Why is Pizza Dough Sticky?

Making pizza dough is considered an art form to some. After all, there is literally an association dedicated to cultivating the art of making Neapolitan pizza (Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana).

A first-time baker might scratch their head with a dough-covered hand wondering what misstep made their dough so sticky and how they’re going to remove it from every surface it touched. Seasoned bakers are likely more well prepared for their sticky situation by having plenty of flour, cornmeal or another de-sticking agent close at hand. Regardless of skill level, it’s possible neither knows exactly why exactly their dough is so darn sticky.

The answer? Science!

Pizza dough is a simple combination of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, warm water and oil. When the ingredients are combined and the dough is kneaded, the gluten in the flour and yeast becomes organized, leading to a springy, smooth and elastic dough. It’s the gluten and the bonds formed among all the ingredients which cause dough to stick to, well, nearly anything it encounters.

So sticky is good, but there is such a thing as too sticky. Here are three common scenarios that create an overly sticky pizza dough:

  • Excessive dough absorption. This leads to a wet, tacky dough. To save the dough, add a bit more flour. But make sure to add the flour slowly or you’ll risk running into another issue.
  • Under-mixing the dough. Under-mixed dough is gummy to the touch. Give it more mixing so it has a chance to develop a smooth skin.
  • Incorrectly hydrating the active yeast. You know how all pizza dough recipes call for warm water? Well, there is a reason for it. Active dry yeast should always be hydrated with warm water because cold water can cause the glutathione (gluten in the yeast) to leach out. When the gluten leaks out, the dough can become soft and sticky.

At Hungry Howie’s, lots of love and tender care are used when handling pizza dough, because the perfect pizza starts with perfect dough.