Creating the perfect pizza dough brings together aspects of science and art, and dough handling definitely falls squarely on the art side of the equation.
Pizza dough can present a wide range of baking challenges. It can also wrack your nerves when transferring a pie into the oven.
While a certain quality of stickiness is desired, it’s not uncommon for pizza dough to become too sticky. So tacky, in fact, that it sticks to the peel and rips instead of sliding off smoothly.
What can be done to keep pizza dough from sticking to the peel and tearing? We reveal the top tips for selecting the right dough ingredients and foolproof dough prep techniques.
Why is My Pizza Dough So Sticky?
When flour, water, and yeast are mixed together, two flour proteins — glutenin and gliadin — combine with the water to make gluten. The more the dough is kneaded, the more gluten develops, forming longer and stronger strands. That gluten helps make the dough strong, smooth, and elastic — qualities you want in a pizza crust.
But problems can arise when the crust becomes too sticky. This is typically the result of one of several factors:
Excessive dough absorption
Pizza dough becomes too sticky when it absorbs too much water. Over-absorbed dough can also be easy to overstretch and tear. Solve this problem and salvage the pizza crust by incorporating more flour, a little at a time, into the dough.
When pizza dough has not been sufficiently kneaded, the gluten cannot strengthen and develop. As a result, the pizza dough has a rough appearance and won’t stretch properly, putting your pizza crust at risk of tearing.
Improper yeast handling
If your recipe includes active dry yeast or instant dry yeast, it’s important to manage the yeast correctly when incorporating it into the dough. While instant dry yeast or compressed yeast can be added directly to the flour, active dry yeast performs best when rehydrated. What’s more, all yeast is sensitive to temperature. Too hot or too cold, and you can lose yeast activity, which can interfere with proper gluten development.
Troubleshoot Your Pizza Crust Recipe
To prevent dough from tearing during crust stretching, consider a few of these fixes:
- Use a flour that’s higher in protein
- Be sure to mix long enough … but not too long
- Allow the dough to rest after mixing so the gluten strands relax a bit
- Stretch the dough evenly to avoid thin spots which are susceptible to tearing
- Don’t overload a crust with heavy, wet toppings as stickiness can ensue. Too much sauce can be troublesome, too. Pay attention to sauce distribution, especially when using a dough docker under very high heat
Choose the Right Peel for the Job
What’s the right peel? The answer depends on the task at hand. If you’re prepping, a wood or composite peel is the right choice. Because these materials are less conductive than metal, temperature differences are less likely to create water condensation on the peel. If an unbaked crust absorbs that condensed water, the dough could become overly sticky.
A metal peel, on the other hand, is appropriate for the oven, but it’s important to move quickly. Because metal conducts heat so well, moving too slowly can cause the crust to begin to bake on and stick to the peel.
Misbehaving Crust? Re-think Your Peel Dust
Dusting your pizza peel is a time-honored and essential way to keep the dough from sticking.
Many pizza chefs simply use flour, and they like the result. But flour typically requires the pizza chef to work quickly and keep the dough in near-constant motion to prevent it from absorbing the added flour and sticking. The combination of a metal peel, conventional flour, and a slow-moving pizza chef can add up to a pie that refuses to slide off the peel.
Other peel dust options can provide a little extra protection against sticky dough. Cornmeal can be a very effective dusting choice. Some pizza chefs actually prefer the coarse, gritty texture cornmeal adds to the bottom of the crust.
Made from durum wheat, semolina flour is coarser than regular flour so it’s slower to absorb water. Other types of flour such as rye, rice, corn, and whole wheat (or a combination of two or more) can also be used as peel dust. Just be sure to regularly clean your oven to prevent smoking and black, charred spots on the bottom of your crusts.
Expertly troubleshoot this and other pizza dough challenges with help from our guide, 7 Common Pizza Dough Frustrations and Fixes, and learn why you might want to consider pre-made dough balls or par-baked crusts as a solution. Click the button below for your copy!