Can Pizza Dough go Bad?

I’m not going to string you along with a boring, pointless intro. Pizza dough can go bad, and, when this happens it’s not the end of the world. You’re not going to get ill, the dough will just dry up and become unusable. But we still want to avoid this happening. The best way to save pizza dough for another time is to put it in an airtight container and get it in the fridge. But what makes pizza dough go bad and how bad can it get?

Pizza dough can’t go rancid easily. If left in the refrigerator it will easily keep for days , sometimes a week. Actually pizza dough after a couple of days makes the best pizza! Check the dough, if it feels gassy and not hard or dry, you can use it.

Authentic pizzerias take time to make their dough. They take 2, or sometimes 3 days. This gives the gluten a lot of time to get nice and elastic. When it is baked quickly in a hot oven, it will have dark caramelization on the crust. This is provided by an extensive break down of starches into sugars.

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So how to tell if pizza dough is bad?

To tell if your pizza dough is bad, remove it from the fridge and inspect it. If it has turned grey, or has specks of grey it is too far gone. Throw it away. Pizza dough that’s spoiling turns dry and crusty. This is where oxygen exposure dries it out, alongside the starch reforming into its original state.

What to look out for in a bad pizza dough:

Signs of Mold Growth

Mould is very tricky, once it’s set in, you should just ditch the dough and make fresh. The mould spores, despite not being visible, will have spread throughout the dough. Throw the dough away and be sure to wash your hands and equipment thoroughly afterwards.

Foul Smell

If your pizza dough starts smelling rancid then it’s time to start again. Long fermented dough is likely to develop acidity and alcohol which will be present when eaten. This doesn’t mean the dough has gone bad, it’s just an unwelcome flavour in your pizza.

That said, you might like a hint of acidity and alcohol. Each to their own!

What to do if my pizza dough goes bad?

Has the pizza dough changed colour? If so, just throw it out. It could be mould setting in. If it’s just hard and dry, you can try rehydrating it:

Run the dry areas of the dough under the tap for a few seconds and place back in a bowl to soak for 30 minutes.

What can I do with overly dry dough?

Dough Balls

If the dough remains dry you might be able to bake them as dough balls and smother them with garlic butter as they come out of the oven… yum!


A focaccia bread is pretty forgiving to poor or dry doughs. Cover all sides of the dough with olive oil and stretch it out in a deep baking tray. Leave to rest for 30 minutes and stretch again when you return. Cover with some toppings, drizzle some olive oil and bake under a high heat (220C) for 20-30 minutes depending on size.

How to make pizza dough last longer

Use the refrigerator

Leaving your pizza dough at room temperature is great for increasing yeast fermentation levels. But if we don’t want to bake it right away we want to slow down its development. Placing the dough in the fridge lowers the yeasts ability to respire meaning the dough will last for longer.

Don’t add sweeteners

Sugars in the dough provide food for the yeast. If a sweetened dough is stored in the fridge there may be too many sweeteners to be absorbed. This means you are likely to see them appear as flakes, tarnishing the look of the dough.

A long fermented dough will break down plenty of complex starches that naturally exist in the flour. This sweetens the bread naturally, so there’s no need to add extra sweetness unless you are making a quick dough.

Keep it wrapped

To prevent your dough from drying out it is essential to keep it covered. A cover will reduce the airflow around the dough’s surface. Exposure to fresh air blows away moisture from the surface. After time, the outer perimeter of the dough becomes dry and forms a hard crust.

For solutions see the why does dough need to be covered post.

Use less yeast

Pizziolas prepare pizza dough using a tiny amount of yeast. This supports the dough’s slow fermentation. Let’s face it, we don’t need the pizza to rise much. In fact, it’s only around the crust area that we want to see major growth. A small amount of levain to mature the dough over a long period is the perfect solution.

Pizza doughs will have 0.1% of yeast to flour weight in the recipe, yeasted bread uses around 2% in comparison.

Don’t knead too hard

Kneading increases oxygen in the dough and provides necessary strength to the gluten initially. But after an intense knead and then a long first we can get problems. In this case, the dough is likely to suffer from over-oxygenation.

This is where the carotenoids in the flour are washed away making the dough whiter, yet tasteless. If you are planning to leave your dough in the fridge for several days just gently knead your dough and allow cold fermentation to do the work for you.

For more tips on making the perfect pizza, take a look at the why my pizza dough won’t stretch article.

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