Creating a pizza at home can be fun and fulfilling, with delicious results. However, you can face a few issues that make it a challenging experience, especially if it’s your first time.
Whether you’re crafting a meaty delight or a vegetarian pizza, one of the most common issues you can face when making pizza is overly sticky pizza dough.
But what makes pizza dough too sticky?
Different variables can make doughs too sticky, including inadequate gluten development and excessive water.
When you add ingredients like flour too early before performing enough kneading, the gluten will not develop properly, causing the dough to become sticky instead of stretchy.
Working with sticky pizza dough can be a complicated and frustrating job. If you’ve followed one of the best pizza dough recipes to the letter but are left wondering why is my pizza dough so sticky, you’re in the right place.
This guide will explore what makes pizza dough sticky and how to fix sticky pizza dough to get you back on track.
What Causes This To Happen?
Pizza dough involves a basic mixture of yeast, flour, water, oil, and salt or sugar. Once you mix the ingredients, you must knead the dough to make it sticky enough for the components to hold together but not so sticky that it clings on every surface and ruins your pizza night.
The perfect pizza dough is smooth and elastic, making it easy to manage without sticking to your hands, countertop, or pan. Before learning about the tips you can use to fix the issue, you need to understand the problems causing your pizza dough to be too sticky. Some common reasons that make pizza dough too sticky include:
Little to No Kneading
Kneading involves working the dough, usually by hand, to develop the gluten in the flour and make the dough smooth and elastic.
Kneading is a crucial step that you can’t skip as it helps to distribute the ingredients evenly, incorporate air and form a soft ball from the sticky mass of the mixture.
It contributes to the overall texture of the end product and develops the gluten to ensure the pizza dough can expand without bursting.
Flour has two proteins that combine when mixed with water to form gluten, and if you don’t knead the flour or perform little kneading, the proteins remain in random order.
This compromises the strength and structure of the pizza dough, causing it to become sticky and cling to every work surface.
Kneading the pizza dough organizes these proteins and links them together to develop the gluten and give the dough a stable structure and texture.
The chemical attachments that help gluten form a strong network or link take time to form, and kneading speeds up the process.
If you’re kneading by hand and not using a machine like a mixer or food processor, you’ll likely tire out quickly and may give up after little kneading.
Too Much Water
High hydration or too much water is the top reason that makes pizza dough sticky.
The dough’s hydration is usually expressed as a percentage and refers to the amount of water in the dough relative to the flour volume.
For example, dough with 1000g of flour and 600g of water has a hydration of 60%.
Hydration affects the pizza dough and crusts the most. Adjusting it can give you a different result, including making the pizza dough too sticky.
Generally, the higher the hydration, the stickier your dough will be, whether water or beer pizza dough.
A high amount of water in the dough also creates extra steam in the oven resulting in air pockets in the crust, which make it lighter and crispier.
Aim for a hydration level of around 60% to 65%, and your dough will barely be sticky once the gluten has developed.
Temperature Of The Dough
Your dough must be at room temperature to prevent stickiness and allow the gluten in the dough to relax. If your dough has been sitting in the fridge, you can’t just take it out and start shaping it immediately.
The cold temperature will likely make the pizza dough sticky and impossible to shape.
You should never use cold water on the dough, either. It may fail to activate the yeast or hinder gluten formation, resulting in a sticky dough.
High temperatures can also kill the yeast and render your pizza dough useless.
Ensure you let your dough sit until it gets to room temperature, enabling easy shaping and stretching out.
Rub oil on your hands and work surface to prevent sticking while handling the dough instead of prepping with a handful of flour.
Excessive flour is one of the mistakes to avoid if you want to bake a pizza with a perfectly crispy crust.
Flours are different and have different abilities to absorb water. Absorption abilities can affect dough hydration, and the type of flour you use can affect how much water is needed to attain consistency.
The wrong flour can be weak and have low gluten content, affecting the absorption and hydration levels and making your pizza dough too sticky.
The flour will also break away easily without enough or proper gluten development, making it sticky, compact, and impossible to stretch.
Strong flour with high gluten content is better for making pizza dough since it will have better hydration and absorption consistency.
How To Fix Your Pizza Dough?
The sticky dough can be frustrating and feel like the end of your cooking, but it’s not.
Fortunately, you can try out a few practical solutions if you’re wondering how to fix sticky dough.
You can try out different solutions depending on what is making your pizza dough sticky. These include:
Add Some Flour
In most situations, pizza dough gets sticky because water is more than the wheat flour in the dough. Some extra flour can help harden your pizza dough.
However, you must go easy and avoid overdoing it. Go slow and add a little bit of flour at a time.
Knead flour into the dough in small quantities, like a few tablespoons at a time. Repeat the process, mixing everything properly until the dough no longer sticks to your hands or work surface.
The pizza dough can get excessively dry if too much extra flour is added at once.
Add Warmer Water
Warm water is more suitable than cold water when making pizza dough. It prevents stickiness by helping the gluten protein in the flour stay intact while activating and hydrating the yeast.
Cold water can cause the yeast to release a substance that prevents gluten development and may not activate the yeast.
The yeast is appropriately hydrated with warm water, helping develop the gluten that holds the ingredients together. It creates a more robust network and better moisture in the dough.
You’ll likely need to start over from scratch if you used cold water from the beginning. Adding flour or warm water may not give the dough the consistency it needs to stop being sticky.
Even if it does, you can easily end up with a chewy and hard pizza.
Kneading can be tiring and annoying, but it’s necessary to help develop the gluten in your pizza dough. Keep kneading for a few more minutes, and the dough may become less sticky.
How you knead the dough can impact how it turns out. Avoid tearing and folding the dough. Instead, squash, roll, and stretch it.
Kneading sticky dough can be challenging, but you can try applying some water to your hands to make the work easier. It will prevent too much dough from sticking to your hands.
After kneading it sufficiently, you can also add some oil to the bowl if your dough is still sticky.
A food processor or mixer with a hook can come in handy and help you avoid getting tired. The stand mixer is more common in kneading, but the food processor can also work.
It takes the difficulty of kneading sticky dough out of your hands since such appliances can quickly knead the dough thoroughly within 7 to 12 minutes or less.
Ensure you don’t over-knead the dough, which can make it difficult to fold over and easy to tear.
After removing the dough from the machines, you’ll still need to do a final kneading by hand.
If you’re tired of sticky dough that doesn’t seem to come together no matter what you do, you can try out a dough scraper.
A dough scraper is used to move, shape, cut, portion, and manipulate pizza dough, and it features a handle that makes it easier to scrape.
A metal dough scraper with a vertical handle is suitable since it’s sturdier and more durable than plastic and will do a better scraping job. A sticky dough will no longer be a problem once you’ve scraped it from the surface and are baking it.
The hot surface of the pizza stone or steel will prevent the dough from sticking by quickly vaporizing the moisture in the dough to make it crispy.
You don’t need to dust the pizza stone or take further action to prevent sticking. Without water, the dough cannot stick to the surface.
Learn a Better Technique and Coat The Dough Before Shaping
The technique you use to handle the dough can make a huge difference. The wrong technique can lead to poor results, and although it can take some time to learn how to handle pizza dough properly, it’s worth the effort.
Do your homework on the best handling, kneading, and shaping techniques to get better insight into where you might go wrong.
You can coat the dough with flour before stretching it on the work surface to ensure it doesn’t stick to your hands or work area.
Most flour will fall off when handled or kneaded into the dough, so you don’t have to worry about excess flour in the oven. You can lift the dough and shake off any excess flour after shaping.
Always ensure you move fast after you’ve stretched out the dough instead of leaving it for a long time. The dough can quickly absorb moisture from the atmosphere and get hydrated when left alone, returning to a sticky state.
So why is my pizza dough so sticky? Some of the most common reasons to make your pizza dough too sticky include a weak gluten structure, too much water, the dough temperature, and using the wrong flour.
If you don’t knead your pizza dough sufficiently, the gluten needed to hold everything together and prevent excessive stickiness will not develop.
If you’ve followed a pizza dough guide and are stuck with sticky dough, you can fix it by adding warm water and more flour, continuing to knead the flour, or using a dough scraper.
Learning everything you can about pizza dough can also help you avoid errors, so ensure you know everything you need for the perfect homemade pizza and pizza dough.