How to Toss Pizza Dough

Anyone who has ever tossed a crust knows that it’s the most fun part of making a pizza. Sure, it can get messy, but there’s nothing like pretending you’re a real pizzaiolo. It’s good for the crust, too, letting it retain the right moisture and air and making it rise better at the edges. With the right technique, you’ll give it that truly authentic, beautifully irregular chewy-crispness that’s the mark of a perfect pizza.

If you’re ready to really impress your guests and take your pies to the next level, here’s how to do it.

Start with the Right Dough

We can’t stress this enough: A good dough makes all the difference. You need to be able to work it cleanly with your hands and stretch it without it falling apart, so you need to have the basics of pizza-making down first. A high gluten content is a must, as it gives the dough elasticity, and you can’t have the dough too warm or sticky, or it’ll be too hard to work with.

You’ll probably find that the toss doesn’t work well with a whole-wheat or gluten-free dough, or if you haven’t kneaded it properly. Keep in mind, if you’re not too confident in your dough just yet, the store-bought variety should work just fine.

The First Stretch

Like every good activity, you’ve got to stretch first! Except, when it comes to pizza tossing, we mean the base, not your muscles.

It depends on how much dough you’re working with, but, as a general rule, you’re aiming for a disc of about 9-10 inches in diameter and about half an inch in thickness before you’re ready to toss. While it’s tempting to use a rolling pin for this first stage, real professionals get a better lift and air bubbles by stretching it by hand.

All you need to do is:

  • Liberally sprinkle your dough and workbench with flour.
  • Slap down gently on the dough with the palms of your hands until you have a rough disc.
  • Keeping the fingers of each hand together, push gently outward from the center of the crust to the edge, giving it a quarter-turn as you do.
  • For a rising, bubbly crust, leave the edges of the base raised a little.

Doing the Toss

Now for the fun part. Just follow these instructions step-by-step and try to practice as often as possible! If it’s your first time spinning a crust, it’s also a good idea to try out your technique with a tea towel first.

  • Support half of the pizza with one hand clenched in a fist pointed upward.
  • Support the other half of the pizza with your dominant hand (i.e., right hand if you’re normally right-handed). This hand should be open and face up, with fingers together.
  • If the crust’s larger than usual or needs more support, you can also use your forearms to rest it on.
  • With the pizza base now on both hands, gently bring the fist hand toward the body and the tossing hand away from the body, which will rotate the pizza anti-clockwise if you’re right-handed and clockwise if you’re left-handed.
  • Now, with moderate speed, bring the tossing hand back in the other direction, flipping your palm half over (and making your fingers point upward) as you do. As you finish this motion, you should be basically looking at the back of your hand.
  • When you get to this point and the tossing hand is close to your body, stop moving the hand.
  • With its momentum, the pizza should release into the air and continue to rotate. The height depends on how fast you moved your hands.
  • Quickly turn your tossing hand into a fist and catch the dough with both fists, again using the forearms for support if necessary.
  • Open up your dominant hand again and repeat until you’ve got a crust around 12 inches wide.

What’s Next?

chef tossing pizza dough at pizzeria kitchen

Congratulations! You’ve just made the perfect crust. Now that you’ve gone to all that effort, you don’t want to ruin the pizza by cooking it the wrong way.

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