It can be the most intimidating, and sometimes demoralizing, part of the pizza-making process. You’ve made the dough, prepped the ingredients, stretched it out perfectly then go to launch it into the oven and … it sticks. There is no worse feeling for the home pizziaolo than standing over a blazing hot oven trying to wrestle some stuck dough into the oven.
Don’t despair. It happens to everyone at some point and calzones still taste good! With a little practice and following these 6 practical tips you’ll be launching your pizzas into the Ooni with pizzazz.
1. Prep your dough
It should not stick to your hands. You can gently coat it in flour before your start stretching. It might go without saying, but don’t knead or stretch your dough on the peel itself.
2. Prep your peel
Make sure your peel is clean and dry, then prep your pizza peel. This one gets a little contentious sometimes. Some people like flour or semolina. Some people like cornmeal. Some like a combination of both. I prefer a little bit of a flour. Rice flour is a good choice. Start with a tablespoon and work your way down to the minimum amount possible. The loose flour acts as teeny ball bearings, creating a movable layer between the dough and your peel.
Other than allergies, some people object to the cornmeal because if can smoke and burn more easily in the oven. If you do opt for cornmeal, it does work well, use it sparingly.
3. Hustle & Shake
Once your stretched dough is on the peel, you need to hustle as the dough will start absorbing any flour on the peel and begin to stick. I like to shake the peel right after placing the dough to make sure it moves. If it doesn’t move easily, slide a little more flour under the sticky spots.
Periodically shake your pizza on the peel while you’re adding the sauce and toppings.
4. Less is more
You can do everything right up to this point but if your pizza is overloaded with toppings it is going to stick in the middle. Not to mention, it will likely cook unevenly in the oven with the bottom finishing before the toppings.
5. Launch it
There are two methods to getting the pizza off the peel when you are standing in front of the oven: the gentle shimmy and the quick jerk. For the gentle shimmy, aim your peel toward the back of the oven or stone and then gently shuffle the pie off until all the dough settles on the surface.
The second method is to use one smooth motion and let inertia get the pie onto the cooking surface. With a smooth motion, aim your peel for the middle-back of your stone, then quickly jerk it back. Think whipping a tablecloth off a table. The pizza’s momentum will keep it moving forward, sliding easily off your peel and onto your stone or steel.
If you are using a metal peel, don’t linger! Besides losing heat through an open door, the metal peel can pick up the oven’s heat and start cooking the pizza on the peel.
The more pizzas you make, the better you’ll get. If you need to, practice with parchment until you get the hang of things. Parchment is almost foolproof in getting a pizza off a peel and into the oven. Just remember to get the parchment back out of of the oven.
With these tips, a little practice, and a little experience, you’ll be launching pizzas with confidence in no time.