Accessories for making pizza at home: what you can’t do without and why
In recent times, many amateur pizza chefs have taken advantage of the lockdown to learn new cooking skills, hone the old ones, acquire the tools to make homemade pizza and even buy a state-of-the-art home oven.
Pizza-making is an art and doing it at home is all the more difficult, since you don’t normally have the specialist equipment at hand as we have already seen in another article of our blog (four tips to make homemade pizza like a pro).
The main difference lies in the performance of the oven. Modern home ovens can perform almost as well as commercial ones.
In addition to traditional refractory wood-burning ovens, stainless-steel wood-fired ovens, lighter and easier to handle, are gaining momentum. Even most recent gas and electric ovens are much more effective as they reach very high temperatures while keeping consumption low, which was absolutely unimaginable only ten years ago.
If you have a proper oven, you are already halfway to your goal, so just add some essential tools for making a restaurant-quality pizza at home.
The purpose of this article is to learn more about the utensils for making homemade pizzas according to the type of oven you have and the style of pizza you want to cook.
In the first part of this article, we will focus on all-purpose tools for any type of pizza, that is, basically, the implements to take the pizza in and out of the oven and to clean the floor.
Later, we will address the issue of the essential tools for cooking with wood-fired ovens and those specifically designed for gas and electric models.
Finally, we will deal with a handy tool to expand the cooking options of a wood-burning oven and one to protect your appliance against adverse weather conditions.
Do not forget that the type of oven affects the kind of pizza dough we will make and thus the style of pizza we will bake as we have already explained in this article (how to make pizza dough based on the type of oven).
The must-have tools to make round pizza “al piatto” (on a plate)
Let’s start by talking about the essential tools needed to make a pizzeria-quality pizza regardless of the type of oven you use.
The pizza “al piatto” is usually cooked in a wood-burning oven but it can also be made in gas-fired or electric ovens as long as they hit very high temperatures and have a refractory floor.
The pie is baked directly on the floor, so to handle it, you can’t get along without three indispensable instruments.
Then you can add two more tools that will stand you in good stead:
Let’s look at them.
1. The pizza peel
The pizza peel is the shovel-like tool to slide the pizza into the oven. Its tapered edge allows you to slip it easily under the pie and put it into the oven. The peel must remain into the oven no longer than is strictly necessary to place the pizza, so that it doesn’t heat up and makes it harder to slide pizza off.
It is the tool that allows you to rotate pizzas and take them out of the oven. It’s smaller than the pizza peel and it slides more easily under the pies. Furthermore, by using it to get the pizza out of the oven you keep the pizza peel cleaner and sanitised.
This brush comes with brass bristles to scrub the oven floor from food residue and combustion by-products. This utensil is key for cleaning wood-fired ovens that burn much less cleanly than gas-burning or electric ones.
This peel holder allows you to keep your kitchen organised while you are cooking. In addition to provide a place to store your pizza peels, its modern design makes it a stylish decorative element especially for an outdoor kitchen as in the case of the Alfa Forni’s Veolia pizza peel holder.
The pizza cutter’s purpose is, you guessed it, cutting pizza and, in this regard, it can be replaced by a knife. However, if you want high-speed, clean-cut slices of pizza, that’s the thing for you. It’s particularly suitable for round or Roman-style pizza.
The best accessories for making homemade pizza in a wood-burning oven
In the cooking world, the wood-fired oven is king. Baking with firewood has a really special charm and imparts unique flavour to food.
The wood-burning oven is more demanding when it comes to getting firewood, lighting it and managing the temperature, but once you get the hang of it, the results are far superior to other cooking appliances.
Here are some accessories that can come in handy:
Let’s see them in detail.
You can clean the wood-fired oven using a brush in conjunction with a cloth. More specifically, wipe most of the dirt off with the brush and use a damp cloth to clean it up.
The damp cloth also allows you to lower the temperature of the oven floor and not to burn the bottom part of the pizza when baking starts. Should such a thing happen, lift the pizza with the help of the small peel to move it near the fire and to cook the top.
The fire separator
The fire separator is useful for making pizza cooking in a wood-burning oven more homogeneous. It’s a L-shaped metal plate that acts as a barrier to separate the flames from the pizzas.
Its aim is to laterally balance the cooking of pizzas by reducing their exposure to direct heat (radiation). The heat transfer will take place mainly by conduction (from the hot floor) and by convection (circulation of hot air around the oven).
The wood rack
This attachment does make baking in a wood-fired oven easier. It’s fundamentally a metal support on which you can place the firewood in a more orderly way for lighting the oven and maintaining the fire.
In particular, the firewood burns away from the oven floor and favours a greater airflow that increases the combustion efficiency. It also allows you to easily move the fire to the different parts of the oven by lifting it with the small peel.
The ember rake
This is an extra for people that want to move the embers around the oven. Its crescent shape makes it easier to collect the residue after the combustion of wood all along the internal perimeter of the dome.
Alfa Forni includes the ember rake in the 4-piece pizza peel set. All these accessories come with insertable extensions to add length.
The laser thermometer
Modern wood-burning ovens are equipped with a thermostat which generally is less accurate than those found in other types of oven.
The reason is that in the wood-fired oven the heat comes mainly from the fire and the temperature swings are amazing, while in gas and electric counterparts the heat is more evenly distributed.
The laser thermometer allows you to gauge the temperature in the different parts of the wood-burning oven to get a broad overview of its thermal behaviour.
You will therefore be able to figure out the relationship between temperature, cooking time and distance between the food and the fire and end up finding a way to bake like a professional pizza chef.
We have talked about accessories and not tools because these add-ons certainly facilitate the work but, in their absence, you can still bake yummy pizzas using the bare essentials perhaps being a little more inventive (i.e., handling the peel to move the embers, rubbing more vigorously with the brush or stacking the firewood more carefully).
Accessories for making pizza in home gas-fired or electric ovens.
Domestic gas-burning or electric ovens can’t reach the high temperatures of their wood-burning counterparts, so pizza is usually baked in a pan. Pan-pizza dough has a higher hydration level (water-flour ratio) so that it can withstand a longer cooking time.
The two main add-ons to bake a pan pizza are the pan and the cooling rack. And if you are really dying to bake pizza “al piatto” like in a wood-burning oven, you badly need a refractory stone.
The pan is a metal container where to arrange the pizza dough to allow it to rise further before baking. To get the best cooking results, we recommend using steel pans that are not too thin.
The cooling rack
It is a metal grid on which to place the pizza. Inside the oven, it can be used to get a more evenly cooked pizza by lifting the bottom from the floor and getting the top done.
Outside the oven, it allows the air to circulate and the moisture to evaporate keeping the pizza from getting too soggy. Use the small peel to move the rack and do not leave it in the oven for too long so that it doesn’t overheat.
The refractory stone
It consists of a refractory rock, sometimes coated with ceramic, that mimics the cooking of commercial ovens in pizzerias.
It is placed onto the oven floor usually with a short peel and helps the gas-fired or electric oven to maintain a constant temperature (absorbing and releasing the heat gradually) and to cook for longer periods of time.
An accessory that expands the cooking options of your wood-fired oven
So far, we have scrutinised the essential tools and accessories to make homemade pizza, whether on a plate or in a pan, in a wood-burning, gas-burning or electric oven.
In these last two paragraphs instead, we will zero in on two add-ons that are not supposed to help you bake pizza but should not be missing in an oven worthy of its name.
The first one is the BBQ 500, an implement that allows you to grill in a wood-fired oven and which consists in a rotating grid on a metal pan. Just build a great fire, place the hot coals into the pan and the grid on top of them to grill like a pitmaster.
As we explained in a previous article in our blog, with the BBQ 500 you can grill in a very special way because you roast (with the fire inside the oven), impart a smoky flavour (courtesy of wood burning) and a charred surface with a tender core (thanks to hot coals) in one fell swoop.
A great accessory to protect your outdoor oven
The last extra we want to focus on is not strictly connected with cooking but with the protection of your outdoor oven. We are obviously talking about the oven cover to give your appliance year-round protection. It is custom-made, with heavy-duty, waterproof, breathable material highly resistant to atmospheric agents.
Wear and tear, temperature swings, rain, snow, frost, sun are all factors that, in the long term, can compromise the proper functioning of the appliance so we suggest installing your outdoor oven in a sheltered area in order to raise the protection level provided by the cover and extend its lifespan.
This is even more true if you live in places with very low temperatures for long periods of time (for instance, in the mountains) or in seaside resorts rich in salty air.
In conclusion, we have seen that having the right tools and accessories helps you make delicious homemade pizzas.
To bake pizza “al piatto”, the all-purpose pizza peel set (peel, small peel, brush) will certainly be useful and the peel holder and the pizza cutter would be very welcome.
As for the wood-burning oven, whose management is a little bit trying, you’d better go the whole hog and using the cloth, the ember rake, the wood rack, the fire separator and the laser thermometer.
If pan pizza is your cup of tea, then you will need a pan, a cooling rack and a pizza stone. If you prefer meat, we have given you some information on the BBQ 500 to add grilling to your repertoire and on the oven cover to protect your appliance.
Many of these tools are included in the pizzaiolo kit, a convenient solution to make pizza at home that tastes like the one you eat at a restaurant.