How to Stretch Pizza Dough

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Whether you're making a pan pizza, one with regular crust or a thin crust pizza, you need patience and persistence to stretch out the dough. Technique is important too, but that comes with trial and error over time. Once you perfect your rolling or hand-stretching talents, it's time to have some fun and toss your pizza dough in the air so you can say you've tried all methods.

Tips for Any Method

  • Begin stretching pizza dough by patting it into a small disc, flouring your hands before picking it up. The dough stretches out more easily if you let it sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 hour to let the gluten in the dough relax; let it rest again if whenever you think it feels too stiff to work. Finally, don't worry about forming the perfect shape for your pizza; instead of thinking your dough is misshaped, think of it as rustic and traditional.

Hand Stretching

  • Pan pizza dough stretches in a generously oiled pan easily with a bit of prodding from your floured fingertips. With regular and thin crust dough, you need to spend more time pressing the dough out on a floured surface with your fingertips. Or let gravity help by holding the edge of a disc of dough with one hand and letting the dough fall onto the knuckles of your other hand that you've made into a fist. Rotate the dough around your fist until it reaches the shape and thickness you want, about 1/4-inch thick for thin crust pizza and a little more than than for regular crust.

Rolling Dough

  • Purists caution never to roll out pizza dough to avoid toughness, but that doesn't matter for a crisp, thin crust pizza. Begin with a disc of dough you've slightly pressed or shaped by hand. Then, generously flour a flat surface and roll out the dough firmly from the center. Turn the dough regularly and re-flour underneath when you flip it over. As you near the shape and thickness you want, allow the dough to stick slight to the rolling surface so it keeps its shape. Make a slight rolled edge on all sides of the dough after you transfer the dough to a pan or stone.

Tossing Dough

  • Press or roll pizza dough into a disc before you toss it. Then, as Chef Tony Gemignani recommends, lay it over the palm of your right hand, the fist of your left hand holding up the dangling edge. Gemignani suggests holding the dough between waist and chest level and turning your palm toward you. Then, throw the dough up by twisting your hand up and out in a counterclockwise motion. Catch the dough -- if you can -- with your fists, knuckles up.

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