Homemade pizza will often rise too much to produce a thick, bready pizza, rather than a nice thin crispy crust which everyone aims for. I used to get this problem all the time when I started, and my pizzas were pretty inconsistent. With a little knowhow, you can get your pizzas light and crispy every time.
Practice will ensure you can keep your pizza dough from puffing up. Here are my tips to stop getting pizza that rises too much in the oven:
- Stretch or roll the pizza thinly enough.
- Cold dough causes more bubbles and blisters so bring it to room temperature.
- Ensure the area for the crust is not too large – 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch max.
- Knock out or pinch any bubbles when shaping.
- Get your dough formulation right – don’t add too much yeast.
- Correct dough fermentation temperature.
Starting with a good dough is important. Use my best pizza dough recipe which will ensure you are getting off to a proper start.
Stretch The Pizza Thin Enough
Stretching dough is very important when making pizza. If it isn’t thin enough when you top it, then it isn’t going to be thin enough when it comes out. It sort of happens exponentially – by leaving it only slightly thicker when stretching means that it puffs up a lot more when it is cooked.
Aim to get it pretty much as thin as you can evenly get it without breaking through. Obviously there is exceptions to this, such as a tray baked ‘Sicillian’ style – but that is going to be much thicker and breadier.
Check out the video in this post for good technique. Use your hands like clock hands to stretch the dough. Do it slowly and evenly first to give you a nice even thickness which will cook perfectly.
Don’t Cook Cold Dough
This was a big mistake when I started. If you’ve been making pizza for any time, you know that a cold, fermented dough overnight in the fridge is the way to go to make a flavorsome pizza. Some people even freeze their dough for convenience.
So the problem comes when you take it out of the refrigerator and come to cook the dough. The cold dough is tighter, so is less extensible. When it hits the oven, the CO2 is released from the yeast activity but it has nowhere to go in the tight dough. So it pushes through any weaker or warmer spots in the dough. This makes the big bubbles and blisters. If you warm up the dough evenly, then this goes away.
It takes time for the pizza dough to warm up – it needs to be at least 60F or 15C, or more close to room temperature is better. This can take between 1-3 hours once taken out of the fridge, depending on your room temperature. I usually ball the dough on the counter and let it proof for 2 hours one last time under a mixing bowl. So try and be prepared (rushed dough usually means bad dough).
Don’t Make The Crust Area Too Large
The crust puffs and rises up a lot when it is cooked as it has no toppings to weigh it down. It’s also full of gas because you stretched out the inner part of the pizza and pushed the gas into the rim.
So it doesn’t need a large area of raw dough to make a good crust. Try as little as 1/4 inch of bare dough for your crust when you top it.
Another tip is to make sure you push the sauce right up to this 1/4 inch mark all the way around the pizza. If the sauce is not evenly pushed to the outer rim, then you will get parts which rise up more. Use your toppings such as pepperoni to make a circle just inside the crust rim which stops it getting too large. This ensures the crust doesn’t overly rise in places you don’t want it to. You then carry on placing your toppings in the center.
Remove Bubbles When Stretching
When you stretch or roll out the pizza skin, you tend to leave the outer dough untouched so that it is more pronounced when cooked. By pushing, stretching or rolling the inner part, you actually push the gas to the crust rim. You’ve probably seen this area rise up more with gas bubbles.
If you leave these large air bubbles, then they only get bigger when they hit the oven. They become too big and will probably burn, which can sometimes be nice, but often just means you have to remove the pizza a bit early.
Firstly, this happens more when you use cold dough, so try and get the dough to room temperature to ease this. The techniques you can use to combat this, is by slapping down those areas to push the gas out and burst the bubble. You can also just pinch the bubble, but there might still be extra gas in that area when it is cooked.
Watch the video in this post to see how the guy stretching the dough slaps the crust when an air bubble gets pushed through it.
Get Your Dough Formulation Right
Good dough usually comes down to good fermentation. This is the yeast and sugars doing their work to produce CO2 and flavor for the dough while the gluten network relaxes.
Get to know bakers percentages to compare dough. Less than 1% yeast weight compared to 100% flour weight is usually absolutely fine for pizza dough. Make sure to use a scale to measure ingredients by weight and not volume to get consistent results.
Follow a good recipe with the correct proportions of yeast, salt, sugar and water. Check out my post on pizza dough hydration and bakers percentages if you are interested in more of the details.
Dough Fermentation Temperature
They say the secret to consistent dough time after time is dough temperature (if you have your percentages consistent too).
As little as 15F can cause your yeast activity to double. Ever noticed that your dough sometimes rises double in size very fast, and sometimes barely moves at all?
You should aim for your dough to be 80F (26C) after it is mixed. You can get an inexpensive food thermometer from Amazon. You can regulate temperature by adding the correct temperature water. You can use this chart from General Mills to help you get the temperatures right.
When it ferments in the refridgerator, you should aim for below 40F (4.5C) for the correct temperatures for a cold, slow fermentation.
Should You Dock Your Pizza Dough?
Docking is where you use a docking tool or fork to make small holes in the dough. This allows the CO2 to escape quickly without puffing up the dough.
This technique is usually used for cracker thin pizza. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are going for a standard thin crust pizza like a New York or Neapolitan. You should be able to get a thin pizza absolutely fine by using the tips in this article. Focus on stretching it thin, not using cold dough, and getting the crusts smaller.
If you’ve tried everything then maybe give the docking a go. Use a pizza docker or a fork to prick the raw dough, then top the pizza and cook as normal. You can get one of these on Amazon.
What To Aim For
Look at your pizza slice side on. A nice thin crust pizza should have a nice pronounced crust filled with air bubbles. The doughy area beneath the cheese is called the “gum line” and you should aim to keep this as least doughy as possible. You can see from the area right next to the crust that it was perhaps slightly too thick, and has started to bubble and rise a little too much. Perhaps if I had put toppings nearer the crust it would have risen a little less. It was delicious!
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.
Hopefully you now have enough tips to help you keep your pizza dough from puffing up. With the tips mentioned here, you shouldn’t have to use a fork or docker to prick holes into the dough, unless you want a really thin cracker crust.
Practice makes perfect – make pizza regularly so that you can stretch the skin out evenly and thinly. This is probably the most important part, and the part which can take the most skill. You will get it! Check out my pizza dough recipe which has detailed instructions at every step.