Using Pizza Peels

Should you use a wooden pizza peel to build your pizza and set it in your oven, or should your make it on a flat surface, and use a metal peel to place it in your oven? There are three schools of thought, so you can try them all, and decide what works for you.

The mainstream method used by restaurants and professional pizzaiolo's is to build your pizza on a solid, cool counter (such as marble or granite), then slide a metal pizza peel under the pizza to set it in the oven. Aluminum is the metal of choice for the placing peel you use to set you pizzas, as it is slippery, and your bread and pizza will slide right off. If your oven is large enough for multiple pizzas, and you want to put pizzas in the back or sides, you will want a peel with long handle. Extruded (hollow, rectangular) aluminum is a good handle choice, as it is lighter than steel or wood, is each to keep the peel level, and lasts longer.

An option used by many homeowners is to assemble your pizzas on short wood pizza peels, then slide them onto the metal placing peel to set them in the oven. This technique is little lower and less easy for a professional, but minimizes the chance that you, or your guests, will ruin a pizza when it sticks to the counter. We keep a number of short wooden peels around the house for parties, which guests use to make their own pizzas. This also works well for kids.

The final option is use a long handled wood pizza peel to both assemble your pizza, and slide it into your oven. This technique pretty much eliminates the risk of something going wrong, but long wood peels can be difficult to move around the kitchen and it can get crowded the lots of guests and lots of long wood peels all converging on the oven. Still, if you are only going to make a few pizzas, it can be a convenient, low stress, method.

Make sure your placing peel is large enough to hold your pizza (and the ones your guests make), as an uncooked pizza will sag over the edge of the peel and make a mess. The placing peel should be rectangular, as you will use the flat front edge to slide under the assembled made pizzas. It can be challenging for the home pizzaiolo to slide a round, or small, peel under a pizza that your friend (or child) has lovingly made -- we've been there.

I like to use flour, rather than cornmeal, which is the Italian tradition. Besides, I don't like the taste or texture of cornmeal. Rice flour is also good at keeping pizzas from sticking to the peel.

Regardless of how you placed your pizza in the oven, you will need a round metal (not rectangular) peel to turn it, and pull it out -- it is very difficult to do this with a wooden peel or rectangular metal peel. For turning and moving the pizzas in the oven, use a small round peel. It can be as small as 8", which makes it easy to rotate the pizza to cook evenly facing the fire. The small round size also works well for removing your pizza, as the cooked pizza comes out flat and doesn't sag over the edge. The Forno Bravo round peels have a slide that moves up and down the handle, and makes it easy to control the peel around inside the oven.