The fire is lit, you’ve got a drink in your hand, and it’s time to make a masterpiece. Your friends and family watch as you launch your pizza into the oven and wait for the ideal moment to pull it out and devour it, like some sort of cheese-ninja.
The dough is cooked. The cheese is melted. You slide your pizza peel into the oven and pull the handle, but your worst nightmare suddenly comes true, and you’re left with a sad ball of dirt-covered mozzarella and a ravenous family.
Luckily, you don’t have to be that guy. Let us guide you as you learn la via della pala della pizza — the way of the pizza peel.
What is a pizza peel?
A pizza peel is an essential tool for making the perfect pizza. It’s kind of like a big spatula with a long handle which is great for...well, not burning your hands. Pizza peels are purpose-built for sliding pizzas in and out of the oven and are made from either wood or metal. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there are different techniques and tricks that help bring out the best in each of them.
How do I use a pizza peel?
A delicious pizza starts with a smooth launch. It’s not too difficult, and with some practice, you can be peeling like a pro.
- On the worktop, start by stretching and shaping your dough until it’s about the size of your pizza peel. Dust the peel with a mix of equal parts wheat flour, cornmeal, and semolina flour. Place your dough on top and stretch it back into shape. We would recommend using a wooden pizza peel (it’s less sticky for raw pizza dough).
- Throw on your favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings, but not too enthusiastically — you don’t want any sauce on your pizza peel. This could cause your pizza to stick.
- Now it’s time for the magic: Slide the pizza off your peel. The trick to this is to do it in one smooth, quick motion, kind of like when a magician pulls a tablecloth off a table but leaves the cutlery in place.
The Turn (When Using a Pizza Oven)
When you’re using a pizza oven, it’s important to rotate the pizza. This is because the flames make the heat distribution uneven. In a regular household oven, you don’t have to worry about this.
So if you’re using a pizza oven, you should rotate your pizza once it has started to cook and gets that slight, deliciously crunchy char. Otherwise, that delicious char becomes a tough, scorched crust. A turning peel comes in handy here, because it allows you to rotate your pizza without burning your hands or taking it out of the pizza oven, where it will be exposed to the cruel, cold outside world. (It might be a good idea to practice this on something less delicious, like a plate, first.)
- Grab your favorite turning peel and loosen the pizza from underneath.
- Slide the turning peel under the pizza, aiming it more to the one side
- This next bit might take some practice. While simultaneously lifting and pulling the peel toward you, rotate the pizza. Do this by moving the peel in a circular motion towards the other side of the pizza. This will rotate the pizza as it moves over the top of the peel.
- Slide your pizza peel underneath the cooked pizza, and gently bring it safely from the flames.
- Be careful not to let it fall. Don’t embarrass yourself.
- I would recommend that you use a metal pizza peel for this, as the thinner edge makes it easier to slide under your cooked pizza.
- If you want to make sure your pizza doesn’t come flying off the back of the peel, we’ve got you covered with our patented safety back-step aluminum peel. It protects the pizza — and your dignity.
Should I buy a wooden pizza peel or a metal pizza peel?
Wooden pizza peels are the traditional choice, but metal pizza peels are lightweight and easy to clean. However, when you’re deciding which pizza peel you should buy, there are many factors to take into consideration. Ultimately, the best peel for you depends on your exact needs. We’ve found that having one of each is the most useful.
What to do when you can’t slide your pizza off the peel
If your peel struggles with overly-attached pizzas, remember that prevention is better than cure. While preparing your pizza, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t get any excess moisture onto your peel. Extra moisture prevents air from getting underneath the pizza dough, causing it to stick.
- Use a wooden peel to launch your pizza into the fire. Because wood is porous, it helps to draw moisture away from the dough, making it easier for the dough to glide free.
- If you’re using a perforated peel, don’t let the pizza sit too long. This allows the dough to ooze into the holes, and then your pizza is toast — gooey, sticky, uncooked toast.
If for some reason your pizza still sticks, then use a gentle back-and-forth rocking motion to help release it. But be careful — you don’t want your toppings to end up in the flames.
How should I clean my pizza peel?
It’s almost impossible to make a great pizza without making a bit of a mess. So when your pizza peel has a splash of sauce or a chunk of caramelized cheese hitching a ride, it’s important that you clean it as soon as possible so that the offending schmutz doesn’t have time to stain.
Keeping your pizza peel clean will help to stop your pizza from sticking, and it will ensure that your pizza doesn’t inherit any rancid flavor from leftover debris. The best way to clean your pizza peel will depend on whether it’s made from wood or steel.
To clean your wooden pizza peel:
- Scrape off the hard bits with a spatula or dough scraper.
- Use a damp sponge or cloth to wipe off any debris.
- You can give it a quick dip in warm, soapy water, but only if that’s really necessary.
- Hang it up to air-dry naturally.
- If you have an all-natural wooden pizza peel (like this one), we recommend that you reapply a good food-grade wood oil every 6 months or so.
- soak your wooden peel in liquid, even if the grime is really stubborn. This could cause it to warp or crack.
- put it in the dishwasher.
To clean your metal pizza peel:
- Start by scraping off the hard bits, as you would with your wooden peel.
- Use a wet sponge and some dish soap to wash off any remaining debris.
- For the really stubborn grime, you can soak your peel in hot water.
- Hang it up to air-dry naturally
- scour your metal peel with a pot scourer or scouring pad.
- let the handle get wet if you have a metal pizza peel with a wooden handle (like this one).
Pizza peel perfection
Ready to start your journey of mastering la via della pala della pizza? Grab a pizza peel and get cooking straight away.