Pizza Stone vs Pizza Steel vs Pizza Oven Stone—they all sound familiar, but they are three entirely different products, each with a clearly defined target use case. Let’s get into it.

Pizza stones usage has moved from people who are serious about making pizza and baking to the mass market over recent years. A pizza stone is typically made from cordierite, an expensive material that is the byproduct of mining for other, more valuable minerals. When most people think about a pizza stone, they’re imaging a 13′ round, or 14×14″ square stone that’s about 1/4″ thick. Some come with a wire stand, or a pizza cutter, or maybe a wood pizza peel. You can find them everywhere, from Target to Walmart and everywhere in between. They pretty much all come from China and prices start around $10, with about $30 as the sweet-spot. This pizza stone from Amazon has over 8,000 good reviews, and Amazon says they sell about 1,000 per month.

But here’s the thing. Pizza stones are not the best choice for making pizza in your conventional oven. They don’t hold a lot of heat, and they aren’t really efficient at transferring heat into a pizza in your standard oven. They’re so-so. Better than nothing, but not even close to cooking in a real pizza oven at 750-900ºF. The New York Times Wirecutter reviewed pizza stones (it wasn’t a bad as most pizza and pizza oven related reviews, but it was only OK), and concluded that a thick cordierite stone was the best overall stone, but not the best stone for pizza.

They liked the pizza stone because, while it wasn’t the best for making pizza, it didn’t get as hot or transfer heat as fast as a pizza stone. Let’s be clear, the good folks at Wirecutter wrote a stupidly long article about pizza stones without saying “buy a pizza steel, unless you bake a lot of bread”, which very few people actually do. And those who are really good at both bread and pizza can get a pizza stone for bread, and a pizza steel for pizza.

Which is why a pizza stone should be called a baking stone. But no one will do that. The term search for by an overwhelming number is pizza stone.

Which brings us to pizza steels. The company called Baking Steel figured out that steel absorbs heat and transfers it to your pizzas very efficiently, and they’ve been richly rewarded. Is a pizza steel better than a pizza stone (read cordierite) for making pizza in a conventional oven. Yes. Absolutely, yes.

But a standard 14×16″ pizza steel from Baking Steels dot com is a $140 — ridiculously expensive for the task it performs. It is, after all, a piece of CNC milled stainless steel, more the stuff of an industrial manufacturer, not a high-end, high-profit margin lifestyle company. There are also various pizza steels made in China and available on Amazon. I’ve never used on; I guess I should.

Oh, and Ooni saw a high-margin market opportunity, and they started selling pizza steels. Smart guys.

But, I want to be clear. We’re talking about making a pretty darn good pizza in a 500-550ºF conventional oven, with the broiler on—where you’re trying to the some good rise, Leopard spots on your cornicione, and mostly importantly, the top and bottom of your pizza are done at the same time.

We’re not talking about making a “real” Italian pizza. We aren’t talking about Pizza Napoletana and the great pizza you get from a 900ºF oven. That requires a real pizza oven and a completely different type of cooking floor.

Why? Because in your conventional oven you are trying to get your stone as hot as possible and you want it to transfer that heat as efficiently as possible. Because you are making pizza in a 500ºF oven. In a 900ºF oven, the problem is that your cooking floor transfers heat into your pizza too fast, and it burns the bottom and the sides before the top is done. That’s why you’re always have to hold your pizza up near the oven dome, off the floor, to “finish” your pizza. The problem is that your floor is hotter than your dome.

A pizza steel in a pizza oven is a disaster. Think burned to a crisp. The standard Ooni and Gozney ovens comes with thin cordierite stones—exactly like the cheap pizza stone you find in Amazon. Why? Because it works (sort of) and it’s cheap.

Larger pizza ovens, including some steel ovens and most refractory ovens come with a firebrick cooking floor. They’re thicker than the cheap cordierite stones, they hold a lot more heat, the cook better, they’re much more resistant to cracking and they’ll last a lot longer.

What you really need is an authentic, Italian Biscotto stone for your portable pizza oven, such as Ooni and Gozney, your steel pizza oven, such as Alfa, Fontana, Forno Venetzia, and your refractory pizza oven, such as Forno Bravo, Mugnaini or Biscotto di Sorrento. Biscotto stones are hand made in Sorrento, Italy, using alluvial clay from the area around Naples, and they’re great at holding high pizza oven temperatures, and slowly releasing to make great pizza, not burned pizza. All the great pizza ovens and pizzerias from Naples use Biscotto stones.

You can too.