How To Knead Pizza Dough | (Avoid The Top Rookie Mistakes)

knead pizza dough

Kneading pizza dough is a key aspect of ending up with a perfect homemade pizza. A lot of people are put off by this part of the process but if you understand what is actually going on with the dough (the science behind the term kneading) its actually pretty straight forward.

The simplest way to knead dough is to use your hands. You will also get the best results by using this method rather than using a stand mixer, food processor or bead machine. Get yourself a large enough mixing bowl for the amount of dough you want to make, combine the ingredients from your favourite pizza dough recipe and start to mix them together. Once mixed together and as the dough becomes less sticky roll the dough out onto your work surface (it should shrink back a little as you stop) (it should shrink back a little as you stop). With your hands work and stretch the dough for about 8-10 minutes. This essentially is the kneading process.

Below we will go into the step by step process, cover off commonly asked questions and also share with you the top rookie mistakes to avoid!

What Does Knead Mean?

Knead is really just a fancy way of saying mix. The true definition of the word does actually refer to dough although it is also a term used with clay. A dictionary definition also makes reference to some of the techniques used in the kneading process (squeeze or massage with hands).

Dough is made up of various ingredients – yeast, flour (00 flour, strong bread flour or wheat flour ), water and salt.

Why don’t people just say mix then I hear you ask. Well its easy to over mix your dough. If its done to quickly to much heat will be transferred into the dough which is something you don’t want. Mixing can be done quickly, where as its difficult to get any real speed up kneading.

What Does Kneading Dough Do?

Essentially its all about gluten development within the flour. Flour contains two proteins called gliadin and glutenin. These two proteins are miss mashed together in no real order. The kneading process allows the proteins to line up forming gluten strands/gluten chains which create a matrix in the pizza dough.

The matrix creates strength and structure which allows the dough to trap the gases produced. This is what makes the dough rise.

Is There A Special Kneading Technique For Pizza Dough?

The easiest method of kneading your pizza dough is to use the palm of your hands. Make sure the dough is on a well floured work surface and knock the dough back and fourth using the palm of your hands.

The dough may stretch and tear and that is fine at this stage. Basically you are trying to get all the ingredients mixed together properly and start the active dry yeast.

How Long Do You Knead Pizza Dough By Hand?

It does vary and with experience you start to know when the dough has been kneaded long enough. As a guide it generally takes around 10 minutes of kneading. If using kitchen mixers/machines then about 8 minutes.

10 mins gives the yeast enough time to start working and allows the dough enough time to form gluten chains and a good structure.

How Do You Tell If Pizza Dough Is Kneaded Enough?

As you knead the dough you need to keep an eye on it and watch as it changes. The dough will change in appearance and feel. The main things to look out for are:-

  • Smooth appearance – the dough should take on a smooth look
  • Spring – the dough should spring back if you press it with a finger
  • Not Sticky – the dough should also be smooth to tough and much less sticky than when you started kneading
  • Wont Tear – When you first start the dough will tear regularly as you work it. This should happen less and less once the dough has been needed enough

If your dough doesn’t meet the above criteria then just keep kneading it. Eventually it will get to the point where its well kneaded.

Can I Cook A Pizza Straight After Kneading The Pizza Dough?

Once the pizza dough has been kneaded it really needs to rest. This is so the fermentation process can do its thing. We need the dough to rise and this takes time. Ideally I like to leave my dough for at least 24 to 48 hours.

If you are in a hurry then you can roll out the dough after about 30 minutes but I would highly recommend allowing the pizza dough to rise for a minimum of 24 hours. The difference to the end result is very noticeable not just in appearance but also in taste.

What Do I Do After Kneading My Pizza Dough?

The tricky part of pizza dough is you want it to rise for a good length of time to form all those lovely air bubbles and take on a good structure but then you need to make separate pizzas for everyone without knocking all the air out.

The key to this is to ball the kneaded dough and leave it to rise in their own pizza dough sizes i.e. make each dough ball enough for one pizza (separate the dough using a dough scraper). Place the dough balls in a tray or bowl. Cover the bowl or tray with a lid or plastic wrap. Then place the tray in a suitable place at room temperature for the dough proof and rise. 

Do You Knead Pizza Dough After It Rises?

This stage is a little tricky because you want to shape each ball into a pizza shape without knocking all the air out of the dough. This needs a much lighter touch than kneading.

Take one dough ball gently out of your tray and place it in a bowl of flour. Cover with flour and then place gently onto your work surface. There are a few different ways to shape the dough from here but the simplest method is to place three fingers from each hand together into the middle of the dough ball and press the middle of the ball down. Be careful to leave an edge to the shape.

Then you can either try to spin the dough or use the hand slap method. Spinning the dough makes the middle stretch and the pizza takes shape. The hand slap method involves picking up the dough and rotating it round as you gently through it into the palm of your other hand.

Both methods stretch the dough in the middle and the pizza takes shape. The hand slap method is easier to do.

Once you have your desired shape slide the pizza dough onto a pizza peel and prep with chosen toppings ( use a turning peel whilst cooking ) ( use a turning peel whilst cooking ). Then it can be launched into your pizza oven.

Can I Use A Machine To Knead Pizza Dough?

I have tried both kneading with a machine and also by hand. In my opinion the safest way is to do it by hand. The danger is that the dough gets over worked using a machine. If the machine is to quick or aggressive it will generate to much heat and this starts to destroy the gluten strands.

The two worst culprits for this are food processors or bread machines. Personally I would never use a food processor to make pizza dough. They have no finesse to them . Typically they have only two speeds, both of which are to fast. You can try to control the speed by manually switching it on and off but to be honest you may as well just knead it by hand.

Bread machines are a little better particularly if they have a pizza dough setting. However its still very easy to go to far with them and over work the dough.

If you must use a machine than a stand mixer with a dough hook is the best bet. These are made with dough in mind where as the bread machines and food processors are designed to tackle multiple tasks . Plenty of professional pizza restaurants use stand mixers to make their dough so you can get pretty good results from them.

Final Thoughts

Kneading dough doesn’t have to feel like a chore. A crucial part of homemade pizza is the pizza dough. Pizza doughs are different to bread dough. The flour is different (pizza flour vs bread flour) and the yeast/gluten processes also differ. Making pizza at home is fun and while the kneading part of the dough process often seems like hard work to people it can actually be quite therapeutic. Its also essential if you want to achieve a good result.

I have always been amazed at how much of a difference a properly prepared dough can make. When you think about it though the dough makes up a large part of the pizza so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Its actually not as difficult as you think and once you start its less of chore than you think.

I also find it exciting. Knowing those little dough balls are sat doing their thing for a couple of days I just get more and more excited for the day I out them in the oven. Its incredibly satisfying and the results are amazing. Yes it takes a bit of time but honestly once you start this you wont want to stop. Its become like a hobby for me.

The compliments from friends and family spur you on and as you experiment your techniques and pizza making skills get better and better.

You have to knead the dough for making pizza. Guide to the main points :-

  • Mix the ingredients (flour, water, yeast, salt, some recipes also use olive oil) for 5 minutes
  • Hand kneaded dough gives best results (10 mins should do it)
  • Machines can be used but be careful they don’t over knead the dough
  • Once risen don’t knead it again

Once you start its pretty easy. The kneading bit is actually hard to get wrong, The key thing is to make sure after kneading that you ball the dough into individual pizza sizes and leave it to rise. When you place in a tray for this make sure you leave adequate room between each ball as they will expand a lot as the yeast and gluten process takes place.

Don’t worry if you don’t want to cook all the pizzas at once as you can freeze the dough balls to make pizzas another time. Store them in a freezer bag or something though to protect against freezer burn. Defrost them and then either straight on your pizza stone or into your pizza oven. Homemade pizza with a well kneaded dough is fantastic so do give it a go.

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