How to Make Great Pizza Dough

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
how to make pizza dough

Here is our “go-to” pizza dough recipe along with some tips for making pizza at home:

Pizza Dough

2 ½ cups bread flour

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast (or one packet that contains about 2 ¼ teaspoons)

2 ½ teaspoons fine-grained salt or 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups warm water

Making the dough in a stand mixer:

Combine 4 ½ cups of the flours (leave out ½ cup bread or all-purpose flour), yeast, and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water and olive oil and blend with a spoon just to moisten all the ingredients.

With a dough hook attachment, blend and knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated and a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 minutes. It should be quite sticky. If it seems stiff enough and like you can handle the dough, stop here. If the dough seems very sticky, add the remaining ½ cup of flour (I usually add the full 5 cups) and blend well until smooth. It should be soft, but manageable with floured hands.

Making the dough in a food processor:

Make the dough as with a stand mixer, using the plastic blade with your food processor to knead the dough.

Making the dough by hand:

After combining the ingredients as above, gather the dough with floured hands into a ball and transfer it to a lightly floured board. Knead the dough, dusting with flour as needed, until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. It should be soft and pliable.

Using the dough in 24 hours or up to 4 days later:

With floured hands, gather the dough into a ball and shape it into log about 12 inches long. Cut the dough into 6 even pieces. If you are using a scale, each piece of dough should weigh between 6 and 7 ounces. Shape them into balls dusting with flour as necessary. Place each ball into a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate the containers of dough for 18 to 24 hours and up to 4 days. Remove from the refrigerator when you turn on the oven or start the KettlePizza fire.

Using the dough the same day:

After kneading the dough, place it in a large mixing bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover with a warm damp towel and allow to double in bulk. Timing will depend on the temperature of your room. In a warm room, it will take an hour or two, in a cool room you can leave the dough all day. After it has doubled in bulk, punch down the dough and divide it into 6 even balls. Place the balls on a floured rimmed baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. When the dough balls have doubled in size, in about an hour or two it’s time to make pizza.

Making the Pie:

When it comes to toppings, less is better most of the time, to us anyway. Go light on the tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings or the pie will be too heavy to handle on the peel and won’t cook properly. Pizza topping combinations are endless, but we’re sticking to the basics here.

how to make pizza dough

Pizza-Making Insights

A stand mixer is a great piece of kitchen equipment for mixing dough.

This recipe combines equal amounts of all-purpose and bread flours. Using both styles produces a dough that’s easy to handle AND develops good structure.

Pizza dough should be quite soft with a high hydration rate (a higher ratio of water to flour than regular bread). High hydration in the dough creates a nice puffy crust the high heat of the oven or in the KettlePizza. By weight, our recipe is 1.5 pounds of flour to 1 pound of water. That’s a nice 66% hydration rate.

Dough portions that weigh 6 to 7-ounces each will make a nice 8 to 9-inch pie, which is usually easier to handle for the home pizza chef. A kitchen scale makes weighing out the dough balls easy.

Whether we’re making a regular crust or a thin crust pizza, we use the same dough. For a pie with a nice puffed-edged crust, shape the discs by picking up the dough ball and gently pulling the edge with floured hands moving around the circle, allowing the weight of the dough to pull it down. You can also drape the dough over your fist periodically to allow the weight of the dough to hang and help form the circular shape. The goal is to have a nice disc of an even thickness. Be gentle, no need to toss it around. Properly risen dough will not fight you. For thin crust, get out the rolling pin and roll out the dough on a floured board into a thin round. Prick the dough with a fork to keep it from bubbling up during baking.

Make sure you have plenty of flour on the peel when you transfer the dough so it doesn’t stick to the peel which messes up the pie and can be frustrating. Be generous with the flour and expect to make a bit of a mess. You can also use cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting the peel.

If the dough is very stiff and won’t budge, sorry, you can’t have pizza right now. There’s no forcing it into softness. You’ll have to let it rest in a warm place, covered with a wet towel or plastic wrap, to soften up and relax.

Our recipe uses instant yeast simply because it’s easy to use and allows you to mix up all the dry ingredients together.

Small rectangular four-cup sealable plastic containers (usually labeled for soup and salad use) are super convenient for storing the dough in the refrigerator. Stick to one brand so you won’t be searching through a piles lids that look right but don’t quite fit. (We know this from experience.)

Don’t add the entire amount of flour called for in a recipe until you see, after kneading the dough a bit, that you need to add more. You don’t want a dough that’s too stiff. The amount of flour needed to make consistent dough depends on the humidity. Drier flour needs more liquid. You’ll get used to how an easy to handle dough feels after a few tries. If it just seems too sticky to handle with floured hands, add a little more flour.

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