I've just started making bread and am loving it (even if I need some practice still), but my pizza peel split in half last night. I had a cheap wood version and am wondering if it's worth it to invest in a better quality one? Should I stick with wood or go with aluminum? I saw Mario Batali's, but am just not sure. Any advice or suggestions?
Mary, how often do you make pizza? If you make it regularly, say once a week, then a peel could be pretty handy. But if you don't make pizza very often, and it's the bread you're thinking of, then we would suggest sticking to the pot method where you bake your bread inside a Dutch oven or other heavy pot. It makes a wonderful crust, and a peel isn't necessary. Of course, if you are trying to make baguettes or other long shaped breads, a pot isn't practical. If you are making bread like that AND pizza on a regular basis, we say go for it.
The Batali pizza peel is especially suited for small kitchens, because it folds up. (See photo above.) The wood handle folds back onto the aluminum blade for easy storage.
• Mario Batali Pizza Peel, $29.95 at Food Network
So that's an excellent option if you have a smaller kitchen and little storage space. We also like how the aluminum edge is thinner and makes it easier to slide the pizza onto the baking rack or stone. It also isn't prone to cracking, although we might worry about warping. But we don't have direct experience with aluminum peels, so we can't say for sure.
The nice thing, on the other hand, about the wood peels is that they are great for serving all sorts of things -- you can use it to serve bread, cheese, snacks, or other small bites.
The peel pictured at the top is from Williams-Sonoma:
• Pizza Peel, $29.95
Related: Hunting Down a Good Pizza Stone