Pizza peels are a nifty tool for constructing a pizza so you can slide it on to a hot baking or pizza stone. With a dusting of cornmeal, you can build homemade pizza on a peel and transfer it smoothly to a hot stone, creating a professional pizza oven finish at home.
What Is A Pizza Peel?
A pizza peel is a flat board with a handle where you can build a small pizza. They can be built of wood, a composite wood, or metal. The most user-friendly pizza peels for home cooks need to feature
- a long handle, to keep yourself from getting burned on the hot stone while transferring your pizza
- a square head for an easy and controllable slide
- very thin material, so your dough moves quickly and safely without dumping raw pizza all over your hot oven.
A wood pizza peel can be pretty, but they can warp if not carefully dried after each use.
Composite pizza peels are more stable, but too thick for an easy move from peel to stone.
Metal pizza peels are easy to use during the danger points; that is, when moving pizza to or from a hot stone. Dough may be more likely to stick to a metal peel, but this can be corrected with flour, cornmeal, or parchment paper.
If you've got the storage space, American Metalcraft offers a large selection of square-headed pizza peels with enough handle to protect you from burns. These aluminum pizza peels are extremely thin so they are easier to handle.
A long handle is safer, but can be a challenge to store. Mario Batali's pizza peel offers a wooden handle, an aluminum work surface, and it folds for easy storage. This peel is a bit more expensive, but can save you a lot of space.
How To Use A Pizza Peel
If you're using a baking stone in conjunction with your pizza peel, preheat the oven with your baking stone inside until everything reaches 450 degrees Fahrenheit / 232 degrees Celsius. While the oven is heating, prepare your pizza on the peel.
Use room temperature dough and don't let your pizza get too big; large circles of raw pizza dough will not slide easily. Dust your peel with flour or cornmeal. Italian pizza experts with Forno Bravo recommend wheat and rice flour to keep your pizza from sticking to your peel. Cornmeal will work, as will parchment paper.
Fold up the edges of the dough to give your pizza some shape and prevent spills of sauce, toppings or oil. If you're using a yeast crust, prick the dough to avoid bubbles. Brush the crust with olive oil, then add your toppings.
There are many wonderful recipes for homemade pizza dough. Authorities at Food and Wine have assembled a terrific collection of pizza toppings and enough crust options to satisfy any pizza preference.
Anyone interested in making homemade pizza to work with room temperature ingredients. Adding cold pizza dough to a hot stone can break the stone, putting you at risk of burns and leaving you with a huge, dangerous mess.
Once your pizza is assembled, shake it around on the peel to make sure it's still able to slide. If it sticks, lift around the edges of the dough and add flour until the you locate the area that's sticking, then shake it again to keep it loose. You can avoid dealing with wheat flour, rice flour or cornmeal by building your pizza on parchment paper.
Baking Wood-Fired Pizza At Home
Per food experts with Eating Well, the ideal baking temperature for wood-fired pizza ovens is 600 degrees Fahrenheit / 316 degrees Celsius.
As many home cooks don't have that capability, another option to approximate this heat is to preheat a baking stone in the oven, create your pizza from room temperature dough and transfer it with a pizza peel.
Making Great Pizza Without A Stone
Pizza stones can be hard to get out of the oven and are cumbersome to handle. If you prefer a crisp crust but don't like working with a stone, food expert Carrie Havranek with TheKitchn.com has some great guidance for making crisp pizza dough directly on the oven rack using a rimless baking sheet as a peel and a par-baking surface.
- Use a rimless baking sheet as a work surface after a heavy dusting of flour or cornmeal. Once you've folded up the edges, bake the crust on the baking sheet at 450 degrees Fahrenheit / 232 degrees Celsius until it holds its own shape well, or about five minutes.
- Use a metal spatula to loosen the crust from the baking sheet and slide it directly onto the rack. Let the crust bake for another three to five minutes, then remove it from the oven and add the toppings.
- This crust is now ready to return to the oven directly on the rack for a crisp, flavorful treat.
Pizza Is Worth The Practice!
Homemade pizza is customizable to your taste, and if you're working small, you can make several pizzas to suit everyone. Working with a hot pizza stone and a peel is a great way to recreate wood fired pizza in your home.
Try out a few homemade crust recipes until you find your favorite, and practice with the peel until you can create a small pizza that can easily slip from peel to stone.