All About Pizza Dough, Hydration And Other Bakers Percentages


Learning a bit more about bakers percentages and dough formulas is an important step in making better pizza more consistently. Hydration is one of these percentages and this affects the pizza dough the most.

This article has some information on how to formulate and read percentages. Also answering questions, What is the best hydration level? as well as a comparison of some popular recipes from online and in books. I have done hours of testing and created my best pizza dough recipe from all this research, you should give it a go too.

What Are Bakers Percentages?

Bakers percentages are a common way to define the proportions of ingredients in a recipe by defining percentages of ingredients compared to the total amount of flour. While typical recipes will specify the ingredients in volumes, the bakers percentages allow the reader to quickly compare recipes, and scale the recipe by multiplying the proportions.

Flour is always stated at 100% and then the other ingredients can be worked out as a percentage of that flour weight. For example, if you have 340g of flour, then you would need 221g/ml of water to have a 65% hydrated dough.

If you take your starting flour and divide by 100, you get 1% of the volume. You can then multiple this by the percentage you need, for example to find one percent you do 340 / 100 = 3.4. And so to find 65% we take our one percent and multiply it – 3.4 * 65 = 221.

Remember that 1g of water equals 1ml of water, so if you get 221g of water as your result then you can use 221ml of water.

The Main 4 Ingredients In Dough

Pizza dough needs flour, water, yeast and salt for its key ingredients. This means that the variation of any of them, particularly water, has a large impact. The addition of sugar and oil is optional.

Sugar is optional but many recipes will include it. It is beneficial for the home cooked pizza as the oven isn’t hot enough so it will help with browning the crust. It also adds a slight sweetness to the dough. It isn’t needed in a pizza oven because the high temperatures will be enough to brown the crust.

Oil is optional and added to dough, more traditionally a New York or home baked pizza. It will add some flavor, make the dough smoother, and also help with the browning.

Weigh Your Ingredients

When dealing with bakers percentages, it is important to use a scales to weigh your ingredients. Especially for the salt, yeast and sugar, which use such small quantities around 1%. Errors can easily happen if using teaspoon measurements.

For these measurements, you can pick up a cheap digital scales online. Be sure to get one which is accurate enough (to the 0.1g) like this one I like from Amazon. Most scales don’t go to such accuracy so keep an eye out when buying.

Use The Pizza Dough Calculator

You can work it out yourself, but there are a few online tools to help you calculate your dough quantities, giving you clear measurements for each ingredient.

I like the tool at PizzaCreator.net which you can use to help you work out the numbers. Just input how many pizzas you require. The advanced option allows you to control the percentages of water, salt, sugar and oil. I always put my hydration higher then their default 60%.

http://www.pizzacreator.net

Pizza Dough Percentages Comparison

When I started out testing pizza dough, I wanted to see how different dough compared. Each different website or book will swear by different recipes and methods so its hard to know who to go by. It’s largely down to preference, so test a few ways out and see which one you like the best.

I’ve listed a few of my favorite resources for pizza dough. Tony Gemignani and Tom Lehmann are two of the most well known pizza experts. You should get a copy of The Pizza Bible by Tony (Amazon link), which has world champion-winning recipes for every pizza type from the USA and Italy. Tom Lehmann, aka ‘The Dough Doctor’ has many online articles for various pizza magazines, and also answers questions on the forum pizzamaking.com.

The following table shows some comparison dough recipes and where you can read more about the recipes which they came from.

RecipeStyleWaterYeastSaltSugarOilRecipe
MineMulti purpose66%0.1%2.5%2%Here
Tony Gemignani – Pizza Bible New York65%1%2%2%1%Book / Online
Tom Lehmann New York63%0.2%2%1%Here
Serious EatsNeapolitan65%1.5%2%Here
Serious Eats New York67%1.5%1.5%2%5%Here
pizzacreator.netNeapolitan60%1%2%Here
pizzacreator.netNew York60%1%2%2%3% Here
Jamie OliverNew York65%1.4%0.5%1.3%6%Here
Jamie OliverNeapolitan70%0.7%1%Here

I created my own dough, and wanted to make it flexible to be used to ferment at room temperature or cold fermenting in the fridge. I tested out 0.1% yeast which is low, but allows you to hold the dough for 8 hours at room temperature to develop good flavor, and not over ferment (this low yeast amount is typical for a dough recipe from Naples). This low amount also works well with cold ferments of 24-48 hours – I found that I didn’t need any extra as long as you give it 2 hours at room temperature first. See my best pizza dough recipe.

How To Mix Ingredients

I follow the same steps for every dough, and this specific sequence produced perfect, consistent dough.

  • Hydrate the flour with the water for 30 minutes (autolyse stage, but can be skipped)
  • Hydrate the dried yeast in a splash of water then add and mix for a minute
  • Add the salt and sugar and mix for a minute
  • Add the oil and mix for a minute
  • Transfer the dough to the worktop and knead for 3-5 minutes
  • Rest for 1 hour at room temperature to start fermentation
  • Bulk ferment in the refrigerator for 24 hours for flavor
  • Remove 250g dough for one pizza and ball
  • Rest for 2 hours before stretching to return to room temperature

Best Hydration For Pizza Dough

Aim for 63-% – 65% hydration then experiment higher

Pizza dough generally gets better with higher hydration. So you should aim to get your dough as wet as you can manage, without it becoming too much of a problem with handling and mixing.

This is because the dough is more extensible with more water, so can rise and produce a lighter, more pronounced crust. More water actually makes the crust more crisp which sounds slightly counter productive, but is true. This is because the extra water will turn to steam when the pizza hits the oven. It will rise up faster, and make more bubbles in the dough which will in turn, result in a less dense dough which crisps up better.

As a hydrated pizza dough will bake more efficiently, it will ironically stop your pizza dough from being soggy in the middle. You might have cooked some pizza and got a ‘gum line’ in the middle of the dough, where the outer parts have cooked well but the inner is still raw. It would be tempting to remove more water to solve this problem, but the opposite is actually better. By removing water it only makes the dough stiffer, denser, and with less rise. So by adding more water this should help the base rise and cook better to avoid a gum line.

Flour types will vary on how much water they absorb, so this is an important factor too. You probably know that Italian “00” flour is the finely milled grade. This fine milling affects its water absorption so results in it not needing as much water as normal bread flours – the “00” dough ends up a stickier dough. So try and be consistent with your flours when you are adjusting hydration levels.

Tips For Optimum Hydration:

  • Don’t add oil too early – it will coat the flour and prevent water from hydrating it properly. Always add the oil at the end of mixing.
  • Soak your flour in the water for 30 minutes before adding other ingredients. This allows the flour to hydrate fully before yeast and salt is added. It is called the autolyse method.
  • Don’t add excess flour on the work bench when you are mixing and shaping. It can all add up to interfere with your percentages. Use a small bit at a time, or some olive oil.
  • For help with wet dough, use a pizza scraper while you are kneading. Use one hand to push and fold the dough and the scraper to gather it off the bench.

Best Pizza Dough Yeast Percentage

Typically 1% – 1.5% for shorter fermentation (a few hours)
Typically 0.1% – 1% for longer fermentation (12 hours+)

How much yeast depends on how long you plan to ferment the dough. Most beginner recipes will use a fairly large amount of yeast and sugar to get the dough to rise quickly, so you can proof the dough for an hour or two before stretching and baking.

This isn’t the best method, as it takes time to develop flavor and better texture in dough. This happens through a slow fermentation process with the yeast, which is achieved by putting the dough in the refrigerator. The cold temperature slows yeast fermentation to allow it to develop flavor over time, but not to over proof.

So with this slower fermentation, you can actually use less yeast. This will avoid the dough having a overly yeasty and bready taste and aroma. Having a dough which tastes solely of this flavor is quite characteristic of an amateur bake. Drop the yeast to 1% or less, and slow ferment your dough in the fridge for a much better flavor and texture. I have sometimes found that 1% yeast used in many pizza recipes is too much and the dough ends up overflowing the container. So I use around 0.1-0.6% and this develops perfectly and still has the best taste and texture.

Best Pizza Dough Salt Percentage

Typical in the range of 1 – 3%

Salt is a crucial element, as without it, your dough will taste bland and floury. Salt inhibits the growth of yeast, so it is important to follow the recipe and use accurate amounts otherwise you might not get the rise you intended. By using a scales rather than teaspoons, you can get a much accurate measurement – especially if the salt has larger crystals.

In high concentrations, salt can kill yeast. So I always add the salt after the flour, water and yeast have been combined. Avoid mixing your salt and yeast directly in your bowl, and the yeast will have maximum fermentation.

You will notice when you add the salt to the flour, yeast and water mix that it tightens the dough. It strengthens the gluten network, making it snap back more. If you’re getting this problem then reduce the salt percentage slightly.

Salt’s main function is taste, and I like the flavor enhancing effect it has on dough. That is why I give it 2.5% in my recipe rather than 2%. Some recipes go as high as 3.2% salt – but I find this too much, and it’s also bad for your health.

What Salt To Use?

It is best to use finely ground salt in dough recipes so you don’t end up with large chunks. These may or may not dissolve in your dough, and ultimately you want a nicely dispersed salt flavor in your dough. So avoid large crystals of kosher or rock salt.

Normal table salt will do but the flavor isn’t great – I like sea salt as the flavor is stronger and less bitter than table salt.

Best Pizza Dough Sugar Percentage

Typical in the range of 1.5 – 2%

Does pizza dough need sugar? No it isn’t an essential ingredient in the recipe. The starches in the flour will provide enough food for the yeast to feed on in the fermentation process.

So the amount of sugar depends on how much you want to dough to brown, and how sweet you like it to taste. Purist Neapolitan dough doesn’t contain any sugar, and has a cleaner, natural taste to it. It gets all the browning and flavor from the pizza oven because of its intense heat. It chars the outside for a smokey flavor, and leopard spotted surface.

How Much Oil In Pizza Dough

Typical in the range of 1 – 5%

This can vary quite a lot between recipes, so that signals one thing – the amount of oil doesn’t make or break a recipe. Unlike the other ingredients like yeast or salt which are more sensitive to small changes.

You can get some New York recipes with no oil at all and some with as much as 5%. So with many things to do with pizza – it’s simply down to your preference.

The oil adds some taste, some texture in the form of chewiness and tenderness, and also some browning. Experiment and see what you prefer. I think it adds much more effect when a dough is under fermented. A dough that has had 24 hours or more has great texture anyway, but a shorter dough benefits quite well from the chewiness.

Free Video Course

If you want to learn more secrets to making perfect pizza, I found this great free 6 part video course from baking expert Peter Reinhart which you can watch here.

Conclusion

You should get familiar with bakers percentages as they aren’t difficult to grasp. It just takes a little bit of simple calculation to get going – and then you can write down your best percentages and volumes needed for X pizzas in that ratio to use every time.

Remember that different doughs will work for different styles of pizza and oven, so pick one which is suitable. Experiment with recipes until you find one that works for you and your oven, and then you can replicate it with confidence every time you set out to make pizza.

My best tip for making pizza in a home oven is using a pizza “steel”. This adds intense heat from below like a brick oven would – I have this steel from Amazon which is significantly lower priced than the original brand, but works perfectly. Steel is more conductive than stone so transfers more heat, they don’t shatter and they are easier to clean. If it’s out of your price range then the 2nd best option is a pizza stone made from cordierite. To see a round-up of the most important pizza equipment then see my essential pizza equipment list.


16 thoughts on “All About Pizza Dough, Hydration And Other Bakers Percentages

  1. Ever since I installed a wood fired pizza oven in my kitchen I have been scouring cookbooks and websites to truly learn how to make dough. Nothing has come close to your explanations here – so thank you!

    I recently ordered Nuvola flour by Caputo, which to my understanding can handle a much higher hydration level. Any thoughts using this new flour? Thanks!

    1. Thank you – I’m glad you liked the article! I haven’t come across that flour myself, I usually stick to the blue 00 “Pizzeria” flour from Caputo. But higher hydration is always good – it will come out very light and crisp, but with a moist center of the crust.

      A good tip for high hydration dough is to use a dough scraper to manage the dough while working with it. A few kneads with one hand and then gather it with the scraper, and that helps to not stick to your hands.

  2. Hi – so glad I found this site. I’m using 00 flour and cooking in a pizza oven that gets to 750-800F. What % hydration would you recommend in this circumstance? I’ve been using 65% but the bottom burns quite a bit.

    1. Hey Chris. Glad you have found the site useful!

      As 00 flour is finely milled it can absorb more water – 65% might be on the high end if your dough is super sticky. Cooking in the wood fired oven doesn’t need so much water as the dough doesn’t dry out because its cooked very fast too. It stays moist inside. You could try dropping it a few percent if it makes it easier to handle etc.

      Some tips to stop it burning would be to use some stretched dough to take the “sting” out of the oven floor (this first one might burn on the bottom). You can discard this and carry on cooking your pizzas. Try and keep the pizzas cooking on the same spot as it will be slightly cooler than the rest, so less likely to burn.

  3. In the amount of yeast recommended by percentage above, are you talking about regular dry yeast, instant dry yeast, or fresh yeast?

    Thank you very much for your reply

    1. Hi John

      Active dry yeast and instant dry yeast are the ones to be used for the above. I tend to use instant for its ease of use.

      Fresh yeast needs around 2-3 times more.

      Tom

  4. Hi im wondering what is the water to flour ratio for all purpose flour.
    Since tip 00 and bread flour have higher protein content & more absorption they use less water.
    what about AP?
    for example If i want to make use 150 gram of flour how many grams water is needed?
    The last time I made pizza i used 440 grams of flour and 210 ml of water. my dough was tearing apart and didnt stretch smoothly

    1. Hydration varies on a flour’s absorption but also on the oven used. For instance, a wood fired oven cooks in a few minutes so has a low hydration. A home oven might take 10 minutes and so dries the crust out much more and needs more water.

      In a home oven, I would try use as much water as you can handle. It simply makes better pizza. Your last ratio was 47% hydration which is much too low – try 60% and push it higher the time after.

      All purpose flour doesn’t build up the gluten network like bread flour does either. It won’t be elastic and stretch and will tear more instead. That might be your main problem.

  5. Hi.thank you so much
    What the best temprature of fridge is ideal for 24,48,72 hour cold fermentation?

    1. It is all relative, so the lower the temperature the slower the fermentation. Anything below 40F/4C, but obviously if you go too close to 0 then it could freeze (and be very slow!). Mine is 3-4 degrees C

  6. This is an excellent article. After 15 odd years of trying to make professional pizza at home, I’ve seen all this stuff before, but never so clearly and concisely laid out.

    Some questions – Do you cover your dough balls in the fridge? And what is the ideal temperature for the cool ferment? Around 40F?

    Also, I’ve been really happy with a number of doughs I’ve made, but never that happy with my shaping. My dough really snaps back on me. Do you knead the dough balls after they come out of the fridge, or just leave them be and extend them after they warm up?

    Thanks for the page and advice.

    1. That’s some fantastic feedback from someone who has been making pizza for 15 years so I’m really glad you found this one useful Charles.

      As for your questions: In the fridge I do cover them. I use a plastic container that you keep cakes in which has this easy lid you lift off, because wrapping everything in plastic wrap gets pretty annoying. Temperature wise, 40F is pretty standard yes. The temperature just affects the fermentation rate – check this diagram where someone has worked out the comparisons:
      https://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,26831.msg349349.html#msg349349

      Dough that snaps back… this happened to me lots when I used to do bulk fermentation and then ball up and let them rest for short period. Much better is to have a much longer fermentation time in the ball than the bulk so that they completely relax. Don’t knead them at all after the fridge, just bring them out and give them a good few hours to warm up as the cold also tightens. Even try a room temperature ferment with low yeast – you can use 0.1% and hold the dough for 6-8 hours and the taste is fantastic (maybe 90% as good as a cold ferment). See my recipe which I linked in this post as once I started doing it that way with minimal yeast and minimal kneading I never looked back.

      all the best.

  7. “Flour is always stated at 100% and then the other ingredients can be worked out as a percentage of that flour volume. ” This should be: “… percentage of that flour weight”.

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