The Dirty F-Word And 7 Simple Steps For Making Sensational Homemade Pizza With Your Own Two Hands, Part 6: Launching The Pizza
PART 6 IN A 7-PART SERIES
“Getting that pizza off the peel freaks me out!” I have never heard anyone utter that sentence—but I have felt it from every new pizza maker I meet. Even some who’ve never yet made a pizza harbor anxiety about getting that pizza from peel to steel or stone.
Gluten and gravity, baby! It can be hard to feel that biology and physics are on our side. The pizza is not going anywhere besides where you put that peel. The gluten network holds that pizza together. Physics removes it from the peel. It's that simple.
Yes, in the moment, there could be something really wrong with the pizza/peel relationship. But that’s rare. In my 20 years of making pizza, an occasional snag has lead to pizza unfortunate. A round pie turns amoebic. So it goes.
Worst case scenario: Accidental calzone. I make one of those every few years. Yes, it requires some improvisation. Rescue means making “the fold.” But it’s still edible. I have never thrown away a pizza. As far as you know.
Most of the time, physics is your friend as long as you don’t get in the way. That pizza is sliding off the peel as God intended. It’s hard to imagine any act of God intervening, short of an earthquake.
Before going further, let’s recap our full list of the 7 Steps. As discussed previously, many pizza newbies eschew focus because it feels intense and it sounds like work. Focus is actually an absence of intensity and it makes things easier. And when you focus on the 7 steps, pizza ensues:
Realizing that physics wants a pizza is the "'Ah-ha!" moment when launching a pizza goes from daunting to doubtless. Rough and un-ready becomes smoothly easy. Fear and anxiety are the enemy. Let purpose and intent take over. They give you the power to place that pizza where it belongs without any ugly reshaping in the least.
Get excited now about Newton’s First Law. That’s right, it’s simple science from the 1600s! An object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.
You’ve seen the old trick where a magician whips a tablecloth out from beneath an array of place settings. Pulled away quickly, the tablecloth offers so little friction that it does not act upon the place settings.
The same thing happens with a pizza on a peel. And launching a pizza doesn’t require nearly as much practice as whipping the table linen out from beneath the place settings on a four-top at your local steak joint. All you've got is a slippery surface with a single disc of dough that's happy to remain round.
It all begins with a wooden peel. Yes, maybe someone has convinced you to begin with a metal peel or, more challenging, a perforated metal peel. The newbie does best with a wooden peel. It remains the most appropriate surface for engaging Newton’s First Law. (It’s easy for a raw pizza to stick to a metal peel. It’s even easier for a raw pizza to get hung up in the holes of the perforated peel. Save the fancy pro gear for when you’re slinging pies like a maniac.)
The peel should be liberally dusted with semolina. I know, people have told you to use cornmeal or flour. Both those will work. I finally settled on semolina after trying both flour and cornmeal and even other products in a pinch. I've fond that semolina provides the best ball-bearing effect between pizza and peel. It also smells better in the oven than cornmeal and doesn’t burn as easily.
You’ve stretched your dough and topped your pizza. You’ve followed the less-is-more paradigm and made a judiciously assembled pizza. Especially if it’s your first pizza, you’re doing just sauce and cheese so you can see how such a simple pizza behaves in your oven.
Before you go to launch, you give the peel a little shake. The raw pizza slides easily. Fantastic.
You keep the peel near-parallel with the baking steel or stone. You give it a little out and back motion. The front edge of the pizza slides onto the baking surface. When you pull the peel back with the same motion, it slides out from under the resting pizza.
A pizza at rest stays at rest. It's in the oven where you want it to go. A tiny thrust forward and a quick slide back. Fear replaces focus, and you’ve just launched your pizza.
How goes your journey through basic pizza preparedness? If you’re turning out more problems than pizzas, you might find pizza peace in the fast and funny pizzamaker’s manual, Free The Pizza! (A Simple System For Making Great Pizza Whenever You Want With The Oven You Already Have), which you can find at Amazon by clicking here.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the bestselling, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, pro-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
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