When a friend asked me if the metal paddle is my favorite oven tool, I said it’s hard to pick a favorite tool. The basic tools we recommend include metal and wooden peels, a long-handled hook, an oven brush, a laser thermometer, an ash bin, and a metal paddle. The metal paddle is a surprising tool for some, but I wouldn’t want to be without it.
Up a creek without a paddle
Like the old expression being up a creek without a paddle*, I don’t want to be working at my oven without a metal paddle at hand. The metal paddle uniquely solves some oven-related challenges like perfectly placing wood on a fire, adding wood while food is cooking, maneuvering heavy dishes deep in the oven, and moving anything in the tight places where the oven vault meets the oven floor.
Metal paddle, strength with maneuverability
The metal paddle was designed for the purpose of stirring restaurant size tubs of soup. For the owner of a wood-fired oven, the paddle becomes a light-weight extension of your arms. It allows you to work in the interior regions of your oven without getting burned. The paddle is rigid and weighs just 2 pounds. The face of the paddle is a 4 ¾ inches wide, and the handle comes in 3 lengths: 36, 42, and 48 inches. You can buy a metal paddle on-line or at a restaurant supply store such as Ace Mart for between $16-22. (What you’re looking for is a metal paddle, not wood or plastic stirring paddle.)
Metal paddle makes it easy to add wood
I have a 42” metal paddle that works well in my oven (40” internal diameter). I can work deep in the oven without the strain of supporting a heavier tool. The face of the paddle is small, about the size of your palm. It allows me to carefully add wood to an existing fire, one or two pieces at a time. (See our blog on the right way to add wood to your oven.) Using the paddle, I can lift a piece of wood over foods that are already cooking to refresh the fire. I can maneuver the paddle to lift or reposition dishes and pans, even a heavy dutch oven. The small-faced metal paddle does jobs that can’t be managed with a large pizza peel, a heavy iron tool, or a hook.
I like to think of the metal paddle as a secret weapon for owners of wood-burning ovens. They are small, strong, light-weight, maneuverable, and inexpensive.
*About the phrase being up the creek without a paddle. In the British navy, at the time of Lord Nelson, sick and wounded sailors were off loaded from warships at Portsmouth Harbor. (See Using English.) From the harbor they were transported up Haslar Creek to the Royal Naval Hospital. There they were imprisoned until they recovered or died, a situation from which they could not extricate themselves.