Proofing Pizza Dough: Ultimate Guide, Tips And Advice

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Whether you are just a beginner or a more advanced pizza maker, this article will give you some guidance on what proofing is, and how to get the best out of your dough with some more advanced tips.

Proofing is a stage in the pizza-making process where dough is left to rise, to allow yeast to ferment which adds to the flavor and texture. Pizza needs this to fill the dough with small bubbles of carbon dioxide. This leaves empty pockets when baked, to give the dough a light, airy texture. Without it, the crust will be thin, dense, and lesser in flavor.

Proofing creates:

  • Flavor from the byproducts of fermentation.
  • Texture from CO2 bubbles in the dough.
  • A Better rise and holes in the pizza from the gluten relaxing.
  • A dough easier to stretch and roll out that won’t shrink back.

If you need a foolproof dough with detailed step-by-step instructions then check out my pizza dough recipe to give yourself the best start.

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.

How Does It Work?

Yeast eats sugars in the flour to give off carbon dioxide gas which forms bubbles throughout the dough, held in by a network of gluten strands.

It also develops flavor in the same way beer is left to ferment and develop flavor – there are byproducts produced in the process including alcohol.

So how should you do it, and what is the best way?

The answer depends on how much time you have available. Do you need a quick dough for a meal in a few hours’ time, or are you prepared to plan ahead and put some extra time in to produce a better dough?

If you want a quick fix then read method 1 or if you want a more substantial answer then use method 2.

The Basic Overview

Proofing comes after you have mixed and kneaded your ingredients together.

It’s a good idea to give your dough one fermentation stage as a bulk, then knock the air out, split it into balls, and give it a final proof before you stretch or roll it out.

You can split the balls all at once, or you can keep the bulk of the dough in the refrigerator and cut off amounts for pizzas as you need it.

Degassing the dough after the initial proof knocks out any large initial bubbles which could burst later, it creates lots of small bubbles for a great texture and also distributes the sugars to the yeast again for another round of flavor making.

I have outlined two popular methods later on for more in-depth details.

What Happens If You Don’t Proof Your Dough

It can be tempting to rush the proofing process, as after all, it does take up a considerable amount of the pizza-making time.

But simply put, as the fermentation creates flavor and CO2 bubbles in the dough; less fermentation means less tasty pizza, and a denser crust texture.

You can’t rush it if you want the best results – so plan ahead and you will create a much better pizza.

What Temperature And For How Long?

Fermentation happens faster at higher temperatures. More CO2 will be released at a faster rate, but it takes longer for the flavor to develop and the dough to relax.

The gluten network needs more time, and can’t easily be sped up like the yeast can be.

If you want to develop the flavor you need time. But supercharging the dough with warmth and leaving it for a long time will cause it to over-proof. It will become floppy and sour-tasting.

So you must control this by turning down the temperature, as colder temperatures slow fermentation.

So with that being said, you can either do a quicker rise at a warmer temperature but have a pizza with less flavor and denser texture. Or a slower rise at a colder temperature, and generally speaking, a better pizza.

Good things come to those who wait, so cold proofing your dough will produce the best results, but I understand time is not always on your side.

Method 1: Quick Proof Dough

As the dough needs a helping hand to get going, you need to make sure you are using enough yeast and a touch of sugar in your recipe.

Ensure you are leaving your dough in an environment that is warm enough to get the yeast working faster.

The extra yeast is fairly obvious, and the extra sugar is some extra food for the yeast – it will make sure it is feeding and producing gas as an outcome.

Temperature-wise, warmer temperatures speed up the process until around 95F/35C before it starts slowing. You will kill your yeast above 122F/50C and anything under 68F/20C is slowing down fermentation rapidly.

So a nice warm temperature just above room temperature is ideal.

For the list of ingredients check out my pizza dough recipe.


  1. Knead the dough until smooth.
  2. Proof the dough for an hour, covered so it is airtight.
  3. Split the dough into individual balls.
  4. Proof the balls on the worktop for 1-2 hours, covered with upturned bowls.
  5. Stretch and bake.


  • It is fast and convenient.
  • It will have very little taste apart from yeast.
  • It will be dense and chewy.
  • It will snap back when stretching or rolling.

Method 2: Cold Proof Dough

Here the essential thing is getting the dough to a lower temperature to slow down fermentation.

Because we don’t need such rapid fermentation, we can also use less yeast and skip the sugar, and avoid that taste of an overly yeasty crust which you might associate with amateur home baking.

The sugars in the flour are enough for the yeast to get to work so you don’t need to add any. And less yeast doesn’t mean smaller bubbles, as you are giving it much more time to develop.

Cold temperatures won’t kill the yeast but just slow fermentation, so an airtight container or plastic-wrapped dough in the fridge works well.

Proofing for 24 hours is a good minimum, but the taste will develop for days to come. Around 2-3 days is optimum before it starts deteriorating.

For the list of ingredients check out my pizza dough recipe.


  1. Knead the dough until smooth.
  2. Proof the dough for an hour, covered so it is airtight.
  3. Transfer to the refrigerator as a whole piece and bulk ferment overnight (24-48 hours is better).
  4. Remove the quantity of dough needed. Around 250g for a 12″ base.
  5. Degas the dough and form it into balls.
  6. Proof for 2 hours to allow to return to room temperature, under an upturned bowl.


  • The depth of flavor improved.
  • Air bubbles throughout for a lighter, crispier texture.
  • Relaxed dough for bigger rise and crust holes.
  • Easier to stretch out.

Advance Tips On Cold Proofing

Just because the dough gets better with time, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a cut-off point.

From day 1-3, I find that the dough develops more flavor, and the texture gets better. As the days go on it gets more bubbles, and also the gluten relaxes more so that when it hits the hot oven, you get a good crust spring.

It produces those lovely large charred, bubble areas on the crust which are typical of a good pizza or ciabatta – you can’t get this on the shorter proof times.

Day 3 is a good peak, and I find that it goes a bit downhill from here. It starts getting an overly sour taste from the alcohol, and the texture worsens from deflating.

The yeast also runs out of steam and stops working, so when you put it on the counter to bring it to room temperature, it doesn’t proof anymore.

Practicing in this area gives you a good feel for it. Cold ferment a large bit of dough and make a pizza each day to compare your results – then it’s just down to your preference.

Over Proofing

Be sure to keep it in the refrigerator to proof for a long time. But even sometimes the dough can smell quite alcoholic when you open the lid – this is fine as the air is just concentrated from fermentation.

Just make sure you cook dough long enough that has been fermenting a long time, as the undercooked dough doesn’t taste great when it has got this complex, raw flavor.

How To Store The Dough While Proofing

For proofing in the refrigerator, you can buy proofing containers online which are useful as they have airtight lids and fit neatly. Especially useful if you have pieces of dough that you are splitting up to proof individually.

I usually use bowls turned upside for resting dough on the worktop. It works well as you can use the mixing bowl you just used and it is completely airtight.

Plastic wrap over a container is another option, but plastic wrap does get fiddly to get it airtight sometimes. It isn’t great for the environment to use single-use plastics all the time either.

Cooking The Dough

You need to cook the dough on a very hot surface for the best results.

My best tip for making pizza in a home oven is to use a pizza “steel”. It adds intense heat from below for amazing crusts – I have this size steel from Amazon which is lower priced than other brands but works perfectly. Steel conducts heat better than stone, they don’t shatter and 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 check out my essential pizza equipment list.

Final Tips On Proofing Pizza Dough

How to know if it is proofed properly

If you poke the dough with a finger and it springs back like elastic, then the gluten is still tense and it is under proofed.

You will notice that a proofed dough has air pockets, and it has gained size. If it has lost its shape completely, smells of strong alcohol and yeast then it’s over-proofed. 

Tips on proofing it in the refrigerator

You can bulk ferment the dough in the refrigerator or in individual dough balls. Place dough balls on a tray, several inches apart, and wrap them with plastic wrap to keep it air tight.

You can use an airtight container also. Just make sure you place it level so that it proofs evenly.

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.

17 thoughts on “Proofing Pizza Dough: Ultimate Guide, Tips And Advice

    1. I live in SW Florida and my pizza dough refuses to rise. The basic recipe I used in upstate NY does not work here
      I use 00 flour, as well as general purpose flour
      I’ve used bottled water as well as our house water which is on a well and goes through an RO system
      I’ve used various yeasts in various amounts

      My dough will rise marginally but is not airy and when cooked is dense

      Suggestions ??

      1. Double check the yeast is alive by putting a teaspoon of it with some sugar in a warm bowl of water. It should foam after 10 minutes. You can then rule that out. Other things could be too much salt (use around 2% salt to the flour weight).

        Most recipes with small amounts of yeast won’t rise that much until the dough hits the oven. Make sure your oven is hot enough by preheating 45 mins and using a pizza stone or steel. Otherwise pizza can be a bit dense if it’s cooked slowly without enough heat.

  1. Thanks, for a very informative and helpful article. Nevertheless I have a question. What would you recommend to do with leftover dough after three days in the fridge? Frees it for the future use or just discard it?

    1. Hi Jacob,

      You can ball it up and put in freezer bags, then defrost overnight in the fridge. Or proof the balls at room temperature until gained some volume and bake as bread rolls or the whole piece of dough as a foccacia in a skillet. Many options for dough rather than discarding 🙂

  2. Hi!

    Can i ask.. what is the difference between proofing for an hour & transferring to fridge vs. immediately put the newly mixed/kneaded dough into the fridge? I’m seeing most recipes suggest an immediate fridge proof for the 24 hr or whatever. But you are suggesting the initial proof , then the bulk proof. Which is what i’m doing. I would just like to know why 🙂

    Thank you!

    1. Hey thanks for the comment,

      It all comes down to yeast. Different recipes have different amounts and slightly different methods. When the yeast goes into the fridge, the activity slows down so much that it’s almost nothing. This hour or 2 beforehand let’s the yeast hydrate, wake up and start multiplying and fermenting. Then it all slows down, acids and flavors build up in the fridge, and then it speeds up again when you remove it. I’ve found that the yeast amount used in the Crust Kingdom dough needs around 1.5-2 hours otherwise when it’s baked it comes out a bit flat – the yeast didn’t have chance to get going. (Room temp plays a big part too).

      Other recipes might use more yeast, maybe the water temperature was hotter etc. Lots of factors.

      Another reason to bulk ferment and then ball it up is that it disperses the gas through the dough when you ‘knock back’ the dough. And the yeast gets some fresh flour to eat rather than be surrounded by gas and alcohol byproducts.

  3. Quick question. I wanted to make pizza same day so I did a quick proof. The dough has doubled in size, but I don’t want to cook it for about another 1-2 hours. Can I put it in the fridge so it doesn’t overproof?

    1. Yes you can. Depending how much yeast you used then it might keep fermenting a little too much. But generally, if you want to make dough last longer then the fridge will do that.

  4. Does a dough that has added sugar in it ferment the same as a dough with out? How should a dough be fermented when sugar is added?

    1. The flour is full of food that the yeast can use for fermentation, so extra sugar doesn’t have much/any affect on fermentation in my experience. It adds sweetness if you prefer that in your dough.

  5. Hello
    I have a problem., In mi country i only get 5.8g proteín flour. Wich hydratation you recommend in this case? Wich drawbacks i could expierience with low proteín un flour?
    Thanks for this pizza bible.

  6. Once the dough is made, must I put it in the refrigerator to proof or can I leave it out for 24 hours ?
    Thank you

    1. At 24 hours at room temperature, it will likely overferment. My dough recipes last about 6-8 hours at room temp but it gets very weak.

  7. I am having the same issue with the dough not rising. Check the yeast as you mentioned and it was fine.

  8. Hi there, Thanks so much for this super helpful article! A quick question that you can maybe shed some light on. I’m a bit of an amateur and before I read your article, I just bulk proofed my pizza dough for two hours on a very hot day, before then putting in the fridge overnight. Is it likely that it’s now over fermented or does it usually take longer to overproof dough? I understand you maybe can’t answer this without seeing it… it definitely had doubled in size and had some nice small bubbles. It still seemed to have it’s shape and hadn’t deflated… yet. I don’t know if it can possibly deflate again when I take it out of the fridge or if it’s okay? Happy for any feedback or guidance. Thank you!

    1. Hey sorry for the delay. 2 hours is unlikely to overprove your dough but it depends how much yeast was used – it will be very weak and floppy if it has. Try using less yeast like in the recipe on this site and it will be difficult to overprove in such a short space of time 🙂

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