Q How can we keep our pizzas from sticking to the peel?
A There are several things you can do about this problem, but start by making sure you’re using the right peel. Pizza peels come in two styles: metal and wood/composite. The wood/composite peel is the correct peel to use for prepping, while the metal peel should be used as an oven peel only. With wood/composite peels, you’re less likely to get condensation on the peel due to temperature differences between the peel and the dough—and it’s this condensation that can lead to stickiness.
The next thing to consider: What are you using for peel dust? While plain flour works well, it isn’t very forgiving. If your dough is a little cold or sticky for some reason, it may stick to the peel at the oven’s entrance. You may want to sprinkle some cornmeal on the peel instead. As a release material, it works great, much like thousands of tiny ball bearings under the dough skin. With just a little shake, the dressed dough will slide effortlessly off the peel. However, cornmeal can impart added grit to the bottom of the baked pie. For some pizza makers, this is actually desirable; for others, it is not. The excess cornmeal also has to be swept out of the oven regularly, or it will show up on the bottoms of the baked pizzas as hard black spots.
Some operators advocate the use of semolina flour, which is significantly coarser than regular flour and doesn’t absorb moisture as quickly. For this reason, it makes for a pretty decent peel dust, a good compromise between regular flour and cornmeal. Other operators have turned to more “exotic” ingredients to use as a peel dust, such as wheat bran, rice flour, corn flour, coarse-ground whole-wheat flour, and even rye flour. Any of these materials make for an effective peel dust.
My personal favorite is a blend of equal parts cornmeal, semolina flour and regular pizza flour. Don’t ask me why I like it—it just works for me. With this blend, I can peel the dressed dough into the oven with authority and confidence, knowing it will slide off the peel every time!