Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Lori Walker
Fancy making pizza from scratch? Anyone who’s done so successfully and lived to tell the tale can tell you the entire process is extremely rewarding.
However, making pizza from scratch comes with its own share of difficulties.
One of them is handling pizza dough. So, why does pizza dough tear, and what can you do when it happens?
7 Possible Reasons Why Your Pizza Dough Tear
1. Not Enough Gluten Development
One of the biggest reasons pizza dough tears is because the gluten hasn’t properly developed. Gluten helps create the dough’s stretchy texture so it can be handled without tearing. 
Performing the right techniques in kneading your dough helps build the right gluten network. It’s best to knead the dough anywhere from four to six minutes.
On the other hand, over-kneading your dough can give it a fine, crumb-like texture (similar to that of bread), unlike the proper airy, chewy texture of fine pizza.
2. Incorrect Stretching Technique
It’s important to follow proper stretching techniques when handling pizza dough. Focus on stretching the outer dough instead of the middle and creating a crust with a uniform thickness of about ⅓ inches.
Stretching from the middle part of the dough will create too little stretch, and you’ll have a crust that’s too thin in the middle.
3. There’s Too Much Flour
Too much flour in the dough can also cause it to tear and break. When too much flour is in the dough, the gluten won’t have time to develop properly and become stretchy.
Most of the extra flour comes during the process of kneading. If you put too much flour on the work surface, the extra flour will get incorporated into the dough, which will reduce its elasticity and cause it to tear apart.
Thankfully, solving this problem is simple: use less flour when kneading.
However, if the dough still keeps sticking to the work surface, knead on a silicone mat instead, or pour a bit of oil onto your hands before working.
4. Wrong Type Of Flour
Using the wrong type of flour in making pizza can cause the dough to tear.
The flour used to make pizza dough needs a lot of protein. If it doesn’t have enough protein, you won’t have enough gluten, and you’ll end up with a crust that doesn’t have the right texture.
It’s important to look for flour graded 00 with a high protein content of about 13 percent.
Most bread flour will meet these qualifications. Flour with a higher protein percentage would work just as well.
5. Under Kneading Or Over Kneading
Kneading the dough isn’t just about mixing the ingredients — this process also allows the gluten to develop properly so the dough won’t tear. Anywhere from four to six minutes should do the trick.
On the other hand, over-kneading the dough will also cause problems. When the gluten is developed in excess, the dough will lose its elasticity and tear easier.
The windowpane test is a great way to tell whether or not you’ve kneaded the dough properly.
Take a small piece of dough and stretch it so the middle is slightly translucent. If you can see through it like a windowpane without it tearing, you’ve done it properly.
6. Hydration Level
Another possible reason your pizza dough tears is that there isn’t enough hydration. Without enough water, the gluten won’t develop properly.
Here’s something to remember: your dough must have at least 60 percent hydration. For example, add 60 grams of water for every 100 grams of flour.
7. Not Enough Rest
The dough must rest so the gluten and starch can absorb the water. The resting period gives the dough the elasticity it needs, so it won’t tear when handled. 
On average, pizza dough must be rested for 90 minutes at room temperature. Of course, this period will vary depending on the temperature and the type of flour used.
Poking is a great way to test if the dough has been rested enough: slightly poke a finger through the dough and see how it reacts.
If it bounces back super quickly, it needs more time to rest, and if it doesn’t bounce back at all, it means you’ve over-rested it.
If the dough slowly bounces back to its original shape, you can start making pizza. Find out if you can refrigerate your pizza dough after it has risen here.
How To Avoid It
Use Enough Water Content
We can’t stress the importance of water hydration. Remember the 60 percent rule: for every 100 grams of flour, you must add 60 grams of water.
Check Your Flour
Using the right flour will ensure that the dough won’t tear when handled. Check that you are using 00 flour with a protein level of at least 13 percent.
Knead Until It Passes Windowpane Test
Take a small bit of kneaded dough and stretch it until you can see through it like a windowpane. If the dough tears too easily, you may have to knead it a bit more.
On the other hand, if you find that the dough is too difficult to stretch or when you finally get it to stretch, it tears, you have kneaded it too much and will need to start over.
Let It Rest
The resting period is important for gluten to develop. Leaving it to rest for 90 minutes at room temperature is more or less enough.
Don’t Overdo In Stand Mixer
You might seek the help of a stand mixer to knead the dough. It’s best to keep an eye on the dough and run it at five-minute intervals, using the windowpane test to check in between.
Use Proper Technique
It pays to stretch the dough from the outside rather than the middle, so you don’t end up with pizza dough that’s way too thin in the middle.
What happens if you knead pizza dough too much?
Pizza dough that’s kneaded too much will take on a crumbly, bread-like texture, which wouldn’t be appetizing if you want a chewy pizza crust.
What to do if pizza dough is tearing?
A torn pizza dough is still worth saving. If you haven’t added toppings yet, you can overlap the torn edges and pinch them together, taking special care not to stretch them.
If you’ve already added toppings and the pizza dough tore, you can fold it in half (like a calzone), add a basil leaf to the torn underside, and bake as usual.
How do you stretch pizza dough without tearing it?
It’s important to let the pizza dough rest after kneading it. Giving the dough ample time will allow you to stretch it without tearing it apart.
How to keep pizza dough from shrinking?
Shrinking pizza dough is the cause of an overly-strong gluten network. Allow the gluten to relax by letting it rest for at least 90 minutes at room temperature, so it won’t shrink when you handle it.
Find out the ideal oven temperature for keeping pizza warm here.
There are several reasons why pizza dough might tear whenever you handle it.
The first thing to consider is using the right flour to make pizza dough. You want to use flour with a high protein content so that it can develop the right amount of gluten.
Enough gluten in the dough gives it the right elasticity, so it won’t tear easily when handled.
You also need to ensure it has the right amount of water. For every 100 grams of flour, it has to have 60 grams of water.
Furthermore, use the right techniques in kneading, and don’t over or under-knead it. The windowpane test comes in handy to know whether or not you’ve kneaded enough.
Lastly, leave the pizza dough to rest after kneading, so the gluten can develop properly.
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