Pretty much everyone likes pizza. If you get some of the right tools, then you can make some pretty amazing pizza.
The Pizza Peel is a crucial piece of equipment that allows you to "launch" the uncooked pizza onto your cooking surface (pizza stone, pizza steel, brick oven, etc.). The problem is that they're really expensive for what they are: a piece of laminated wood or sheet aluminum. So let's make a pizza peel for less than 1/3 of the cost of the least expensive pizza peel that I found on Amazon.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
For this project I used:
- Inkscape to design the peel shape
- Inkscape is a vector drawing program that is a good free alternative to Adobe Illustrator
- a piece of 18"x30"x.25" birch plywood (this thickness seems good for supporting any pizzas you might create)
- my local maker space's laser cutter (to cut out the peel's shape)
- If you don't have access to a laser cutter, you could cut out the rough shape using a jigsaw or a scrollsaw
- An orbital sander with 120 grit and 320 grit paper
Step 2: Designing the Peel
I went through a few iterations of designing the shape of the peel. I made the peel square so that I could make any shape of pizza that I wanted as long as it fit within the footprint of the peel. The width and length of my peel were determined by the width and length of my pizza steel (14"x14"). Finally I made a few test pieces to figure out how wide I wanted to make the handle and eventually chose 1.3" because it fit my hand well.
Below are the .svg files of my first design and my final design (note: both files have a rectangle below the peel which is meant to act as a support if you plan to use .125" plywood)
Check the thickness of the lines in these files if you decide to use them because most lasercutters will not cut lines that are other than .001 inches thick.
Step 3: Laser Cutting
Once the peel was designed, and I had tested some of the dimensions on scrap pieces of plywood, I lasercut the final design. I chose plywood over other materials that you can lasercut because traditional peels are made from wood, it is an inexpensive material, it has a good surface finish/aesthetic, and if it isn't treated then it is probably food safe (check on this...results may vary).
Basically this peel is going to be going into a >400 degree F oven, so materials that can melt are a bad choice.
Step 4: Sanding
I sanded the surface and edges of the pizza peel with 120grit and then 320 grit sandpaper to get the surface finish of the peel to be soft. This worked well with an orbital sander, and I hand sanded the hard to reach places.
To sand the hole in the handle, I made a DIY mandrel sander by wrapping 320 grit sandpaper around a large drill bit and then spinning the bit inside the hole.
The goal of this step isn't to take off material, it's to get rid of the dark edge left by the lasercutter, and to smooth the edges. Importantly you'll want to bevel the front edge of the pizza peel so that it can easily slide under the bottom crust of your cooking pizza.
Step 5: Make Some Pizza!
That's all I have for you! The total cost of my project was the $3.33 that I paid for the plywood.
To use the peel, you should also sprinkle semolina on the surface which acts as ball bearings underneath the dough. This means that technically your pizza won't be in contact with the surface of the wood, making cleanup really easy.
Here are a few great videos demonstrating how to use a pizza peel in addition to some good recipes and ideas. Enjoy!