Pizza Dough Tears When Stretching: How To Fix It

Learning to stretch out a pizza skin is something that can take years of practice to perfect. At its core is the main component – the dough ball. And this needs to be just right to work with easily.

To stop pizza dough tearing when stretching, try these tips:

  • Knead your dough for longer to build up more gluten elasticity.
  • Rest the dough for longer to allow the tight gluten to relax slightly.
  • Stretch the dough evenly to avoid thinner parts.
  • Use flour higher in protein for more gluten.

All of this can be solved by using a good dough recipe. Check out my pizza dough recipe here.

If you’re struggling with making your dough or stretching it out, check out my pizza making video course which covers dough and the other ingredients and tools in depth.

Quick Fix For Now

If you are stretching your dough now and you need a fix for your tears then do this:

Pinch the edge of the tear from one side and pull it over the tear, giving it a firm pinch to seal the dough back together. Avoid stretching this area, instead focus on stretching the outer rim of the pizza which will stretch the pizza evenly to avoid more tears near the middle.

To spot thin areas, drape the pizza over your fists and lift it up to the light – you will be able to see the thinner areas shining through easily.

For details on how you can avoid this situation next time, read the following tips with your dough.

Build Up More Gluten

If you haven’t kneaded it for long enough to build up a good gluten network, then it’s got more chance of tearing when you stretch it apart. You don’t need to knead too long, 3 – 5 minutes should do it – see my recipe for all the details.

When making your dough, the flour mixes with the water for a chemical reaction. This creates gluten which forms a stretchy, elastic network of strands.

You can feel it building up as you knead, as you disperse the water throughout the flour. This gluten allows the dough to stretch without breaking.

It allows the dough to rise when the yeast produces carbon dioxide when it is proofing, filling the dough with bubbles. So without gluten, it’s just a shaggy ball of flour that will tear.

You don’t have to go crazy with the kneading either, as gluten is easy to develop. Just make sure you are using flour with enough protein (see below) and then you can knead or mix your dough for around 5 minutes.

You don’t have to knead pizza dough as much as bread dough, as it doesn’t need such a compact crumb texture.

You can use the test known as the “windowpane” test to judge if your dough has enough elasticity to not tear when stretched.

Test Your Gluten Development With The Windowpane Test

As a beginner pizza maker, it can be difficult to know when your dough is ready to work with. Most recipes tell you to knead your dough until it is smooth or elastic.

But who knows what that means? Am I under-kneading it or over-kneading it?

As you practice, you will get more of a ‘feel’ for your dough. But in the meantime, there is a foolproof test that anyone can use to test readiness, and we call this the ‘windowpane test’.

The first step is to take your kneaded dough ball and give it a poke. If the dough springs back slightly then you know you’ve developed some gluten. Next, give the windowpane test a try.

If you break off a small piece of dough that fits in your hands. Then use your fingertips to pull apart the dough until a thin layer. Keep going until the dough is paper thin, and you can see light through it translucently – i.e. the windowpane.

If the dough tears then you know it’s not ready yet. A well-developed dough should stretch very thin. Use the video below for a good visual demonstration.

Rest Your Dough For Long Enough

If you stretch dough that has just been kneaded then it is very tight and could tear because it hasn’t had time to relax.

Once gluten is formed, it will feel very tight and strong. As you leave it to rest and proof, the gluten will relax over time. This is because gluten degrades over time.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that a dough ball is much easier to stretch apart when it’s been left to rest, rather than straight after it has been kneaded.

So give your dough enough time to proof. If you can only manage a few hours then this should be fine to prevent tearing. But giving it overnight in the refrigerator will produce a better texture.

Giving it longer will allow you to stretch the dough more easily as high gluten can snap back if not rested.

Learn To Stretch The Dough Evenly

Use your hands to stretch so you have full control for the best results. You must make sure your dough is at room temperature, as gluten is tighter when it’s cold.

Make a circular indent with your fingertips an inch from the outside to form the crust. Use your fingertips to flatten the inside dough. Then with flat hands, pull the dough apart and rotate the ball as you go.

Don’t stretch the middle. Focus on stretching the outer parts of the dough, as the middle will get a small stretch from everywhere and end up being too thin. This is the most common place for a tear.

Keep an eye on any thin areas. You can lift the dough onto your fists and hold it to the light to see the thinner and thicker areas. Focus on the thicker to get a nice uniform crust.

Remember to be gentle; the more you work it, the tougher the end result will be.

Try A Higher Protein Flour

The protein in flour is what forms gluten. So a higher protein flour will result in a stronger gluten network.

Flours that will tear more easily include all-purpose flour and Italian “00” bread flour. The all-purpose has less protein content while the “00” flour uses soft wheat, making it more delicate.

Try bread flour which has got a protein content of 12-14%. If you use a higher protein flour then you will need to rest the dough for longer as it will snap back with its high elasticity.

To check the protein content, check for the amount of protein per 100g of flour, if it is available i.e. 14g protein will be 14% protein.

What About Pizza Dough That Keeps Shrinking?

This is more about strong gluten. Try resting the dough and warming it up before you stretch it. Check out my article Stop Pizza Dough Shrinking With These 5 Tips.

Conclusion

Following a recipe more closely with attention to ingredients, kneading times, and proofing times will help you make a more elastic dough that is harder to tear.

Practicing your stretching technique will ensure you can stretch it thinly and evening to avoid getting any holes.

Tom Hambly

Tom Hambly is the founder of Crust Kingdom. As a self-taught cook, he has been perfecting making pizzas at home for over a decade. Now he runs this site to help millions of people make pizza every year. About Tom Hambly.

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