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September/October 2017

Baking Peels

Are flashy, innovative peels better than basic models?

How We Tested

We often use baking peels to move pizza, bread, and other baked goods into, out of, and within hot ovens. Since we last tested them, our winning peel, the innovative EXO Polymer Sealed Super Peel, has changed. It’s now made from a different kind of wood and has a new polymer coating, ostensibly to make it more moisture-proof. EXO also released a new peel with a larger, thinner aluminum blade. Eager to see how these two new Super Peels measured up, we tested them alongside three other peels (one wood, one metal, and one wood-fiber composite) for a total of five products priced from $9.79 to $57.95, using them to make thin-crust pizza and rustic Italian bread. In keeping with what we’d learned in our previous testing, we selected peels with blades (the flat, spatula-like part) at least 14 inches wide, allowing us to accommodate large loaves comfortably, and handles that were about 8 inches long, giving us just enough distance from the heat of the oven without sacrificing control.

When baking, we use a peel for three specific tasks. First, we unload raw dough onto a hot baking stone in the oven. This is one of the riskier steps in the baking process, since delicate, carefully formed loaves and pizza rounds can lose their shape if they stick to the peel or get shaken off it too vigorously. Next, we rotate the bread or pizza in the oven to ensure even baking. And finally, we remove the baked items from the oven.

No peel excelled at all three tasks. The wood peel was very good at unloading the dough. Once it was lightly sprinkled with flour, even the stickiest dough slipped right off when we gave the peel’s handle a quick jerk, though occasionally perfect pizza rounds became a bit oblong when we were too forceful. Even better were the two Super Peels, which were fitted with innovative cotton conveyor belts that were practically nonstick once dusted with flour, allowing us to unroll the thinnest and most fragile pizzas without misshaping them.

Unfortunately, none of these models were great at in-oven rotation. The wood peel was too thick to get up and under breads and pizzas easily—a design flaw that also made it hard to remove these foods when fully baked. And while you could technically pick up and rotate the half-baked breads and pizzas with the conveyer belts on the Super Peels, it took a little more time than we’d prefer. In addition, at 16 inches wide, the large aluminum Super Peel was a bit too big to maneuver comfortably within a standard home oven. That said, both did a reasonable—if slightly time-consuming—job of removing the finished goods.

By contrast, the metal and wood-fiber composite blades were much more agile when removing the bread and pizza, mostly because they were thinner (0.25 inches thick or less) and could slip under the food more easily. The problem was that raw dough tended to stick to these models; we had to coat them with lots of flour in order to unload the loaves and pizza rounds intact, leaving the food unpleasantly dusty when it came out of the oven.

Task performance aside, a few factors made certain peels easier to use than others. While the conventional metal, wood, and composite peels could be used right out of the box, the two Super Peels were a bit trickier to set up and use. It was a little fussy to clip the conveyor belts together and get the tension just right, and it took a few attempts to figure out exactly where to position the peels when unloading. And because the conveyor belt must be deployed manually, you end up sliding your hand toward the very back of the hot oven, running the risk of roasting a knuckle or two in the process if you move slowly. With practice, however, this is less of an issue.

Which peel should you buy? While it has a bit of a learning curve, we still think the EXO Polymer Sealed Super Peel ($54.95) is the best peel for most people. It excels at the riskiest task a peel performs—unloading delicate doughs without deforming them—and does a decent job of removing the finished baked goods, too. For half the price, the Pizzacraft 14” Wood Pizza Peel ($27.31) is our Best Buy. It unloads raw dough almost as well as our winner does, and it’s a good choice if you don’t mind using tongs to rotate half-baked pizzas and coax finished goods back onto its blade.

Methodology

We tested five baking peels of different materials (wood, metal, wood-fiber composite) and styles (three conventional and two conveyor belt–style peels), priced from $9.79 to $57.95. Each had a blade that was at least 14 inches wide and a handle that was about 8 inches long. We used each peel to unload thin-crust pizza and rustic Italian bread doughs onto a preheated baking stone, rotate them halfway through baking, and remove the finished products from the oven. We evaluated the peels on each task as well as on the ease with which we could use them. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.

Unloading: We evaluated the peels on how easily they unloaded raw dough onto the baking stone.

Rotating: We evaluated the peels on how easily they rotated half-cooked pizzas and loaves within the oven.

Removing: We evaluated the peels on how easily they removed the finished baked goods from the oven.

Ease of Use: We evaluated the peels on how easy they were to set up and prepare and on how comfortable they were to hold and use.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB