If your pizza crust is coming out too hard then it can be from a number of common mistakes. Luckily these can be fixed very easily with a little know-how. Nobody likes a pizza that resembles chewing on stiff cardboard!
Why is my pizza crust too hard?
- Baked for too long and dried out
- Not enough water in the dough
- Too much kneading
- Adding Too Much Flour When Kneading
- Using A Rolling Pin Instead Of Stretching
Now we have the quick answers, here is some solutions for fixing these problems in a little more detail.
Baked For Too Long And Dried Out
The best pizza crusts are crisp on the exterior but still retaining a moist interior. This is what makes it soft and supple, rather than tough and chewy.
To achieve this you need to keep the crust from drying out. Much like other foods, this can happen if the pizza is cooked for too long. The high heat for excessive times caused the moisture to evaporate.
To solve this you can cook the pizza quicker, in a hotter environment. The obvious one is turning up your oven temperature to the maximum. And making sure it has been preheated fully. This usually takes 45 minutes or so from a cold oven.
The second one which drastically cuts cooking time is using a pizza stone or steel. This surprised me how effective these were when I started using them – pretty much cutting the cooking time in half. This is because the heat gets transferred quickly from the base up. It gives it a shot of heat which kick starts the yeast and makes it rise rapidly. Now the dough is risen, it’s less dense and cooks quickly and evenly. The pizza steel is the master at this because it conducts heat better than stone. A bit more pricey but they perform better and last a life time. Make sure you heat it up in the oven as you preheat the oven.
To find out more, check out the one I recommend in this article.
Not Enough Water In The Dough
Another cause of tough and dry crust is water content in the dough, also called hydration. By using less water, then you have more chance of drying out. As mentioned, this is a cause of tough dough and crust.
It’s an odd thing to think, but wetter dough actually makes the pizza more crisp. It makes more steam which keeps the dough light and allows it to rise quick. It cooks through better and makes a crisper crust with larger holes. When bread is made, the artisan breads such as ciabatta and sourdough with their large holey structure are all made with wetter dough as a key step.
So adding a little more water to dough is good practice. It makes the dough a little harder to work with and shape, but the results are typically better.
Learning about bakers percentages is useful if you haven’t already. This is the idea of ingredient ratios rather than just a recipe. It’s worked out comparable to the flour in the recipe. So if you have 1000g of flour and use 700m of water (700ml water equals 700g water) then you are using 70% hydration. Or 500g flour and 350ml is also 70%. You just need to divide the water by the flour and multiple by 100.
Try a hydration of 65%, which is a good start. You can then push it up to 70% and see the difference for yourself.
Too Much Kneading
Too much kneading makes the dough a bit more dense and what you might call a tighter crumb in the bread world. The kneading builds up gluten which is the stretchy network of strands in the dough. It’s what makes the dough smooth and elastic as many recipes will call. And you can certainly feel it as you take a shaggy ball of flour and water into a cohesive mass while you knead.
Kneading organises the gluten into a more uniform network. It makes the outcome more chewy from all the work that has gone into it. A bit like a dense loaf of bread compared to a holey crusted bread – the answer is more kneading equals more density.
Many poor recipes online and in books will have you knead the pizza dough for 10-20 minutes. I did this for a long time thinking it was the way forward. But you don’t need to knead pizza dough for anywhere near that.
Try adding a resting period just after you have mixed all your ingredients. This allows the flour and water to hydrate themselves and start the chemical reaction. Gluten starts forming on it’s own with no kneading. Let it rest for 20 minutes and then proceed to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes on the worktop. It will be semi smooth, and not super elastic and springy. But it will make a very delicate crust.
Adding Too Much Flour When Kneading
When you’ve mixed your ingredients and its time to knead, it can be tempting to cover your worktop in mounds of flour to begin. Especially if you have a sticky dough which might be prone to getting stuck. But in this phase, kneading is still incorporating flour into the dough.
This causes the dough to drop in its hydration ratio, and effectively dry out. And dry dough means tougher dough as it doesn’t rise as well.
To help this, use small amounts of flour on the bench. Lightly dust it and move quickly to prevent sticking. By using less flour, but topping it up when you need to, this ensures you use a minimal amount of flour. If it gets sticky then use a dough scraper to bring the dough back together rather than your fingers.
When it comes to the stretching phase then feel free to use as much flour as you need. Here, we aren’t mixing this flour back in, but we are just using it on the surface. It won’t dry out your dough on the interior, which is the important bit.
Using A Rolling Pin Instead Of Stretching
Using a rolling pin to flatten a pizza base can cause the dough to become more dense. This is because you push all the pockets of gas that are built up when it rises. These pockets of dough make the dough lighter in texture. By stretching by hand, you preserve this airiness a bit more, and you can be more gentle with the dough when shaping.
Try using your fingers to press down the dough from the center to the crust. Keep the middle slightly thicker as this is where the stretching happens. Once you’ve got it in a flatter shape, you can pick it up and drape it over your upturned fists. Pull apart and work with gravity to stretch the dough thinner. Move the dough around your hands to keep the base stretching from all angles. Hold it to the light to see the thinner bits, and the bits which need more stretching.
My Recommended Recipe For Tender Pizza
Ingredients (makes 3 medium pizzas)
Bread Flour: 500g – (100%)
Tepid Water: 325ml – (65%)
Instant Yeast: 0.3g – (0.06%)
Salt: 15g – (3%)
Olive Oil: 15g – (3%)
Dissolve salt and yeast in the water, then add the flour and the oil. Mix for 30 seconds, and then leave for 20 minutes for the flour to absorb and rest.
Knead it for 2-3 minutes and let it rise as a bulk for 1 hour. Ball 3 dough balls and let them ferment at room temperature for 6-12 hours while airtight. Then stretch by hand, and cook on a preheated pizza steel for 5-7 minutes (until very golden), turning once.
My Recommended Equipment
I wrote an article on my recommended tools for making pizza which you can find here. The biggest impact for a more tender crust is probably getting a pizza steel, and a digital scales for ingredient accuracy.
You now have my top ways to avoid a tough pizza crust. It all comes from starting with a great dough with the correct proportions. Then the proper handling and mixing of the dough is important. Keeping it gentle ensures a delicate final outcome. Finally with the correct cooking temperatures and equipment you are on fora winner.
Give my recipe a go – the dough rises at room temperature with a very small amount of yeast to stop it rising too much. This allows it to develop flavor and a delicate texture, it’s easy to stretch and rises well in the oven.