top of page
  • Writer's pictureScott Rotella

Pizza Essentials: The Tools You Need to Make Perfect Pizza at Home

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Pizza is one of the most popular foods in the world, and for good reason. It's delicious, versatile, and easy to make at home. But if you want to make the best pizza possible, you need the right tools.

Whether you are cooking in your home oven (at the highest temperature it will allow), or a small home outdoor oven like an Ooni or Roccbox, or a large domed wood-fired oven, there are definitely some tools you will need to help ensure success. This is certainly not meant as an all-inclusive list, but a list of basic needs.

Pizza Steel for home ovens

What is it

When cooking pizza, you need heat from all directions. To ensure that the bottom of the crust is cooked to perfection, it is best to use a pizza stone or steel when using a home oven. I have gone through a few stones over time. They work great, but always seem to end up cracking on me. So I finally moved on to using a pizza steel (also known as a baking steel). They are basically indestructible and are excellent at conducting heat and retaining heat. It mimics using a high temperature wood fired oven better than any method I have tried. It even helps to cook the pizza faster and more evenly.

Steels come in a variety of thicknesses. I have seen steels from 3/16 to ⅜ inch., However, I have heard that there are ½ inch steels also. Technically, thicker is better. However, the thicker the steel, the longer it takes to preheat it. Plus, given these are pure steel, they can get extremely heavy and difficult to handle. I prefer a ¼ inch steel. It works very well for me.

How do I use it

  • Preheat the steel for 30-45 minutes at the highest temperature your oven will allow. Most home ovens go up to 500-550 F. if your steel is thicker than ¼ inch, preheat for an hour.

  • I prefer placing the steel in a rack in the middle of the oven. I usually get a pizza finished in about 6-8 minutes at 550 F.

  • Some prefer to place the rack high under the broiler. After placing the pizza on the steel, switch the oven to a low broil. The goal is to emulate a wood fired oven with rolling flames to cook the top and the hot steel to cook the bottom. This is also a faster cook time. I find that the cheese starts to brown too early for my liking. Many folks like the cheese a little brown-–if that is you, this is your technique.

  • Cooking pizza will pull heat from the steel. If you are making more than two pizzas, allow the steel to reheat for about 10 minutes after every two pizzas.

  • When done making pizzas, turn off the oven and let the steel come to room temperature. I just leave it overnight and clean it the next day.

  • Cleaning a well seasoned steel is as easy as brushing off any residual burned on pizza toppings and wiping with a damp towel. Occasionally you may want to wipe with a little high temp oil (I use avocado or grapeseed oil) to keep it seasoned and prevent future rust. In other words, treat it like a cast iron pan.

What is it

The placement peel is used to launch pizza onto your oven floor. I am aware of three basic varieties: Wooden, metal and perforated metal. I currently use wooden (for home oven cooking) and perforated metal for the wood-fired oven. My preference is a perforated metal peel and I will probably replace my wooden peels with short handle perforated metal peels for home oven use.

Wood is great for working with dough. I actually have a section of a butcher block countertop that I use to open up pizza balls. However, I prefer metal because it is thin and easy to slide under the uncooked pizza and also easy to pull the pizza onto the peel.

I like the perforated peel as it helps to release some of the loose flour that is on the outside of the dough.

How to use it

When opening up a dough ball to make pizza, I turn it out into a container of flour to fully coat the dough ball to ensure it will not stick to anything. I use a 50/50 mix of 00 Caputo Pizzeria flour and Semola Rimacinata (finely ground semolina). After opening up the dough ball and placing all of the desired topping, I pull it onto the peel. I then do a final shaping to the desired size. After a little shake to ensure the dough does not stick to the peel and also to release any excess flour through the perforations, I launch it in the oven. If the dough is not sliding around on the peel, try to lift the dough a little and throw in a bit of flour on the wet portions of the underside. Launching is a whole topic, but I find it best to be firm and decisive. I put it into the desidered place in the oven and do a quick flick forward and then very quickly pull the peel out. Some folks prefer a slow shimmy, but I find that can disturb the placement of my topping. In all cases, with practice, you will find your preferred technique.

What size do I need

I prefer the size of my peel to be about one inch larger than my desired pizza size, this enables me to make consistently sized pizzas as I do the final shaping on the peel. I prefer 13 inch pizzas and use a 14 inch peel. If using a small portable outdoor oven, the size of your peel is going to be dictated by the opening on your oven.

Peel handle length is also important. If using a home oven or even a small portable pizza oven, you most likely do not need a handle longer than 12 inches. If using a larger oven, I recommend that the peel extend at least one foot outside of the pizza oven opening when the front of the peel is fully in the back of the oven. In my instance, I have a three foot diameter wood burning oven floor. My 14 inch wide peel is about 16 inches in length. That means there is about 20 inches to get to the opening if the peel is touching the back. Given that I want at least 12 inches outside the oven, I use a 36 inch handle. That is 20 + 12 rounded up. Longer is always better in a high heat oven as it will protect you from the heat. If you have room in your setup to maneuver a larger peel, then do so. An easier way to do this is the following formula: Floor Depth MINUS tool length without handle PLUS one foot. For me, that is 36 - 16 + 12 = 32, which I round to 36.

What is it

When using a wood-fired pizza oven or an outdoor portable oven, the flames are generally on one side of the oven. Although the heat to cook the pizza comes from above the pizza and the floor of the oven, the side facing flames will cook faster. Due to that, it is important to rotate your pizza a few times to ensure even cooking and no large burns. Home ovens heat comes from above and below and generally do not require turning unless your oven has extreme hot spots.

I will often also use the turning peel to move wood and even place wood in the fire. It is a convenient way to safely reach into the oven. Just remember to clean it before using it as a turning peel. I also use the turning peel and a wet towel to clean the oven floor after the initial heat up and after moving the wood and embers to the side.

How to use it

The turning peel facilitates easily turning your pizza. To turn the pizza, slide the peel under the pizza to the back of the pizza. Using a counter-clockwise circular motion, move the peel to the left with the right side of the pizza touching the floor of the oven. This might mean that the peel is tilted toward the floor on the right side. Continue to make these circular motions until the pizza is rotated into the desired position. In all cases, keep your pizza in the same spot. The pizza has most likely extracted the correct amount of heat and energy to cook the base. Moving it will put it on higher heat and may cause your bottom to burn.

Gozney has a great video demonstration of using the turning peel on YouTube. I highly recommend watching it

What size do I need

For the size of the circular peel, I recommend that it be about half the diameter of your chosen pizza size. I use a 7 inch peel for 13 inch pizzas, although 6 inches would work well also. For the handle, use the same formula as the placement peel: Floor Depth MINUS tool length without handle PLUS one foot For me that is 36 - 7 + 12 = 41. So I round to 48 inches.

Brush for wood fired ovens

What is it

The brush is a cleaning aid for your oven when it is cool. Generally, you want to use a natural bristle brush in your oven. These are more flexible than wire and do a much better job of cleaning, Plus bristles fall out. Natural bristles will disintegrate with the heat of the oven on the next firing. Metal bristles may find their way into your food.

Some folks use a shop vacuum to clean the ash out of a cool oven. Ash settling into the nooks and crannies of a brick oven is desirable. As it packs in, it creates more stability in the bricks. I do not vacuum. Between using a shovel to remove the majority of fire remnants and a brush to remove the rest, it is clean enough. Keep in mind that the cooking surface will be cleaned with a wet towel before you begin cooking.

How do I use it

I find it easiest to use a brush that is in line with the handle. I find it easier to get into the back edges of the oven when the brush is oriented this way.

What size do I need

I like using a soft bristle as it cleans more efficiently. I would use a hard bristle if I needed to agitate the surface to clean off any food remnants, However, I always use my coal rake to move embers over the cooking surface at the end of my cooking.. The high heat of the embers will burn off all food and oil remnants.

I would recommend using the same size handle as your turning peel. However, you can certainly go a little shorter as you are not dealing with extreme heat when using the brush.

Shovel for wood fired ovens

What is it

The shovel makes quick work of removing ash from your wood-fired oven. I also have a dedicated metal trash can I use to transfer the ash into, making its way to eventual disposal.

What size do I need

For the shovel, you want a size that is easily maneuverable within your oven. For the handle, choose the same size as your brush handle.

Ember rake for wood fired ovens

What is it

This tool is used to move embers and small logs within your wood-fired oven.

What size do I need

For the rake, you want a size that is easily maneuverable within your oven. For the handle, choose the same size as your brush handle.

High Heat gloves for wood fired ovens

What is it

No matter how long your tool handles are, there will be points when your hands need to be close to the fire. 800-900 F is hot and will sizzle your arm hairs just being near the heat. I have tried gloves that are rated to above 900 degrees, but they still get searingly hot. So I use welding gloves. They protect from heat, flames and sparks. I use these when placing logs onto the fire, when cleaning the deck to prepare for cooking and when moving the fire.

What is it

Seems simple enough that you need to cut pizza into serving sizes. Napolitan pizza aficionados like to use pizza scissors as they do not deflate the crust too much. I don't really worry about that much. I love this mezzaluna! It is sharp and comes with a cover for the large knife edge. The sharpness makes quick work of cutting a pizza. However, I serve my pizzas on a pizza pan and prefer to cut it on the pan so that I do not need to transfer individual pieces. However, the slight curve of my pizza pans makes cutting with the mezzaluna difficult, so I tend to use a standard rolling cutter. If you are not cutting on a pizza pan, I highly recommend the mezzaluna.

What is it

Bench scrapers are believed to have their history rooted with pastry chefs as a means to scrape dough from their countertops. But I often have one of my bench scrapers out whenever I am cooking. Especially when doing prep work. It is a great tool to move chopped vegetables into a cooking vessel in addition to moving dough around.

I use two types of scrapers…. Flexible scrapers (also called dough scrapers) to pull dough out of a bowl and hard scrapers to move dough on the countertop. I also use the scraper to clean any residual dough from the counter as part of clean-up time. When working with dough, I will use the bench scraper to move especially wet dough on the countertop.

I love this OXO scraper. It is solid and durable and the measurements on it come in handy when cutting dough strips or rolling dough to a specific height.

What is it

In order to keep your pizza crust crispy, it is important to let the bottom of the crust get some air for a minute after it comes out of the oven and before slicing. If you pull the pizza from the oven and place it on a hard surface, the heat will create steam and soften the crust. My advice is to put it on a cooling rack for a minute. Then you can move to a hard surface to slice and serve.

What is it

When working with dough of any type, using a scale to measure your ingredients is the best way to have consistent success with your dough. Most bakers express their recipes as a percentage of the flour. As an example, my go to pizza dough recipe is at 65% hydration. That means that the water added to the dough is 65% of the weight of the flour. I also use grams because the math is so much easier. For my typical pizza parties, I use 1 KG of flour. That is 1,000 grams. For a 65% hydration that means my water is 650 grams. It is also very easy to scale the recipes when using gram weight as opposed to volume measurements like cups.

I really like this OXO scale (they make really good kitchen products, don’t they?). I especially like the readout pullout so that you can use a large bowl and still see the weight.

I have also shared my fennel sausage recipe calculator. This is 100% by weight which ensures perfect sausage every time.

What is it

When working with ingredients that require very little, I use a high precision scale. They can’t weigh large quantities, but the precision is fantastic. I use this when I have ingredients that are less than 20 grams. I especially use this precision with things such as yeast. When you are measuring a few grams, a half gram can be the difference between success and falure.

What are your favorite tools to use?

30 views1 comment

תגובה אחת

דירוג של 0 מתוך 5 כוכבים
אין עדיין דירוגים

הוספת דירוג
Wendy Clay
Wendy Clay
07 בספט׳ 2023
דירוג של 5 מתוך 5 כוכבים

Very interesting. Especjially the how to in a regular oven. I can never get the crust the way I want it. Perhaps I will try the oven stoneware that has been in the closet! Lol never knew what temps or how to. Thanks for the info

bottom of page