Pizza Dough Not Stretching: Here’s What You Need to Do

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So are you having problems because your pizza dough is not stretching?

Learning to fix this problem is simple if you look for the warning signs of what your pizza dough is telling you.

Unless you’ve got a homemade pizza dough recipe that gives you perfect results all the time, some recipes could be failing you.

Trying a new pizza dough recipe may be misleading, and some steps are purposely left out. If you’ve followed all of the ingredients and steps and are getting unsatisfactory results, you’ll need to fix it quickly!

So let’s hear what your dough got to say!

Identify Why is Pizza Dough Not Stretching

Like any other situation in life, to fix something, we need to find out what’s wrong or what caused the problem.

It’s fair enough that pizza dough cannot talk to you, but the overall texture is always a good thing to check.

The kneading process will help you solve a common problem for those who are not getting the proper pizza dough stretch.

Firstly, assess the situation to find your answer:

Pizza dough not stretching

Why is my pizza dough not stretching?

There are many reasons why your pizza dough may not be stretching, including and not limited to your ingredients, improper dough fermentation, or poor dough handling.

But don’t worry, we will discuss each of these probable causes one by one, ’till you find the answer to our questions.

What Makes Pizza Dough Stretch?

The fundamental factor that makes pizza stretch is gluten. Pizza dough that properly develops gluten is filled with gas produced during the fermentation process. These micro air bubbles allow the dough to stretch without your dough tearing or breaking.

These collapsed air pockets will instantly bond to each other, acting as the glue between the flour, water, and the rest of your ingredients.

For your dough to properly stretch, you need to have the right amount of gluten in your dough because too much gluten causes your dough to be stiff and hard to handle, while low gluten causes your dough to be sticky, fragile with no structure, and susceptible to tearing.

What is Gluten?

gluten web image


Gluten is a viscous and elastic substance formed during the mixture of flour, yeast, and water.

Flour contains two proteins called “gliadin” and “glutenin” that are insoluble in water. When these two proteins come in contact with water and stressed by the energy of mixing, they bind to each other, forming the gluten network.

Gluten, also known as “mesh gluten,” because just like a web or network, holds together the dough.

Gluten is what helps the dough take shape and create a structure. It acts like glue in the mixture. Some flours do not contain any gluten, which is very difficult to handle because they have the consistency of a cream.

A low amount of water combined with the flour produces less gluten, affecting the mixture from being stretchy, which is why hydration is so important.

Gluten Development

When water and flour mix, it will start to form gluten right away. Kneading the dough will contribute to gluten development.

This gluten development followed by fermentation is what helps to stabilize the gluten inside your pizza dough.

With the right amount of gluten formed, the pizza crust has chewiness followed by many levels of crispiness.

We have a complete guide on gluten, that gives you everything you need to know.  Check our article Demystifying Gluten in Pizza.

Autolyse Method

Most of us have never heard of this method, but it’s the formation of gluten in your dough by only using water and flour.

You let the dough sit for 1 hour or more to allow the flour to fully absorb the water and start the gluten formation through natural hydration.

After this, you can add the remaining yeast, salt, and olive oil and continue with your pizza-making process.

Pizza Dough Extensibility and Elasticity

Without elastic dough, you cannot stretch this out easily to form your pizza shape. It will tear and likely be a nightmare to shape.

The rule of pizza dough is to have enough elasticity to make the dough thin enough to make any size you like.

When the gluten is activated, it creates both extensible and elastic properties, or the ability to stretch and return to its original shape.

If one of these attributes is stronger than the other, the dough will not form correctly.

What is Pizza Dough Extensibility?

Pizza dough extensibility is the ability of the dough to be stretched, extended, or elongated when force, stress, and pressure are applied.

What is Pizza Dough Elasticity?

Pizza dough elasticity is the ability of the dough to regain its original shape after a force, stress or pressure has been applied.

Simply put, it is the ability of the dough to spring back when it is stretched.

You will need the dough to have a certain amount of extensibility for the dough to be molded into different shapes with little elasticity that will allow the dough to retain its shape.

How to Make Pizza Dough Elastic

To make pizza dough extensible and elastic you need to combine a high gluten flour and water and let sit for about 1 hour until it fully absorbs the water. 

Initially, this will form a network of unorganized, knotted gluten strings.

Kneading the dough by hand or using a stand mixer will align these strings, creating a dough you might be able to slightly stretch. Just let the dough relax and time will do rest.

Later, when you add the rest of the ingredients including the olive oil will help lubricate the dough, allowing it to stretch easier.

The more gluten develops, the more elastic, stretchy, and strong the dough will be.

Just be careful because mixing too much gluten and water will result in a dough that almost feels like rubber.

Pro Tip

When you are ready to start stretching your pizza dough, cover your hands with a light coat of olive oil and prepare your working surface by adding a combination of flour and cornmeal. This way, you’ll stop the pizza dough from sticking and tearing.

Here’s What You Need to Do if Pizza Dough Not Stretching

  • Check Your Ingredients

Ingredients are often mismanaged, and sometimes you might forget to consider how much hydration your brand of flour could be absorbing. 

The levels of fineness and milling would throw you off many times, so if you missed the proper quality or amount of ingredients, you might encounter some problems.

Here is what to check:

  • It would be best if you always use flour that contains high-protein content of 12% or more. Most of the better quality flour will say on the package listed in the nutrient section.

You can check our article The Top Pizza Dough Flour that Will Give You the Best Crust. 

Find which is the best flour pizza dough and which one we use and recommend.

  • Check Your Water Content

Adding water is essential to the overall hydration of your flour. The hydration ratio can range from 65 to 70%. To calculate this ratio, divide the weight of water by the weight of the flour. For example, 1000 grams of flour with 650-700 grams of water added. 650 / 1000 = 65%.

This is considered the average hydration level and should include the total amount of activated yeast water too.

You aren’t a classically trained chef, so you probably don’t know about dough hydration.

Dough hydration is a careful balance of water and flour, but don’t forget that olive oil plays a significant role in your dough’s plasticity.

The fermentation that occurs from your yeast further helps give the dough its’ elasticity too.

Pizza Pun

We would like to make a pizza joke, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

  • Check the Dough Mixing Process

Make sure your dough is well-mixed. If you are mixing by hand, you should be able to feel if there are any bumps or lumps of unmixed flour.

If you are using a stand mixer, mix for up to 10 minutes at low speed and check the consistency.

  • Check Your Kneading Process

The importance of kneading cannot be stressed enough in the initial stage of making your dough after its’ first mixed.

Mixing pizza dough seems easy enough, but the process of kneading is going to make every bit of difference for the best formation of gluten in your dough.

You knead the pizza dough after the dough is initially mixed and only for a few minutes.

Overkneading will turn the dough tough.

Not Enough Kneading

Kneading pizza dough will help build up the right amount of gluten. If you don’t knead your dough, it won’t have the strength to spring back or hold its shape after it’s cooked.

This under-kneading step will result in a limp dough and lacks any internal resistance when cooked. It would be best if you would knead your dough for 8 to 10 minutes if you are using a stand mixer at low speed.

  • Check Your Dough Hydration

Finely milled flour is excellent for making the perfect pizza crust, but flour also likes to play tricks on you.

Like any finely packed powder, it will love to clump together. Use a whisk in your mixing bowl before adding any water to ensure that your flour will hydrate evenly.

If you are interested in learning more about dough hydration check our article The Scientifically Proven Formula for Dough Hydration.

What is the Best Hydration for Stretchable Pizza Dough?

For most pizza recipes, the average hydration is between 65-70% water. This ratio is always based on the total gram amount of your flour.

Using 1000 grams of flour, it’ll yield 650 to 700 grams of water for hydration.

This ratio should always include your yeast mixture for the best results.

Check Your Dough Temperature

There is a distinction between the actual temperature of the dough and the ambient temperature.

The dough’s temperature as it begins to prove, or rise, affects the rate of fermentation and, in turn, the flavor and texture of the finished crust.

The optimal dough temperature for most pizza doughs is 75 degrees F.

Cold Pizza Dough

Cold pizza dough is harder to stretch; it is best is allow the dough to come to room temperature before you stretch it. Despite your yeast mixture being an average of 78-80F degrees, this won’t impact your dough temperature much.

To get the best results, you need to have a kitchen that will allow your pizza dough to ferment at an optimal room temperature. Or find a spot where this temperature is constant.

What is the Best Temperature for Stretchable Pizza Dough

Any area within your kitchen ranging between 70-80F degrees is excellent for getting your pizza dough to proof quickly.

This means that your dough will become 60-75F degrees from room temperature. You don’t want a spot that is warmer than that to get your dough to ferment.

  • Check Your Dough Development

There are a couple of things you can instantly notice how your dough is developing. You can perform the following tests:

Unfermented doughball

Visual Inspection

The first is having a satin to a shiny surface.

dough ready for shaping image

Spring Test

Poking your dough will tell you if it’s elastic enough but still leaves a mark.

windowpane test for pizza

Window Pane Test

Stretch a small section to see if it forms a membrane-like window.

  • Check Your Dough Management

While you’re preparing pizza topping or making pizza sauce, you also need to check on your pizza dough continually.

This process is so you can see how it’s developing and fermenting correctly. After 1 hour, you can start making tests on your dough to see if it’s ready to use.

  • Check Your Dough Fermentation Process

You can form your risen dough into dough balls for the first 1-1 1/2 hours after the first fermentation.

This method allows you to create smaller-sized servings or to freeze and use them later. Some people like to let for a second proofing to get fluffier chewier crusts.

How Long Should Pizza Dough Rest Before Being Stretched?

Once you see that your dough has fermented in one hour or up to 90 minutes, allow it to rest.

This process should take no more than 30-45 minutes to allow the gluten to have a great taste.

Most pizzerias will let their dough rest for up to 1 or 2 days before being stretched.

Rolling vs. Stretching Pizza Dough

There is a growing debate about the facts of whether or not you should roll out or stretch your pizza dough ball.

Since most of us are unaware of this fun fact, there is a preferred method that makes pizza dough more authentic. It’s also one of the oldest methods that are used.  That is, pizza dough should be stretched by hand.  

For more on this subject check our article Rolling vs. Stretching Pizza Dough. Everything you Need to Know.

When is the time to stretch your pizza dough?

As soon as you can see that your dough is fermented and has good gluten that’s formed, you can start to stretch your pizza dough.

It also depends on the amount of time that you want your dough to form gluten. This can make a big difference when it comes down to overall flavor.

Will Pizza Dough Stay Stretched, or Do You Have to Stretch it Right Before Baking?

Properly hydrated pizza that has good gluten formation will stay stretched when your pizza dough is proofed.

However, it is best if you stretch your dough right before cooking your pizza. This method allows your oven enough time to preheat and ample time for adding sauce and toppings.

Pizza Dough Stretching Methods

Here, We’ll give you four excellent tips on how to stretch your pizza dough. Each of them can be used to your advantage or used in combination with your pizza-making ritual.

Which combination you’ll enjoy the most will be your signature in making any great pizza.

Gravity method for shaping pizza dough

Gravity Method

Hanging the dough from your first four fingers and your thumb, allowing it to droop downward slowly, uses gravity.

This method is to your advantage since you are still allowing the dough to stretch without much effort.

You can then start to rotate the dough to make a rounded pizza shape.

Hand slap method for shaping pizza dough

Hand Slap

This is a bit more aggressive approach to telling your dough who’s the boss, but it does work.

Simply slap your hand on the dough surface to flatten it to your liking. You’ll need to angle your hand just right to get the dough to go where you want.

stretching pizza dough with back of hands

Stretching out with the Back of your Hands

This technique is more or less about using the backside of your knuckles to form the pizza dough.

Start from the center of your dough and work in an outer circle until you reach the outer edge of your pizza. You can also decide to leave a dough ring along the edge likewise.

final shaping of pizza dough image

Pressing and Stretching on Table or PanI

Instead of using your knuckles, you can also use your four fingers and palm to push the dough outwards on your pastry mat.

On a flour-powdered matt, lift the edge of your dough and stretch lightly until it reaches the pizza size you want, pressing out any unwanted bumps.

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Pizza Dough Stretching Troubleshooting

Here are some pro tips and tricks that will allow you to get better stretching results when forming your pizza.

Depending on the amount of time you’ve let your dough sit, you can’t rush good pizza dough. So- here’s what to do if these problems happen.

Pizza Dough Tearing

Dough that will tear is a good indication that your gluten hasn’t formed yet. It happens more often with one-hour Vegan pizzas, so you have to give water and dough time to develop correctly.

For this reason, always allow your dough enough time to additionally ferment.

How Do You Stretch Out Pizza Dough Without Tearing It?

You can always choose to use a method where you are pushing and pressing the dough instead.

This method will still result in excellent pizza dough that is soft and spongy but a bit more on the chewier side- if you like that. Any method that doesn’t use gravity works excellently.

Here’s What You Need to Do

We think the most challenging part about making pizza is waiting for your dough to ferment and proof to your advantage.

Always count backward 1 to 1 1/2 hours while making pizza dough but keep in mind the temperature of your kitchen. Warmer days will proof your dough faster than colder days.

Pizza Dough Shrinking

Why does your pizza dough bounce back?

When you have any pizza dough that you are fighting to get the dough to stay in its shape, it’s not ready yet.

This result is all due to strong gluten that is resisting and hasn’t had time to relax a bit.

This result also can mean your fermentation hasn’t completely kicked in just yet.

How Do You Prevent Pizza Dough from Stretching Back?

Just let your dough rest 10-15 minutes and sit back and pour yourself a martini. As you become more relaxed, so will your pizza dough.

These results will drastically improve if you find a warmer spot in your kitchen that’s nice and warm.

What is the Trick to Stretching Pizza Dough?

The trick of stretching pizza dough is to have proper elasticity. Using high gluten content flour, adequate hydration, and sound mixing and fermentation, you should get a pizza dough that will stretch easily.

Tips on How to Stretch Pizza Dough

Be creative with your stretching technique, and be patient and confident in your first or second attempt.

There are plenty of tutorial videos on forming and stretching pizza dough that shows you where to put your hands. But you will always know that proofed pizza dough forms easier when it’s given time to relax.  In the meantime, enjoy this video provided by Ooni.

This video is brought to you by Ooni

The Last Slice

We hope that you now know what to do if pizza dough not stretching. For additional information, you can visit our learn section and if you have any questions you may contact us.

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