For a truly authentic pizza-making experience, using a pizza peel can make you feel like a perfect artisan. Both restaurants and enthusiastic homemade-pizza creators use pizza peels to complete the pizza-making experience and serve up delicious food.
Pizza peels are a time-tested and ingenious way to move pizzas directly into the heat of your oven without fear of burns or destroying the pizza itself.
Pizza peels work in unison with pizza stones, which are usually placed into the oven first to match the temperature before the pizza is placed on top. Pizza stones, trays, or grills provide fast cooking for the pizza crust when they are placed in the oven first. This process imitates a traditional brick oven for a more traditional and authentic pizza creation.
What is a Pizza Peel?
Pizza peels are more commonly used for a wood-fired oven as opposed to the usual kitchen style.
A pizza peel is a tool, usually made of wood, that is used to slide a pizza into and out of an oven. It is shaped like a canoe paddle with a wide enough blade to fit a round pizza.
Peels are also used to rotate the pizza inside the oven. The pizza can cook more evenly if it is rotated while baked. Rotation also cuts down on charring if the oven is unevenly heated with one side hotter than the other.
Kinds of Peels
Peels come in different shapes, sizes, and materials. Whether wooden or metal, square or round, pizza peels should be large enough to accommodate your pizza and sturdy enough to survive the heat of the oven.
Wooden peels are the more commonly-seen peels and are often shown on TV as the base for pizza construction. Wood is the most aesthetically pleasing style of peel, but it is also harder to maintain and can often burn or char due to the high oven temperature.
Often wooden peels are much thicker than other peels, which can make them harder to use. A thicker peel does not pick up a pizza as easily and can potentially destroy your baked creation when you’re trying to retrieve it.
Other than wood, aluminum is the most common material used to make pizza peels. The benefit of aluminum is that it’s slippery enough to dislodge a pizza without destroying it. This makes transferring your pizza into an oven an easy task with no hassle and no mess. Metal peels that are not aluminum tend to be stickier and therefore harder to use.
Metal peels are also easier to clean and maintain and do not have the same risks as wooden peels. Aluminum and metal peels are typically much thinner than wooden peels. A skinnier peel makes it incredibly simple to transfer pizzas in and out of the oven.
Round peels are most effective to turn a pizza. Rectangular metal or wooden peels can be used to turn pizzas, but they require a lot of experience for effective turns. Round peels are much easier to handle for this task.
Round peels are made smaller than traditional peels for better rotation and simple execution.
Peels come in various sizes, with long and short handles. The long-handle versions are ideal for placing a pizza into an oven. Long handles will better protect you from the heat and can reach into the back of the oven where it’s hottest. They are also the best choices for turning the pizza while cooking.
Round peels are typically long-handled as they are primarily used to turn and retrieve pizzas from the oven rear.
Shorter peels are popular as bases for making homemade pizzas. Instead of making a pizza on a plate or a long-handled peel, short-handled peels are best.
Short handles make it easier to move around the kitchen, so you can prepare your pizza on a counter or table or wherever your peel fits. Long-handled peels are too awkward to fit in smaller spaces, so they are generally overlooked for pizza creation.
With a short-handled peel, many people can create pizzas all at once with individual peels at the table. Transferring the pizza from a short peel to a long-handled peel is easy when both surfaces are floured.
Peels are better for pizza construction than plates or pans as they offer a wider base to support bigger pizzas and are perfectly flat so that the pizza will not turn out deformed.
Methods of Use
There are three main ways to use a pizza peel. You can make your pizza on top of a wooden peel and then place it in the oven. Alternatively, you can make your pizza on the counter and use a metal peel for transport. You can also make the pizza on a shorter wooden peel before placing it on a metal peel.
Where you put your pizza together and how you transport it into the oven depends on your preference and what kind of pizza you are aiming to make.
The Wooden Peel
Using a long-handled wooden peel cuts down on steps for transferring the pizza. It also prevents damaging the pizza when you don’t have to move it onto the peel after putting it together. First, you make the pizza on the peel, and then the pizza is placed into the oven by the peel.
To transfer a pizza onto a pizza stone, use a swift back-and-forth motion with the peel to dislodge the pizza and send it sliding cleanly onto the stone. If the movement is jarring or not smooth enough, it will send the pizza partway off the peel and end up stretching the dough out of shape.
Flouring the peel can protect against the pizza sticking and make it easier to shift onto the stone. To pick up the pizza, slip the wooden peel underneath the crust and lift it off the pizza stone.
Long-handled peels protect you from the heat of a wood-fired oven, but they can be cumbersome to wield in a small or crowded kitchen.
Counter to Metal Peel
First, the construction of the pizza takes place on a cool countertop. Then the pizza is transferred to a floured metal peel to place in the oven. Counter to metal is the most common technique used by restaurants.
When used at home, take care to place the pizza first on the peel and then into the oven. Flouring the counter can reduce sticky dough, but it can still be problematic to transfer the pizza onto the peel. If done incorrectly, the pizza could lose its shape and become stretched. Stretching the dough will result in uneven cooking.
If using the peel to pry the pizza from the counter, remember to slide it underneath the dough and not let the metal edge pinch into the middle of the crust. Pinching could cause the dough to fold underneath itself. It’s easier to hold the peel next to the counter and sweep the pizza onto the metal, so long as the counter has been floured and is slippery enough to move the dough.
The same swift back-and-forth motion is necessary to dislodge the pizza cleanly from peel to pizza stone or tray. It is sometimes much more efficient to slip a finished pizza back onto a metal peel than a wooden peel. Metal peels are thinner and are easier to fit under a cooked pizza.
Wooden Peel to Metal Peel
The pizza is assembled on top of a short-handled wooden peel before being moved onto a metal peel. The metal peel then places the pizza into the oven.
For this technique to work, you must sprinkle both peels with flour. Flouring the peels allows the pizza to easily slide from one to the other and into the oven.
Going from wooden peel to metal peel takes longer than counter to peel, but it lowers the risk of destroying the pizza if you can’t get it off the counter. Flouring all surfaces will prevent the pizza from sticking, but even so, it’s much easier to use a smaller wooden peel to slide a pizza onto a metal peel than it is to slide it off a counter and try to catch it.
Why Should You Use a Peel?
The purpose of a pizza peel is to handle the pizza safely. A peel helps to prevent accidental burns.
Pizzas are cooked in very hot climates on top of blazing surfaces and in the rear part of the oven. The placement makes it difficult to reach the pizza and keep it from burning. Peels make this whole process much easier, as they can access the back of the oven and safely turn the pizza without leaving you exposed to heat.
If you’re making homemade pizzas, often the underside of the pizza isn’t cooked as well as it should be. This disparity is because the usual home-pizza technique is the same as any other baking: you make the pizza on a tray, and then the tray is placed in the oven.
However, restaurant and traditional-style pizzas require placing the pizza on an already hot surface to more evenly cook the underside and give it a tasty crunch. That’s why using pizza stones or interior oven trays is more common for baking a pizza.
A pizza peel makes the pizza transfer onto this hot surface much more manageable and protects you from burning yourself.
Making the Pizza on Your Peel
When you’re putting together your pizza on top of your peel, you must flour the surface first to reduce sticking. After properly rolling out the dough into the desired shape and size, you can place it on top of the floured peel to begin constructing your pizza.
With the handle, shaking the peel back and forth in small, jerking motions will ensure the pizza sticks to the flour and not the peel itself. If it can slide evenly on the surface of your peel, it is less likely that it will glue itself down and, therefore, will come off smoothly when it’s time to place in the oven.
Once you are satisfied with the sauce and toppings placement, you can either transfer the pizza to another floured peel or put it directly into the oven.
Pizza peels are convenient and professional ways to place your artisan pizza into a wood-fired oven. Using wooden peels, counter to metal, or wooden to metal techniques are practical and sufficient ways to transport a pizza.
A quick back-and-forth shake is all that’s needed to neatly dislodge a floured pizza and deposit it onto a pizza stone for cooking. Round peels are simple tools to rotate and evenly cook a pizza while it’s still in the oven. To transfer a pizza cleanly, decisive movements and flouring all surfaces will ensure no mishaps.