If anyone epitomizes the saying “Where there is a will there is a way”, then even the inventive MacGyver has nothing on my eighty-year-old granny MacGy when it comes to finding alternatives.
Take, for instance, the time when we went with her to the family log cabin with the expectation that she would make us her family famous pizza in the cabin’s stone pizza oven. Only to get there and find, alas, she had forgotten to pack her pizza peel!!
What to do now!?
Crest-fallen, we thought all was lost-well, everyone that is, except Granny MacGy. With a sagacious smile on her wriggly old face, she calmly reassured us,
“No worries, one ‘n’ all, Granny MacGy is here and on it”.
Then, with a gleam in her grey eyes, and a gait in her step, Granny started going through the cabin gathering pizza peel alternatives.
To our amazement, below are some of the things she selected from the cabin as pizza peel alternatives and explained how they could be used to peel, flip or transfer pizza.
1. Cutting Board
Thanks to Gran, I have since learnt that a cutting board can be used for more than just cutting bread. The material, shape and design of a cutting board makes it an ideal substitute for a pizza peel.
Often, cutting boards are made of wood or plastic and have either a rectangular, circular or square shape. However, should you’ve a plastic cutting board, PLEASE be careful not to touch the plastic board on the hot pizza stone as it will melt within seconds and ruin your stone.
If your cutting board is rectangular, simply stretch your dough slightly length-ways so that it fits the shape better. Coupled with their thinness and the fact that usually some have handles that actually resemble a pizza peel, this makes them the perfect pizza peel alternative. Their spade-like appearance means they can easily fit under the pizza for purposes of either flipping or transferring a pizza.
2. Rimless Cookie Sheet
Until Gran’s search for a pizza peel alternative, I had always thought that there was no difference between a cookie and a baking sheet. Well, that was before Gran schooled us. Apparently, a cookie sheet differs from a baking sheet in that a cookie sheet has a raised edge and the baking sheet has four raised edges. This is to allow the cookies to slide off easily when cooked.
The design of a cookie sheet works equally well, especially when it comes to transferring a pizza. Add to this the fact that cookie sheets are usually non-stick surfaces, and you’ve an almost brilliant pizza peel alternative. This makes the surface of a cookie sheet such that your pizza can easily slide off onto the oven’s cooking surface.
3. Stiff Piece of Cardboard
When Gran reached for a largish stiff piece of cardboard, I thought, okay, finally the old gal has lost it this time. To my surprise, however, it turns out that a stiff piece of cardboard works very well as a pizza peel alternative. The thinness of the cardboard combined with the fact that it does not conduct heat ensures the easy flipping and transfer of your hot pizza.
You, however need to find cardboard stiff enough as it needs to support the weight of your pizza. Usually, things like old pizza boxes, or online delivery packaging work well. Just cut a square out that is 14″ wide. Due to the sogginess of pizza ingredients, the heat of ovens, the stiff piece of cardboard won’t always last forever though.
For instance, when your pizza sauce touches the cardboard it is a nightmare because the dough will automatically stick to the wet cardboard. You therefore need to be extra careful when topping the pizza. But since the piece of cardboard is meant to be temporary, Granny advised to have fun with your stiff piece of cardboard.
4. Rimmed Baking Sheet Flipped Upside Down
As I learnt from Gran, like parchment paper, a rimmed baking sheet flipped upside down is also a great alternative to a pizza peel. Coming with 4 raised edges, you must flip them upside down to turn them into a rimmed baking sheet. However, ensure that the raised edges are not too large, otherwise you will have some difficulty.
If the raised edges are too large, the pizza has a longer way to drop off so, resulting in it making a mess on your pizza stone. It can also be hard to grip flat, so be certain to get your technique right. It is recommended that you get the thinnest sheet you can find or using parchment paper.
5. Parchment Paper
This is where the MacGyver in Gran MacGy really came out. Parchment is what the sailors of old used to draw maps to their buried treasure. Today, good parchment paper is good parchment paper is every baking enthusiast’s best-kept secret.
Generally, parchment paper is meant to avoid food sticking to your pan and cut back on oil use, insulate meat to retain moisture better. Known as baking paper in other parts of the world, parchment paper’s non-stick surface makes it the ideal pizza peel substitute.
The paper is strong enough to withstand heat, though it will darken and become brittle when touched. You will therefore need some other equipment to retrieve the pizza – use a pair of tongs to pull it out to a plate and then dispose of the paper.
It is yet another mess free way to transfer the pizza and doesn’t involve any flour or semolina mixture. When you’ve stretched your dough, you can transfer it to the paper and continue topping.
Once the pizza is done, you open the oven and pull out the rack with the pizza stone and then put this directly on top. A word of warning though, it isn’t waxed paper. You shouldn’t put it in the oven as the wax will smoke and affect the taste.
6. Serving Platter
The hardness and flatness of a serving platter puts it in the same alternative category as that of a cutting board. What, however, makes it better than a cutting board is the fact that serving platters can come made of either stainless steel or wood.
Granny, conversely, recommends a wooden serving platter that does not have a rim. Not only is it less sticky than a steel or plastic one, but pizza also easily slides off a wooden, rimless serving platter. More so, if it has a handle to help you tilt the platter.
7. Frying Pan
By far the best alternative to cooking pizza without both a pizza stone and peel a frying pan or shallow skillet is my obvious choice. Whether on a gas flame or heating element, a frying pan/skillet can get very hot. It will cook and char the pizza crust and toppings.
The idea is for you to cook the dough on the stove top first in the frying pan. This crisps the bottom while you put your sauce and cheese on top. You can then transfer the pizza to your pizza oven and put it close to the broiler or the top of the oven.
Depending on how skilful you are, you can always try tossing or flipping your fry pan pizza. Always ensure you’ve preheated your frying pan till it is hot before use.
After Gran had collected and explained all the pizza peels she could lay her hands on, she set about making her family famous pizza-but before she did so, we had some questions to ask her concerning pizza peels. Granny MacGy was only too glad to dexterously answer them.
Some FAQs About Pizza Peels
Q: Do I really need a pizza peel?
Ans: It’s true, you can prepare pizza in your home without a pizza peel. But if you’re looking for an authentic pizza-making experience, you will need a pizza peel to recreate the flavor, texture, and experience of making a pizza in your oven or on your grill.
Q: How do you make cheap pizza peels?
Ans: Thanks to YouTube, these days you can DIY yourself a pizza peel for less than $10.00. Follow the link below for a visual example.
Q: Which are the best kinds of pizza peels on the market?
Ans: The three best pizza peels I could recommend are the Heritage Acacia Wood Pizza Peel, New Star Foodservice Restaurant-Grade Wooden and the Pizza Royale Ethically Sourced Premium Natural Bamboo
Q: Can I make a pizza peel out of plywood?
Ans: Depending on the kind of oven you will use your plywood pizza peel; you can have a peel made of plywood. However, for a more comprehensive answer, follow the link below.
Q: What kind of wood should a pizza peel be made of?
Ans: Most wood used to make culinary utensils can be used to make a pizza peel. For example, the New Star Foodservice Restaurant-Grade Wooden Pizza Peel is made of affordable but durable birch. This 5-inch-thick pizza peel features a round shape with a beveled edge to help it slide under the pizza. The smooth texture helps prevent cracking and wood oil from seeping into the pizza.