Forming Pizza Dough Balls

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pizza dough ball

Pizza shops go through a lot of dough throughout an average day. This dough starts out as a large 50 to 60 pound blob that is cut and formed into smaller pizza dough balls. The dough balls can be formed either by hand or by machine, depending on the pizza shop’s output. Large scale pizzerias will most likely use a machine, but small shops or those that want to advertise handmade dough will want to form the pizza dough balls by hand.

Weigh the Dough Balls

Rather than eyeballing the size of the pizza dough balls, professional pizzerias weigh each dough ball to make sure they are all the same size. The weight of the dough ball will determine both the size and the thickness of your final pizza crust. The following table was made using Lehmann’s Online Dough Calculator, and it highlights some specific dough weights and the pizzas they are used to make:

Thickness Factor10″ Diameter12″ Diameter14″ Diameter16″ Diameter18″ Diameter
 Cracker Thin Crust 0.05 3.93 oz 5.65 oz 7.7 oz 10.05 oz 12.72 oz
 Thin Crust 0.1 7.85 oz 11.31 oz 15.39 oz 20.11 oz 25.45 oz
 Medium Crust 0.11 8.64 oz 12.44 oz 16.93 oz 22.12 oz 27.99 oz
 Thick Crust 0.13 10.21 oz 14.7 oz 20.01 oz 26.14 oz 33.08 oz

Forming the Dough Balls by Hand

To form dough balls by hand requires a dough cutter, a restaurant scale and time. The dough is cut and weighed by one or several employees and hand shaped into a ball. This method is ideal for low-volume establishments that have a lot of downtime to dedicate to manually cutting and weighing the dough. Described below are the two basic methods for forming pizza dough balls by hand:

Folding Method

Take corners and fold under. This will create a smooth outer “skin” on the top of the dough ball.

Place the dough ball, seam-side down, on an un-floured surface.

Palm the dough and roll around. This will create surface tension and stitch the bottom seams together, forming a sphere.

Keyhole Method

Form a small hole with your thumb and forefinger, with your hand turned sideways.

Place the dough ball on top of the hole.

Press the dough ball through your finger hole using the first two fingers of your opposite hand. It should look like you are holding an untied water balloon once most of the dough is through.

Place the pinched side facedown on a hard surface and roll the dough ball to create an outer skin.

As with many manufacturing processes, machines have been invented to perform the task of making dough balls with greater accuracy and speed than humans are capable of. For high volume pizzerias that make their own dough, there are dough dividers that can portion and roll several dough balls at once. Using this method, the undivided dough blob is either dumped into a hopper or spread out on a plate with several holes.

Forming the Dough Balls by Machine

Dividers that use a hopper will force the dough out a tube, much like Play-Doh, and cut it to equal sizes. The dough then falls into a spiral tube that rounds it. The other type of machine will shake and vibrate the plate, cutting the dough and forcing equal portions into the round holes for equal sized, perfectly round dough balls.

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About Author

John Garcia

Amateur cook, expert eater. Originally from Granby, Colorado, I'm a mountain boy who enjoys the simple things in life...like cheeseburgers and pet cats. I'm also a blogger for Food Service Warehouse who enjoys writing about food just as much as eating it.

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