The key to a perfect home-made pizza is the crust. So how do you get it thin and crispy? Crunchy at the edges, and flexible enough to fold in the middle?
The answer is by stretching the dough. If you’re new to pizza making, this can be daunting – but don’t despair! We’re going to walk you through how to stretch pizza dough step by step. And when we’ve finished, you’ll be confident in crafting the pizza dough of champions!
So without further ado, step this way for perfect pizza …
Tools and equipment
- Half a pound of pizza dough
- Olive oil
- Kitchen towel
- Plastic wrap
- Pizza peel or sheet pan
- Baking parchment
Step-by-step guide on How to stretch pizza dough
Step 1: Bring your dough to room temperature
Stretching your pizza dough will be a whole lot easier if it’s the right temperature. And that means room temperature.
If you’ve just made your own dough – take a bow! The time to turn to this stage of preparation is at the end of its first 1.5 to 2-hour rise period. If you’ve bought your dough, take it out of its plastic wrapping now.
Rub a few drops of olive oil over the inner surface of your bowl. We find it’s easiest to do this with a paper towel. Now place your dough inside and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. That will keep it airtight as the dough proves.
Put the bowl in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. If you have an oven with an ultra-low setting – around 80 degrees Fahrenheit – that’s a good option.
This step will soften up the gluten in your pizza dough. If you try to stretch the dough when it’s cold, it will snap back, causing no end of frustration!
While you’re waiting, remove any watches or rings you’re wearing. That will avoid any risk of them tearing the dough.
Step 2: Prepare your pizza peel or baking sheet
If you’re serious about pizza making, you may have invested in a pizza peel. This is a tool that looks a bit like a shovel, with a wide flat surface to place your pizza into the oven.
But if you don’t have a pizza peel, don’t worry! You can get just as good results by using the back of a baking sheet or pan.
Whatever surface you’re using, cover it in baking parchment and sprinkle some cornmeal on top. That will prevent your dough from sticking to the surface when it goes into the oven.
Step 3: Prepare your work surface
The next step is to prepare your work surface to avoid the dough sticking to that too.
When working with most dough, you’d sprinkle your counter with flour. But don’t do that here. It will make your pizza base too heavy.
Instead drip between 2 and 3 tablespoons of olive oil onto your work surface and rub it in lightly. Add a drop or two to your hands as well. They’re going to be coming into contact with the dough a lot!
The oil will perform a dual function. Not only will it stop your dough from sticking to your counter and hands, it will help give your crust color and texture.
Pro tip: The olive oil here is acting primarily as a lubricant, so you don’t need to be too fussy about the kind you use. But if you want to do everything possible to impart the perfect flavor to your crust, use extra virgin.
Step 4: Create a flat disc
When the dough has been resting in its warm place for half an hour, it’s time to start working it. The first step is to turn that round ball into a flat disc.
To do that, empty it out onto your oiled work surface. Use the palm of your hand to press it into a flattish circle.
Now we’re going to make the circle bigger. Press the centre of the dough with your fingers so that it gradually spreads out. Leave around half an inch of dough untouched around the edge. This will form the outer crust.
Keep pressing until the circle of dough is about half an inch thick. If you’re using half a pound of dough per pizza, it will be about 6 inches across at this point. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a perfect circle at this point.
Pro tip: We’ve found a good technique for spreading the disc is to use the three middle fingers of each hand. That will allow you to place a consistent pressure on the dough and help the circle expand more evenly.
Step 5: Allow your dough to rest if need be
This next step depends on how your dough is behaving at this point.
If it shrinks back slightly and gradually when you press on it, it’s fine – you can skip this step. But if it snaps back quickly, like a rubber band, it needs to rest again.
Leave it on top of your worktop with a clean kitchen towel over the top. Wait for between 15 and 20 minutes. Now return to the previous step, flattening out the disc until it’s half an inch thick. If it snaps back quickly again, repeat the process.
Keep going until you have a circle of dough, half an inch thick, that holds its shape well.
Step 6: Stretch the dough
We’ve all seen those Italian pizza chefs spinning the dough on their knuckles and flipping it in the air. Now it’s time for you to do the same.
Just kidding! As impressive as that looks, you’ll get much better results starting out by keeping it simple. The technique we’re going to talk you through lets gravity do the hard work.
Pick up your circle of dough with both hands on one edge. Let the rest of the disc hang down towards your worktop. Now slowly turn the disc, moving it from one hand to the other. The movement you’re aiming for is like turning a steering wheel.
Pinch the dough between your fingers as you turn it. You can either pinch right at the edge, or a little closer to the center. If you pinch closer to the middle, your outer crust will be thicker when your pizza comes out of the oven.
This YouTube video from Ooni Pizza Ovens demonstrates how it’s done. The bit to look at is their “step 3”.
Stop when your pizza base is about 1/3-inch thick and about 11 inches across.
Step 7: Iron out any imperfections
Now place your dough disc on top of your prepared baking sheet or pizza peel. Take a good look at it. If it’s perfectly round and uniform – congratulations! You’ve pulled off pizza perfection!
But if it’s looking less ideal, don’t worry. We’re going to sort that out now.
If you’ve got any bits of the crust that are more than 1/3-inch thick, simply press them out. And if you’ve got any thin bits, thicken them up. To do that, use your thumb and index finger to press the dough around them in a pinching movement.
And don’t worry if your pizza’s outer edge is looking pretty much the same as the middle right now. That will all change once the toppings provide extra weight. And the outside edge will puff up once it goes into the oven.
Your base is now ready for adorning with the toppings of your choice!
- If you have time, you can allow your pizza dough to rest for up to four hours. As long as you have plastic wrap on top of your bowl, it will be fine.
- If you’re looking for a classic Neapolitan style base, hold your dough up to the light. You should be able to see the light through it when it’s properly stretched.
- If you want to take your dough stretching to the next level, you can add an extra step after the “steering wheel” move. Use this to target any parts of your dough that are too thick.
- With the dough on top of your hands, cup one hand around the other, as if holding a mug. Then pull your hands slowly apart, lifting your fingers as you do so. Take care as you do this not to press straight up into the dough. If you do that, you can tear it.
- It’s a good idea to flip your dough over from time to time as you’re stretching it. That will give you an even consistency on both sides.
- Give your pizza peel or baking sheet a gentle shake before it goes into the oven. If the dough moves slightly, you can be confident it won’t stick when it starts baking.
Ready to make your own pizza?
We hope our guide has given you the confidence to stretch pizza dough! It can be an intimidating part of the pizza-making process, but there’s no reason even beginners can’t get great results.
Just take your time through each stage. And if you find things aren’t working out, you can always go back a step and try again.
If you’ve tried stretching pizza dough, we’d love to hear from you. And if you have any hints and tips, please comment and share them. Happy pizza making!
7 Steps to Stretch Pizza Dough
Half a pound of pizza dough
Pizza peel or sheet pan
- Bring Your Dough To Room Temperature
- Prepare Your Pizza Peel Or Baking Sheet
- Prepare Your Work Surface
- Create A Flat Disc
- Allow Your Dough To Rest If Need Be
- Stretch The Dough
- Iron Out Any Imperfections