Pizza sounds easy to make on paper, but there are plenty of variables that can make it difficult for you to handle if you haven’t got enough experience. Generally speaking, pizza is simple, but it’s only easy to make if you have an understanding of the correct methods and techniques you need to use to make it.
Chances are that your first pizza isn’t going to turn out very well if you’re not experienced with handling any kind of medium-high hydration dough. It’s just a learning curve and you’ll soon figure it out after you mess up your first few pizzas.
Sticky pizza dough is caused by too much water or insufficient gluten development. Too little kneading and the gluten won’t be developed enough so the dough will be very sticky. Knead it for 8-12 minutes and it will become less sticky. If it’s still too sticky, knead in small quantities of flour until manageable.
Many people make the mistake of adding more flour too early in the kneading process, before they get a chance to develop the gluten properly. This often leads to the dough being too dry with an undeveloped gluten network, which means that it won’t stretch as well as it should and it may not rise particularly well.
Instead, what you should do is knead the dough until you’ve developed the gluten sufficiently. This will become less sticky. If this is still far too sticky to handle, then you should knead in more flour about 1-2 tablespoon at a time and it will gradually become less sticky. When incorporating more flour, it’s important to knead it for 5 minutes or more so you can make sure that you’re developing the gluten from this ‘new’ flour.
Handling sticky pizza dough can definitely be a messy and difficult job, but that’s only if you don’t know what you’re doing. Once you figure out what technique works best, you’ll be able to bang out great pizza dough with ease.
How To Fix Sticky Pizza Dough
Although sticky pizza dough might seem like the end of the world, it’s really not. With a few easy steps, you can go from unmanageable dough to very soft and easy to manage dough in as little as 10 minutes.
Here’s the simple step-by-step process you can follow in order to get the best results:
- Continue to knead your dough for 8-12 minutes and notice how it becomes less sticky. This may be difficult if you’re not experienced with kneading. If it’s still very sticky, try different kneading techniques from the standard one-hand action. Try the slap and fold technique and see if you find this easier.
- If it’s still sticky, add flour to your work surface, one tablespoon at a time, and knead it into the dough for a few minutes. You don’t want to add too much at once or you risk drying the dough out.
- Continue adding flour, one tablespoon at a time, and knead it until the dough becomes much easier to handle, but still slightly tacky. For the majority of pizzas, you want a dough that’s not dry to the touch, but slightly tacky. It should lightly grip your fingertips when you touch it.
- Enjoy your pizza dough now that it’s no longer sticky. That’s all it takes to go from sticky dough to perfect dough. Just remember to knead the dough for around 5 minutes after you’ve added more flour so you can fully develop extra gluten.
Tips For Dealing With Sticky Pizza Dough
Sticky pizza dough may lead you to make some rash and problematic choices if you’re too worried about it. Instead of rushing to try to fix the stickiness, take a look at the tips below and you should get a better idea of what you can do.
A Small Amount Of Extra Flour Can Help
When I say ‘small’, I mean it. Don’t just throw a handful of extra flour onto the dough or you’re risking drying it out. You may be making it less sticking, but sacrificing a quality product for something that’s easy to handle. Too much flour and the pizza base will be dry and hard, which is the complete opposite to what you want it to be.
Although more flour can be the solution, it might not be the right way to fix the dough if you’re using a recipe and following weighted measurements. A pizza dough that’s around 60-65% hydration (60-65g flour per 100g water) should be barely sticky once the gluten has developed, so you may just need to continue kneading.
If you still can’t manage the dough despite the kneading, it could either be that your kneading technique isn’t quite right or that there’s too much water in the dough for you to handle. If this is the case, then it’s acceptable to add more flour. Just add enough to make the dough slightly drier, but still tacky.
A Dough Scraper Or Two Will Make It Easier
Having a dough scraper is a real game-changer when it comes to handling, transporting, and cleaning up dough. You’ll have a much easier time managing and shaping the pizza dough with a scraper since it’s less likely to stick as hands do.
If you can’t touch the dough without it sticking to your hands, you can just use the dough scraper to form the dough into a ball and then transport it into its bowl or proofing box.
If you want to go the extra mile, you could get both a flat metal scraper and a flexible plastic one. A metal one is great for cutting through and shaping dough, whilst a plastic one is ideal for clean up, mixing the ingredients together in a bowl, and to scrape the sides of the bowl down.
Get A Better Technique
This one is easier said than done, but the technique you’re using really does make all the difference. Like I’ve said, pizza dough is very simple, but if you’re not using the right technique, the pizzas won’t turn out very good.
Learning how to handle pizza dough properly might take you some time, but it’s definitely worth the effort for a better pizza.
You can research the best kneading, handling, and shaping techniques for pizza and get a much better understanding of where you might be going wrong.
Let Gluten Develop Over Time
Most people don’t know this, but gluten will develop with enough time. This means that dough that isn’t kneaded enough will continue to develop gluten and become more elastic over time.
This is ideal for pizza dough as it should be allowed to sit in the fridge overnight or longer. Some people let their dough sit in the fridge for a full day, two days, or even more. This time is primarily to develop more flavor in the dough, but you get the bonus of additional gluten development, which makes all the difference when it comes to shaping the pizza base.
You’ll notice after the dough sits in the fridge for a while that it will be much easier to handle and shape.
Once you take it out of the fridge, let it warm to room temperature before you try and work with it so you have an better time shaping and stretching it. You won’t have a good time working with it if it’s cold.
Coat The Dough In Flour Before Shaping
Before you try and stretch your dough out into the pizza base, coat it in flour and you won’t have to worry about it sticking to your hands or work surface much.
You don’t need to worry about how much flour you put on, as most of it will fall off whilst your shaping it. If you think the dough has too much flour on it after shaping, you can just lift the it up and give it a gentle shake to remove the remaining excess flour.
Keep in mind that you can expect the dough to still stick to your work surface if you leave it for too long. When left alone, the flour on the dough will hydrate and become sticky, so you need to move fast after stretching it out.
What To Do Next Time You Make Pizza Dough
If you’ve already managed to mess up your pizza dough somehow, then you need to learn from your mistakes if you’re wanting to make better dough next time. To help you, here are a few tips that will make it easier when you come to make it again:
Start With Low Hydration
Start by only using 75% of the water from the recipe, then gradually add more until the dough is just slightly sticky. This ensures that you’re not using too much water and making it overly sticky.
All you have to do is knead it and feel for dryness. Whenever the dough feels too dry, add a splash of water and knead it in.
As you add the water, the dough will become slightly more sticky and it may not be easy to incorporate it, but it will make its way into the dough with enough kneading.
Use A Stand Mixer Or Food Processor For Kneading
If you don’t want to knead the dough, you can use a stand mixer or food processor to make it easier for yourself.
Of course, the stand mixer is the most common appliance to knead dough with, but the food processor can be used too.
The stand mixer can knead the dough fully within 6-12 minutes whilst the food processor can be done within 60 seconds (too long and you’ll over-knead it, causing the gluten to break down).
This takes the difficulty of kneading sticky dough out of your hands and leaves you with fully developed gluten. You can even add more flour or water with relative ease.