If you are just learning how to make pizza dough, you may find that your dough is too sticky. When this happens, you may find that your pizza dough sticks to everything, including your hands, the pan, and even the counter top.
Luckily, there are a few ways to fix this and get rid of the stickiness.
What Makes Pizza Dough Sticky?
The ingredients in pizza dough are what makes it sticky. Obviously, you need it to be sticky enough to hold together, but not so sticky that it clings to anything near it. Pizza dough is made using flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and oil.
First you mix these ingredients together, and then you knead the dough. This process is what makes dough sticky. Flour has gluten in it, and the reaction of the gluten is what makes the dough elastic and smooth. This process is what creates the stickiness in the dough.
If you happen to over-knead your dough, try the tips in this article about fixing over-kneaded dough.
Generally, there are three common reasons that your pizza dough is too sticky:
- Too much water: If you use too much water (or too much of any wet ingredients) in your pizza dough, it will become wet and tacky.
- Too little mixing: If you don’t mix the dough long enough or well enough, it will be too gummy and sticky.
- Using cold water in the dough: Cold water can require extra proofing time or a higher room temperature.
How to Fix Sticky Dough
Depending on the reason that your dough is sticky, you will try different methods to fix your dough and take the stickiness away. The first step is to add flour.
Most of the time, the pizza dough is sticky because there is too much water and not enough flour. Adding flour will take the stickiness away.
You should go slowly and add a little bit of flour at a time. Knead the dough thoroughly each time you add a little, and repeat this process until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands and the surface. If you have used too much water, this should fix the problem.
If your dough hasn’t been mixed long enough or well enough, you need to put it back in the bowl and continue mixing it. You will know when it is ready because it will be smooth, springy, and spongy, and it will not be sticky any longer.
Finally, if you have used cold water, you may have to proof the dough longer. Though a lot of recipes call for warm water for the yeast, it is possible to use cold water (and some may even call for it), as long as you make proper changes to how you handle the dough.
Using cold water requires you to possibly proof the dough a longer time. This gives the dough extra time to develop the gluten bonds that are necessary to create a good dough.
Warmer water helps to create a stronger network and better moisture in the dough. It might be easier to just use warm water, but if you do use cold water, make sure you give the dough plenty of time.
Environmental Factors That You Need to Consider
The climate and the weather, as well as the altitude where you are baking can all play a role in the stickiness of your pizza dough. If you don’t consider the humidity or other environmental factors, you can follow the recipe exactly and still end up with pizza dough that is sticky.
If humidity might be a factor for you, check out my tips for baking in high humidity.
If you have a lot of humidity while you are trying to make pizza dough, the dough may be absorbing a lot of additional water. This means that your dough will end up sticky.
When you are making pizza dough in humid conditions, it is important to use less water than the recipe calls for. You can always add it in a few teaspoons at a time to get the pizza dough to the exact consistency that you want.
Another factor that will change how you prepare your pizza dough is the altitude. Higher altitudes tend to make the dough more dry and the yeast is activated more quickly, causing the dough to rise too quickly.
On the other hand, when you are baking at lower elevations, especially near sea level, the dough may be wetter to begin with.
The solution is to hold back some of the water when you prepare your dough. Once you are able to knead it and start activating the yeast, slowly add the rest of the water in, a few tablespoons at a time.
If you take your time and go slowly, you should be able to get the dough to the right consistency without the stickiness.
How to Prevent Pizza Dough from Becoming Too Sticky
The best way to deal with sticky pizza dough is to avoid making it sticky in the first place. When you are preparing your dough, make sure that you follow the recipe.
In addition, you could start by using only around 60% of the water called for in the recipe.
Make sure to coat your hands and the surface you use to make the dough with flour to prevent stickiness while you are kneading it. Remember that if you add too much flour to the recipe, you can change it to the point where your pizza dough won’t turn out well.
When you are kneading the dough, try to keep the outside of the dough on the outside and the inside on the inside. Avoid folding and tearing the dough; instead, you should roll it, squash it, and stretch it. How you knead the dough can have an impact on how it turns out, so this will help.
You can also use a little bit of oil on the surface as you roll the dough. The important thing to note is that as you go through the first kneading process, the dough will hold together better and be more developed.
This will prepare it so that you can then add in the remaining water until the pizza dough is perfect for baking.
Now that you’ve made the perfect pizza dough, learn how to properly store it for later use!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.
Thursday 23rd of July 2020
Cold water has nothing to do with gluten leaking out. The reason you might use warm water (and many recipes don't - ice cold water is common in many recipes) is because higher temperatures facilitate glutenin and gliadin bonding, meaning better hydration and a stronger gluten network. It is precisely this network that results from kneading. You can use cold water and get a perfect pizza. Just increase the proving time and/or room temperature.
Wednesday 18th of May 2022
@Robert, what you said. Also while yeast does help with gluten formation, it releases carbon dioxide, not gluten.
Saturday 23rd of May 2020
Thankyou Sarah! My first attempt tonight at pizza dough didn't go well (too sticky, couldn't get it off the surface to put into the oven). Think i know now where i went wrong thanks to your article
Sarah | Baking Kneads
Tuesday 26th of May 2020
Glad I could help! Good luck with your next batch!