Pizza dough has a limited life once its been made and so needs to be kept in the right conditions to last. If its stored incorrectly or kept for too long then the dough starts to taste unpleasant and becomes a floppy blob which isn’t workable. On top of that, it could make you ill. I’ll explain why this happens, and how to make it last a bit longer.
How long can you keep pizza dough?
|Storage Location||Amount Of Time|
|At room temperature||4-18 hours|
|In the fridge||3-5 days|
|In the freezer||3 months|
These numbers depend heavily on the dough’s yeast quantity and temperature.
As you can see, it can vary quite a bit and is hard to give an answer without context and recipe. My pizza dough recipe has had lots of testing, and is flexible for room temperature or fridge storage. Check my best dough recipe here which has full instructions.
Read on and I’ll explain what affects the dough to make it last longer, and some tips on proper storage instructions.
What Affects The Storage Life?
Dough is alive with yeast and the yeast is fermenting. This means it eats sugars in the flour and produces products such as CO2 gas, alcohol and flavor. At the same time, the stretchy network which holds the dough together, called gluten, is degrading and becoming less tight.
These by-products and the gluten structure are the two factors which determine how long you can store your dough for. If it is left too long, then the dough becomes over fermented. It gets a sour smell and a strong taste which is unpleasant when cooked. The gluten relaxes too much so that the dough no longer keeps its shape because it can’t hold air bubbles. It won’t rise well to become light and crisp, and it won’t have crust bubbles. Instead it deflates to stay tough and dense.
There are 3 factors which affect fermentation and storage life, they are the yeast amount, temperature and protein content of the flour.
Yeast amount increases the rate of fermentation. More yeast means a faster rate at which it will break down and consume all the flour starches.
Temperature is a key to the rate a dough ferments. The yeast becomes more active at higher temperatures, so will ferment faster, reducing the dough’s usage life.
Protein in the flour determines how much gluten develops in the dough. More protein means more gluten, so it can last longer without losing its structure. That’s why bread flour with a higher protein content is best for pizza – lower protein content flour doesn’t hold up to storing for any length of time.
Fermenting for longer periods is important because it develops deeper flavor and texture. The key is to have the dough ferment for as long as possible without letting it over ferment. This is achieved by keeping the dough temperature down in the refrigerator so it can ferment slowly. It also lets the gluten relax so it is easier to stretch.
Is Over Fermented Dough Safe To Eat?
By over fermented we are talking when the dough has had a little too much time to ferment since it was mixed together. It will lose structure to become flat and more liquid like, rather than a ball which can be shaped. It will also smell and taste overpoweringly of yeasty fermentation. This dough is still safe to eat at this stage, although it will taste sour and won’t rise well in the oven. Ensure you always cook the dough thoroughly. When it is unsafe to eat is when it has signs of harmful bacteria – does it smell “off”, is it slimy, is it discolored? If it shows any of these signs then it is not safe to eat.
Dough Smells Sour
This isn’t a key indicator the dough has gone bad. The sour aromas are given off as the dough ferments – think of the term “sour dough”. As the dough is producing alcohol, it can also smell alcoholic like beer, as it is a similar yeast fermentation process. It gets to a point where the sourness is too much and so doesn’t taste good. If the smell is more of an unpleasant smell then you know it has gone bad.
How Long Does Pizza Dough Last In The Fridge?
Dough can be left in the fridge for usually up to 3-5 days. It depends on the temperature and condition it entered the fridge. This period can have a large affect as the dough ferments more quickly outside the fridge in higher temperatures. If you used warm water and left the dough outside for an hour before putting it in the fridge, it might only last 3 days. If you keep it cold and put it in the fridge straight away, it could last over 5 days.
It is likely to be optimum at 3 days, with a good bready flavor. After here you might find the taste a little strong to be pleasant. Remember that the dough releases gases and alcohol when it ferments so the fact that it smells sour or like beer doesn’t mean it has gone bad.
How Long Does Pizza Dough Last At Room Temperature?
This depends quite a bit on the amount of yeast in the dough. As the dough is now at a warm temperature, it will ferment rapidly. Pizza dough recipes can vary widely on the amount of yeast and how it should be prepared. To be sure, you need to know bakers percentages. That’s how much yeast you used compared to the total flour weight e.g. 1kg flour and 10g yeast is 1% yeast. See my post on pizza hydration and other bakers percentages for more details on working this out.
A lot of recipes online tend to have a lot of yeast (up to 2%), which speeds up the fermentation for convenience and laziness. These recipes aim for a 2 hour proof time which doesn’t make very good pizza as it lacks the flavor which develops over time. And this dough will last about 2 hours more out of the fridge after it has had this initial 2 hour proof, so around 4 hours total.
On the other hand, you have recipes which include 0.2% yeast and are designed so that the dough ferments at room temperature for 16-18 hours before it is used. The tiny amount of yeast allows the dough to ferment slowly at room temperature.
So you can see that this varies considerably depending on the recipe. Most recipes usually go for something around 1% yeast and have an overnight fermentation in the fridge, then 2 hours out of the fridge before use.
How Long Does Pizza Dough Last In The Freezer?
Pizza dough can last up to 3 months in the freezer. At this point you start to see the color, flavor and texture of the dough deteriorating. While you could keep it a little longer without it making you ill, it is worth making a new batch. Dough is cheap to make and fresh dough is always better.
To use it once it has been frozen, you should defrost it in the fridge for 12 hours. It can then be treated like normal dough – the yeast kicks back into action and will rise. It will last in the fridge for 3 days if it was placed in the freezer after creation – less if you kept it for a few days first. When it is ready to use, bring it to room temperature on the worktop for 2 hours in an airtight environment.
I wrote a whole article about freezing pizza dough here which has lots more detailed information.
How To Store Pizza Dough Properly
In a commercial pizzeria, the dough is stored in dough boxes which are stacked on top of each other in a cooler.
You can replicate this in your own home by using airtight containers and putting it in the fridge. Any contact with the air causes the dough to dry out and form a hard skin on the outer layer so keep it airtight.
You can choose to store the dough in one large bulk piece or split it into balls first. I prefer to store it in one large bulk and cut off 200g-240g pieces when I want to make a medium or large pizza. This is easier for storage in my fridge rather than a tray of individual balls. I think splitting into balls first could produce more consistent results as it cools down faster than one large bulk. But I’ve found storing it in bulk lets you store it longer as the individual balls tend to relax and flatten out too much after 24 hours. Use whatever suits you best.
To prepare, I take the dough and roll it into a ball then leave it on the counter under an upturned bowl for 1-2 hours. It relaxes the gluten for stretching and seems to produce less dough bubbles. If I’m doing many then I put them in airtight boxes on the counter.
How to store store-bought pizza dough
If you get it into the fridge as soon as possible then you have the most control over it and the most longevity. Once it is out of the fridge then it ferments faster and which can cause the dough to become unusable.
Remember to take the dough out of the fridge for at least 1 hour to get it to room temperature before stretching and cooking. Two hours is best I find.
How long does store bought pizza dough last? It was probably made fresh that day, so it should last the usual 3-5 days in the fridge. Adjust this depending on how old it is when you bought it, and how long it is left outside of the fridge.
How Long Does Pizza Dough Last After Sell By Date
Storing any food past its sell by date is at your own risk. You can keep dough for longer in the fridge than in warmer temperatures so keep it there. Dough was probably made on the day you bought it, so it will last 3-5 days after that before it starts tasting unpleasant.
We’ve covered all types of pizza dough storage in this article which should cover all your needs. My recommendations would be to always use the best dough possible by planning ahead. Fermenting the dough slowly in the fridge for at least 24 hours gives a great flavor and texture. Follow my pizza dough recipe which has all the instructions to produce perfect dough time after time.
To make the best pizza you need to cook your dough on something very hot. A pizza stone is more well known, but a pizza steel is a newer method which will produce even better results. The steel conducts heat more efficiently, cooking the base through very quickly. They also don’t shatter like a stone does. I have this pizza steel and can fully recommend it (click to see on Amazon). If you’d rather get something a bit cheaper, then at least get a pizza stone made of cordierite like this one. It is less likely to crack like other pizza stones.
See all the essential tools I recommend on my pizza equipment list guide.