Using Pizza Peels to Prepare and Place Pizza
Should you use a wooden pizza peel to build your pizza and set it in your oven, or should you make it on a flat surface and use a metal peel to place it in your oven? There are three schools of thought preparing and placing pizzas; you can try them all and decide what works for you.
Option 1 – Countertop and Metal Peel
The mainstream method used by restaurants and professional pizzaiolos is to build your pizza on a solid, cool counter (such as marble or granite), then slide a lightly floured, 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 your pizza, 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 a long handle. Extruded (hollow, rectangular) aluminum is a good handle choice, as it is lighter than steel or wood, is easy to keep the peel level, and lasts longer.
Option 2 – Wooden Peel to Metal Peel
An option used by many homeowners is to assemble your pizza on a short-handled wooden pizza paddle, then slide it onto the metal placing peel to set it in the oven. This pizza peel technique takes a little longer and is more cumbersome for a professional, but it minimizes the chance that you, or your guests, will ruin a pizza when it sticks to the counter. Keep a number of short wooden peels around the house for parties, which guests can use to make their own pizzas. This also works well for kids. Just make sure to put some flour under the pizza and give it a little shake to ensure it is loose before transferring it to the second peel or the oven.
Option 3 – Long-Handled Wooden Peel
The final option is using pizza peels to both assemble your pizza and slide it into your oven. This pizza peel 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 with lots of guests and lots of long, wooden 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 pizza. 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 — sticking is actually pretty common.
Avoid putting too many toppings on your pizza (weight can make the pizza stick to the peel.) Often, when a guest makes their first pizza, they tend to go crazy and pile a mountain of toppings, which usually fall all over the place. Also avoid getting tomato sauce, or any kind of moisture on the peel. This may also cause the pizza to stick.
Many people prefer to use flour on their peel, rather than cornmeal, which is the Italian tradition. It can be a simple preference issue if you don’t like the taste or texture of cornmeal. Rice flour is also good at keeping pizzas from sticking to the peel. Whatever you use, use it sparingly. Too much flour or cornmeal can burn and become bitter on the bottom of your pizza.
Regardless of how you placed your pizza in the oven, you will need a round, metal 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 making it easy to control the peel inside of the oven.
Pizza Peels 101 – Learn more by checking out our recent blog post on Pizza Peels covering:
- The history of the peel;
- Options in materials, shape, and size;
- Pro tips and techniques for using Pizza Peels.
Learn More Brick Oven Cooking Techniques
Check out these related articles about Brick Oven Cooking Techniques.
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