Nothing to worry about! Mine looks like this:
It’s been used about five times and already it’s looking like an artifact that’s been freshly dug out of deep dirt and grime. It may look disgusting, but think of it this way: when a woman has more wrinkles, that means she’s got more character. When a baking stone has marks and stubborn stains, it could probably give your baked goods that extra flavor. And character. You may not believe this, but once I scraped off a piece of hardened pizza crust and put it in my mouth. It tasted like the world’s best potato chip! No hyperbole there…
In my haste to use my baking stone for the Norwich sourdough I made last month, I read the instructions too quickly. What stayed in my mind were two things: when using it the first time, bake the baking stone for a good hour inside a hot oven. This will make it sturdier. I managed to do that. Second, never expose the stone to cold water.
After I used it, I would wait for it to completely cool, and then use a potato cleaning brush to scrape off excess crumbs after which I put it back into the oven. Yes, you can leave it there almost permanently. For baked goods not requiring a baking stone like cookies and cakes, you can just set the baking sheet on top of it. But be careful about putting heavier pans or pots on top of it.
This morning my brother asked me, "are you sure we can’t wash that baking stone?" Typical of someone who knows that a quick reading of instructions has its pitfalls, I took out the box and re-read the instructions. I also read people’s comments online about how they cared for theirs.
So everyone, this is the consensus:
- you can wash your baking stone but only with hot water (I wouldn’t wash it after every use; I’d wash it only occasionally or when it’s beginning to look like a war zone instead of a stone)
- never use soap. Why? Most baking stones are porous and soap will penetrate the stone, giving your baked goods a soapy taste (once in awhile I enjoy soaps but not in my food)
- take off any crusts or leftover "stickies" with a good metal spatula
- wipe your baking stone with a damp cloth
I read that someone put her stone in the dishwasher. She said it came out fine. I’ll pass on that one!
I bought my baking stone from Keilen Ltd, a division of Indiana-based Columbian Home Products LLC. I’d like to reproduce – verbatim – what their care instructions are:
The traditional way to clean your pizza stone is to brush or scrape it clean and wipe it with a dry cloth to remove any crumbs. If you prefer to wash your stone, never use soap, as the residue will accumulate in the unglazed stone itself. Use hot water only, after the stone has been allowed to cool. Your stone will darken with use. This is normal and does not affect the baking performance in any way.
Hope that eases your fears. And did I say you could leave it inside the oven? Yes, do leave it there, unless you absolutely need to take it out. Frequent handling may cause an accident (of the worst kind).
In a previous post, I said that my pizza tasted great when I baked it on the stone, but I’ll say it one more time: homemade pizzas taste so much better with this clever invention!