If you’ve ever seen a professional cook toss pizza up in the air, you’ve probably been impressed at how effortless they make it look. If you’ve ever tried it yourself, you know it’s not that simple.
Before I taught myself how to toss dough up into the air, I first learned how to roll it by hand. This gave me a solid foundation of the pizza stretching process and since then, I’ve loved experimenting with different techniques.
In this guide, I’ll focus on how to roll pizza dough by hand. I’ll walk you through this process from start to finish. Once your dough has been stretched out, you’ll be ready to apply your favourite toppings and slide your pizza into the oven!
Before you start rolling out pizza dough, you want to prepare it. I always prefer making it from scratch, but if you’ve purchased it from a local grocery store, that will work too. Just be sure it’s made with yeast as this will help it rise.
If you do choose to make your own (highly recommended!) be sure to check out my dough making recipes to ensure you’re using the right ingredients and techniques. However, regardless if you make it yourself or buy it at the store, you want to be sure it’s warmed up to room temperature.
Dough that is cold won’t stretch well. Before starting the rolling process, let it sit for at least 30 minutes. This will loosen it up and make it easier to shape. If you’re pulling out your homemade dough from the freezer, take it out of the plastic and place it in a large oiled mixing bowl. Cover it with some plastic wrap or a towel and set it in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
While your dough sits, prepare your work area. Apply a little bit of flour or olive oil to prevent it from sticking to your work surface. If you’re using flour, make sure you only sprinkle a little bit onto your workspace. Too much flour will make your dough tough.
If you decide to use olive oil, don’t use more than 3 tablespoons. I love using this ingredient because it prevents dough from sticking while encouraging a crispy, golden crust. However, I encourage you to try both methods to see which one you like best for yourself.
The process of stretching out your pizza dough begins by pressing it with your fingers and the palm of your hand. Flatten it into a large disc about 6 inches in diameter. You can also use the three middle fingers of each hand to press the dough out from the center. This will widen the disc.
Throughout this process you want to let it rest as needed. If you notice it snap back it means it still needs more time to rest. A little shrinking is normal, but if it snaps back quickly or won’t hold its shape, you need to give it 15-20 minutes before trying again.
After pressing it with your fingers, carefully pick it up and hold it with both hands. You want one hand on each edge of the pizza. The dough will naturally hang down.
Gently rotate the dough in one direction, keeping an eye on thickness. Stretch it to about 10 inches in diameter and ⅓ of an inch thick. If you notice any holes within the dough, don’t worry. I’ll show you how to fix this in the next step.
Pro Tip: Don’t rush through the stretching process and be as gentle as you can to prevent tears or holes from forming. Take your time and pay attention to the thickness of your disc.
Carefully, move your stretched pizza dough to your sheet pan or pizza peel. Is your dough perfectly round? Is it 10 inches across? If so, pat yourself on the back!
If not, don’t worry! This isn’t a skill that comes right away. It takes some practice. If your dough has some imperfections like tears or holes, now is the time to fix them. Here’s what you want to do:
Don’t worry if the edge of your pizza isn’t thicker than the center. The toppings will weigh it down and the crust will rise nicely in the oven.
And there you have it! You’ve learned how to roll pizza dough. If you’re up for a challenge, check out my article on spinning pizza dough. Remember that practice makes perfect and you’re not going to master the art of stretching pizza dough overnight. Just be consistent, don’t give up, and you’ll be ready to toss pizza into the air in no time!