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Shaping Pizza Dough

Most pizzerias make their own dough in-house. The individual dough balls will have to be flattened and shaped into the appropriate size and thickness whenever a pizza order comes back to the kitchen. The method used to shape the dough depends on the establishment’s size and preferences.Ryan watches as the pizza dough spins in the air

Hand Tossing
Hand-tossed pizza dough is just what it sounds like. The dough is spun and tossed into the air in order to stretch and shape it. This is the showiest of methods and also the most difficult to master.

  • Pros
    • Purists believe this is the only way to shape the pizza dough.
    • It is also good for a show and advertising purposes, because guests like seeing dough get tossed into the air by a skilled pizzaioli.
  • Cons
    • It takes time to master the skill.
    • Workers can wear out during a rush.
    • If the dough hits the ground, it has to be discarded.
  • How to do it
    • Flatten the dough ball on the tabletop by hand so it is easier to handle.
    • Hold the dough in the palms of both of your hands, not by the fingertips.
    • For right-handed people, your right hand should be in front of your left. Spin the dough in a counter-clockwise direction as you toss it in the air. (This procedure is reverse for lefties)
    • Catch the dough over your forearm, so it does not tear.
    • Repeat these steps until the proper diameter is achieved.

Hand Stretching
Hand stretching, or hand slapping, is a dough shaping method that is not as showy as hand tossing but also keeps your dough skins from hitting the floor. The dough is turned and formed by hand on a floured surface, rather than being tossed into the air.

  • Pros
    • Still able to advertise hand-formed or handmade pizza, but you should not advertise “hand-tossed” since the dough is not flying in the air.
    • Keeps the dough light and airy.
  • Cons
    • Workers will become fatigued over time.
    • Dough will be oblong if done by an unskilled hand.
  • How to do it.
    • Place the dough ball on the table and flatten it with your palms.
    • Using the palms of both hands, gently press down and pull the dough, working in a circle.
    • Work on the outer edge of the dough so you do not tear a hole in the middle.
    • After a few turns, the dough should be the appropriate diameter.

Rolling Pin
Using a pizza rolling pin to flatten out and shape a pizza skin is a tried and true method favored by most homeowners and some pizzerias. This method takes little skill or training. Simply roll the pin over the dough until it is flat and in the correct shape. The dough and rolling pin will need to be lightly floured to prevent sticking. Be sure not to use that much flour, though, because excessive flour will cause the crust to burn.

Presses and Rollers
Large pizza kitchens that need to create several hundred pizza skins a day often opt for either a pizza press or dough roller to get the job done.  

  • Pros
    • Presses and rollers are the quickest methods for forming pizza dough.
    • Dough skins will be uniform in size and shape every time.
  • Cons
    • Pizza aficionados contest that presses and rollers squeeze the air out of the dough, so it will taste slightly gummy and flat as opposed to being light and airy.
    • Some of the presses will not have non-stick plates, so you have to remember to spray the dough with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to the plates.