You finally have your home pizza oven, and now it’s time to get to work on learning the best way to get your pizza in and out of the oven. In comes the pizza peel. If you have a pizza oven, you definitely need a pizza peel, and you will need to take some time to practice how to use a pizza peel with your pizza oven.
What is a Pizza Peel?
A pizza peel is a pizza accessory that is essential to moving the pizza in and out of the oven. Think of it like a large spatula that’s only job is to take the pizza in and out of the oven.
Pizza peels come in different shapes, sizes, and materials, and they all have pros and cons, so choosing the best pizza peel for your oven is an important step on your path to becoming the best home pizzaiolo you can be.
Which Pizza Peel is Best
Pizza peels can be round or square with short handles or long handles. The most common types of pizza peels are made from wood or metal, either aluminum or steel.
We like to use a square pizza peel because there is more workspace, but either round or square is fine. Depending on the size of your pizza oven, you can choose a short or long handle.
We always use a long handle mainly for safety to keep from burning hands and arms. But if you have a smaller indoor pizza oven, a short handle would be best.
Wood pizza peels are the classic pizza peel. They are thicker than metal ones and more difficult to clean. Wood pizza peels have a shelf life, and after a few years, they can warp. Metal peels are thinner, making them a bit easier to use, and because they are metal, they are easier to clean and store.
We have talked to many pizzaiolos about this, and there is no right or wrong pizza peel; the best one is based on preference and ease of use. Many serious home pizzaiolos have one of each.
And some even design their own custom engraved pizza peel to personalize the whole experience! If you don’t want to practice, and potentially ruin, your own homemade pizza creations, maybe try “peeling” take-and-bake pizzas until you get comfortable.
How to Use a Pizza Peel with a Pizza Oven
There are three basic steps for how to use a pizza peel; first, you have to launch the pizza into the oven, then turn the pizza which is especially important if you are using a wood-fired pizza oven, then you need to get the pizza out.
Before the first step, we highly recommend to sprinkle an anti-stick substance on your peel before placing the dough on it. We like to use cornmeal, but you can also use rice flour or semolina flour and cornmeal. Rice flour is light and will help your crust get crispy.
Be careful if you use semolina flour because it can stick to the crust and create burnt, bitter patches. We have used both granular cornmeal, and finer ground cornmeal both work great.
Avoid using olive oil or butter because the moisture will make the pizza stick to the peel.
Read about the differences between cornmeal and semolina. Then read on for more details on how to use your new pizza peel:
Launching the Pizza
First, stretch out your dough on a cutting board or counter, and when it’s stretched, you can transfer it to your peel. Once the pizza is on the peel, it is go-time, and you need to work fast. Spread your sauce but be careful to keep the peel dry; don’t let any sauce spill onto the peel.
Then add your toppings; less is more, and a heavier-loaded pizza is more difficult to move around. If you are using a perforated metal peel, be careful because if it sits too long, the dough will start to seep into the holes, making it a nightmare to put in the oven.
Now transfer the pizza to the preheated pizza oven. The motion should be quick and easy to get it to slide off into the oven. Try not to jiggle it because the toppings will fly off onto the surface of the oven. We suggest practicing with just a dough without toppings to get the movement right.
Turning the Pizza
If you are using a wood or gas pizza oven, you will need to turn your pizza during cooking so that it cooks evenly. Halfway through cooking, slide in the pizza peel under the pizza, and go gently. It may have stuck here or there, so gently using circular motions to lift it and turn it.
If you are using a regular home oven and pizza stone, you don’t need to do this step.
Removing the Pizza
This is actually the easiest part because when you turned the pizza, you already unstuck the stuck spots, and now the dough is cooked, making it firmer and easier to remove. Slide it under and take it out.
The most common error, especially if using a long handle, is the pizza sliding off of the peel and onto the ground, to the horror of your friends and family that are hungry for pizza. So be mindful when removing the pizza and placing it on a cutting board.
Let it rest before cutting; otherwise, gooey cheese goes everywhere. A minute or two gives it a chance to set. Then, cut and enjoy.
Even if you don’t have a pizza oven yet and are just using the standard oven, a pizza peel is still a good investment if you make a lot of pizza. Before we had a pizza oven, we had our pizza stone preheated in the oven and used the peel. It’s much easier learning how to use a pizza peel than trying to remove the thick and heavy hot pizza stone with oven mitts.
Now you know how to use a pizza peel. Don’t worry if you make a few mistakes along the way. It happens to every new pizzaiolo and is part of the learning process.
What is your favorite style of pizza peel?