Pizza ovens from brands such as Ooni, La Hacienda, Aldi and Gozney are all the rage this summer, but cooking with a pizza oven isn’t nearly as straightforward as using your kitchen oven.
Open flames, sticky pizza dough and scorching temperatures of over 400°C are all fundamental parts of cooking with a pizza oven that could land you in trouble if you don’t have the right tools to handle them.
It might seem frustrating to have to buy additional specialist tools for pizza cooking, especially as home pizza ovens often cost at least £250.
But without the right equipment you won’t be able to use your pizza oven properly and will struggle to get anything close to the mouthwatering pizzas you see pictured on your pizza oven manufacturer’s website.
Find out what five pizza oven tools we think you’ll need to enjoy restaurant-quality pizza at home.
Still picking your pizza oven? See our top pizza ovens guide.
1) Pizza peel
Probably the most essential tool of all, a pizza peel is a paddle used to place your pizzas in the oven for cooking and take them out when they’re done. There’s really no getting by without one.
There are generally two types of pizza peel to choose from – wood and aluminium – and both come with pros and cons.
- Wooden pizza peels are less prone to getting pizza dough stuck to them, helping you avoid disasters when transferring the pizza into the oven. However, because they absorb more moisture than aluminium peels, they’re tricky to get clean and won’t last as long.
- Aluminium pizza peels are the opposite. They’re easy to maintain and clean, but pizza dough is much more likely to stick to the metal surface. You can, however, buy perforated aluminium peels which aren’t so bad for sticking.
Whichever peel you buy, it’s a good idea to dust it with flour before each use to reduce sticking, and when your pizza is on your peel give it a little shake every 20 seconds or so to make sure it hasn’t stuck.
We’d also recommend prepping your pizza directly on the peel once you’ve stretched out your dough, as once it’s ready you can place it straight in the oven.
2) Turning peel
A turning peel is less essential than a standard pizza peel, but is nonetheless handy for getting your pizzas cooked perfectly.
Because the fire is usually either to one side or at the back of the pizza oven, you need to turn your pizza frequently. Leaving your pizza in one position for much longer than 30 seconds risks one side of the pizza burning to a crisp.
Turning peels are small and rounded with sloped edges that are perfect for sweeping under the side of the pizza and giving it a quick turn.
It takes a bit of practice, but mastering pizza turning techniques will help you get your crusts, bases and toppings just right.
- Know when to turn the pizza – keep an eye on it during cooking. A telltale sign that it’s ready to turn is the crust closest to the fire puffing up and expanding. It should be ready to turn after about 30 seconds.
- Turning the pizza – slide the turning peel under one side of the pizza, lift it slightly, and then pull it towards you before pushing it back in a circular motion.
- Check the crust – slide the turning peel under the closest edge and gently raise the peel to get a good look at the base. It should be nicely browned with lightly charred spots, just like the crust.
- How to cook the toppings more thoroughly – slide the peel under the centre of the pizza and briefly raise it off the pizza stone. This will give the toppings more time with the intense heat at the top of the oven while avoiding overcooking the base.
You could use your standard pizza peel to turn the pizza, but you’ll need to take the pizza out of the oven fully and turn it around manually before sliding it back in.
This isn’t as convenient as using a turning peel though, and using the standard pizza peel for turning will gradually heat up the peel, potentially making the dough of your next pizza stick straight to it.
Feeling like a pizza dinner with less effort involved? See which one came top in our taste tests of frozen pepperoni pizza.
3) Pizza stone
Thankfully, most pizza ovens come with one included, but if you don’t have a pizza stone this is another absolute essential for cooking fresh pizza using fire.
Most pizza stones are made out of cordierite, a highly absorbent mineral that will draw the moisture from the base of your pizza and help it to crisp and brown during cooking.
Without a pizza stone, you risk your pizza having a nicely charred top and a squishy, underdone base .
Pizza stones can also be useful for any homemade pizza you cook in your kitchen oven. They will happily sit on an oven shelf and provide the same moisture-absorbing benefits that they do when used in a pizza oven.
However, because kitchen ovens don’t use open flames or go up to the red-hot temperatures of a pizza oven, you’ll need to let the pizza stone heat through fully before cooking to ensure it’s hot enough. This can take around an hour in a kitchen oven.
You’ll also want to avoid cleaning your pizza stone until it has cooled, to prevent it cracking, and never use washing-up liquid to clean it. It will absorb the sudsy water and make your next batch of pizzas taste like soap.
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4) Temperature gun
It’s important to get your pizza oven up to a consistent temperature that’s hot enough to cook your pizzas, and the general rule of thumb is to aim for between 400°C and 500°C.
However, while your pizza oven might be at that temperature, your pizza stone needs to be at least 400°C before cooking too.
An infra-red gun-shaped thermometer is the perfect tool for measuring the surface temperature of your pizza stone and it will give you a clear indication of when your pizza oven is ready for cooking.
Some pizza ovens come with thermometers built in, but most are built into the oven chamber rather than the pizza stone, so although the oven will appear hot enough to cook with, the pizza stone could actually be as much as 200°C cooler.
Temperature guns can be inaccurate, so make sure to check it has a CE or UKCA mark before buying. These marks indicate that the temperature gun has been checked and approved for its accuracy.
5) Bristle brush
If you have a wood-fired or charcoal pizza oven rather than gas, then a thick bristle brush is crucial for managing burning embers and sweeping away ash.
Traditional wood-fired ovens sometimes require you to build a fire in the centre of the oven and then push the burning logs to the side or rear once they’re going. The hard, flat top of the brush is great for moving the burning fuel around without you needing to get too close.
The stiff bristles of the brush are also useful for clearing ash, both during and after cooking.
As the fire crackles, small bits of ash can litter the pizza stone and, if you cook your pizzas without sweeping it away, the ash can give your pizza base a bitter taste.
After the fire has died down and the pizza oven has fully cooled, the brush should then be used to sweep the ash out of the oven to keep it clean and prevent it from getting clogged.
You can buy specialist brushes for use with pizza ovens, but as long as it fits comfortably in the oven chamber any tough brush with a long handle and thick bristles will do the trick.
Warm up and create a cosy atmosphere in your garden with our fire pit buying guides.
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