Great ingredients make great pizza. A well-crafted pizza stone is a thing to be treasured. With all of the focus on building and cooking the pizza, it’s easy to forget the importance of the humble pizza peel: the means by which we get the pizza in and out of the oven! In spite of being overlooked, the pizza peel is a crucial tool in any pizziaolo’s arsenal.
The origin of the pizza peel isn’t clear. The word peel is derived from the French “Pelle,” which means shovel. They were originally used in baking other things, like bread and pastries. We also know that Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, and (of course) Italians all had a hand in the origin of the pizza itself. Somewhere along that line someone had to figure out how to get the delicious goods in and out of a flaming hot conical oven and the pizza peel in, some form, was born.
Peels are made from either metal or wood. In order to form and cook the perfect pizza, you need one of each. “Well wait a second,” you might say, “this is a blog for a business that sells pizza equipment, do I REALLY need both?” You can probably get away with using just one or the other, but you’re going to have a struggle getting the perfect pizza you’re after.
A wooden peel is an excellent tool for pizza prep, and for transferring the pizza to the oven. With a little cornmeal or flour on the peel, moist dough won’t stick to the wood, ensuring that the pizza makes it off the peel and into the oven in one piece. We’re going to slice up that bad boy after it’s cooked, but you really want it intact going into the oven!
So why not use the wood peel to remove the pizza from the oven as well? The construction of a wooden peel is such that it’s difficult to lift the pizza out of the oven without damaging the structure of the pizza. Due to the weight of a pizza, a wooden peel has to be robust and thick. That doesn’t translate well to removing the pizza from an oven.
The metal peel is perfect for this use. It’s very thin, enabling it to get in the fine space between the stone and the pizza cleanly. Unlike the raw pizza, we also don’t have to worry about a cooked pizza sticking to the metal surface. A metal peel is especially handy if you’re planning on turning the pizza, as the bottom is one of the first parts to cook. The metal peel can also double as a pizza screen by simply sliding it under the pizza during the final few minutes of the baking process. This will slow down the rate at which the bottom of the pizza cooks, giving you a great way the get that charred finish!
A wise person once said “choose the right tool for the right job.” In the case of pizza, the right tool for getting the pizza into the oven is undoubtedly the wooden peel, while the right tool for getting the pizza out of the oven is the metal peel. That’s not the end of the story though:
In addition to metal and wood, there are two “sub” varieties of peels: fixed handle and folding peels. Thankfully we can be a little more flexible in our advice here! If you’re living in a place where storage space is at a premium, folding peels are the way to go. If you’ve got enough room for peels with fixed handles, or you’re looking to make very large pizzas, fixed-handled peels offer more stability under extreme weight, and are a better choice.
Regardless of the peel you choose, the most important thing in pizza making is to enjoy the journey and the resulting meal!