A pizza peel is also known as a pizza paddle. It is a tool that is used when making pizza to help transfer the topped dough from the countertop and into the oven.
The pizza peel is also used to adjust the oven positioning of the pizza and to remove it when cooked.
Parts of a Pizza Peel
If you have seen one being used before, you will know there are 2 main elements to a pizza peel. These are the wide, flat surface and the handle.
The large area is also known as the carrying surface or blade. This is designed for you to place the pizza dough to move it around your kitchen. This surface can be made of metal or wood. We will run through the pros and cons of both materials later.
The handle is fairly self-explanatory. Pizza peel handles tend to be very long to allow you to place your pizza deep into the oven without burning your hands.
Is it necessary to use a pizza peel?
You do not need one, it is possible to make pizzas without a pizza peel. However, if you are a pizza aficionado or just want to get more serious about your pizza making, we strongly advise you to invest in one.
It will make your cooking experience much easier and massively reduce the risk of injury. It is particularly important for people using a wood-fired oven to cook their pizzas. This is because you cannot use a baking tray in a wood-fired oven like you would in a regular home oven.
If you are using a pizza stone or steel, you will know how difficult it is to transfer your pizza dough onto it when it is hot. A pizza peel will make this job so much easier and will mean you don’t run the risk of burning your fingers.
Many people say that once they have begun using pizza peels they can no longer do without.
What’s the difference between a pizza steel and a pizza stone?
Pizza steels, as the name suggests, are made from steel. As they are made from metal, they conduct heat really well and means that your pizza will crisp up on the base beautifully. The amount of heat retained by the metal means that generally, pizzas will cook faster.
Pizza steels are very durable and if you care for them correctly they can last forever. This long lifespan tends to mean that steels will set you back more than stones. However, in our mind, it is well worth the investment.
Pizza stones are often made from ceramic, but can also be clay or cordierite. They conduct heat well, but nowhere near as much as pizza steels. This means that pizzas are likely to take slightly longer to cook on a pizza stone.
Pizza stones have an uneven surface which means that it can be difficult to clean them efficiently. They are also very prone to cracking as a result of thermal shock. They are much cheaper, but will not last you anywhere near as long as pizza steels.
What is the carrying surface of your pizza peel?
There are 2 main styles for the carrying surface of a pizza peel, perforated or solid. The most common style is the solid one. This is a completely flat surface without any holes. These can be made from steel or wood.
A perforated pizza peel has many small holes through the carrying surface. This allows excess flour underneath the crust to fall off. This flour has a tendency to burn when it's exposed to the heat of the oven, creating a bitter and unpleasant taste.
This will also generate a lot of smoke in the oven which can cause a hazard. The holes make the dough easier to shuffle off the peel.
How thick is your pizza peel?
As a general rule, the thinner the pizza peel, the easier it is to work with. This is because it is less disruptive to slot a slimmer surface underneath the dough.
Metal peels tend to be thinner as they remain sturdy even when sliced thinly. A good thickness is anywhere between 1 and 3 mm. If they are thinner, the carrying surface can become very flimsy and bend. This could then result in your pizza falling onto the floor - a true travesty.
Wooden peels are less thin as wood cannot be made as thin as metal while remaining stable enough to use. They are perfect for transferring pizza into the oven, but are often too thick to use to take the pizza out.
What shape is your pizza peel?
You can purchase pizza peels which are both square and round. Round peels are very useful for adjusting the position of your pizza in the oven, and for pulling it out with ease.
The rectangular pizza peel is a more traditional design. It gives you a large surface area to easily lift the pizza. If you use a square peel which is smaller than the diameter of your pizza, this can cause the edges to sag and bend when taken out of the oven.
What size is your pizza peel?
The size of peel you require depends on the size of pizza you intend to make. A standard pizza diameter is roughly 33 to 36 cm (13 to 14 inches). A maxi pizza tends to have a diameter of between 45 and 50 cm (17.7 to 19.6 inches).
Your peel should ideally be larger in diameter than the pizza base. This means that the crust will not overhang the edge of the peel. If this happens, the pizza crust could tear or become deformed. By using a peel larger than your pizza base, you ensure it remains flat as it is removed from the oven.
What is the handle like?
Pizza peel handles come in all materials and sizes. The length of handle you require really depends on the size and type of pizza oven. Longer handles are needed for commercial pizza ovens and wood-fired ovens.
This is because the ovens are much larger and much hotter than regular home ovens. They tend to range from 30 cm (11.8 inches) to 200 cm (78.7 inches).
Short handles are better suited to home ovens as they are easier to manipulate in a smaller space such as a home kitchen. Household ovens do not get up to temperatures as high as commercial ovens and so it is not necessary for the handles to be as long.
The handles can be made from rubber, plastic, wood, metal, and other materials. The most important thing to look for is a comfortable grip. Try to get a handle that is ergonomically designed and fits well in the palm of your hand. The easier it is to hold, the less hassle moving your pizza will be.
What material is your pizza peel made from?
The metals used to make pizza peels tend to be aluminum and stainless steel. The only real drawback to a metal peel is that the uncooked dough is more prone to sticking to the surface.
As mentioned before, they are more durable than wooden peels and easier to clean. The thinner carrying surface makes it easier to manipulate the positioning of the pizza in the oven.
If you are looking to purchase a metal peel, we recommend getting a perforated one as this allows air to travel underneath the dough. This means it is easier for the dough to move around the peel and get transferred to the oven.
These are the more traditional style of pizza peel and have been used for as long as people remember. The dough is not as likely to stick to the wooden surface. This is because it is uneven, like we mentioned before.
Similarly to how the perforations in a metal peel operate, the uneven surface allows for the movement of air underneath the pizza dough. This disrupts the vacuum that is created between the base of the dough and the top of the peel, allowing the pizza to slide off easily.
These are much cheaper than metal peels, likely because they are nowhere near as durable. The uneven surface makes them very hard to clean, and the nature of wood means that the peel is susceptible to warping due to heat or moisture.
Is it better to use a wooden or metal pizza peel?
More often than not, this comes down to a matter of personal preference.
If you have your heart set on mastering the perfect pizza, we would advise purchasing one of each. If you are slightly more limited in terms of space or budget and can only purchase one, we advise getting a perforated metal pizza peel.
Wooden peels are the optimal choice for transferring raw, topped pizza dough into the oven. This is because it sticks less than it would to a metal peel. It is not great for removing the cooked pizza as it is too thick, hence why we recommend purchasing 2 peels.
Metal peels are better for pulling the cooked pizza out of the oven as they are thinner. This means that they can slide under the edge of the crust more easily and without damaging the pizza.
The downside to this is that your pizza is more likely to stick to the paddle. You can cover generously with semolina to reduce the risk of this happening.
The best option is to purchase a perforated metal peel. This is the best middle ground and works well if you only want to buy one.
What can you use pizza peels for?
Putting the pizza in the oven
As we mentioned above, wooden peels are the easiest way to transfer your uncooked pizza into the oven. You can even top your pizza on the wooden peel. This makes it incredibly easy to transfer into the oven when you are ready to cook.
The longer that the pizza is on the peel, the more likely it is to stick. For this reason, some people will shape and assemble their pizza on the countertop and simply use the peel to put it in the oven.
If the shape warps during transferral you can easily reshape it when on the peel. If the dough sticks to your countertop, use a dough scraper to loosen it.
To further reduce the chance of your pizza dough sticking to the peel, you can gently coat the peel’s surface in semolina. This not only stops the dough sticking, but adds an authentic texture to the crust.
It is a good idea to shake the peel gently to ensure the dough is not stuck before you attempt to slide it off in the oven.
If you are using a metal peel you will need to use more semolina to stop the dough from sticking.
Changing the position of the pizza in the oven
It is important to adjust the position of the pizza in your oven. This is because heat does not travel evenly throughout the interior, meaning there are hot and cold sections.
The easiest way to move pizza when inside the oven is by using a metal peel. They are thin and easy to manipulate.
Wood-fired ovens take a little more understanding to work correctly. If you turn a pizza in these ovens you should try to replace it in the same position. If you do not, the oven could burn the crust before the toppings are cooked.
If the toppings need a little more cooking than the base, lift the pizza up on your paddle. Hold it towards the top of the oven as the air will be warmer here.
Taking the pizza out of the oven
There is not much to say about this, other than a metal peel is the easiest to do this with.
How to stop pizza from sticking to the peel
The first thing you should do to stop your dough sticking to the peel is to use something known as an anti-sticking dust. Everyone has their own preference as to what this consists of. A good starting point is to use a 50/50 combination of the flour used in the dough, and semolina.
If you don’t have semolina we recommend just using flour. The downside to this is that it can burn in the oven and cause a bitter taste. You should not use just semolina as it is too coarse and can make an unpleasant texture on the crust.
If you are struggling a lot with the dough sticking using a wooden peel, we suggest switching over to using a metal peel.
It is advised to shape the dough on your countertop and only place on the peel when you are ready to add toppings. Take care not to get any moisture onto the peel as this can cause it to stick further.
To eliminate moisture and condensation further, we advise waiting for your pizza dough to get to room temperature before placing on the peel. Likewise, if you are using a cold metal peel we suggest running it under the warm tap to make it similar in temperature to the dough.
Try not to put too many toppings on your pizza. This adds moisture and weight to the crust. Additional moisture can cause your dough to undercook and you may end up with a soggy crust.
If your pizza is too heavy, it can be difficult to shuffle the dough off into the oven. Reducing the number of toppings is a good starting point to correct the issue of dough sticking to the peel.
As we have mentioned many times, the longer the dough sits on the peel the more likely it is to stick. This is because the flour on the peel begins to absorb moisture from the dough. Once you have put the crust onto the peel you should work quickly to get it into the oven.
How to look after your wooden pizza peel
Wooden peels are unquestionably the harder option to clean, care for, and maintain. Wood is highly susceptible to warping (changing in shape) when wet.
To prevent this from happening, do not submerge in water and limit the contact time with hot water. You should never place your wooden peel in the dishwasher. This can cause the peel to crack.
If there is excess dough stuck to the pizza peel, you should scrape this off with a dough scraper. We advise using a plastic one as the metal version can scratch the wooden surface, opening more avenues for bacteria to grow.
We suggest using a soft damp cloth or a plastic dish brush to clean the peel. Do not use excessive water and dry it thoroughly before storing.
You should not use the peel as a chopping board as this can damage the surface of the wood. This can then cause the peel to break faster. It should also be stored in a dry place to prolong its lifespan.
If you wish to further extend the lifespan, coat your wooden peel regularly with mineral oil. This helps to hydrate the wood. Wood that is hydrated is less susceptible to cracking and warping through use.
Every 3 months or so apply 1-2 tablespoons of mineral oil to the wood and gently massage in with a lint-free cloth. You should ensure that the oil you use is food-safe to prevent illnesses.
How to look after your metal pizza peel
Metal pizza peels are incredibly easy to maintain. You can clean them like a normal baking tray, using hot soapy water.
You do not need to worry about scraping with a dough scraper as excess dough glides easily off the smooth surface.
How to look after your pizza stone
You should never use dishsoap to wash your pizza stone. This is because the stone is highly porous and will take on some of the soap molecules. This could cause your next pizza to taste like soap, which no one wants!
You should not place your pizza stone fully underneath water when washing it. Instead, allow it to fully cool and then use a plastic scraper or a dry and stiff brush to scrub off any baked-on food. If this is not harsh enough, you can use some medium-grit sandpaper to make the surface of the stone smooth again.
Do not worry if you notice stains appearing on the surface of your pizza stone. This is completely normal and a natural consequence of making pizzas.
You can store your pizza stone in the oven to allow it to heat in conjunction with the oven. This can make the stone heat more evenly and reduce the likelihood of it cracking due to thermal shock. However, this will mean that your oven heats more slowly.
If you have a self-cleaning oven do not leave the stone in for the cleaning cycle as this can cause cracks.
Tips for making the perfect pizza
Follow a tried and tested pizza dough recipe
The easiest way to make a perfect pizza is to follow a recipe that has been proven successful. The dough quality varies according to the ingredient ratios you use, and so everyone will have their own favorite.
Experiment with different recipes until you find the one that you like best. Different ovens are likely to react slightly differently to the dough and so if you find a recipe that works, take note!
Use high-quality ingredients
The type of flour you use plays highly into the quality of your pizza dough. We recommend using 00 flour. This is a very finely-ground type of Italian flour - perfect for pizzas.
It is also lower in gluten than most flours meaning that it creates a dough that is the perfect consistency and texture once baked.
There are not many ingredients involved in pizza dough, and so it is wise to choose good quality ones.
Stretch the dough out at an ambient temperature
Your pizza dough will be easiest to work with and manipulate when it is at room temperature. The colder the dough is, the more it will ping back on itself after being stretched.
If you have used a fridge to cold prove your pizza dough, we suggest allowing it to rest on the countertop for 4 hours to warm up.
If you attempt to stretch warm dough it is likely to start sweating. This additional moisture will be absorbed into the flour on your countertop. This will mean that your dough sticks to the worktop or peel. It is also much more likely that your dough will tear or over-stretch.
Use multiple pizza peels
The best pizza result comes from using a room temperature peel. Using more than one in your pizza process ensures that the peels do not get overly warm.
You should have a ‘prep’ peel (ideally wooden) which is used as a base for the assembly of the pizza. This peel will also be used to transfer the pizza easily into your oven.
You should have an additional peel (ideally metal) which can be used to move the pizza around and remove it from the oven.
If you use a hot peel to transfer your raw dough to the oven, it is much more likely to stick and cause a huge mess.
Ensure everything is adequately floured
Flour is your best friend when rolling, stretching, and shaping raw pizza dough.
A generous dusting of flour on your work surface will stop the dough from sticking. It is a good idea to coat your hands lightly with flour too.
Take care not to rip holes in your dough
Holes in the pizza base will allow moisture to seep through and cause the dough to stick to the peel. Be gentle and take your time with stretching the dough to avoid holes being torn.
If you do accidentally make small holes in the dough you can lightly pinch the edges together to seal the gap. If the holes are too large for this to work, try turning the dough into something else - like doughballs!
Shake the dough on your pizza peel
There is a very fun word for this process - shoogle. This means to gently shake something, in this case, the dough.
You should shoogle the dough once it has been placed onto your peel. This will allow you to check the dough has not stuck to the peel and will be able to slide off into the oven.
Do not over-top your pizza dough
The more toppings you have on your pizza, the heavier and wetter your pizza will become.
This makes it much easier to transfer into and out of the oven. It will also result in a crispier crust and base.
This is to prevent the dough from sticking to the peel. You do not need to rush and stress yourself out.
Instead, you should work efficiently and calmly to get the pizza into the oven as soon as possible.
Blow underneath the dough
This is not an industry method, but works a treat to ensure the dough comes off the peel cleanly. Lift up one edge of the crust and gently blow underneath.
This breaks the vacuum that has formed and creates pockets of air between the peel and crust. It also helps to spread around any flour on the peel.