9 Tips for Launching the (Almost) Perfect Pizza
By: Dana De Greff
A question that we often get from people when they first start making pizza at home is about how to get their dough off of the peel and into their Ooni. This is called ‘launching,’ and if it sounds tricky, or if the process has already challenged you, don’t worry – it’s an easy skill to master. The most important thing here is to practice making dough and cooking pizza – with a little effort, time, and a healthy appetite, you’ll be cooking fantastic pies in no time! We've developed some essential tips to help you hit the ground running. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to hosting a great pizza party.
Note: All of these tips will be useful whether using a wooden peel, a perforated peel, or prepping on a separate surface.
1. Choose the right flourThere’s more than one way to make a pizza, but one thing remains the same: flour. While there are many types – from “00” and gluten-free to bread and whole wheat – we’ve taken the guesswork out of it with our handy guide to help you find the right match.
2. Start with the basics
Once you have the right flour, you’ll need a stellar dough recipe. For beginners, we recommend starting out with our Classic Pizza Dough, which is simple and easy to follow and only requires three to four hours of proofing. If you’re really pressed for time, try out our Quick Pizza Dough, which only needs one hour. And no pizza (unless you’re going for a white pie, of course) is complete without a Classic Pizza Sauce.
3. Stretch at room temperature
After you’ve made your dough, you’re ready to stretch your pizza. Pizza dough is easiest to work with at room temperature, so if you’ve opted for a cold proof, give it at least 4 hours out of the fridge before cooking. If your dough is too cold, it will be hard to work with and spring back in on itself. On the other hand, if it's too warm, it may start to sweat (causing it to stick to the peel) or stretch too far and tear easily.
4. Work with two peelsWhen making pizza, you’ll have a much smoother experience if you keep your peel and ingredients at room temperature, and using two peels simultaneously can help. Reserve one as a “prep peel” (for building the pizza and launching it into your oven) and one as a “‘warm peel” (for turning and retrieving hot pizza). This guarantees that your prep peel is always at room temperature and doesn’t get hot from moving around inside the oven. It also prevents the dough from softening quickly, which can cause it to stick to the peel and become challenging to work with.
5. Flour everything and check for holesBefore you stretch out your pizza, flouring your hands, the surface you’re working on, and the peel are essential. Once you’ve stretched out your base, check for holes – any moisture that gets between the peel and the dough will cause your dough to stick. If you find any small holes or tears, simply pinch the holes together gently. If the holes are too big to fix, don’t worry: it’s the perfect opportunity to make a Recovery Calzone!
6. Stop and shakeOnce you have your stretched pizza base on your peel and think you’re ready to add sauce and toppings, our advice is to stop. Instead, we always recommend picking up your peel and giving it a shake. If the dough sticks to the peel and won’t budge, simply pick up the edge of the dough and throw a little more flour on the peel. You won’t be able to do this once sauce and toppings have been added, so time is of the essence here!
7. Keep toppings lightAs a general rule, less is more when it comes to toppings – this will make it easier to get your pizza off of the peel and into your oven because it won’t be weighed down. You also want to be careful when spreading over your sauce; any dropped onto the peel can make it tricky to launch. And when it comes to what to choose for your toppings, we’ve got some great options to kick you off: think pepperoni, dried oregano, hot honey and hot peppers.
8. Move quickly and calmlyWhen your pizza is stretched and beautifully topped, it’s almost time for launch. It’s important to be mindful that if the dough sits out for too long, it’s more likely to stick to the peel. This is because the sauce can begin to seep into the dough and cause a gluey effect. There’s no need to panic or rush, but do make sure to stretch out your dough and build your pizza when both you and your Ooni are ready to cook.
9. The hovercraft
Lastly, the hovercraft technique does wonders when launching a pizza because it helps the dough glide from peel to stone. First, you’ll want to lift up one edge of the pizza base and gently blow air under the dough. This creates air pockets underneath the pizza and spreads excess flour around the underside to any areas that might be sticking. You can also add a little extra flour onto the peel on the side you’ll be blowing from to further ensure that your pizza makes it from the peel to the baking stone in one go.
Dana De Greff is a writer based in Austin, Texas. When she’s not eating pizza and working as Ooni’s Content Editor, you can find her reading, biking and searching for the best al pastor tacos in the city.