There’s a trick to using a pizza peel. No matter what it’s made of, how you transfer the pizza from counter to oven takes some degree of artistry. A special sleight of hand that the best chefs in Italy mastered years ago, and you can perfect it at your home as well.
No, it’s not ideal to put and leave any pizza peel in the oven while the pizza bakes, it is important to properly slide your uncooked dough just right into the oven. Getting it right means not having to mess about with a spatula as you try to perfectly set your pizza in.
Even though you can’t keep them in the oven while your pizza cooks, using a pizza peel will allow you to emulate the finesse of a highly-trained pizza chef, so I’d still argue that they’re entirely worth the money. In this post, I’ll guide you through the fine art of peeling a pizza.
Can You Put a Pizza Peel in the Oven?
The first step in the process is selecting what kind of pizza peel you’re going to work with. I recommend a steel peel. Steel, or metal, is finer than wood and allows the pizza to easily slide off into the oven. If steel is not available, a stone made from cordierite is a good substitute. Wood or plastic, especially if you’re a beginner, could cause problems.
One of the most important parts of using a peel is to not let it sit in the oven with the pizza for more than a second. Any longer, and it starts to cook ever so slightly on the peel itself, which you don’t want, that’s why you have pizza steels and pizza stones.
Deploying The Pizza
Probably the hardest part to get right is transferring the raw pizza from your peel to the oven rack or pizza stone. There’s a technique to it, however it’ll take some practice.
- Stretch the dough on the counter to a desirable size. Then lightly dust the peel with flour and semolina mix. Place the dough on the peel, ensuring it remains the size you want it. This takes some stretching, as moving it undoubtedly changed its shape.
- Add sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you want. Make sure the sauce doesn’t get on the peel. Moisture can get the dough to stick. Shake the peel a little to make sure it hasn’t stuck.
- Open the oven. This is the hard part. Pull out the rack with the stone and, using your wrist, make a swift back-and-forth to drop the pizza on the stone. Think of it like a magic trick. If you’ve ever seen someone pull a tablecloth off a table without any of the glassware coming with it, the same confident motion applies here. You don’t want the angle too sharp, or the cheese and toppings will slide off.
- Now that it’s on the stone, you can use the peel to straighten out anything that’s been displaced, as is bound to happen. Let it cook, then slip in under it to take it out when it’s ready.
What NOT To Do
Remember that the wrist action should be quick and smooth. You’ll get better at it with time, however there are some ways I’ve seen people do it that are just dead wrong.
The last thing you want to do is slowly shake or vibrate the pizza off the peel. This will ruin the shape of the pizza immediately, and can easily result in spilling ingredients and sauce all over the stone.
The only way to do it is a nice, quick drop. Remember the angle, just a few degrees off straight. The motion that moves the pizza off the peel comes entirely in your wrist, just a little push and it slides right on.
Retrieving the Pizza
Getting the pizza out of the oven is much easier than putting it in. The crust should be firm now that it’s cooked, so outside of dropping the pizza on the floor, there’s not a lot that can really go wrong.
The trick to retrieving the pizza with a peel is to keep the peel straight as it’s going into the oven. Just put it at a slight incline only after you’ve slid it beneath the crust.
How to Keep Sauce from Sticking to The Peel
Getting the dough stuck to the peel due to some sauce is often a major issue. Fortunately, there are some ways to prevent the peel from sticking. The first step is using that blend of flour and semolina mix mentioned earlier.
Pre-dusting the peel is a key step in avoiding sticking. It also adds some extra flavour in the crust.
So long as you master the wrist technique necessary in using a pizza peel, you should have no problem transferring a delicious pizza from counter to oven to plate.