The Complete Guide to Pizza Dough Degassing

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Do you know what is dough degassing? How do you do it, and why it is so important?

Well, you don’t need to wait any longer.

When you’re making pizza dough and following a recipe, you probably come across a direction that asks you to degas the dough. 

Let’s find out what that means.

What Does Degas Dough Mean?

Degassing dough means releasing the air trapped inside the dough during the rising period.  It is also known as “punching down” or “knockdown,” which essentially means punching down the dough with your fist after it rises to get rid of any excess air pockets that may have formed during the fermentation process.

This is Step 3 of the pizza dough fermentation process discussed in our Ultimate Guide to Pizza Dough Fermentation. 

In addition to this cornerstone guide, we developed these sub-guides for each of the methods, so you have a better understanding of the entire fermentation process. Don’t forget to check all the other components of this series.

Degassing the dough is done after the first fermentation or “rising period” where the dough has been mixed, kneaded, and allowed to rest and rise.

This stage helps the dough become more manageable – the yeast cells produce carbon dioxide, which diffuses into the dough’s air pockets, slowly inflating and raising it. This process is also how you develop most of the flavor.

There are various means that you can degas the dough other than literally punching down the dough.  You will decide how to degas your dough depending on the kind of pizza you want to make.  We will address this later on.

Why Do You Need to Degas the Dough?

Degassing the dough is necessary and extremely important because there are several chemicals naturally present in the dough that will eventually break down the gluten network if the fermentation period is not halted.

Punching or degassing the dough reduces and removes the accumulated gasses. It also redistributes the sugars and moisture into one cohesive structure.

What does degassing do?

By degassing the dough, you are:

  • Expelling the carbon dioxide while retaining some air.
  • Redistributing the yeast cells.
  • Redistributing the sugars which are yeast’s food source.
  • Reallocating and dividing the air pockets in the dough, making more, smaller air pockets.

The Ins and Outs of Dough Degassing

Many of you wonder if you genuinely need to degas dough, and specific recipes do require it. It depends on whether you want to have large holes in your finished product.

This hole structure is acceptable in some situations, but with other pizza styles, you will simply want a smooth, thick product without holes, which is where degassing comes in.

Pro Tip

The art of shaping an artisan pizza is the process of breaking down the large bubbles into smaller bubbles, but not so much as to create a typical cracker crust. Typically this takes a lot of patience and practice.

Degassing Dough Benefits

Degassing the dough, allows the final crust to have:

  • Enhanced texture and flavor the dough will be softer because of the added moisture (fermentation generates heat, water, and alcohol). The yeast-enhanced fermentation will improve the flavor.
  • Increased dough growth – the yeast now has an increased food source to grow.
  • Relaxes the gluten – the increased growth and improved texture make it easier to shape.
  • The warmer, balanced temperature within the dough – so when shaped in the next step, the dough can rise evenly during its final rise.

Dough Degassing – How it works

If you’re curious about how dough degassing works, here is a simple version: you knockdown, or degas your dough, to weaken the gluten network.

This way, the gluten will not tear, resulting in a weak crust or even one that crumbles as soon as you start to handle it. Dough degassing also removes any large air pockets that may be found in the dough, resulting in a more even, better-tasting dough.

new york pizza image

Maximum Dough Degassing

New York Style pizzas are usually made by degassing the dough.

Fresh Homemade Italian Pizza Margherita

Minimum Dough Degassing

Neapolitan Style pizzas do better if you leave some gas in the dough.

Degassing Pizza Dough

Typically, pizza dough is degassed twice because the recipe often calls for you to degas the dough after each rise.

The second time occurs after the second rise, and this time it’s crucial because the gluten has had time to develop again. You’ll need that second degassing to make sure the gluten fibers are the right strength.

Of course, what makes pizza dough different from most other doughs is you want your gluten to be strong. So, does this mean that the second degassing isn’t necessary?

Not really. When it comes to pizza dough, when you knock down the dough, you’re shaping it more than degassing it, which means you do the process a little differently than with other types of dough.

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How Do You Know When the Dough is Ready to Degas?

To know if your dough is ready to degas, you need to do the “ripe test”. Use this test to determine whether your dough finished rising.

Gently press two fingers into the mixture; if the indentations remain for a few seconds, the dough is finished rising and is ready to be degassed.

Ripe Test

The “ripe test” is an examination of the dough to determine if is ready to degas. Then you either shape or bake it in the oven. Gently press the dough with your finger, if the dent remains the dough is ready, it bounces back it needs to rest more time.

A mixture of raw, soft, and soft bread, the temptation to touch it with a finger is strong. The surface is pleasant and smells like mother yeast: appetizing!

Dough Degassing After First Rise

Dough Degassing expels all the gas so that the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast has a place to go. It also causes the colder sections of the dough to mix with the warmer sections, affecting the dough’s taste and texture.

degassing dough

The goal is to deflate it with a couple of pushes with your fist straight down, then straight back up. Don’t twist!

Punching is essential because it releases the built-up CO2 gas,  redistributes the yeast so it can find new food sources, and equalizes the dough temperature.

Once that’s done, the dough is ready to be shaped for baking or its second rise.

When you degas pizza dough for that second time, you won’t be punching it or knocking it down. Instead, you should press down in the middle of the dough, pushing the gas toward the outer rim, which gives pizza dough its light, fluffy texture.

Dough Degassing Before Shaping

You should work slowly, so the gas is gently moved out of the dough, much like the waves of a body of water smoothly flow toward the coast.

Pizza Pun

When does pizza dough rise?

When you yeast expect it.

How to Degas Dough

Most pizza recipes require two stages of rising (also called proofing). Degassing the dough is done after the first rise (or bulk fermentation), and it is a simple but essential step.

Despite the harsh sounding name of this step, you must be gentle with your dough. Yeast is a living organism, which is susceptible to changes in temperature and energy.  The main goal is to let it grow without killing it.

Punching down the dough will remove some of the gas bubbles and will produce a finer grain. It also redistributes the yeast cells, sugar, and moisture so they can ferment and rise the dough during the proofing stage.

Follow these steps to degas dough:

degassing dough

How to Degas the Dough

Step 1.

When the dough has doubled in size during the first rising process, leave the dough in the same bowl it rose.

Step 2.

Make a fist with your hand and push your fist quickly, but gently into the center of the dough. You might even hear a slight “hiss”. Pull the edges of the dough to the center.

Step 3.

Take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a lightly floured board.

Step 4.

Pat dough gently. Knead it two to three times; this will help release additional air bubbles.

Step 5.

Turnover and shape your dough into smaller dough balls for proofing.

What happens if you don’t degas the dough?

If the yeast is not disrupted during the fermentation process, they would eventually consume all the available sugar in the dough.

The dough would overrise during this first fermentation and, eventually collapse, adversely affecting the structure of the crust.

How is Degassing Pizza Dough Different?

When you’re degassing pizza dough, you’re just shaping it and moving the excess gas out of it. Degassing pizza dough is not like degassing other baked goods like bread or rolls.

In fact, in many recipes for pizza crust, you’ll notice that they explicitly admit that you should not be degassing the dough, at least not the second time.

The recipes that don’t admit this still imply it with specific instructions on how to rub the center of the dough instead of punching it.

Another advantage of degassing dough is that often, this is just what you need to get a pizza crust that is light and crispy on the outside, and nice and chewy on the inside.

Degassing pizza dough is usually a must, but you do it a little differently than other types of foods because, with pizza dough, you want stronger gluten instead of weaker gluten.

When do you need to degas dough?

Dough degassing is not something you should do to every single pizza dough. However, nearly all varieties of pizza doughs are degassed in some way. Simply shaping dough, however gentle you are, will result in some loss of gas.

Depending on the outcome you are looking for, you will either completely degas or try to keep as much gas as possible.

Here is what you need to ask yourself:

Do you want big open holes in your pizza crust?

For example, when making Neapolitan pizza or Sicilian Style pizza.

If the answer is “Yes,” you should not degas entirely.

 Do you want a tight crumb without holes?

For example, when making New York Style Pizza or Flatbread Pizza,

Then “Yes”, you should completely degas.

Best Practices to Degas Dough

  • Determine the kind of pizza you are making to find out the extent of the dough degassing.
  • Place the dough in a lightly greased or oiled container for easy cleanup.
  • Be firm, but gentle when dough degassing, and you’ll have a better crust in the end.

Additional Resources

Pizza Fermentation Guide

Discover the Ultimate Guide to Pizza Dough Fermentation

retarding dough image

What is Retarding Pizza Dough? Find the Most Useful Answer

The Last Slice

There are three main reasons for dough degassing any type of pizza dough, a better crumb, providing the yeast with more nutritional value, and making sure you never over-proof the dough.

Degassing pizza dough is not difficult, yet you still need to know the requirements of the pizza you are making to get the results you are hoping for.

This way, you’ll get a fresh-tasting pizza dough with a perfect texture, density, and taste so that your pizza comes out top-notch and delectable every time you make it.

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