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What is Retarding Dough? Find the PRO Answer and Everything You Need to Know

Why is Retarding Dough the Key to Your Success

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What is Retarding Dough?

What is retarding dough?

Sounds weird right?

But today we will show why it is the key to your homemade pizza success.

When you decide to make pizza at home, the most challenging but most important part of the process is making the pizza dough.

Let’s face it, without a great-tasting crust, the rest of the pizza will be less than perfect.

Although somewhat debatable among professional pizza-makers, retarding your pizza dough is a common technique that offers numerous advantages.

But what is retarding dough?

Is it that important?

Let’s find out.

What is Retarding Dough?

Retarding dough means placing the dough in a cold place, typically in the refrigerator in a sealed container or proof box, to slow down the leavening process to improve the quality of the dough.

The purpose of retarding dough is to improve the texture of the dough, give the dough more flavor, and have the dough readily available.

This process occurs during the final stage of the dough fermentation process or the “Proofing” stage. This process is also called “cold fermentation.”

You can see where retarding dough falls into place in the total fermentation process in the chart below.

fermentation process infographic
Fermentation Process

There are two main reasons why pizza-makers retard dough:

  • The first and foremost reason is to provide more flavor. If you don’t retard the dough, the crust will have no flavor and no structure.
  • The second reason has to do with time; in other words, you can make the dough in advance and place it in the refrigerator so that you don’t have to make the pizza crust right away.

What Does Retarding Dough Do?

Retarding dough strengthens the gluten in the dough, improves the overall texture of the dough, and, best of all, gives you Flavor! 

Retarding the dough elongates the fermentation process by having a slower rise allowing the yeast to exhale more carbon dioxide affecting the flavor and texture.  

Tips for Retarding Dough

These guidelines will help you get the best homemade pizza results:

  • Mix your dough properly, try not to have any lumps
  • Knead your dough correctly, do not overwork the dough or it won’t be easy to shape.
  • Shape the dough into smaller dough balls before placing them in the refrigerator.
  • Rise the dough in the correct bowl or container. Containers should be completely sealed and away from any air rafts.  Any plastic container with a lid works, a proof box or dough box will perform best.
  • Spray your bowl or container with non-stick cooking spray before adding the dough balls to the container for easy cleanup.
  • Proof the dough at the correct temperature, 38 to 40°F is the best, and for the recommended time from 8 to 72 hours during the final rise.

Shaping Pizza Dough for Retarding Dough or Proofing

Many pizza-makers also get confused about whether they need to go ahead and shape the dough into dough balls before they place it into the refrigerator, or keep the dough shaped like a ball.

In reality, it doesn’t matter which one you do; the dough will ferment anyway. Although most pizza-makers leave the dough in a ball simply because they claim it takes up less space in the fridge.

However, when you are making pizza at home, by dividing the dough into smaller dough balls, you are already portioning the individual pizzas you could either bake them right away or save them for later use.

bulk pizza dough fermentation


Small balls of fresh homemade pizza dough

For example, our dough base recipe of 500g grams of flour makes three (3) pizzas that can feed three people.

So, let’s say that you only need one pizza, if you divide the dough into three smaller dough balls, you can set only one dough ball to retard and freeze the other two for later use.

By retarding only one dough ball, there is less space that you need in your refrigerator.

Therefore, for homemade pizza, depending on how many pizzas you are going to bake immediately, you decide how many dough balls you will set to retard and save the rest.

How Retarding Dough Works?

Retarding your dough by placing it in a cold place or in the refrigerator in a proof box may add a few more hours to the pizza-making process.

Still, in the end, precisely this extended time is what you want, because this is how you add more flavor to the dough.

The way it works is simple. Retarding dough or “cold fermentation” reduces the dough’s temperature to delay or prolong the fermentation process rate.

By placing your dough in the refrigerator for a set period, you slow the fermentation process down, allowing the last stage of the fermentation process to develop fully.

Pro Tip

When retarding dough cling film will not always do the job as the humidity of the refrigerator may unseal the container. Try to always use an airtight container or pizza dough box to limit the available oxygen and keep any odors adhering to the dough.

What Happens During Dough Retardation

Dough or Cold Fermentation Process?

During the final proofing stage, the starch from the flour is converted into sugars. The sugars feed the yeast, and the yeast utilizes the carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol.

The carbon dioxide is retained in the cells formed in the protein or gluten network, causing the cells to grow and the dough to expand.

Retarding Pizza Dough infographic
Retarding Dough Process

In addition to the yeast in the dough expanding much slower due to the cooler temperatures, this also produces more acetic and lactic acids, which gives the dough lots more flavor.

In fact, after 12 to 18 hours in the refrigerator, these bacteria also break down the gluten in the dough, affecting the rise of it, and in the end, making it easier to shape.

Pizza Pun

What do pizza bakers give women on special occasions?

– Flours


The warmth of the location where you place the dough to retard has a direct effect on yeast (heat accelerates the rate of fermentation). When you place the dough in a warm place, the dough will rise faster.

By retarding the dough at the correct time and temperature, it allows the dough to develop more complex flavors over time without the risk of over-proofing.

If you were to proof the dough at a warm temperature, like for the first rise at 80°F, the dough would double in size in about 1 – 1 1 /2 hours, which is not enough time for the dough to develop flavor and the structure of a good crust.

The ideal temperature for slowing down the yeast’s fermentation process rate is from 33°F to 40°F, resulting in a slow and prolonged fermentation process. 

The Convenience of Retarding Dough

Retarding the dough results in the ability to bake your crust at another time and not immediately.

This process is convenient for people who want to make their dough, which is a time-consuming process, but they don’t have the time to bake the crust immediately afterward.

For example, if you have a party, you could make the dough up the evening before and place it in the fridge before going to bed.

Letting the dough remain in the refrigerator for a long time adds tons of flavor and dimension to the dough, allowing for a much tastier crust.

Other Advantages

Naturally, there are other benefits to retarding your pizza dough. For example, if you like a darker crust when you make your pizza, retarding the dough can help.

This result is because the retardation process causes carbon dioxide to escape to the surface when you’re baking the crust, filling it with tiny bubbles that give the crust structure and turn the crust a darker color.

Is Retarding Dough Applicable to Every Type of Dough?

Not necessarily, when retarding dough, you should keep some things in mind.

For instance, some dough needs the process to get the flavor you love, while other types of dough – such as basic white flour dough made with yeast or even sourdough – don’t require it, but greatly benefit from the process anyway.

On the other hand, some rye and whole-wheat doughs may not take well to the process because they are more sensitive to the production of acid and usually have a weaker gluten structure.

However, when making pizza, it’s always recommended to retard or cold ferment the dough, so you get the best flavor, volume, and structure.

In fact, generally, when making pizza dough, you can retard your dough from 8 to 72 hours. We find that 24 hours works at its best to get great results in the end.

Additional Resources

To further improve your pizza skills don’t forget to check these additional posts on pizza dough fermentation.

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The Last Slice

Should you or should you not retard your pizza dough?

The answer in most cases is a resounding Yes!. 


Because what makes a successful full pizza? Flavor!

First, it must taste good, look good, and have an adequate structure to withhold all the toppings. By retarding the dough, you get all that.

Thus, as you can see, retarding dough is the key to a successful homemade pizza with a great rich flavor, sound volume, and the sharpest structure.

The longer the dough stays in these cold temperatures, the more flavorful it will be once it’s ready to be put into the oven.

Giving the fermentation process time to slow down does a great job of producing delicious pizza dough, which translates into some of the best crust you’ll ever taste on a pizza.

We certainly hope that this guide helps you understand how important it is to retard the dough in the pizza-making process. If you have any questions, please contact us, and we will be glad to help.


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