Pick Your Pizza Peel
Restaurateurs who want to serve pizzas or loaves of bread with traditional crispy crusts usually prefer to bake their products in deck ovens. Doing that requires a way to transfer the pizza or bread to the deck, then retrieve the food when cooking is done. That is where pizza peels, also known as pizza paddles, come in. These long-handled tools have paddles the user can slide under the circle of dough and transport it to and from the oven.
Pizza Peel Materials
One of the most important aspects of a pizza peel is its material. Pizza peels are available in wood, wood composites, aluminum, and stainless steel. Below are some of the pros and cons of each.
Wood is the most common pizza peel material, partly because it is the most classic of the options. It is strong enough to provide adequate support to heavy foods, even on paddles with long handles. It can also withstand use in ovens cooking at very high temperatures and provides easy release of raw dough. Because of that property, some operators choose to use wood peels for putting items into ovens, then thinner metal peels that can more easily slip under cooked items to retrieve them.
Wooden pizza peels require some special care. For instance, they should never be soaked in water or cleaned in the dishwasher, and must be dried thoroughly after washing to help prevent cracking and warping. Some users also like to rub mineral oil into the wood occasionally to help extend its life. Wood peels are usually the heaviest option, and larger ones can be a little unwieldy for some cooks. Because of the challenges of sanitizing wooden peels, they have been banned or restricted by codes in some areas. Check your local health department regulations on using wooden implements before purchasing one.
Composite pizza peels are made from a combination of wood materials and resins. Because the resins strengthen the bodies of the peels, these can be thinner than wooden peels, meaning they can slide under finished pizzas and breads more easily. Composite pizza peels are also usually warewasher safe, making their upkeep much simpler than the wooden variety.
Composite pizza peels can also be heavy and they cannot have handles as long as those used on wooden and metal pizza paddles. This may not be a major concern in low-volume operations, but in higher-volume kitchens with deck ovens that hold multiple pizzas, a short handle can make moving and removing pizzas from farther back on the deck a challenge. Because they can be washed and sanitized while maintaining an attractive appearance, these are sometimes used to serve pizza and other foods directly to customers.
Metal pizza peels have blades made out of either aluminum or stainless steel. These peels are durable and the metal is easy to clean and maintain. Because the metal can maintain its strength even in thin sheets, metal pizza peels can be made much thinner than wood or composite peels, so they can slide under breads and pizzas more easily. Unfortunately, raw dough tends to cling to metal more than wood, which is why some operators keep both wood and metal peels on hand. If a metal peel is used to place raw dough in the oven, flour or corn meal will likely need to be used as a release agent. Most metal peels have wooden handles, but some have hollow metal handles. Some models with metal handles also have rubber or plastic grips near their blades meant to help prevent burns.
When determining your pizza peel's ideal handle length, the most important factor to consider is the depth of your deck oven. You'll want the blade of your pizza peel to be able to reach the back of the oven while the user's hands on the handle are still a few inches away from the opening of the oven. This can help prevent accidental burns and messes caused when users have to reach too closely over other pizzas that are cooking.
Another option you might consider is an offset handle. While most pizza peel handles are straight to enable users to achieve sharper angles when lifting the peels to transfer pizza dough to their deck ovens, some models have offset handles. Those reduce the risk of burns by allowing users to get their hands closer to the ovens without the risk of their fingers brushing the searing-hot decks.
Blade Size & Shape
The size and shape of your pizza paddle's blade will determine the size of the bread and pizza you will be able to lift onto it. Pizza peels have either round or rectangular blades, though the rectangular peels usually have rounded fronts. Rectangular blades are generally preferred for peels used to place wide pizzas in ovens, as the straight sides can support the full diameter of the pizza until it is off the peel. Round peels make turning breads and pizzas easier, which can be important in operations that use wood-fired ovens that can burn foods if they aren't moved around the cavity.
When it comes to the size of the blade on your pizza paddle, the most obvious thing to keep in mind is the size of your largest pizza. Dough is limp by nature, so the paddle blade has to be large enough to hold the entirety of the pizza. However, if you will also make smaller pizzas, using a peel that is too large can make maneuvering in a deck oven where several pizzas are cooking more difficult. Because of this, some operators choose to keep peels of various sizes on hand.
Pizza peels are relatively simple pieces of equipment, but there are still some special features available that can make them easier to use or store.
- Slicing Guides: Some wooden pizza peels have lines on their surfaces that can help guide employees in cut slices. This can help ensure consistency and proper portioning.
- Pizza Boards: While pizza peels are made for moving bread and pizza from preparation surfaces to oven decks and back out again, pizza boards are very similar in design but have much shorter or non-existent handles. These boards are usually used for serving or cutting pizzas, breads, or other appetizers.
- Pizza Peel Holders: Pizza peel holders mount to walls and can enable you to easily mount and store peels. These can be especially important in kitchens that make use of multiple peels, as those with long handles can take up a lot of room if not stored properly.