How to Store Pizza Dough

Aspiring sauce-slingers might be wondering: is there an ideal way to store your leftover pizza dough? And, whether prompted by an unfortunate incident or simply the desire to begin your journey fully prepared, you come to us in search of answers.

Today we’ll be covering the common reasons that your dough can end up dreadful or droopy. As well as cautionary tales, there’s also some storage advice to give, offering alternatives to revolutionize your Italian experimentation.

Read on to find out all there is to know about looking after your dough, prolonging its life and delivering perfect pizza every time. Even seasoned chefs and authentic Italian chefs might learn something new!

Why does pizza dough go bad? 

No matter where you store your dough, whether sat out on the counter or tucked inside the fridge, it’ll eventually “go bad” if forgotten about. Between five and ten days is an average approximation of its lifespan, depending on several factors.

Composed of a very short list of ingredients - traditionally only flour, yeast, water and salt - it's quite a long lasting and hardy as doughs go. Nothing can become rancid or expire especially quickly, it will just gradually become more stale.

Leaving any dough for longer than a week results in what’s known in the baking world as ‘over proving’, a concept that fans of The Great British Baking Show will be familiar with. This creates a tough, tight bake, that’s flat and unpleasant to eat.

As the majority of pizza dough is made using yeast for the sake of fermentation, it’s important to remember that this process continues as long as the dough is left uncooked. This results in a much more noticeably pungent, sour smell.

Though it might still be safe to consume, your bread will inevitably have a less pleasant taste overall, so we’d recommend disposing of dough if it begins to stink. Better to be safe than sorry!

Telltale indicators of dough that’s past its best include:

  • Taking on a drier, less pliable texture, that’s harder to manipulate
  • Crustier exterior, generally more shrunken and sad looking
  • Clear signs of mold or bacteria growth - these are very obvious
  • Begins to turn gray in color, as a result of oxidation
  • Emitting a strange or unpleasant odor

Storing pizza dough on the counter

Unfortunately, unless you’re engaged in the process of active proving, you don’t want to keep your pizza dough sitting out on your kitchen counter. Yes, even if it’s wrapped up or in a bowl covered in plastic wrap. 

When left undisturbed at room temperature, the yeast in your pizza dough will continue to rise, which may lead to over fermentation. Depending on conditions, within forty eight hours, it’ll be rendered unworkable, meaning terrible pizza!

Most chefs disagree on the ideal resting time and temperature for pizza dough. Whilst some prefer a full 24 hour rise for their doughs, others won’t wait a second longer than two hours. As such, it’s hard to offer an ideal time.

Lengthier proves will result in a more developed flavor profile, reminiscent of sourdough bread. Those with less refined palettes might appreciate a more traditional rising session, wherein you make and bake within just a few hours.

What do the experts say?

Traditionally, dough prepared at a commercial pizzeria would be stored in specially constructed, made for purpose dough boxes. These would be placed one atop the other in a cooler, creating the ideal environment for short-term storage.

Cold fermentation, aka allowing the dough to rise in an area of low temperature, is recommended for the best tasting, airiest dough. Replicating this method at home involves using airtight containers that are stored in the fridge.

How you store the dough is up to you. Both plopping the whole mass into a container as it is, and separating and shaping into smaller balls, are acceptable methods. The latter can be useful if you portion out your dough per pizza.

Whether you plastic wrap the dough itself before it goes into a container is also optional, based on preference. Once properly put away, you can expect this dough will keep for three days, provided the storage method used is sealed adequately. 

When it is time use your dough, take out as much as you need and allow it to reach room temperature. This usually takes around forty five minutes to an hour, and makes the process of rolling out and tossing much easier overall.

An alternative: Freezing pizza dough

Allowing you to keep fresh pizza dough on hand for up to three months, freezing is an excellent storage option if you or your family and friends are a big fan of the Italian treat. Making sure you store it appropriately is even more important, though.

Once succumbed to freezer burn, that pizza will never be the same again. Wrapping in plastic wrap and popping in a sealed container or freezer bag is the surest way to avoid damaging your dough. Be careful to avoid rips and tears if you use bags!

Consider coating the dough in olive or vegetable oil if you’re using a freezer bag rather than a Tupperware container or similar. This will help you to remove the dough more easily when it’s finished thawing out.

Storing it in individual portions rather than as one large mass will leave you with a better bake ultimately, as there’s much less chance for a change in the dough’s internal structure. You’ll also have room to freeze more portions overall.

Defrosting your dough

When it comes to thawing, you’ll want to put the frozen dough into the fridge as it is for at least twelve hours, but ideally overnight. Once all done, you’ll need to pop it on the counter and wait until it has reached room temperature again. 

Though this might sound like a lengthy process, giving your dough the opportunity to properly thaw, acclimatize and rise again will result in a far tastier pizza overall. Once it’s nice and airy, proceed as normal with your favorite recipe.

It’s worth pointing out that the longer the dough is frozen, the less tactile your dough will be. Unfortunately, the yeast needed to prompt rising once thawed is unlikely to survive a lengthy spell in the freezer. It’s usable, but it won’t be as good as fresh!

Avoid methods that suggest quick thawing frozen dough in the oven or the microwave. Not only will this interrupt the rising process and ruin the dough’s structure, but it will begin to partially cook as it defrosts!

Water baths are also to be used with caution, as they can accelerate the yeast’s production of oxygen and lead to over proved dough. You might find them useful in a pinch, but waiting it out will always leave you with better pizza, trust us on this one. 

Quick tips for the best pizza dough ever

  • Use bread flour - it has higher protein content, resulting in a greater internal structure and a chewier texture
  • Be sure to use the freshest ingredients possible; this is especially important when it comes to yeast, which you also shouldn’t skimp on!
  • Slow and steady refrigerated proving is your best chance at authentic, Italian style pizza dough with a greater depth of flavor
  • Don’t skip out on the post fridge return to room temperature!
  • Do not attempt to stretch cold dough, as the gluten produced will have contracted as a result of the lower temperature, leaving you with a much tighter structure
  • Don’t take that pizza pie out too soon - when you think your pizza is ready, give it a couple of minutes more, for a truly crispy base

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