I’ve shared with you in previous articles my work in pizza stores. I’ve done it all: I’ve managed, cooked, and delivered pizzas for the Big Three (Dominos, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut.) It’s when you do it all that you learn the pros and cons of using pizza peels.
Peels come in wood and in aluminum. Both remove the food from the oven, but only one allows you to remove the food, cut it, and then slide the perfectly cut pizza into a box. This saves time because a pizza loses five degrees of heat for every minute it’s outside of the box.
Most people don’t care about how their pizza is made, just so it gets to them hot, with the toppings they wanted, and ready to feed a hungry horde. On the other hand, it’s the pizza peel that helps all this to happen. How? Of what are pizza peels made? Which is better? We’re glad you asked.
What are Pizza Peels?
Pizza is the quintessential comfort food. It provides the meat, dairy, vegetables, bread, and sometimes fruit (pineapple) necessary to satisfy the food pyramid. More and more Americans are making their pizza at home with new and tasty variations on the meat, veggies, cheese, and sauces.
How do they get it in the oven, though? Enter the pizza peel. Most home and kitchen stores provide cooks with all the tools they need to create culinary wonders.
Cooks can make their own pizza crust or they can buy prepared crusts. They construct their pies on pizza stones and then place them into the oven on a pizza peel. What kind of peels are available?
Wood Pizza Peels
A wooden peel is one continuous piece of wood. Some have long handles, some short. Some are square, some round. They’re usually about an inch thick all the way around.
Type of wood
The wood needs to be hard so it won’t warp and non-porous so it won’t absorb odors and other things.
As you’re making your pizza on your pizza stone, remember that the peel will slide that stone into the oven. Your peel should be light enough to get the job done without giving you back pain.
The small pizza is 12 inches, the large is 14 inches, and the extra-large is 16 inches. The surface of the peel should be large enough to accommodate the size pizza you want to make. You don’t want the dough to overhang the peel and the toppings to slide off on the way to the oven.
When the pie comes out of the oven, it can be cut directly on the peel and then transferred to plates.
They’re not expensive.
Types Of Wood
Good woods for a peel are acacia, bamboo, mahogany, and cherry. You want a hardwood that won’t be affected by the heat of a grill or an oven.
You’ll find this one continuous piece of wood in all shapes and sizes. Although I never saw the benefit of putting a round pizza on a rectangular slab of wood, they do the same job as the round ones with which I have experience.
There are sometimes holes in the handle (which fits your hand perfectly) with which to hang the peel on a wall for storage. When the peel is past its usefulness, some homemakers decorate it for wall hangings or use them for cutting boards.
Wood does crack and split, but you have to really punish it for it to do so. Just sliding a pizza into the oven won’t crack the wood. It won’t crack or split for a long time if you oil it at least every two months or so. Take good care of your wood peel, and you’ll be using it for a good long time.
Wooden pizza peels run from $10 up to $65.
I’ve described many things about wood peels that are pretty good. One more thing is that the handle on a wood pizza peel won’t get as hot as that on a metal peel.
It makes sense that a peel looks like a shovel due to its name originating in Latin. Palla means spade. It’s a matter of recorded history that the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians made their version of pizza.
Originally used for sliding pastries and baked goods into an oven, it was only a matter of time before one of them figured out how to do it.
Aluminum Pizza Peels
Aluminum is lightweight and the perfect peel to slide beneath a pie to remove it from the oven. Cutting on a metal peel will dull your cutter, though. Your pie should be placed onto either a wood cutting board or a plate to be cut. Aluminum conducts heat, so your pie won’t lose heat during cutting.
Your smaller oven at home differs dramatically from a professional pizza oven. Your peel at home should have a somewhat shorter handle than the one at Domino’s, for example. You only need enough handle to remove the pie safely. A longer handle might bump up against something and tip your pie off your peel.
Since you’re making pies at home, all you need is a shape that gets a round pizza in and out of the oven. Square, round, or rectangular, they all do the job. They just need to be big enough to handle a large pizza.
Since the wood handle on an aluminum peel isn’t getting near the heat, then it won’t suffer. The aluminum tends to crack at the point where the handle is attached to the aluminum, but that takes years to happen.
Depending on if the aluminum isn’t treated (anodized,) then the peels cost around $13. Perforated peels run around $70, while anodized peels get $116 to $136.
No maintenance is needed with aluminum peels, they’re easy to clean and store. Metal doesn’t absorb odors and stains as wood does. Thin enough to slip beneath the pizza either in the oven or on the grill to turn for even browning or remove after cooking.
Cooking utensils go back to the Stone Age. By the Bronze Age, wealthy Romans used bronze cooking utensils in addition to ceramics such as mortar and pestle.
Remember they cooked over open flames in a brick fireplace, so they needed utensils to remove things from the fire. Fast forward to 19th century America, where copper made great pans, but not so great utensils.
Other metals were used alone or in combination with other metals to make cooking utensils. Keep in mind that bakers had to use something to remove their rolls and cakes from ovens, so metal peels were probably used for this purpose.
Differences and Similarities
The differences as well as the similarities between a wood utensil and a metal one are glaringly obvious. However, with wood, you won’t have heat transfer to burn your hands taking the pie out of the oven.
On the other hand, with metal peels, you can slip them under your pizza with more ease than you can with wood peels. Wood peels require more care than metal so they don’t get scratched and cracked.
Bacteria get into those scratches and cracks, so wood peels need an eye kept on them for safety’s sake. Metal peels don’t.
Which is Better: Wood or Metal?
Pizza restaurants make their pies on aluminum screens that allow the heat to evenly cook the pizza. At home, you’ll be using a pizza stone, which also allows the heat to evenly cook your pie. Inserting the pizza stone into the oven on a wood peel makes sense. The wood can handle the weight of the stone.
Taking the pizza stone out of the oven is done with a metal peel. Getting a one or two-inch piece of wood beneath that stone would be a bear, so a metal peel would lift the pie off the stone, out of the oven, and onto a serving plate for cutting.
I, personally, would use both. The wood does double duty as a cutting board as well as a serving platter. The metal peel removes pies with ease. Both have quick and easy cleanup and are a snap to store.