The Professional Way to Stretch Pizza Dough

Monday Nov 8, 2021

Have you ever watched with awe as pizza makers stretch, pull, and even toss dough in the air as they begin the process of making the perfect pizza? Tossing pizza dough always looks cool, but it's also a great way to create the perfect crust.

When a professional does it, it looks so effortless as they toss and spin the dough high in the air and then catch it safely in their hands. It may seem so easy that it inspires you to give it a try. Until you do, and you end up with a sticky mess on the counter or, worse, the floor.

How to Stretch Pizza Dough

Turns out there's a technique and not a small amount of skill involved in spinning dough to make the perfect pizza crust, just ready and waiting for all your favorite toppings. If you want to learn how to stretch pizza dough the way the professionals do, we got you.

1. Warm the Dough

Cold dough doesn't stretch well, so the first step is to warm the dough to room temperature. The protein, called gluten, that makes the dough chewy is tighter when the dough is cold. If it is not warmed enough, the dough will snap back like a rubber band when you try to stretch it. Bring the dough to room temperature loosens it up and makes it easier to work with.

2. Prepare the Workspace

Once your pizza dough is relaxed and waiting, you're ready to begin stretching the dough. In this step, skimping on the flour is key. Too much flour will make the pizza dough tough. And although you want the dough chewy, you don't want it tough.

Instead, rub your hands and the work surface with about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. This keeps the dough from sticking and also makes the crust golden and crispy.

3. Prepare Your Dough for Stretching

Deep breath. Before you stretch your pizza dough, you need to flatten it into a disc. Press the dough into a flat disc with the palm of your hand. Then, using the middle three fingers of each hand, press the dough outward from the center. The disc should widen into a large circle approximately 6 inches across and ½ inch thick. Don't get hung up on the shape, if it's not a perfect circle, it's not a big deal. It's more important that the dough is soft and pliable and doesn't shrink up when you press it.

4. Gravity Is Your Friend

Now you are ready to stretch the dough. Carefully pick the dough up and drape it over the back of your hands. Make sure your hands are close together with the knuckles bent in and facing down. This helps keep your fingers from poking holes in the dough. One edge should be in your hands, and the rest of the dough should hang down.

Gently rotate the dough in one direction and let gravity do some of the work for you. Moving the dough in one direction, slowly pull it from one hand to another as it hangs down. Using only your hands, stretch the dough to approximately 8 inches in diameter. Once you hit 8 inches, you're ready to start tossing.

5. Start Spinning

Successfully spinning pizza requires some subtle handwork that may take time to master. The key to an amazing toss is pushing upwards while simultaneously rotating your hands in a circular motion. Sounds easy, right? Well, the easy part is pushing upwards. The more difficult part is rotating the dough. This may take some practice to get right.

One hand needs to be palm up but with the fingers folded to avoid poking holes in the dough. This is the hand used to push and rotate. The other hand needs to be in a fist. This hand supports and catches the dough as it is tossed in the air. Generally, since the palm-up hand is your throwing hand, choose your dominant hand as the throwing hand.

6. What Goes up Must Come Down

So now you got dough flying and spinning through the air. But don't forget that you have to catch it. It's easy to get impressed with yourself when you see your dough in the air. Pretty cool stuff. But, of course, what goes up must come down. You need to be ready to catch it.

Catch the dough with the back of your hands, just like when you began stretching it. It seems natural to want to catch it with your fingers out, if you do, you are more likely to poke your fingers through the dough. Catching the dough on the back of your fists may take a little practice, but it provides a flat, stable surface for your dough.

7. Repeat

Repeat the tossing, spinning, and catching until your dough is the size you want. Approximately 12 inches is a good size to aim for. The goal is not necessarily a perfect circle, but a mostly even dough for your toppings. If it's a little uneven, no biggie. The cheese and all your toppings will cover that up.

Pro Tip: Practice, practice, and more practice makes perfect. Don't want to waste a bunch of pizza dough? You can practice your technique with a damp dishtowel. Before you know it, you'll be tossing and spinning pizza, and people will wonder how you learned to stretch pizza dough.

Order Hungry Howie's® Pizza Tonight

It takes time, effort, and energy to learn how to toss the perfect pizza dough. As you perfect your technique, order a steaming hot Hungry Howie's® pizza delivery or takeout. Check out the pizza menu and order your favorite for delivery tonight.