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How to Stretch Pizza Dough: Become a Pro Dough Stretcher in 5 Simple Steps

Pizza! Yes, just the word can send you spinning! Learning how to make pizza at home will give you access to this delectable treat 24/7. So, what's stopping you? 

Making pizza dough at home is one thing, but what about stretching pizza dough by hand? After all, the base is the key ingredient: without it, pizza is just a bunch of toppings laying on a tray!

By following these 5 steps, you'll go from a dough mangler to a dough wrangler in no time. Let's pull apart these tips and get you stretching pizza dough like a pro.

#1. Allow pizza dough to reach room temperature

  • Before you even consider stretching pizza dough, make sure it's at room temperature for at least half an hour. The gluten in stretched pizza dough tightens up at cool temperatures.
  • To warm store-bought dough, remove it from the packaging and place it in a mixing bowl covered with a warm, damp towel. Place the bowl somewhere warm for at least half an hour before you need to stretch it.
  • If you are making homemade pizza dough, once the dough has settled and then risen, you can punch down and form it into evenly sized dough balls before you stretch the dough. 

#2. Prep the workspace with a bit of olive oil or flour to prevent sticking

Now that your dough is warm and relaxed inside the covered bowl, remove it from the bowl and start stretching.

  • A wooden board (or surface) should be rubbed with olive oil or dusted with flour. Using oil instead of flour keeps the dough from sticking and not becoming too floury. Pizza dough too sticky? Add a bit of flour!
  • Although flour is used for some doughs to prevent sticking, using flour with a pizza dough may, in the end, make for tougher pizza dough. Therefore, you can also use oil to help prevent it from sticking. Using oil will also give you a delicious golden crust!
  • At this time, you can prepare your pizza spatula with a bit of cornmeal or flour. This will make the surface less sticky, allowing your pizza to slide off. By adding the flour or cornmeal, you'll also have a tool that you can work with to slide the pizza around while it bakes. 

#3. Press the dough before stretching

Now that you have a nicely oiled dough on a nicely oiled or floured surface, you're ready for stretching the dough. However, before you do so, you must "punch" it down, "press" the dough, or use a pizza dough roller. By doing this, you create a nice flat disc shape.

  • Creating a disc shape is simple. Use the palm of your hand as you gently press down on the dough.
  • With your hand pressed in the center, begin to use your fingers to start pressing out the outer edges from the center, widening and flattening the dough as you go.
  • Whether you are wondering how to roll out pizza dough, how to spread pizza dough, or how to shape pizza dough, you should aim for a specific shape and thickness. A circle of about 6 inches across and roughly half an inch thick is perfect. The dough should have a soft texture and be pliable.
  • If the dough shrinks just a little, or if it isn't exactly round, don't worry. With the right thickness and width, it will be fine. If the dough snaps back quickly, let it rest for about 15 to 20 minutes under a towel and repeat the pressing process until the dough shrinks very little or not at all.

#4. Use both hands and gravity to hand stretch it

Wondering how to toss pizza dough? You've seen the pizza makers throwing their dough into the air, but they've made thousands of pizzas in their lifetime. To begin stretching dough with a knuckled toss may not be the best way for a beginner to learn!

  • By keeping the dough relatively close to you and using your hands and gravity to do the pulling of the pizza dough, you'll end up with an even crust. When you are fully ready to start stretching the dough, carefully pick the dough up and hold it in both hands on the dough's edges.
  • By holding it this way, the rest of the dough will start to droop and hang down. By having the top of the dough facing you, you have a better vantage point to gauge the thickness, which is super important!
  • Gravity will now take over as your secondary pizza stretching helper. As you carefully rotate the dough in one direction (like spinning a steering wheel), slowly start to pull the pizza dough from one hand to the next. The dough will continue to hang down as well.
  • By speeding up your hand over hand exchange of dough, keep rotating and stretching until you have a dough about a foot across. If you end up with any holes or tears, the next step will remedy this.

#5. Stretch the dough out and top

Gently move the pizza dough over to your pizza peel or a baking sheet pan.

  • Examine the dough at this point. If the dough looks as though it now sits at about 10 inches across, then you did a perfect pizza pull! If there are some holes or wonky parts, now is the time to make repairs.
  • You may notice that the dough has shrunk a little. This may be due to overstretching.
  • Make sure you adjust any thicker areas by pressing them down to roughly a third of an inch and pinch around any tears or holes, bringing the dough together to cover them up.
  • The result should be a pizza that is approximately a 10-inch wide circle roughly a third of an inch thick. Don't panic if you find that the outer edges (or crust) are a bit thicker than the center, as the center will puff up during baking under the weight of the toppings.
  • One last tip before you add toppings to your pizza. Gently shake the excess cornmeal or flour off of the pizza peel. By shaking off that extra dust, you'll have a pizza peel that is not too floury but also won't stick to your pizza when you handle it.

The Final Slice!

When you learn how to stretch pizza dough and shape it, you'll soon amaze your pizza-loving friends. They'll be lining up for dinner at your place in no time! 

Learning how to stretch pizza dough requires a bit of patience and practice. If you spend some time refining your skills, you could become a pizza dough stretching champion!

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