To simply answer the question, yes. Pizza dough needs to be refrigerated. However, some pizza makers may not refrigerate their pizza dough because they plan to use it immediately or within the next few hours.
Pizza dough makes or breaks a great pizza. Powerful flavors and a delicate structure characterize any pizza—even before adding extravagant toppings. Delicious to eat and fun to make, pizzas are a favorite of many families. Whether store-bought or homemade, there is one question that is often asked about pizza dough.
Why Refrigerate Pizza Dough?
There are quite a few reasons why pizza dough should be refrigerated. But let’s first start with basic ingredients for pizza dough. Basic pizza dough ingredients are flour, yeast, water, and sugar. From the small list of ingredients, no item has a requirement for refrigeration as a separate ingredient. Yet when these ingredients are combined, the yeast becomes active.
Our list of ingredients above is not an exhaustive one. Store-bought pizza dough may include other ingredients such as milk or eggs. If you make pizza dough at home, then you may choose to add other ingredients such as spices, oil, or cornmeal. With homemade pizza dough, you have the liberty to choose what ingredients you would like to add to your pizza dough.
So, why do you need to refrigerate pizza dough? Here are a few reasons.
- To slow the reactive process of yeast and sugar.
- Control temperature for proper storage until ready for use.
- Enhance the flavors of the pizza crust.
Slowing the Reactive Process of Yeast and Sugar
There is science behind this reason— fermentation. If pizza dough with yeast as an ingredient is left at room temperature or warmer, then the proofing or proving process begins. Proofing or proving is when the yeast eats the sugar in the dough to produce gases and bubbles causing the dough to rise. When left out at warmer temperatures, pizza dough risks losing the preferred taste and texture.
Proper Storage With Temperature Control
You can prepare pizza dough ahead of time. If you are the type of person who prefers to prepare meal ingredients a few days or weeks before, then you would want to store your pizza dough in the refrigerator. Storing pizza dough at the proper temperature is necessary to avoid spoilage. Refrigeration is also recommended if prepared pizza dough is not used within two hours.
Note: If storing pizza dough in an air-tight container, lightly oil the container first to avoid the dough sticking.
Enhancing Crust Flavor
Allowing your pizza dough to slowly rise or proof in the refrigerator enhances the texture and flavor of the soon-to-be pizza crust. The slowed process of yeast and sugar creates air bubbles that can be visible in the crust.
Note: Pizza dough can also be frozen when packaged and stored correctly.
Store-Bought and Homemade Pizza Dough
At this moment, let’s clarify the differences between store-bought and homemade pizza dough. Store-bought pizza doughs, not the pre-stretched pizza crusts should be refrigerated. Though some pre-stretched pizza crusts have packaging labels that say “refrigerate after opening”. This is usually to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage.
Homemade pizza dough generally consists of fresh ingredients and no preservatives. At the discretion of the pizza maker, the pizza dough may be allowed to proof at room temperature for a few hours, in a proofing oven, or overnight in a refrigerator. Refrigeration is needed for storage and spoilage prevention.
Store-bought pizza doughs don’t require as much work— kneading, proofing, and stretching— to get a delicious pizza crust. Plus it doesn’t take as much time. Homemade pizza doughs give you freedom of artistry and baking creativity. You can follow a written recipe or create your own. Just be sure to keep food safety in mind.
How Long Is Too Long in the Fridge?
Like every other perishable food item, there is a recommended window of time for freshness, use, and desired taste. Generally, pizza dough stored in a refrigerator is good for about three to five days. If frozen, then the window is extended to three months.
Now when it comes to proofing or getting the dough to rise, there is a risk of over-proofing and under-proofing.
- Under-proofing happens when your pizza dough doesn’t get a good rise. Potential problems may be:
- You didn’t allow the dough to rest long enough.
- Temperatures were not properly controlled. The room may have been too hot and killed the yeast. Or you may have not added enough yeast to your dough.
- Over-proofing is when the pizza dough has rested for too long. This may happen when resting at room temperature or in a refrigerator. Overproofed pizza dough tends to be dense and flat.
Using Refrigerated Pizza Dough
To use pizza dough that has been refrigerated, you will need to allow the dough to reach room temperature before baking. You can sit your dough out a couple of hours before you start making pizza. Once the dough has reached room temperature, then you can shape it and continue with your pizza creation process.
Signs of Spoiled Pizza Dough
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adamantly urges individuals to never taste food to check for spoilage. There are other ways to note if your pizza dough has spoiled.
- Visual Appearance: The dough may be discolored with white or gray spots.
- Smell: Your pizza dough may smell sour and rancid.
- Touch and Texture: Your dough lacks elasticity. It is dry and crumbly.
If your pizza dough has spoiled, do not continue to use it. Toss it out. You can prevent spoiled pizza dough by using your prepared dough within the window of freshness. Also, make sure that you store your pizza dough properly in the refrigerator. Use an airtight container, a bowl with plastic wrap, or a freezer bag.
Tip: When using a freezer bag, try to remove as much excess air as possible from the bag. If you use plastic wrap, make sure you lightly oil your pizza dough before wrapping it.
If you have chosen convenience (store-bought) or adventure (homemade), pizza making can be a fun experience. But the key to great flavor is the crust, and that starts with the pizza dough. Noting the ingredients for pizza dough and the process of fermentation, the yeast creates the desirable air bubbles within the pizza crust. Enhanced flavors and chewy textures result from refrigerated slow proofed pizza dough. The thing your tastebuds crave.
Among the different reasons to refrigerate pizza dough, flavor and taste should fall among the first few reasons. Aside from the more obvious reasons like food safety, avoiding food poisoning, and preventing food spoilage. Refrigerated pizza dough offers benefits, but it also poses risks. You don’t want to compromise the structural integrity of your pizza crust.
One thing to keep in mind when determining when to refrigerate your pizza dough is how soon will you cook your pizza? If you plan to use your pizza dough right away, then there is no need for refrigeration. Another thing to consider is the recipe that you are following. Does the recipe call for refrigeration? The recommendation is to refrigerate pizza dough for safety, use, flavor, and texture.