The Ultimate Guide To Proofing Pizza Dough

So, are you looking to be the pizza equivalent of Paul Hollywood? Well, look no further than our ultimate guide to proofing pizza dough.

We’ll talk you through our basic dos and don’ts, along with lots of different methods on how to proof your pizza dough.

After all, proofing is actually pretty crucial when it comes to getting your dough right. 

The Ultimate Guide To Proofing Pizza Dough

What Does It Mean To Proof Your Pizza Dough?

This is a crucial stage in pizza dough development, and is the process where the dough is left to rise, allowing yeast to ferment and this contributes to adding flavor and texture to your pizza dough. 

Time to get a lil bit sciencey now… proofing your pizza dough fills the dough with small pockets of carbon dioxide, and this in turn will leave empty bubbles when the dough is baked.

This gives the dough a light and airy texture, without this the crust will become thin, dense and cracker-like which will also have a detrimental effect on the flavor. 

So, if you are wondering what else proofing does then you are in luck.

Now, we can outline what exactly the purpose of proofing is – because there are lots of benefits that really contribute to the overall texture and flavor of your pizza dough.

Proofing gives your pizza dough its flavor through the byproducts of fermentation – this is the chemical breakdown by yeast. 

Additionally, proofing gives your dough texture from the carbon dioxide bubbles, along with a better rise and holes in the pizza base from the gluten relaxing.

We say holes, don’t worry, your pizza dough will be fully formed. This is just in terms of the air in the dough. 

Proofing your dough will also mean that you will be able to work with a dough that is easier to stretch out and roll into your desired base shape.

Sure, there is the classic circular base – but you could really spice things up and opt for say a heart, or even a square. Your dough, your rules! Proofing your dough also means that it won’t shrink back.

How Does Proofing Actually Work?

You know how we said it was time to get a little sciency earlier… Well, now it is time to get a lot sciency with how proofing works!

Proofing is an essential part of any kind of dough making, and that includes your beloved pizza base. 

What happens? Here it goes… Yeast eats sugars in the flour to give off carbon dioxide which in turn creates bubbles in the dough. These bubbles are held in by a network of gluten strands.

This gets flavor in a way that is pretty similar to beer fermentation, and there are byproducts made in this process that include alcohol.

How Can You Get The Perfect Proof?

Here’s the thing, with baking it all comes down to timing. It all depends on you and how much time you have available to make your pizza dough.

If you are wanting something quick so that you can whip up a meal in a couple of hours, or if you are trying to be super organized and plan ahead you can put in some extra time to get that perfect dough. 

Essentially, proofing your pizza dough is a 2 step process which is all to do with bulk fermentation, and then proofing the individual pizza dough ball.

How Do You Know When Your Pizza Dough Is Proofed To Perfection?

How Do You Know When Your Pizza Dough Is Proofed To Perfection?

There are two ways that you can test how well your pizza dough has been proofed. You can try out the poke test, or you can check out your dough’s volume.

The poke test is a common method used in bread baking as a way of seeing if the dough has finished proofing.

You can just lightly touch the dough, and if you find that the consistency is slightly springy then it is proofed to perfection. 

However, it is important to note that if you are trying to check for gluten development during the kneading process then you should expect the opposite.

When you are kneading the dough, if you poke it then it should not be springy. This will show gluten development.

When it comes to the volume of the pizza dough, you can see if your dough is done depending on its volume increase as your dough should actually double in volume.

If you cannot see any sort of difference in the way that your dough looks then you should leave it to proof for a lot longer.

What Happens If You Don’t Proof Your Pizza Dough?

Here’s the thing, sometimes you don’t have enough hours in the day – let alone enough hours to proof your pizza dough.

So, it can be really tempting to rush the whole proofing process, because this can actually take up the majority of time that you spend making your pizza dough. 

However, you should under no circumstances decide against proofing when it comes to your pizza dough.

This is all to do with the fermentation process because this process creates flavor in the dough and also gives the dough its carbon dioxide bubbles.

If you do not proof your pizza dough, then there will be a detrimental effect on the flavor and texture of your pizza dough and therefore the pizza crust when baked.

You do not want all of your hard work to go to waste making the dough, and then not proofing it properly. It’s the last step – so do not cut it short.

Proofing: what temperature should you proof your dough at, and how long should you proof your dough for?

Proofing is a complicated process. We say this because fermentation happens quicker when it is at a hotter temperature; it turns out that more carbon dioxide will be released at a quicker pace, but it does take significantly longer for the flavor to develop and for the pizza dough to have time to relax. 

However, the confusion comes with the gluten and its network which needs more time to develop.

It cannot be sped up easily, whereas the yeast that is part of the fermentation process can be. To nurture the flavor of your dough then one thing that you need is TIME. 


We have to warn you that the proofing process can go wrong if your dough is prepared incorrectly.

For instance, if you supercharge the dough with too much heat and leave it for too long, then this will make your dough overproof.

Your dough will become flimsy and floppy, and it can actually end up tasting quite bitter and sour.

It is vitally important that you control this by turning down the temperature because colder temperatures slow down the fermentation process.

What can you do to avoid this? Well, you could attempt a quicker rise at a warmer temperature, but this might leave you with a pizza that does not have a great flavor and that actually is pretty dense.

Alternatively, we recommend that you opt for a slower rise at a colder temperature because your outcome will definitely be an overall much better pizza.

When it comes to proofing pizza dough, you really have to be patient. After all, good things do come to those who wait.

However, if you often find yourself short of time when it comes to making tea – then you could make your dough one evening, leave it to proof overnight and then shape and bake it the next day.

There are lots of ways that you can get around this.

Proofing Pizza Dough At Room Temperature

Proofing Pizza Dough At Room Temperature

If you decide to proof your pizza dough at room temperature, then you should be aware of how flexible this is.

You can proof pizza dough at room temperature from anywhere between an hour and also a full day, or maybe even more depending on the type of flour that you are working with.

Just to be absolutely clear on the rules of proofing pizza dough, you must remember that the proofing time of your pizza dough will depend upon the temperature of the room that you are keeping your dough in.

It is up to you for how long you want to proof your pizza dough, but a longer fermentation will give you a much more tasty pizza crust.

Wherever you keep your pizza dough, it should be in a space where the temperature can stay at a constant.

Proofing Pizza Dough: Our Summary

So, we have talked through what exactly proofing is in pretty great detail.

Before you move on to the actual process of proofing your pizza dough, here is a brief summary of what proofing is and some of the processes involved in this.

Proofing your dough is a key aspect of making any kind of dough – not just pizza dough. But, in this case, we will stick to the topic at hand!

So, proofing will happen when you have mixed and also when you have kneaded your ingredients together.

You should find that when it comes to proofing your dough, you will end up giving it a final proof before you then stretch it out or roll it out. And then, it’s time to bake! 

Dough is actually pretty long-lasting, and you do not have to use it all at once.

In fact, you can split the dough into balls all at once – or you can keep the majority of the dough in the refrigerator and cut off amounts for pizzas as and when you need it.

How To Proof Pizza Dough: Time To Get Started!

roof Pizza Dough Time To Get Started!

Here is our easy-reading walk-through of all the key stages that comprise the overall pizza dough-making process.

Time To Make The Pizza Dough

The first thing that you have to do, well, you could probably guess this – but you have to actually make the dough. Of course, there is a wide range of recipes out there that you can follow to make your pizza dough. 

Like we said before, it all depends on how much time you have to make your pizza dough, but a classic favorite is authentic Neapolitan pizza dough.

It is simply perfect. It will give you a pizza crust that is light, and on the inside, it is delicately soft – but on the outside it is pretty crispy, making this one of the best pizza dough recipes to go for.

Kneading The Dough

Next, the key aspect of the pizza dough-making process is kneading the dough. Despite this being a crucial step in the dough-making process, this is often overlooked.

In fact, lots of people will make the mistake of not kneading the dough well enough, which in turn causes issues further along the baking process.

Not kneading the dough well enough will cause problems when it comes to the dough rising process.

Do you know what time it is? Yeah, it is time to get back to the science side of pizza dough making.

So, when you knead the pizza dough this will make the gluten in the flour develop, and in turn, this will create a network of small walls.

These walls work hard to trap the carbon dioxide made by the fermentation process (which we talked about before) which is where the yeast eats the sugar within the flour. 

It is crucial that the gluten is established and therefore developed properly. This is so that it can make walls that are hefty enough to contain the carbon dioxide.

How do you ensure this? That’s right, by kneading the dough. The harder you work on the dough, so the more that you knead it, the stronger that the gluten walls will become.

The more strength that the walls can withhold, the more the dough will retain its structural properties along with its shape. 

The bottom line is, failure to knead the dough sufficiently will result in your dough being unable to keep hold of that carbon dioxide.

This is purely because the walls are not strong enough, which allows the carbon dioxide to escape.

Your dough will not be all that great, in fact it will most likely be dense and difficult to work with, so you will not have a dough that has a light, airy consistency that you are wanting in your pizza crust. 

Kneading your dough is a pretty hefty bicep workout, and it will take more work than you can anticipate.

So, the time that it will take you to knead your dough does depend entirely on the type of flour that you are working with. This is due to the gluten content varying in different flours.

In order to achieve effective gluten development, you should spend approximately 20 minutes kneading your dough by hand.

Alternatively, if you happen to have a mixer this will definitely take the strain off your arms, but will still take about 15 minutes to knead on a low speed setting.

All Things Gluten…

In case it wasn’t obvious, gluten activation is a key part of the pizza dough-making process.

If you are wondering all about this aspect of the pizza dough and you are unsure of how much of an effect it has on your pizza dough – then this is the section for you.

We’ll give you a quick run-through of all things gluten, and what it means for your pizza dough.

Well, gluten will develop just by hydrating. What does this mean? It means that when you leave the dough to rise for a while, then this will encourage the gluten to develop.

You can actually make dough that does not require kneading, but if you apply mechanical work through kneading then this can have a detrimental effect on the gluten structure and the development of the gluten structure.

Kneading your dough makes a much stronger gluten structure which will hold its shape significantly better. 

What Is Rising?

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the terminology that is used to describe the dough-making process.

Rising, fermentation, and proofing all actually mean the same thing – so this is not something that you should let confuse you.

Rising should definitely refer to the first, initial proof where the aim of the game is to increase the volume of the dough; this is often called bulk fermentation.

The Next Step: Bulk Fermentation

So, the next step in the dough kneading process is called bulk fermentation, and this is a pretty significant step when it comes to dough making.

What is bulk fermentation? Well, this is where you let the dough rise as one mass. In fact, bulk fermentation is where the increase in volume will occur.

If you are wondering why you should do this, well, wonder no more! This is because yeast works significantly better as one singular dough as opposed to smaller dough balls.

How do you bulk ferment your dough? This can be done pretty easily, all you have to do is put your dough in an airtight container or a bowl that you can make airtight by covering it with plastic wrap.

It is important for the receptacle to be airtight because this will in turn prevent the surface of the dough from becoming dry.

Fermentation can be quite a hefty process, and it can take anywhere from as little as 2 hours to a whole day. It all depends on the type of dough that you are making.

Time To Split The Dough…

Yeah, this has nothing to do with cash – this is pretty literal! The next step in the dough-making process is called balling.

This basically means splitting the dough up into individual dough balls. This would be one for each pizza.  

So, where do you start with this? Well, the first thing that you have to do is knock down the dough.

This causes the dough to deflate which means that the yeast can be redistributed for a much more even second rise of your dough.

Then, you can divide the dough into dough balls so that you have enough to have one pizza per person.

Or, if you’re baking solo then work out how many pizzas you want to make and then split the dough accordingly.

There are lots of ways that you can do this by either using specific utensils or just ripping off the right size using your hands.

Make sure that you fold the dough balls over a few times and of course, give them a smooth surface.

It’s The Final… Proofing

This is the bit that we are all waiting for. Yeah, it’s that final proof. This is the last step in your pizza dough-making process, but this is the longest step by far.

You can do this final proof at room temperature, or just at a lower temperature to ensure that you slow the proof process down. 

You should not proof your pizza dough at higher than room temperature because when you are proofing your dough, you want to do all you can to actually slow down this process rather than speed it up.

This gives your pizza flavor and texture, so as you can imagine, this is the make-or-break stage of your pizza dough proofing process.

You can proof your pizza dough from anywhere between 8 and 12 hours, but as we said before, make sure to use an airtight container or a plastic wrap-covered bowl in order to get that perfect proof.

You could even leave this overnight and come back to it the next day.

Dough recipes that are fool-proof

We are all human, and we all have hectic schedules where time is not always on our side.

So, you might be reading our Ultimate Guide and thinking: ‘I will never be able to find the time to test out homemade pizza dough.’

We hear you! So, now we have two suggestions for how you can speed up your pizza dough-making process without affecting the taste and the quality of your dough, along with another great recipe.

Quick Proof Pizza Dough

Quick Proof Pizza Dough

This should be perfect for if you do not have lots of time to play with, but you can still get a great-tasting pizza dough.

With this recipe, it is important to remember that you use enough yeast and a hint of sugar – and we also would recommend that you store your dough in an area that is warm enough for the yeast to get to work.

Adding extra yeast to a quicker proofing pizza dough might seem pretty obvious, and you should really add more sugar to this dough mix because this is what feeds the yeast.

Feeding the yeast with extra sugar will make sure that it is feeding and so produces gas as an outcome.

When it comes to temperature, warmer temperatures will speed up the process until around 95F before the mix then begins to reduce in speed.

You will kill your yeast if you try to heat your mix above 122F. Additionally, anything under 68F will slow down the fermentation process massively.

We recommend a relatively warm temperature that is just above the temperature of the room, this should be ideal for your pizza dough mix.

Quick Proof Method

This is a straightforward and simple method that you can use if you do not have lots of time to proof your pizza dough.

  1. Knead the dough until it is smooth – be mindful not to overwork or underwork your dough.
  2. Proof the dough for an hour – this must be covered so that it is airtight, or the proofing process will not work and the base of your dough could be damp.
  3. Split the dough into individual balls – you can split the dough into however many balls you wish, or you can just split the amount you need and refrigerate the rest of the dough.
  4. Proof the balls on the work surface – you should do this for at least an hour, and cover the balls with upturned bowls or some other covers.
  5. Stretch the dough – work your dough into your desired shape for your pizza base.
  6. Bake the dough – the last step to getting yourself a perfect pizza base is to bake yout dough.

So, as you can see this method is pretty fast and it is also quite convenient if you are particularly short of time. However, this is not the best way to make pizza dough.

This dough might end up tasting of not much other than yeast, and the texture might become dense and chewy.

This dough might also snap back when rolling, so it is not our number one recommendation but it will work pretty well when you are struggling for time.

Cold Proof Method

In case it was not obvious, cold proofing your pizza dough involves getting the dough to a temperature that is cold enough to slow down the process of fermentation.

So, because it is unnecessary for the fermentation to occur quickly then more yeast and extra sugar can be ignored. This will lose the yeasty taste of the dough.

In fact, the sugars within the flour are sufficient enough for the yeast to get to work so you will not need to add any extra.

Do not worry, less yeast will not mean that there will be smaller pockets, because you are giving the yeast much more time to develop.

Some of the colder temperatures will not kill the yeast, it will just slow down the fermentation process. What do we mean by this?

Well, an airtight container or plastic-wrapped dough stored in the fridge will work well.

Proofing your pizza dough for a day will be a good minimum, and yet the taste of the dough will develop for days to come.

In fact, we would say that the 42-76 hour mark is the best time to use your dough before it starts to suffer from any sort of deterioration.

  1. Knead the dough – do this until the dough is nice and smooth.
  2. Proof the dough – do this for at least an hour, and make sure that your dough is covered so that it is airtight.
  3. Transfer your dough to your refrigerator – do this when your dough is as a whole piece, and give it time to bulk ferment overnight.
  4. Remove the quantity of dough that you need – dough can keep for a pretty long time, so use it as and when you are ready to do so.
  5. Form your dough into balls – this ensures that your dough is de-gassed.
  6. Proof the dough for 2 hours – or at least allow the dough to return to room temperature, do this under an upturned bowl.

In comparison to the previous recipe, this works to ensure that your dough will have a great flavor.

Additionally, the air bubbles that procure with this recipe mean that your pizza base will have a much lighter and a much more crisp texture which will certainly heighten the eating experience.

The dough being more relaxed will give your pizza dough a greater rise and you will find some lovely crust holes. Using this proofing process will also mean that your dough will be easier to stretch out.  

Our Top Tips On How To Cold Proof Your Pizza Dough

Although we have said before that the dough can last in your refrigerator pretty well – it does, unfortunately, have a cut-off point.

Over the first few days the dough will develop its flavor, and the texture of the dough will improve greatly.

This is due to the fact that as time goes on, the dough gets more bubbles and the gluten will have more time to relax.

This means when your dough hits the oven, you will have the perfect bounce-back reaction from your pizza dough crust.

This will give you that lovely, rustic sort of pizza crust – but this is pretty unachievable on shorter proof times.

When your pizza dough gets to the third day of sitting in your refrigerator, it should still be pretty decent although after this it might not do so well.

It might grow bitter in taste and the texture of the dough will regress due to it deflating. The yeast will also stop functioning as it will have less steam. 

Practice makes perfect when it comes to this, as you will have to work out what sort of proof suits your taste buds and your lifestyle the best.

The Sin Of Over Proofing Your Dough

Make sure that you store your pizza dough in your refrigerator to proof for a while.

Do not be alarmed if your dough smells quite alcoholic when you eventually open the lid, this is simply due to the air in the container being concentrated from the fermentation process.

You must ensure that when it comes to the baking process, you cook the dough for long enough.

This is important to remember because of the elongated fermentation process. Undercooked dough does not taste the best, in all honesty.

Storing Your Pizza Dough And Cooking Your Pizza Dough

So, some of the ways that we have suggested earlier are perfect for storing your pizza dough.

If you decide to proof your pizza dough in the refrigerator, then you should use an airtight container to store your dough. 

You could also use bowls for resting your pizza dough on your worktop, for instance, the mixing bowl you have used to make your dough will do just fine as long as you seal it with plastic wrap that is completely air-tight.

We must warn you that plastic wrap is notoriously tricky to get completely air-tight, and we would not call this a permanent solution. We would recommend that you get containers that shut airtight.

When it comes to cooking your dough, you should definitely do this on something that gets really hot.

For the real authentic pizza cooking experience then a pizza stone works well or, alternatively a pizza steel will work well.

This is a modern method that has been known to give your dough a much better end result.

This is because steel is a great conductor of heat, and so it will ensure that your pizza base cooks pretty well and pretty quickly.

Steel is a lot stronger and durable than stone, so it will be much less likely to shatter or crack.

In Summary

Well, this is it – you have made it to the end of our ultimate guide to proofing pizza dough. Yeah, we never promised that this would be quick reading for you.

But, we hope that we have managed to give you a great insight into how to best make your pizza dough.

There are lots of intricacies to this process that require a lot of patience, after all, you do not want to put in hours and hours of work for a dough that ends up overproved and dry and bitter.

We have given you all the tools, or should we say ingredients, to go out there and make the perfect pizza dough for you and your family and friends to enjoy.

It is a lengthy process, but we can all agree that nothing tastes better than homemade bread.

So, why not try and make your own pizza dough?! Sure, it is very challenging and it may not go perfect the first time… When it comes to bread making, practice does make perfect.

Your dough might proof overnight, but your baking skills might not be the same.

Using our guide will help you along your journey of pizza dough making. Fear not, any unanswered questions will definitely be in the section below.

Well, all that is left to say is: we are living proof that this process is not as difficult as it sounds!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Proofing?

Also referred to in some recipes as proofing, proofing is a crucial step in the pizza-making process. This is where the dough has time to rest and then subsequently rise before the baking process.

When you are proofing your dough, the yeast is consuming the sugars in the dough and converts this to carbon dioxide.

This ensures that your dough increases in volume, and adds more interesting flavors to the dough and therefore your pizza crust.

What Is The Difference Between Proofing, Rising And Fermentation?

So, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to all the terms used to describe this process. But we want to simplify things for you as best as we can.

So, when it comes to using proofing, rising, and fermentation – these all actually mean the same thing.

They all describe the process of yeast inflating the dough through the conversion of sugars into carbon dioxide. 

How Do I Know If My Pizza Dough Is Proofed Properly?

You can opt for the poke test here, so if your dough springs back vividly when you poke it then the gluten is still waiting to fully relax, so your dough would be under proofed at this stage.

When your dough is proofed to perfection it will be slightly springy to touch, it will have air pockets, and should have at least doubled in size.

Your dough will be over-proofed if you can smell strong alcohol and if you notice that the dough has lost its shape entirely.

How Do I Proof My Pizza Dough In My Refrigerator?

So, you can bulk ferment your dough in the refrigerator or you can split your dough into individual dough balls and proof them this way.

If you want to proof your dough as balls, we recommend that you put them on a tray a few inches apart so that they have space to expand in volume.

You should wrap this tray in plastic wrap to ensure that it is completely air-tight. Or you could use an airtight container if you have one.

Ensure that whatever surface your dough is on is level to ensure a nice and even proof. 

What Is The Ideal Temperature For Proofing Pizza Dough?

Sadly, we cannot give you a definite answer for this because it all depends on how you make the dough. You can proof your dough at room temperature, or in the oven, or in the fridge.

We recommend that if you are new to making pizza dough that you try proofing it at room temperature at first, as this is pretty fool-proof.

Try the other methods as you get more confident with making your pizza dough.