medium, Preferred: Walmart)

How we select the best Black Friday deals at Walmart

  • We only choose products that meet our high standard of coverage, from brands we've tested and trust.
  • We compare the prices against other retailers like Amazon, Target, and Best Buy and only include the deals that are the same or better (not including promotional discounts that come from using certain credit cards).
  • We research price history thoroughly, to ensure that every deal we list is actually worth your time.
Read the original article on Business Insider

The best early Black Friday deals on KitchenAid stand mixer that are already live now — save up to 50%

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

Kitchenaid deals

Black Friday is almost here and with it come amazing deals on countertop kitchen appliances like KitchenAid stand mixers. KitchenAid is synonymous with stand mixers and these appliances can last decades with proper care. If you need help deciphering between the many models or more information about what makes KitchenAid mixers so great, we've broken it all down for you here

While we typically see huge discounts on many different KitchenAid stand mixer models over Cyber Weekend, retailers are kicking off deals early this year and the discounts on KitchenAid mixers are already rolling in. Keep in mind, all the deals we've seen have sold out faster than we can even update this post, so if you're in the market for a stand mixer, act quickly on these deals.

The best deal we've seen so far is on the KitchenAid Professional 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, which is on sale for $199.99 at Target as part of its early Black Friday deals. The usual MSRP is $500 but the street price, or usual retail price, is $400 — meaning this deal is a solid 50% off, and applies to Silver, Red, Ice Blue, Black, and Matte Black colors. Unfortunately, the deal is no longer available online, but you can enter your zip code to see if there is stock available in a nearby store. 

Kohl's also has a stellar deal on our top pick stand mixer, The KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart. The retailer is offering the Artisan bundled with the slicer/shredder attachment (regularly priced $429.99) for $279.99, a savings of $150. In addition, you'll get $75 Kohl's Cash to use between November 28 and December 9, in stores or online. The deal is good on the Red or Contour Silver color. Kohl's was previously offering the same pricing on 39 different colors of the Artisan (without the shredder attachment), a savings of $100. While that deal appears to be dead, we're keeping our eye out in case some units come back in stock. KitchenAid is also offering a comparable deal on the Empire Red color on its own website.

The best KitchenAid stand mixer deals: 

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6 tips for throwing a safe socially distanced Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving dinner friendsgiving food party
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

With the novel coronavirus pandemic still a threat, the holidays will look different for many families this year, my own included. While every individual has to evaluate their own risk and make a decision that's right for them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thanksgiving guidelines are now strongly urging families not to travel. For my family that means forgoing our usual massive gathering of extended family in a rented house in Vermont. While we're sad that the holiday won't be quite the same this year, my husband and I are still looking forward to finding safe ways to connect with family, make new traditions, and share a delicious meal this Thanksgiving.

The good news is that small, socially distanced gatherings are generally considered lower-risk for most individuals, and the CDC says Thanksgiving outside with a small group from your immediate community is likely OK. If you've been tasked with planning a socially distanced outdoor Thanksgiving this year, here are six tips for making the meal festive, safe, and fun.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Rethink the traditional meal
Purple Carrot

While there will be plenty of traditional turkey dinners in our future, now is the time to get creative — think less Norman Rockwell, more Jackson Pollack. Take a cue from how businesses and restaurants have gotten creative in response to social distancing measures. Maybe dinner this year takes place al fresco, on your porch or patio; or maybe you offer a Thanksgiving open house with dedicated time slots, so you can minimize the number of people gathered together at one time. Consider a "tailgate" Thanksgiving; find a public parking lot and have everyone pop their trunks and share a meal from a distance. Or offer a drive-by or drop-off meal if there are people in your life who are high-risk but could use some cheer from a traditional home cooked meal. 

You can cut down on some stress by leaving the cooking to the pros; lots of restaurants are offering fully prepared or take-and-bake meals. Local restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic, and outsourcing your holiday meal to them is a great way to show your support. Goldbelly is also offering Thanksgiving essentials from restaurants around the country. Offerings include sour cream apple walnut pie from Little Pie Company — a Black-owned business dubbed the "best mail order pie in America" by Rachael Ray — Cajun deep fried turkey from Uncle Ray's in Dallas, TX, and rainbow stuffed apple piñata cake from reality-show famous Carlo's Bakery

For those who aren't traveling, it might be your first time cooking the whole holiday meal on your own. If you're daunted about cooking the whole shebang by yourself, meal delivery kit services like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Gobble are offering Thanksgiving kits that have step-by-step recipes and all the ingredients you need. For those with dietary restrictions, Purple Carrot is offering a vegan Thanksgiving box and Home Chef has a number of dishes available that are low-carb, or without allergens like nuts, wheat, or soy. While you're at it, consider letting someone else make the wine pairings; wine clubs like Firstleaf, Winc, and Plonk take the guesswork out of curating the wine selection for dinner. 

Expand the cooking outside the kitchen
Turkey_Smoked_on_Kettle 1

For many cooks, the huddle of guests in the kitchen while you're trying to prepare a meal is overwhelming even in the best of years. To avoid the kitchen clog, encourage guests to bring fully heated, ready-to-eat dishes and make it clear that reheating might not be an option. If your guests simply must bring something that needs to be cooked a la minute, encourage them to think of dishes that can be prepared outside of the kitchen.

Your grill is great for cooking or smoking turkey, or even for warming up previously prepared casseroles. Slow cookers and Instant Pots can be operated from any outlet in the house — even your bedroom or living room as long as you use a grounded, 3-prong outlet or surge protector — and there are plenty of delicious gravy and soup recipes that utilize these convenient appliances; a slow cooker is also a great option for preparing mashed potatoes. Toaster ovens can similarly be safely operated from other rooms, and many can fit small casserole dishes for cooking stuffing or sides. If you're feeling particularly MacGyver-y, you can use a sous vide machine to cook in a cooler outside, as long as you have an outlet rated for outdoor use nearby. It's a great option for cooking large batches of meat, and since sous vide machines heat food to a precise temperature and hold it there, it's impossible to overcook the meal if you get distracted.

Make it cozy and festive
Getty Images - Evening Dinner

The CDC recommends that if you're going to gather with folks outside of your immediate household, it's safest to do so outdoors. Depending on where you live, that can mean a pretty brisk meal if you're not prepared properly. Make sure to give your guests a heads up that they'll be dining al fresco so they can layer appropriately. We've put together buying guides to the best patio heaters, fire pits, and electric blankets; all products that are great options for keeping guests toasty. Candles — like the cozy-smelling Toasty candle from The Koop New York — and string lights also give off some warmth and make for a festive ambience.

Keep packs of Hot Hands nearby and mugs of hot mulled cider on offer for guests to warm their cold fingers. If you're considering party favors, cozy throws, fuzzy socks, and warm mittens all make cute and functional gifts. Bonus points for thematically appropriate designs, like these socks from Native Seeds that celebrate the three sisters of indigenous North American cuisine: corn, beans, and squash.

Embrace disposables and single-serving packaging
talk_turkey_to_me

While disposable plates, bowls, flatware, napkins, serveware, and drinkware certainly make cleanup easier, they also help keep things sanitary by eliminating cross-contact. Hefty and Dixie both make solidly built disposables, but there are also plenty of eco-friendly, compostable brands out there if you're concerned about the environmental effects of using disposables. There are also a number of disposable products that look like real dinnerware or flatware, if you can't imagine parting with a meticulously set dinner table. We love the festive and cute designs from Coterie and the Oh Happy Day Party Shop.

Another option is to go picnic style and pre-package the food. You can make ready-to-go picnic boxes, or individually package single servings of mains and sides so people can grab what they want without any of the fuss of sharing serving utensils or passing platters and bowls back and forth. Kraft paper boxes tied up with string or ribbon make for a cute presentation and double as to-go containers for leftovers or dropping off meals for those who can't be there in person. 

Finally, avoid passing bottles around and consider going single-serving for beverages, too. Vinebox makes perfectly-sized single pours in neat little vials; and you can choose a variety of sips to please every palate. More and more vinteurs are embracing canned wine, as well, and brands like Cocktail Squad and Cutwater Spirits make ready-to-drink cocktails you can order through liquor delivery apps like Drizly

Offer sanitation stations
Getty- hand sanitizer

My experience is that most people will use hand sanitizer when it's made readily available. Set up a few sanitation stations with hand sanitizer near entrances, exits, and bathrooms (in addition to soap) to encourage guests to wash their hands. Our guide to the best hand sanitizers has recommendations for products that are effective, smell good, and are easy on your skin. You can also offer sanitizing wipes along with fresh masks and gloves for anyone who will be preparing or serving food. 

Plan some socially distant fun
Getty - game playing

The after-dinner board game is a tradition in my house, and there are plenty of games that can still be played from 6 feet across the table. Heads Up! is always a favorite, as are classic games like Charades or "Who Am I?" Lawn games are also a great way to keep warm and have fun from a distance; some good ones include cornhole, ladder toss, Spikeball, or bocce.

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This memory foam pillow is a hit with everyone I know — it can be customized to support many sleeping positions

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

Best pillow Coop

  • The Coop Home Goods Original Pillow can be customized and adjusted based on your usual sleep position — back, side, or stomach.
  • I slept on the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow on my back for several weeks; it was comfortable and supportive, and I loved being able to adjust the fill.
  • I also enlisted a stomach and side sleeper to try the pillow, and one of them likes it so much that they refuse to give it back now.
  • See more: The best pillows
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

As an insomniac who also suffers from neck and back pain, I've spent years looking for the perfect pillow to no avail. I'm not alone: in researching, interviewing experts, and testing more than a dozen pillows for our guide to the best pillows, I learned that a one-size-fits-all pillow is hard to come by because the loft and support we need vary based on our size and primary sleeping position. A pillow that works for a stomach sleeper, for example, will likely be uncomfortable for someone who prefers to sleep on their side. One pillow that meets every sleeper's needs seemed like a pipe dream; until I tested the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow

Review of Coop Home Goods Original Pillow

The Coop Original is a customizable pillow made from hypoallergenic, CertiPUR-US, and GreenGuard Gold-certified shredded memory foam. A side zipper lets you access the entire inner cavity of the pillow and remove fill to find your perfect loft and support. While the pillow comes overstuffed, sleepers who need even more support can add up to a pound of extra filling from a bag of additional fill that accompanies each pillow. 

The pillow is quite lofty, but it comes compressed in a small 17 inch by 7-inch package. When you open the box, you're greeted by an insert that explains how to get started customizing your pillow. The company suggested these general guidelines:

  • Side sleeper: try the pillow as is 
  • Back sleeper: remove about 1/4 of the foam 
  • Stomach sleeper: remove about 1/3 of the foam 

Everyone's body is a different shape and size though, so you can play around with the amount you add or remove. 

Coop Pillow Insert

The insert also notes that you can contact the company for help adjusting, or if you need any extra fill beyond what's in the pillow and the 1-pound bag of extra fill. Before I touched any of the filling, I followed the package instructions to let the pillow fluff up to normal size after its long journey under pressure. It only took about 10 minutes to expand, and I used my hands to help fluff and distribute the fill. Coop mentions that you can also put the pillow in the dryer for approximately 10 minutes as an alternative.

Once the pillow was fluffed, I gave it a try as is. I'm a combo sleeper, rotating between my side and my back throughout the night, but I spend the majority of my time on my back. The pillow was too lofty for me out of the box, so I followed the instructions to remove one-third of the foam. I was a bit nervous scooping handfuls of shredded foam out of my pillow and into a trash bag — it seemed like a lot to remove — and the process left a pretty big mess of wayward foam all over my mattress and floor. Fill adjusted and floor vacuumed, I settled in for my first few nights on the Coop pillow. 

Coop Pillow Fill

While I did some tossing and turning during my first few days using and adjusting the pillow fill, I eventually settled in comfortably to my new perfect, custom loft. At this height, the pillow was an ideal size and shape for both comfort and support, and I slept soundly for several weeks without any neck or back strain. I loved how customizable it was: the fact that my husband and I — who have completely different sleep preferences and have been arguing over pillows for years — could buy the same pillow and get a comfortable custom feel was remarkable to me. After sending the pillow off for more testing from my side-sleeping neighbor and hearing her sing the praises of its custom loft (like many side sleepers, she preferred more fill), I was even more impressed with this pillow's ability to work equally well for different sleeping preferences.

Ultimately, this customization made it the obvious choice as the best overall pillow in our buying guide; a title it's held onto for many years and multiple iterations of that story. 

Cons to consider

That said, there was something about the pillow that was just missing on personal comfort for me — I like a softer, down-like fill that envelops your head the way that hotel pillows do, and memory foam doesn't do that no matter how much fill you add or remove. Like many memory foam pillows, it also felt a bit hot compared to other pillows I've tried, though it was never sweaty or stifling. While you can get a completely customizable height and fluff out of this pillow, it might not be the coziest choice if you're just someone who doesn't like memory foam. 

Because I like a softer pillow, most nights I prefer to sleep with my Saatva Pillow, but I know plenty of people who swear by the Coop Pillow. Among them is my neighbor, who after many years of sleeping on stacks of pillows as flat as pancakes now refuses to return my Coop pillow.

In all, I'm confident that most people will be extremely happy with the Coop Original Pillow, which is why it's our top overall pick for the best pillow.

Extra features

Aside from custom comfort, the pillow has a few thought features that I love.

First is the bamboo-derived rayon pillow liner that encases the foam and makes for easier cleaning; this is different than a pillowcase you'd normally put on. I've tried a couple of other adjustable fill pillows, including the Nest Bedding Easy Breather Pillow and none of them have this extra encasement. If you want to wash these pillows, you have to remove all of the fill before putting them in the wash. With the Coop pillow, the encasement acts as a barrier between your pillowcase and the inner pillow. If your pillow gets dirty, you simply remove and wash the encasement and pillowcase — much easier than wrestling with all the foam. You can buy a separate encasement for those other pillows, but I love that the Coop pillow just comes with one. 

Next up is the 100-night trial period, which is one of the longest I've seen for pillows and another key reason the Coop pillow is the best overall pillow in our guide. Since pillow preference is so personal, a generous return policy is critical. Coop's 100-night trial gives you plenty of time to sleep on the pillow, adjust, and decide if it's right for you. If it's not, the company will cover return shipping and issue you a full refund. Coop says they donate any gently used returned pillows to various local charities.

Finally, while I think a good pillow is worth investing in, it's hard to find a quality pillow at as good a price as the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow. At around $60 when not on sale, the Coop pillow is priced significantly lower than other shredded memory foam pillows like the Nest Easy Breather and pillows from other bedding brands like Saatva, Leesa, Boll & Branch, and Bear.

The bottom line 

The Coop Home Goods Original Pillow is an exceptionally designed pillow that can provide a custom, supportive night's rest for almost anyone, no matter how you sleep. Its customizable fill works equally well for stomach, back, and side sleepers, and it's made from hypoallergenic materials for those who suffer from nighttime allergies. The pillow encasement makes for easy cleaning and upkeep, and it's priced very competitively compared to other high-end pillows.

The only people who I don't recommend this pillow for are those who really just hate the feel of memory foam; it's no fault of the pillow, but there's simply no way memory foam has the same feel as down or down-alternative. If you're on the fence, I recommend trying the pillow; with the 100-night return window, it's a risk-free purchase, though I'm confident most buyers will love the customization of the Coop pillow. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best pizza stones

  • Using a pizza stone is a simple way to get better pizza out of your home oven or grill. 
  • The Original Baking Steel is our top pick for making the best, most bubbly and well-browned pizzas because it's durable, easy to clean, and produces exceptional home cooked pizza.
  • We also tested pizza stones that are great for baking bread and cooking pizza on the grill.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

If you've ever tried making pizza in your home oven without any specialty equipment, you've probably found the results markedly different than what you get from your favorite pizza joint. Home-cooked pizzas tend to emerge from the oven pale, doughy, and less flavorful (browning = flavor). That's because home ovens can't reach 900+ degrees Fahrenheit like commercial or wood-fired pizza ovens. In order to achieve a pizza with a well-browned, flavorful crust and airy, chewy interior, you need to cook the pizza as hot and as fast as possible to mimic the intense heat of a traditional wood-fired oven.

That's where pizza stones come in. Pizza stones are rectangular or circular slabs of relatively thick stone or metal that absorb heat to cook the crust much faster than a pan or sheet tray. With practice and the right pizza stone, you can churn out pizzas that resemble the pies you get from your favorite slice shop. 

I'm no stranger to pizza stones after working in professional kitchens for many years, where we used these slabs for much more than just pizza. They're great for baking bread, especially oblong loaves like baguettes, and you can use their ability to hold heat to put a mean sear on steak or vegetables. For this guide, I focused primarily on pizza, using each stone to make multiple thin-crust pizzas in my oven. I also used each stone to bake bread in the oven, though I weighed this test less heavily. I had the tough job of evaluating the quality of the finished pizza through multiple taste tests and also based my recommendations on how easy the stones were to move, use, and clean.

To learn more about how to choose, use, and care for a pizza stone, I interviewed my former colleague Andrew Janjigian (@wordloaf), baking instructor and former resident bread expert at Cook's Illustrated Magazine. You can read more about our methodology, along with answers to FAQs, and pizza stone tips and tricks here.

Here are the best pizza stones:

Updated 11/10/2020: We've completely overhauled this guide with original testing and expert interviews. We also added information about our testing process, what to look for in a pizza stone, and tips and tricks for making good pizza at home.

The best pizza stone overall
Baking Steel slide

If you want to make the best, most bubbly, and well-browned pizza, The Original Baking Steel produces a crust like no other and is easy to move, clean, and use. 

Pros: Excellent thermal conductivity for superior pizza in your home oven, preheats faster than cordierite stones, easy to clean, practically indestructible, doesn't show wear like cordierite stones

Cons: Heavy to lift, gets too hot for baking bread or cooking on the grill

If you're buying a pizza stone, it's because you want to significantly up your game from the type of pizza you can get using a pizza pan, baking sheet, or skillet. The Original Baking Steel offers the biggest leap in pizza quality out of all the stones we tried. 

Unlike most traditional pizza stones, which are made from cordierite stone, the Baking Steel is (as the name suggests) made of steel, which transfers heat much faster. All materials have different thermal conductivity, meaning they hold and transfer heat differently. Some materials can behave much hotter than they actually are. That's why, for example, food cooks slower in a glass versus metal baking dish, or why it hurts to touch a hot oven rack, but only feels warm when you hold your hand in the oven air. When heated to 500 F, the Baking Steel behaves the same way as the surface of a traditional 900 F brick oven. 

The Baking Steel consistently made the most well-browned, bubbly pizzas, with great speckling across the bottom of the crust. This not only made for pizza with a better texture, but also a more robust flavor, since those browned bits offer much more flavor. "If you're really obsessed with pizza, get the Steel," said Janjigian, who primarily uses the Baking Steel when making pizza. 

However, Janjigian said that the properties that make the Baking Steel great for pizza make it a bad choice for bread, which needs slower, more consistent heat to bake properly. In testing, the Baking Steel burned the bottoms of my loaves. Steel also isn't a good choice for making pizza on the grill, where the temperatures exceed 700 F and the exceptional heat transfer from the steel becomes overkill. "All that heat in the grill is going directly into the steel, which in turn is going into the bottom of your pizza," Janjigian said. "By the time it's done on top it's going to be burnt on the bottom."

That said, the Baking Steel really shines for turning your home oven into a pizza-making machine. I could tell from the second the dough landed on the steel and started to hiss and sizzle that I was in for an excellent pie. The slick, seasoned surface cleaned up easier than other stones, and while this is a minor attribute, I liked that the dark color didn't show wear the way cordierite stones do. 

Practically speaking, the steel is a rectangular 14 inches by 16 inches, which makes it versatile for pizzas that are large or aren't perfectly round. Since it's made from steel it's also basically indestructible and thus much more durable than cordierite, which is prone to cracking and breaking. If you're really serious about pizza quality, the Baking Stone is absolutely the best all-around choice. 

The best pizza stone for bread
Solido stone

This cordierite pizza stone bakes good pizza, but also produces excellent bread, making it a great choice for those looking to make a variety of recipes with their pizza stone. 

Pros: Makes decent pizza and excellent bread, cleans up easily, has feet for easy maneuvering 

Cons: Produces less browning, takes a long time to preheat, cordierite is prone to cracking and staining

Previously our best overall pick, the Solido 14x16 Cordierite Pizza Stone makes delicious pizza that is moist, springy, and chewy. However, it didn't produce quite the level of browning as the baking steel — the pizza was good, but still distinctly home-baked pizza not reminiscent of restaurant pizza. Still, the results are much better than what you'd get from a pan or baking sheet, and this stone excelled in one area where the Baking Steel couldn't: baking bread. 

Unlike steel, which gets hot fast and channels all that heat right into the pizza, cordierite stones like the Solido absorb and release heat slowly. They take about two hours to preheat in the oven and a very long time to cool down enough to handle after cooking. This slow heat is decent for pizza, but exceptional for baking bread, which relies on consistent heat over a much longer bake time. The Solido stone made loaves that were beautifully browned and is well-shaped to accommodate longer, oblong loaves like baguettes or rustic breads.

Design-wise, it's pretty basic: a 14 inch by 16 inch rectangular slab of cordierite, similar to most cordierite stones out there and a good shape and size for making both pizza and bread. However, the Solido stone has one small feature that gave it the edge over the other cordierite stone we tried: feet. The stone has raised grooves along the bottom that lift it off the oven rack and make it much easier to grab and move around. While this is a minor design feature, it distinguished the Solido stone from other very similar stones. 

Its rounded corners also fit better when I tried it on a charcoal grill. However, like all cordierite stones, it takes a long time to preheat, which makes it an inefficient option for grilling unless  you want to waste a ton of propane or charcoal. 

This is a great stone if you loathe the idea of a unitasker — it made great oven pizza and excellent bread. It was also simple to clean, though it retained stains like all cordierite stones are prone to do. Cordierite is prone to cracking or breaking if not cared for properly, so we don't expect this stone is any different, though we didn't see any cracking during testing.

The best pizza stone for the grill
Lodge pan slide

This round cast-iron stone has handles for easy maneuvering and is perfectly sized and shaped for making pizza on both charcoal and gas grills. 

Pros: Good thermal conductivity for well-browned pizzas, cleans up easily, doesn't show stains, circular shape fits well on round grill, handles make moving easy

Cons: Difficult to slide a pizza onto its circular shape

While you can make pizza directly on your grill's grates (in fact, this is the method Janjigian recommends if you're interested in grilled pizza), a stone makes the process less daunting and potentially less messy. However, using a pizza stone on the grill requires some adjustments to standard pizza stone best practices. While the Baking Steel will heat up super quickly, it will also burn your pizza in minutes in the ultra hot grill. By contrast, cordierite stones make underbaked pizzas on the grill unless you preheat the stone for an hour or so beforehand, using a lot of fuel. 

That's why the Lodge 15 Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Pizza Pan is really well-suited to cooking on the grill; it offers a happy medium between steel and cordierite in how quickly it heats up and how fast it transfers heat to your pizza. In testing, the Lodge pan was ready to go after about a half hour of preheating on my gas grill, and it cooked a beautifully baked pie with good spotting on the top and excellent browning on the bottom. The built-in handles made it easy to transfer the stone in and out of the grill, and it cleans up easily with just a sponge and some water. Note that it's best to use soap sparingly when cleaning cast iron, so you don't strip the slick nonstick seasoning. 

Grilling was also the only situation where I found the circular stone to have an advantage over rectangular stones; you can read more about circular versus rectangular stones here. While the rectangular stones fit fine on my gas grill, some didn't fit at all on my small kettle charcoal grill. The round stone fit nicely in both the gas and charcoal grill, and left plenty of room for air circulation.  

The stone isn't just for grilling though; it made excellent pizza in my oven, but I found its circular shape was less forgiving than rectangular stones. With a round stone, you have to aim perfectly. If I was off center by just a bit when sliding the pizza off the peel, the dough hung off the edge and made a mess in my oven. This stone is a great option if you're a seasoned pizza pro or are dabbling in the world of grilled pizza, but most other users will get better benefits from one of our other rectangular picks. 

What else we recommend
What else we considered

Pizza stones are relatively simple pieces of equipment; usually just slabs of stone or metal with little difference between models. All of the products we tested made great pizza, and top choices came down to minor differences like size, shape, handles, and feet. Here are noteworthy models that didn't quite make our top picks, but are still good choices:

  • Honey-Can-Do 14x16 Cordierite Pizza Stone ($59.99): Previously sold as the Old Stone Oven pizza stone, this model has changed a bit now that it's sold by Honey-Can-Do. Reviewers report that the new stone doesn't have feet like the old stone, and that the corners are sharper. I tested the new stone and found it made great pizza on par with the Solido 14x16 Cordierite Pizza Stone in our lineup. However, it had no distinguishing features to earn it a space on our top picks. Furthermore, it seems as though there's still confusion among retailers about the old stone versus the new stone, with listings on Amazon and Walmart showing photos of the old stone, but sending buyers the new stone instead. These issues are made more frustrating by fluctuating stock and significant price mark-ups from third party retailers. We'll revisit whether this stone makes the top picks when the company clears up the confusion. 
Our testing methodology
Our methodology

In addition to interviewing Andrew Janjigian, a pizza expert, we put each pizza stone through a series of tests to judge how well they made pizza, and how easy they were to move, use, and clean. Here's how we tested and rated pizza stones:

Shape: I researched dozens of stones, but after conferring with Janjigian, focused on rectangular stones when I could because the shape is more versatile and easy to use.

How it made pizza: We preheated each stone in a 500 degree oven for two hours and then used it to make three thin-crust pizzas using a recipe from Serious Eats, a website known for its science-based, well-tested recipes over the course of several weeks, adjusting cook time, oven temperature, and stone position in between pizzas in pursuit of the best results. A good pizza should have a well-browned, bubbly crust that is crisp on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside; cheese should be fully melted in the time it takes to cook the crust. My husband and I both sampled each finished pizza for flavor and texture.I only tested the cast-iron pan on a charcoal grill because its size, shape, and material were best suited for that use.

How it made bread: Many people bake bread with their pizza stones, so I used each to make an easy recipe for crusty white bread from King Arthur, a respected flour company where Janjigian teaches baking classes. I looked for loaves that were well-baked inside, and browned (but not burnt) on the bottom. 

Ease of Use: I frequently moved the stones in and out of the oven using oven mitts, and with my bare hands when the stones had cooled down, noting how easy and comfortable they were to move. After each use, I cleaned the stone according to manufacturer instructions, evaluating how easily they cleaned up and noting their appearance after use and cleaning. 

Durability: I didn't intentionally drop any stones during testing, as I know that cordierite in particular is prone to cracking and breaking, having broken a few of these stones in the past. Instead, I consulted with an expert and did my own research about the durability of different materials.  

What we look forward to testing
What we look forward to testing

We plan to continually test new pizza stones and add them to this guide. Here are some products on our radar: 

  • Love This Kitchen Ultimate 16-inch Round Pizza Stone ($45.97): Previously our top pick for best circular stone, this model was out of stock at the time of testing for this guide. While I think rectangular stones are more versatile and easy to use than circular stones, I was intrigued that this circular stone offers a "no-spill stopper" — a little raised lip at the back of the stone that's meant to stop pizza from sliding over the edge (a common complaint in circular stones). Now that it appears back in stock at Amazon, I look forward to seeing how this model compares to the top picks in our guide.
  • Bialetti Taste of Italy Baking Stone Tile Set ($21.85): This set comes with four 7.5 inch tiles that you can either use individually or put together to make one large stone. The smaller and customizable shape might be a good option for those with smaller home ovens that can't fit a large 14 inch by 16 inch pizza stone.
  • NerdChef Steel Stone, Standard ($74.99): Slightly less expensive than our top pick, the Original Baking Steel, this steel pizza stone is also made of conductive steel. The shape and thickness are similar to our top pick, but the NerdChef model has two finger-sized holes for moving and storing the steel. 
  • Dough-Joe Samurai Pizza Steel ($75.87): Another Baking Steel copycat, this model was reviewed by one of our reporters, who found it identical in performance to the Baking Steel. I look forward to putting it through all the tests for this guide and reporting back my findings. 
What to look for in a pizza stone
What to look for

Here are some considerations to think about when looking for a pizza stone: 

Shape: One might think that since pizza is round, a pizza stone should be too. But we actually think you'll get much better pizza out of a rectangular stone. "With a round stone, if you miss that target by a little, [the pizza] is going to hang off the edge," said Janjigian. "You don't have to aim perfectly with a rectangular stone." Rectangular stones are often larger, so they also hold more heat, which can make a pizza with better browning. Finally, rectangular stones are more versatile. "I want the real estate for things that aren't perfectly round," said Janjigian, who also uses a pizza stone to bake bread. The only time we see a round stone having an advantage is for grilling, since larger rectangular stones sometimes don't fit, especially on circular grills. For almost all uses, rectangular is the way to go. 

Size: "I want my stone to be as big as my oven rack, minus some space for air flow," says Janjigian. A larger stone not only holds more heat, but provides plenty of real estate for larger pies and long baked goods like baguettes. We found a stone that is about 16 inches by 14 inches to be the ideal size for most home ovens. If you're looking for a cordierite stone, thicker is also better, says Janjigian, because thicker stones are less prone to cracking. Our favorite cordierite stone measures ¾ inch thick, and we found this size to be a good compromise between durability and maneuverability. 

Weight: While lighter stones may be easier to transport in and out of the oven, Janjigian says that heavier stones will produce better pizza. "The lighter it is, the less mass it has, and the less it can heat the pie," he says. A heavier stone will hold a lot of heat, and make a well-browned pizza. Pizza stones usually weigh about nine pounds, but most of our top picks are 13 to 16 pounds because they're thicker or made with heavier material like steel or cast iron.

Material: We looked at stones made from steel, cordierite (a heat-resistant mineral), and cast iron, all of which have different thermal properties, and thus, different uses. Of these, steel absorbs and transfers heat the fastest, which makes it ideal for pizza in the home oven. If you're serious about good home pizza, we recommend opting for a pizza steel. Cordierite stones make decent pizza, but have less thermal mass than steel, so the crust tends to be paler and less developed. However, cordierite is a great choice if you plan on using your stone to bake bread, since other materials tend to burn loaves. If you hate the idea of a unitasker and have a robust baking repertoire, a cordierite stone will absolutely do the trick. Finally, cast iron offers a happy medium between steel and cordierite in terms of heat conductivity. However, we have yet to find a rectangular cast iron stone, only circular pans, which are trickier to use. We think circular cast iron pizza stones are a good option if you're interested in grilled pizza, especially if you have a round grill. 

Price: Pizza stones are basically just slabs of materia so be wary of any stone priced significantly more or less than competitors made from the same material. Expect to pay about $40 to $60 for a cordierite or cast iron stone and $70 to $90 for a steel. You won't get a significant increase in performance from something priced higher. 

FAQs
FAQs

Why do I need a pizza stone?

A pizza stone can help you make restaurant-quality pizza at home. Many pizza joints use commercial or wood fired ovens that can reach 900+ F, creating the well-browned crust you expect from a restaurant pie. Home ovens don't get that hot, so pizza made in a pan or sheet tray usually comes out doughy and pale. A pizza stone recreates some of the restaurant experience by providing a super hot surface to cook the pizza one, resulting in better browning and bubbling.

Can I use a pizza stone in a countertop or toaster oven?

The stones we tested are too big for most toaster ovens, and most toaster ovens don't reach the temperatures needed to churn out good pizza (many max out at 450 F). Some circular stones may fit in large countertop smart ovens like the June Oven

Do I need to preheat my pizza stone?

Absolutely. You'll only get the benefits of using a pizza stone or steel if you preheat it. You should preheat most stones and steels for one to two hours, enough time for the stone to get as hot as the air around it. If you don't, the results won't be much different than what you get from using a pizza pan or baking sheet. 

Why does my stone look discolored or dirty, even after cleaning it?

Discoloration is totally normal and, while your pizza stone will never look as pristine as the day you bought it, those stains and smudges can actually help make your pizza stone more nonstick over time. Materials like cast iron and carbon steel become more "seasoned" with use, as oils bond to the surface and form a naturally protective coating. It's important to clean all types of pizza stones gently and without soap when you can; cordierite is very porous and that soapy flavor can soak into the stone and impact the flavor of your pizza. Steel and cast iron should similarly be cleaned lightly so as not to disturb the built-up seasoning. Use a metal or plastic spatula to scrape big chunks of debris off of the stone when you're done cooking, and wipe the surface lightly with water and a soft sponge. Any leftover stickiness or stuck-on bits will likely burn off the next time you preheat the stone. Those leftover marks might be unsightly, but they won't impact performance. 

Why did my stone crack?

Cast iron and steel stones should never crack, as both are extremely durable materials. Almost all cracking occurs with cordierite stones. Despite being "stone," cordierite pizza stones are relatively delicate. A common cause of cracking is thermal shock, which is when the stone is rapidly exposed to a drastically different temperature. You should never put a room temperature stone in a hot oven; always put the stone in a cold oven and allow it to preheat. Similarly, avoid putting frozen food onto a blazing hot stone (yes, that includes frozen pizza) and let the stone cool completely in the oven before removing or washing it.

Stones can also crack from too much moisture. Cordierite stones are very porous; they'll absorb moisture from the food cooking and from washing. If you don't give your stone time to dry after washing it, the water can remain in the stone and cause a build-up of steam the next time you heat the stone, resulting in a crack. Finally, stones can crack from even minor drops (this is how I broke my first stone); treat your stone as gently as you would a piece of pottery when handling or moving it.

Pizza stone tips and tricks
Pizza Stone Tips and Tricks

Making great pizza at home takes practice. Here are some tips and tricks I've learned over seven years of working in professional kitchens for getting the most out of your pizza stone.

Crank up the heat: Heat is your friend when cooking pizza. Some pizza aficionados have been known to toggle with broiler settings and even try to hack their oven's self-clean cycles in pursuit of perfect home pizza. While we don't think you need to go that far, we recommend cranking the heat in your oven up to 500 F if you're using a steel or 550 F if you're using a cordierite stone. 

Preheat your stone in the oven: Put your stone in the cold oven and preheat both stone and oven together for one to two hours. This step is essential for achieving a well-browned pizza.

Use a pizza peel: A peel is a tool to shuttle your pizza on and off the blazing hot stone. After years of using makeshift peels, including the back of a skillet and an overturned sheet pan, I finally took the plunge and purchased a pizza peel. It makes the process significantly easier and less daunting. I build my pizza right on the peel for an easy transition from the counter to the oven.

Rotate the pizza: Give the pizza a turn once through baking with the help of your peel or a good set of kitchen tongs. The back of the oven tends to be hotter than the front, so rotating your pizza once during cooking can help prevent burning.

Tweak and refine: It takes practice to make great pizza at home. Don't be discouraged if your first pizza ends up burnt or too doughy inside. Try different recipes and tinker with cooking times and temperatures until you find what works for your oven. 

Turbocharge your pizza making: If you're really wild about homemade pizza, Janjigian says you can buy both a stone and steel and put them together to "supercharge" your pizza making. "If you put the steel on top of the stone, the stone acts like a battery to continually pump heat into the steel," he says. This tip is primarily for those super-invested in making pizza at home, but the steel-on-stone method can be great for churning out pie after pie, or getting the char and bubbling on the crust you normally only really get from wood fired ovens. 

Let your stone cool: After you take out your pizza, let your stone stay in the oven until both are completely cooled to avoid any potential cracking. This can take several hours, but it's important for maintaining the durability of your stone.

Use soap and water sparingly: Use a spatula and a dry cloth to scrape any burnt bits off the pizza stone; this should be enough for most messes. With all materials, be reserved with soap, which can strip the seasoning off of steel and cast iron and impart a bad flavor onto pizza made with porous cordierite stones. If you use water to clean a cordierite stone, let it dry for at least 48 hours before you use it again.

Check out our other pizza-making buying guides
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The best pizza peels


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Read the original article on Business Insider

The best pizza stones

  • Using a pizza stone is a simple way to get better pizza out of your home oven or grill. 
  • The Original Baking Steel is our top pick for making the best, most bubbly and well-browned pizzas because it's durable, easy to clean, and produces exceptional home cooked pizza.
  • We also tested pizza stones that are great for baking bread and cooking pizza on the grill.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

If you've ever tried making pizza in your home oven without any specialty equipment, you've probably found the results markedly different than what you get from your favorite pizza joint. Home-cooked pizzas tend to emerge from the oven pale, doughy, and less flavorful (browning = flavor). That's because home ovens can't reach 900+ degrees Fahrenheit like commercial or wood-fired pizza ovens. In order to achieve a pizza with a well-browned, flavorful crust and airy, chewy interior, you need to cook the pizza as hot and as fast as possible to mimic the intense heat of a traditional wood-fired oven.

That's where pizza stones come in. Pizza stones are rectangular or circular slabs of relatively thick stone or metal that absorb heat to cook the crust much faster than a pan or sheet tray. With practice and the right pizza stone, you can churn out pizzas that resemble the pies you get from your favorite slice shop. 

I'm no stranger to pizza stones after working in professional kitchens for many years, where we used these slabs for much more than just pizza. They're great for baking bread, especially oblong loaves like baguettes, and you can use their ability to hold heat to put a mean sear on steak or vegetables. For this guide, I focused primarily on pizza, using each stone to make multiple thin-crust pizzas in my oven. I also used each stone to bake bread in the oven, though I weighed this test less heavily. I had the tough job of evaluating the quality of the finished pizza through multiple taste tests and also based my recommendations on how easy the stones were to move, use, and clean.

To learn more about how to choose, use, and care for a pizza stone, I interviewed my former colleague Andrew Janjigian (@wordloaf), baking instructor and former resident bread expert at Cook's Illustrated Magazine. You can read more about our methodology, along with answers to FAQs, and pizza stone tips and tricks here.

Here are the best pizza stones:

Updated 11/10/2020: We've completely overhauled this guide with original testing and expert interviews. We also added information about our testing process, what to look for in a pizza stone, and tips and tricks for making good pizza at home.

The best pizza stone overall
Baking Steel slide

If you want to make the best, most bubbly, and well-browned pizza, The Original Baking Steel produces a crust like no other and is easy to move, clean, and use. 

Pros: Excellent thermal conductivity for superior pizza in your home oven, preheats faster than cordierite stones, easy to clean, practically indestructible, doesn't show wear like cordierite stones

Cons: Heavy to lift, gets too hot for baking bread or cooking on the grill

If you're buying a pizza stone, it's because you want to significantly up your game from the type of pizza you can get using a pizza pan, baking sheet, or skillet. The Original Baking Steel offers the biggest leap in pizza quality out of all the stones we tried. 

Unlike most traditional pizza stones, which are made from cordierite stone, the Baking Steel is (as the name suggests) made of steel, which transfers heat much faster. All materials have different thermal conductivity, meaning they hold and transfer heat differently. Some materials can behave much hotter than they actually are. That's why, for example, food cooks slower in a glass versus metal baking dish, or why it hurts to touch a hot oven rack, but only feels warm when you hold your hand in the oven air. When heated to 500 F, the Baking Steel behaves the same way as the surface of a traditional 900 F brick oven. 

The Baking Steel consistently made the most well-browned, bubbly pizzas, with great speckling across the bottom of the crust. This not only made for pizza with a better texture, but also a more robust flavor, since those browned bits offer much more flavor. "If you're really obsessed with pizza, get the Steel," said Janjigian, who primarily uses the Baking Steel when making pizza. 

However, Janjigian said that the properties that make the Baking Steel great for pizza make it a bad choice for bread, which needs slower, more consistent heat to bake properly. In testing, the Baking Steel burned the bottoms of my loaves. Steel also isn't a good choice for making pizza on the grill, where the temperatures exceed 700 F and the exceptional heat transfer from the steel becomes overkill. "All that heat in the grill is going directly into the steel, which in turn is going into the bottom of your pizza," Janjigian said. "By the time it's done on top it's going to be burnt on the bottom."

That said, the Baking Steel really shines for turning your home oven into a pizza-making machine. I could tell from the second the dough landed on the steel and started to hiss and sizzle that I was in for an excellent pie. The slick, seasoned surface cleaned up easier than other stones, and while this is a minor attribute, I liked that the dark color didn't show wear the way cordierite stones do. 

Practically speaking, the steel is a rectangular 14 inches by 16 inches, which makes it versatile for pizzas that are large or aren't perfectly round. Since it's made from steel it's also basically indestructible and thus much more durable than cordierite, which is prone to cracking and breaking. If you're really serious about pizza quality, the Baking Stone is absolutely the best all-around choice. 

The best pizza stone for bread
Solido stone

This cordierite pizza stone bakes good pizza, but also produces excellent bread, making it a great choice for those looking to make a variety of recipes with their pizza stone. 

Pros: Makes decent pizza and excellent bread, cleans up easily, has feet for easy maneuvering 

Cons: Produces less browning, takes a long time to preheat, cordierite is prone to cracking and staining

Previously our best overall pick, the Solido 14x16 Cordierite Pizza Stone makes delicious pizza that is moist, springy, and chewy. However, it didn't produce quite the level of browning as the baking steel — the pizza was good, but still distinctly home-baked pizza not reminiscent of restaurant pizza. Still, the results are much better than what you'd get from a pan or baking sheet, and this stone excelled in one area where the Baking Steel couldn't: baking bread. 

Unlike steel, which gets hot fast and channels all that heat right into the pizza, cordierite stones like the Solido absorb and release heat slowly. They take about two hours to preheat in the oven and a very long time to cool down enough to handle after cooking. This slow heat is decent for pizza, but exceptional for baking bread, which relies on consistent heat over a much longer bake time. The Solido stone made loaves that were beautifully browned and is well-shaped to accommodate longer, oblong loaves like baguettes or rustic breads.

Design-wise, it's pretty basic: a 14 inch by 16 inch rectangular slab of cordierite, similar to most cordierite stones out there and a good shape and size for making both pizza and bread. However, the Solido stone has one small feature that gave it the edge over the other cordierite stone we tried: feet. The stone has raised grooves along the bottom that lift it off the oven rack and make it much easier to grab and move around. While this is a minor design feature, it distinguished the Solido stone from other very similar stones. 

Its rounded corners also fit better when I tried it on a charcoal grill. However, like all cordierite stones, it takes a long time to preheat, which makes it an inefficient option for grilling unless  you want to waste a ton of propane or charcoal. 

This is a great stone if you loathe the idea of a unitasker — it made great oven pizza and excellent bread. It was also simple to clean, though it retained stains like all cordierite stones are prone to do. Cordierite is prone to cracking or breaking if not cared for properly, so we don't expect this stone is any different, though we didn't see any cracking during testing.

The best pizza stone for the grill
Lodge pan slide

This round cast-iron stone has handles for easy maneuvering and is perfectly sized and shaped for making pizza on both charcoal and gas grills. 

Pros: Good thermal conductivity for well-browned pizzas, cleans up easily, doesn't show stains, circular shape fits well on round grill, handles make moving easy

Cons: Difficult to slide a pizza onto its circular shape

While you can make pizza directly on your grill's grates (in fact, this is the method Janjigian recommends if you're interested in grilled pizza), a stone makes the process less daunting and potentially less messy. However, using a pizza stone on the grill requires some adjustments to standard pizza stone best practices. While the Baking Steel will heat up super quickly, it will also burn your pizza in minutes in the ultra hot grill. By contrast, cordierite stones make underbaked pizzas on the grill unless you preheat the stone for an hour or so beforehand, using a lot of fuel. 

That's why the Lodge 15 Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Pizza Pan is really well-suited to cooking on the grill; it offers a happy medium between steel and cordierite in how quickly it heats up and how fast it transfers heat to your pizza. In testing, the Lodge pan was ready to go after about a half hour of preheating on my gas grill, and it cooked a beautifully baked pie with good spotting on the top and excellent browning on the bottom. The built-in handles made it easy to transfer the stone in and out of the grill, and it cleans up easily with just a sponge and some water. Note that it's best to use soap sparingly when cleaning cast iron, so you don't strip the slick nonstick seasoning. 

Grilling was also the only situation where I found the circular stone to have an advantage over rectangular stones; you can read more about circular versus rectangular stones here. While the rectangular stones fit fine on my gas grill, some didn't fit at all on my small kettle charcoal grill. The round stone fit nicely in both the gas and charcoal grill, and left plenty of room for air circulation.  

The stone isn't just for grilling though; it made excellent pizza in my oven, but I found its circular shape was less forgiving than rectangular stones. With a round stone, you have to aim perfectly. If I was off center by just a bit when sliding the pizza off the peel, the dough hung off the edge and made a mess in my oven. This stone is a great option if you're a seasoned pizza pro or are dabbling in the world of grilled pizza, but most other users will get better benefits from one of our other rectangular picks. 

What else we recommend
What else we considered

Pizza stones are relatively simple pieces of equipment; usually just slabs of stone or metal with little difference between models. All of the products we tested made great pizza, and top choices came down to minor differences like size, shape, handles, and feet. Here are noteworthy models that didn't quite make our top picks, but are still good choices:

  • Honey-Can-Do 14x16 Cordierite Pizza Stone ($59.99): Previously sold as the Old Stone Oven pizza stone, this model has changed a bit now that it's sold by Honey-Can-Do. Reviewers report that the new stone doesn't have feet like the old stone, and that the corners are sharper. I tested the new stone and found it made great pizza on par with the Solido 14x16 Cordierite Pizza Stone in our lineup. However, it had no distinguishing features to earn it a space on our top picks. Furthermore, it seems as though there's still confusion among retailers about the old stone versus the new stone, with listings on Amazon and Walmart showing photos of the old stone, but sending buyers the new stone instead. These issues are made more frustrating by fluctuating stock and significant price mark-ups from third party retailers. We'll revisit whether this stone makes the top picks when the company clears up the confusion. 
Our testing methodology
Our methodology

In addition to interviewing Andrew Janjigian, a pizza expert, we put each pizza stone through a series of tests to judge how well they made pizza, and how easy they were to move, use, and clean. Here's how we tested and rated pizza stones:

Shape: I researched dozens of stones, but after conferring with Janjigian, focused on rectangular stones when I could because the shape is more versatile and easy to use.

How it made pizza: We preheated each stone in a 500 degree oven for two hours and then used it to make three thin-crust pizzas using a recipe from Serious Eats, a website known for its science-based, well-tested recipes over the course of several weeks, adjusting cook time, oven temperature, and stone position in between pizzas in pursuit of the best results. A good pizza should have a well-browned, bubbly crust that is crisp on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside; cheese should be fully melted in the time it takes to cook the crust. My husband and I both sampled each finished pizza for flavor and texture.I only tested the cast-iron pan on a charcoal grill because its size, shape, and material were best suited for that use.

How it made bread: Many people bake bread with their pizza stones, so I used each to make an easy recipe for crusty white bread from King Arthur, a respected flour company where Janjigian teaches baking classes. I looked for loaves that were well-baked inside, and browned (but not burnt) on the bottom. 

Ease of Use: I frequently moved the stones in and out of the oven using oven mitts, and with my bare hands when the stones had cooled down, noting how easy and comfortable they were to move. After each use, I cleaned the stone according to manufacturer instructions, evaluating how easily they cleaned up and noting their appearance after use and cleaning. 

Durability: I didn't intentionally drop any stones during testing, as I know that cordierite in particular is prone to cracking and breaking, having broken a few of these stones in the past. Instead, I consulted with an expert and did my own research about the durability of different materials.  

What we look forward to testing
What we look forward to testing

We plan to continually test new pizza stones and add them to this guide. Here are some products on our radar: 

  • Love This Kitchen Ultimate 16-inch Round Pizza Stone ($45.97): Previously our top pick for best circular stone, this model was out of stock at the time of testing for this guide. While I think rectangular stones are more versatile and easy to use than circular stones, I was intrigued that this circular stone offers a "no-spill stopper" — a little raised lip at the back of the stone that's meant to stop pizza from sliding over the edge (a common complaint in circular stones). Now that it appears back in stock at Amazon, I look forward to seeing how this model compares to the top picks in our guide.
  • Bialetti Taste of Italy Baking Stone Tile Set ($21.85): This set comes with four 7.5 inch tiles that you can either use individually or put together to make one large stone. The smaller and customizable shape might be a good option for those with smaller home ovens that can't fit a large 14 inch by 16 inch pizza stone.
  • NerdChef Steel Stone, Standard ($74.99): Slightly less expensive than our top pick, the Original Baking Steel, this steel pizza stone is also made of conductive steel. The shape and thickness are similar to our top pick, but the NerdChef model has two finger-sized holes for moving and storing the steel. 
  • Dough-Joe Samurai Pizza Steel ($75.87): Another Baking Steel copycat, this model was reviewed by one of our reporters, who found it identical in performance to the Baking Steel. I look forward to putting it through all the tests for this guide and reporting back my findings. 
What to look for in a pizza stone
What to look for

Here are some considerations to think about when looking for a pizza stone: 

Shape: One might think that since pizza is round, a pizza stone should be too. But we actually think you'll get much better pizza out of a rectangular stone. "With a round stone, if you miss that target by a little, [the pizza] is going to hang off the edge," said Janjigian. "You don't have to aim perfectly with a rectangular stone." Rectangular stones are often larger, so they also hold more heat, which can make a pizza with better browning. Finally, rectangular stones are more versatile. "I want the real estate for things that aren't perfectly round," said Janjigian, who also uses a pizza stone to bake bread. The only time we see a round stone having an advantage is for grilling, since larger rectangular stones sometimes don't fit, especially on circular grills. For almost all uses, rectangular is the way to go. 

Size: "I want my stone to be as big as my oven rack, minus some space for air flow," says Janjigian. A larger stone not only holds more heat, but provides plenty of real estate for larger pies and long baked goods like baguettes. We found a stone that is about 16 inches by 14 inches to be the ideal size for most home ovens. If you're looking for a cordierite stone, thicker is also better, says Janjigian, because thicker stones are less prone to cracking. Our favorite cordierite stone measures ¾ inch thick, and we found this size to be a good compromise between durability and maneuverability. 

Weight: While lighter stones may be easier to transport in and out of the oven, Janjigian says that heavier stones will produce better pizza. "The lighter it is, the less mass it has, and the less it can heat the pie," he says. A heavier stone will hold a lot of heat, and make a well-browned pizza. Pizza stones usually weigh about nine pounds, but most of our top picks are 13 to 16 pounds because they're thicker or made with heavier material like steel or cast iron.

Material: We looked at stones made from steel, cordierite (a heat-resistant mineral), and cast iron, all of which have different thermal properties, and thus, different uses. Of these, steel absorbs and transfers heat the fastest, which makes it ideal for pizza in the home oven. If you're serious about good home pizza, we recommend opting for a pizza steel. Cordierite stones make decent pizza, but have less thermal mass than steel, so the crust tends to be paler and less developed. However, cordierite is a great choice if you plan on using your stone to bake bread, since other materials tend to burn loaves. If you hate the idea of a unitasker and have a robust baking repertoire, a cordierite stone will absolutely do the trick. Finally, cast iron offers a happy medium between steel and cordierite in terms of heat conductivity. However, we have yet to find a rectangular cast iron stone, only circular pans, which are trickier to use. We think circular cast iron pizza stones are a good option if you're interested in grilled pizza, especially if you have a round grill. 

Price: Pizza stones are basically just slabs of materia so be wary of any stone priced significantly more or less than competitors made from the same material. Expect to pay about $40 to $60 for a cordierite or cast iron stone and $70 to $90 for a steel. You won't get a significant increase in performance from something priced higher. 

FAQs
FAQs

Why do I need a pizza stone?

A pizza stone can help you make restaurant-quality pizza at home. Many pizza joints use commercial or wood fired ovens that can reach 900+ F, creating the well-browned crust you expect from a restaurant pie. Home ovens don't get that hot, so pizza made in a pan or sheet tray usually comes out doughy and pale. A pizza stone recreates some of the restaurant experience by providing a super hot surface to cook the pizza one, resulting in better browning and bubbling.

Can I use a pizza stone in a countertop or toaster oven?

The stones we tested are too big for most toaster ovens, and most toaster ovens don't reach the temperatures needed to churn out good pizza (many max out at 450 F). Some circular stones may fit in large countertop smart ovens like the June Oven

Do I need to preheat my pizza stone?

Absolutely. You'll only get the benefits of using a pizza stone or steel if you preheat it. You should preheat most stones and steels for one to two hours, enough time for the stone to get as hot as the air around it. If you don't, the results won't be much different than what you get from using a pizza pan or baking sheet. 

Why does my stone look discolored or dirty, even after cleaning it?

Discoloration is totally normal and, while your pizza stone will never look as pristine as the day you bought it, those stains and smudges can actually help make your pizza stone more nonstick over time. Materials like cast iron and carbon steel become more "seasoned" with use, as oils bond to the surface and form a naturally protective coating. It's important to clean all types of pizza stones gently and without soap when you can; cordierite is very porous and that soapy flavor can soak into the stone and impact the flavor of your pizza. Steel and cast iron should similarly be cleaned lightly so as not to disturb the built-up seasoning. Use a metal or plastic spatula to scrape big chunks of debris off of the stone when you're done cooking, and wipe the surface lightly with water and a soft sponge. Any leftover stickiness or stuck-on bits will likely burn off the next time you preheat the stone. Those leftover marks might be unsightly, but they won't impact performance. 

Why did my stone crack?

Cast iron and steel stones should never crack, as both are extremely durable materials. Almost all cracking occurs with cordierite stones. Despite being "stone," cordierite pizza stones are relatively delicate. A common cause of cracking is thermal shock, which is when the stone is rapidly exposed to a drastically different temperature. You should never put a room temperature stone in a hot oven; always put the stone in a cold oven and allow it to preheat. Similarly, avoid putting frozen food onto a blazing hot stone (yes, that includes frozen pizza) and let the stone cool completely in the oven before removing or washing it.

Stones can also crack from too much moisture. Cordierite stones are very porous; they'll absorb moisture from the food cooking and from washing. If you don't give your stone time to dry after washing it, the water can remain in the stone and cause a build-up of steam the next time you heat the stone, resulting in a crack. Finally, stones can crack from even minor drops (this is how I broke my first stone); treat your stone as gently as you would a piece of pottery when handling or moving it.

Pizza stone tips and tricks
Pizza Stone Tips and Tricks

Making great pizza at home takes practice. Here are some tips and tricks I've learned over seven years of working in professional kitchens for getting the most out of your pizza stone.

Crank up the heat: Heat is your friend when cooking pizza. Some pizza aficionados have been known to toggle with broiler settings and even try to hack their oven's self-clean cycles in pursuit of perfect home pizza. While we don't think you need to go that far, we recommend cranking the heat in your oven up to 500 F if you're using a steel or 550 F if you're using a cordierite stone. 

Preheat your stone in the oven: Put your stone in the cold oven and preheat both stone and oven together for one to two hours. This step is essential for achieving a well-browned pizza.

Use a pizza peel: A peel is a tool to shuttle your pizza on and off the blazing hot stone. After years of using makeshift peels, including the back of a skillet and an overturned sheet pan, I finally took the plunge and purchased a pizza peel. It makes the process significantly easier and less daunting. I build my pizza right on the peel for an easy transition from the counter to the oven.

Rotate the pizza: Give the pizza a turn once through baking with the help of your peel or a good set of kitchen tongs. The back of the oven tends to be hotter than the front, so rotating your pizza once during cooking can help prevent burning.

Tweak and refine: It takes practice to make great pizza at home. Don't be discouraged if your first pizza ends up burnt or too doughy inside. Try different recipes and tinker with cooking times and temperatures until you find what works for your oven. 

Turbocharge your pizza making: If you're really wild about homemade pizza, Janjigian says you can buy both a stone and steel and put them together to "supercharge" your pizza making. "If you put the steel on top of the stone, the stone acts like a battery to continually pump heat into the steel," he says. This tip is primarily for those super-invested in making pizza at home, but the steel-on-stone method can be great for churning out pie after pie, or getting the char and bubbling on the crust you normally only really get from wood fired ovens. 

Let your stone cool: After you take out your pizza, let your stone stay in the oven until both are completely cooled to avoid any potential cracking. This can take several hours, but it's important for maintaining the durability of your stone.

Use soap and water sparingly: Use a spatula and a dry cloth to scrape any burnt bits off the pizza stone; this should be enough for most messes. With all materials, be reserved with soap, which can strip the seasoning off of steel and cast iron and impart a bad flavor onto pizza made with porous cordierite stones. If you use water to clean a cordierite stone, let it dry for at least 48 hours before you use it again.

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