Stop Rolling Out Your Pizza Dough – Why You Should Never Use A Rolling Pin

Rolling pins and homemade pizza dough…name a more iconic pizza duo. I’ll wait.

Except, they’re really not an iconic duo. In fact, you really should stop rolling out your homemade pizza dough.

Confused? It’s understandable. Nearly every time you see someone on TV or on Youtube make a pizza, they’re using a rolling pin. That and flipping the dough up in the air.

Rolling out your pizza dough is actually a serious problem, and it’s probably why most of your homemade pizzas did not turn out as planned. The reason is simple: you’re knocking all the air and gasses out of the dough. This causes your pizza to turn out dense and flat.

Prepping a pizza dough can take hours by hand, and even longer if you use my 24 hour no-knead method. What’s going on during this time, among other things, is air is building up inside the internal structure of the dough. When the pizza bakes, all that air super-heats and causes the crust to puff our and be moist, chewy and delicious. When you roll the dough out with a rolling pin, all that precious air is lost.

Stop Rolling Out Your Pizza Dough

There’s a reason people are so quick to reach for the rolling pin. It’s a lot easier than shaping it by hand. But that’s only true if you don’t know what you’re doing. Shaping the pizza by hand is easy if you prep the dough correctly.

Next time you’re making a homemade pizza, keep a few things in mind. Let the dough rest in a tight ball for at least 1-2 hours before even starting to shape it into a circle. This will give the gluten structure ample time to relax and make it easier for you to do it by hand. This is especially true if you’re working with a refrigerated dough.

balls of pizza dough resting
This dough has been resting for about 2 hours at room temperature.

Shape Your Pizza By Hand Instead

Be firm but gentle. Remember, you’re not really stretching the dough as much as you’re shaping it. We shape it by gently pressing the air from the middle and moving it into the outer crust.

Don’t rush shaping the dough by hand or you’ll end up with an uneven or torn dough. Instead, carefully work your way from the middle to the outer edges using the flat parts of your finger.

Never touch the outer edges of the pizza dough. This is the most important part of the pizza and we don’t want to ruin it. So be careful with your hands as you’re shaping the dough. Otherwise you risk popping the air out of the crust and it won’t taste nearly as good.

carefully shaping a pizza dough by hand
Look at all that air inside the crust as I gently shape it into a circle.

Use plenty of flour as you shape the pizza dough. I like to work with my dough on top of a big pile of semolina flour. It prevents the bottom of the dough from sticking to the counter as I move the air from the middle. The last thing you want is the pizza to stick or tear as it slides off the peel into the oven.

dropping a pizza dough onto a floured surface
Notice I’m dropping this dough ball onto a thick layer of semolina flour.

Keep it simple. You don’t need to flip your dough into the air like in NYC, or slap it against the countertop like a Naples pizzaiolo. Just gently use your fingers to push the air to where you want it. It might take a little longer than other methods but it’s worth it.

When You Should Roll Out Your Pizza Dough

Sometimes you want to use a rolling pin. For example, thin crust pizza often calls for rolling out the dough. Some of the more famous NYC pizzerias use rolling pins, like Lucali’s of Brooklyn. Another is the “Bari style” pizza made by notable Italian Youtuber, and professional pizza Maestro, Vito Iacopelli. But these kinds of pizza use a drier dough that’s designed for a super-hot pizzeria style oven (+900F heat). For most home pizza-makers, I recommend a wetter dough shaped by hand.

Looking for more information about Bari style pizza or focaccia Barese? Read my full article with recipes here.

a delicious Neapolitan pizza with an airy crust
The finished product. Look at that airy crust that hasn’t been obliterated by a rolling pin.

Now I hope you understand why you should stop rolling our your homemade pizza dough!

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