How Long Can Dough Sit Out?

How long can dough be left out
Published on
10 February 2021
Gareth Busby
Gareth Busby

Not sure how long to let your dough sit out? Can it be left out on the kitchen counter? Should I put it in the fridge?? Well, I’ve collated the most common questions asked about storing dough.

We’ll cover the safety reasons for leaving dough out, the types of dough that are OK to leave out and what happens when bread rises. I’ll also touch base on how artisan bakers treat their dough, so you can produce the best quality bread at home.

If you’re new to the site and you want to get the latest bread-baking tips, pop your email address in the box at the bottom of the article. In the meantime, let’s cover the topic of leaving bread dough on the counter.

How long can dough sit out on the counter?

How long can you leave dough on the counter

The maximum amount of time dough can sit out on the counter is four hours for yeast-made bread, six for sourdough. Temperature, the characteristics of the sugars in the flour, the amount of yeast and the humidity of the room alter the length of the rise.

Bread is a fantastically nutritious food source that many enjoy making at home. It’s especially fun to eat, and many of us take great pride in using our hands to turn the raw ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast into delicious warm bread for our family.

Does a four hour maximum rise include the first and second rise?

A standard loaf of bread will have a first rise (bulk fermentation) of 2 hours followed by a second rise of 1 ½ to 2 hours. Artisan bakers or those with cooler kitchens may find that it takes longer for the bread to double in size.

How long can artisan bread be left out for?

Artisan bread makers use temperatures below 25C (77F) which is cooler than many commercial bread producers. They will also use less yeast in their recipes, which means their dough has a slower rise which develops flavour and can be left out for longer than four hours.

How yeast works in bread making?

Simple sugars, broken down from the starch in the flour, penetrate the cell walls of the yeast. This starts the process of aerobic respiration.

Here, carbon dioxide gas is created alongside ethanol.

Enzymes start to break down other types of sugar in the flour, creating organic acids which add flavour and maturity to the dough.

Can dough sit too long?

If dough is left to rise for too long, it will cause issues with the taste and appearance of the bread. Excess fermentation occurring in either the first or second rise can lead to a sour, unpleasant taste if the dough gets left for a long time. Over-proofed loaves have a gummy or dense texture.

I’ve left my dough out overnight, what should I do?!

If you’ve left your dough out for a long time, chances are it will be overly gassy and smell a little alcoholic. The best solution here is to get the oven heated and baked as soon as possible. Perhaps place it in a tray heavily greased with olive oil to make an impromptu focaccia.

How long can dough sit after refrigeration?

If the dough has been kept in the refrigerator overnight, it will take up to two hours to warm up. If the temperature of the room is cold and the size of the prepared dough is large, it may be able to sit out for longer. Low amounts of levain award the dough a longer (slower) proofing duration.

How long can I keep bread dough in the refrigerator?

Dough in fridge

After the dough is kneaded, place it in a mixing bowl that’s large enough to allow it to double. Cover with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting seal and place the dough in the refrigerator. The dough will last three days in the refrigerator and can last up to five, though a slight degradation in quality should be expected.

How long can pizza dough be left out?

Authentic Neapolitan pizza dough contains a small amount of yeast, which is left out longer than standard bread dough. If the temperature is cool enough, pizza dough can be left for up to 24 hours.

Can I leave pizza dough out all day or overnight?

Yes. Use yeast at a rate below 1% of the weight of the flour. The temperature of the proofing environment should be below 18C (64F)to prevent it from over-proofing.

Can you leave dough to rise overnight at room temperature?

Dough that’s left to rise at room temperature typically takes between two and four hours to double in size. If left overnight, the dough can rise so high it will likely collapse on the weight of itself, making the dough deflate. For best results, always keep the dough in the refrigerator when leaving it to rise overnight.

Can I leave dough with eggs in it overnight?

If the eggs were previously stored in the refrigerator, they will sweat as they warm to the temperature of the room. This encourages bacteria to grow. It is best not to leave dough out that contains eggs for more than two hours.

Source: U.S. Department of agriculture

What can I do with dough that’s overproofed?

If the dough becomes overly gassy during the bulk fermentation phase, consider popping it in an oiled tray to turn it into focaccia. Pizza, though not as open-airy, can work well too. Worst case, bake it in a tin, and it can always be turned into croutons.


The standard time dough can be left out for is 4 hours. But this can change depending on the ingredients used and the baking methods used. The use of science to study the bacteria growth generated during the baking process should be acknowledged. There is an element of watching the dough to see when it’s ready to move on to the next stage of the process.

To find out more about the length of time dough should sit out, you may want to view the articles I’ve written on proofing and bulk fermentation. Let me know in the comments below if I’ve answered your question, and don’t forget to subscribe to the weekly email below!

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Comments (53)

  • How long can I leave my dough out after it leaves the fridge and gets warm? Let’s say I have dough in fridge for 24-48 hours, then I take it out to warm up for 2 hours…after those 2 hours, how long can I keep it out to avoid over-rising? 4hrs?

    • I can’t give you an exact time, there are so many variables such as the temperature of the fridge, the room temperature, how much the dough has been developed before it went in the fridge, the size of the dough piece and the amount or type of levain.

      That said, around 4 hours is usually good. You’re best looking at the dough, when it doubles in size, it needs to go in the oven.

  • Hi there. If i make burger buns and want to refrigerate the dough before baking. Should I refrigerate the after the first rise or after the second (when i split them into individual buns)

    Many thanks and loved the post Very helpful!


    • Thank you! You can do either. You should get better results after you’ve divided them. But, you’ll have to keep them covered to prevent them from drying out so it’s easier to do this during the first rise.

  • Thanks a lot for your response. I appreciate it. One more question. If I par-bake pizza crust (2 mins, 500F on a stone)…and then I package it to freeze it. What is happening in the time as it gets packaged? What will be different if it sits around 5 mins or 50 mins before it gets into freezer?

    Also, what would be the “shelf-life” of a frozen par-baked crust? should I expect it to be more chewy the longer it stays in the freezer? is 6 months good?

    fyi this crust is (74% hydration, 5.7% olive oil, 2.6% sugar, 2.5% salt, 1.3% yeast).

    • I’d wait for them to cool down and moisture to escape before packaging and putting them in the freezer if you can. I used to make sourdough pizza bases were packed in batches of 40 and frozen. It will degrade in the freezer, depending on the thickness of the base I’d say 6 months should be good as you have lots of olive oil, sugar and salt, but you’d have to test and see.
      Note: Most frozen breads will have ascorbic acid in the dough to help them stay fresh in the freezer. I forget the science behind why, but it’s worth doing a bit of research.

  • I wanted to make a foccacia before work and cook it 7 hours later. What’s the best way to let it rise? Leave it in the fridge for that time? Thanks

  • Sure, place it covered in an oiled tray in the fridge. Take it out of the fridge when you get home from work and place it in a warm place, ideally for 2 hours, but you can bake it earlier if you wish.

  • Using pate fermentee method, do I keep back say 25% of the dough and then keep it in the fridge until next day batch where I’ll let it warm up for 2 hours before adding it to the new mix. I use a stand mixer so because of the friction do I not have to warm the refrigerated dough, I then will not have to add yeast to the recipe, is that correct.

    • do I keep back say 25% of the dough and then keep it in the fridge until next day batch where I’ll let it warm up for 2 hours before adding it to the new mix – That’s what I would do but there are no rules. Leaving it out for 2 hours will improve the power of the levain. You might want to experiment with leaving it for longer.

      I use a stand mixer so because of the friction do I not have to warm the refrigerated dough – You can always use warmer water. Check dough temperatures after the dough has finished kneading. Aim for 25-28C depending on how quickly you want it to rise. See: Desired Dough Temperature – How To Calculate and Reach it

      I then will not have to add yeast to the recipe, is that correct. – You shouldn’t have to, but I would add a pinch the first few times to ensure it rises in a reasonable amount of time. If you continually retain dough every time you bake the pate fermentee will become more and more active. Once you’ve got confidence in it, skip the extra yeast.

  • My fiancé took out Rhodes frozen rolls to thaw and forgot about them for almost 8 hrs.
    They were thawed and a little watery in the bag. So he took it out and then proceeded to combine all the raw dough and roll it out to make cinnamon rolls. He then put them back in oven till this morning and then let them rise all day! Like 8 hrs! So I was going to throw them away but he would have gotten angry so I baked them. They are big and fluffy and baked up ok. But I am afraid to eat any for fear the dough went bad? Idk? Can you tell me if they are safe to consume? My fiancé says he will eat them but I don’t want to chance it myself!

  • Hi!! So I made a challah bread, it’s gone through first proof and I’ve braided it. I cannot bake it soon, it is too late. Should I let if proof for the second I proof in the warm place and then put it in the fridge or leave it out, or should I just put it in the fridge? It does have eggs. 🙂

  • Hi Gareth
    What happens to yeast dough staying in room temperature in a ziplock a week and a half?
    I have a pack of this and wander if I can use it as a starter for new dough without using any yeast.

  • I have finally perfected my technique in making croissants…but it all goes wrong at the proofing/baking part. My house is only about 70 degrees in the winter (I don’t even attempt making them in the summer) and my dough comes out of the fridge in the morning so it’s cold when I roll and shape it. I don’t want to proof in the oven because the dough warms up too much and the butter leaks out when baking. Right now I’m waiting for the ‘jiggly’ phase to tell me it’s ready to bake but I’m at 3 hours now and I can feel the dough is warming (although still slightly cool to the touch). How can I proof these without warming too much? Thanks

    • Fantastic! That’s a great achievement! I’d put them in the oven with just the light on and if still worried about them getting too warm put some thick items in the oven to soak up some of the warmth initially. They shouldn’t be in there too long. If you are not already doing so, use a butter with over 82% fat and some malt flour ( very small amount) in the dough. This will help leakage by producing stronger layers.

  • Thanks Garth, I have an electric oven so no pilot light to warm it up and if I turn it on even for a minute, the temp goes over 80 deg. I finally decided to turn the oven on to 350 deg and put my plastic covered croissants on the baking counter 3 foot away (in front of the oven). Using an ambient thermometer, I discovered that keeps the counter area at pretty much 75 deg. The things we do for croissants and oh my gosh, they are perfect. My french mil says they are excellent.

    • Awesome, good idea! Yes, you want to keep the temperature just under 82 degrees so the butter doesn’t melt. That’s great! I’m working on a croissant recipe at the moment, there’s still some work to do to perfect it for the next batch I’ll be making the dough the night before so I can do the lamination before I put the heating on, a lot of effort but fun -and the family are enjoying them 🙂

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  • I have Sur La Table frozen sticky rolls that I want to take Sunday to serve about mid morning. I would like to bake them when I arrive as they’re always best when warm. They arrive frozen, in their own tray and the directions say to remove plastic covering and let sit overnight. If I do this, how long can I wait to back them the next day? Sur La Table actually has a vendor for these items. Thank you for your help. Your blog is wonderful and so easy to read.

  • I left my bread Saturday night to Monday evening on the counter top in a bowl cooked it and tried it, it taste like alcohol and smells like it, I am not sure if I should continue to eat this or just push through it lol. It has eggs as well, I figured the baking would kill any bacteria .

  • Yes, baking will kill off the bacteria, I just hope you washed your hands after handling the dough! The alcohol is just a product of fermentation, it won’t make you ill. If you enjoy eating it, go ahead!

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  • Hi, I made pizza dough for the first time today. I put it in a bowl with plastic and a dish towl over it and then placed it in an off oven to rise. I forgot about it and it was left for like 3-4 hours. When I took it out, I punched it down and then put it in zip locks bags then in the fridge. Only thing is is smelled like a strong yeast. Is it still good and how do I proceed tomorrow when i about to make the pizza. Thanks

  • Hey, exciting! I love making pizza! How much yeast did you add, and how much flour? If it smells strongly of yeast, I would guess that there is a lot in there. Your’s should be ok. The only issue you may have is stretching out the bases without tearing them. Try to stretch them gently, and leave them for 20 minutes or so (covered), then stretch again to full size. Then add the toppings and bake in the oven or under the grill. Keep them as cool as possible to avoid the yeast becoming too active.
    If the dough is too hard to handle, grease a deep tray with oil and bake them like focaccia.

  • Thanks for the quick response and great tips The recipe called for:
    2 Cups lukewarm water.
    1 pinch of sugar.
    1 1/2 Tbs active dry yeast.
    2 Tbs olive oil.
    5 1/4 C flour.
    1 1/2 Tsp Salt

    • Yes, that’s a crazily high amount of yeast for pizza, but they could still turn out great. I hope you enjoy your meal!!

  • I usually proof my pizza dough in the fridge for 48 hours, and I would always just use flour to coat the bowl and top of the dough to stop it sticking.
    Since everyone else uses oil, I thought I would try that…. but every time I have tried the dough goes all manky and wet and collapses…. any idea why?

    I also know someone to runs a pizza restaurant, and I noticed that all his pizza dough balls in his big walk in fridge are not covered and yet stay fresh… yet if I leave mine uncovered, they go all hard and nasty, why?

    • Hi, flour doesn’t really do much to protect dough from drying out. It absorbs water from the dough which could be what happens to your pizza dough. I’m guessing that the oil has soaked into the dough and prevented it from drying out, whilst adding more liquid into the dough. The result is the dough is wetter and doesn’t dry up, meaning it continues to rise, and then it collapses from over-proofing. Compared to dusting with flour which would create a drier dough, thus slowing down yeast activity. I think this is what’s happening anyway, can’t think of any other reason why the dough would collapse. How much yeast are you adding to your recipe?

      The pizza restaurant stumps me too! I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t cover their dough, never heard of this before. They could be deliberately making wet pizza dough and drying it out in the fridge? Or, there could be minimum airflow in there (unlikely as they have big fans usually!) or perhaps they only keep them in there for a couple of hours?

  • The pizza place has all the dough in trays, stacked on top of each other. I know he tries to proof for at least 24 hours

    I have to cover mine in clingfilm to stop it drying out and going hard, so it just seemed odd he didn’t have to do this

    I use 1 pouch of dry yeast, which is about 9g.
    5cups flour, 2 cups water.
    Makes about 6 pizzas

    • Using trays stacked on top of each other means they act as lids. They won’t be as sealed as clingfilm, but they work and are common in pizzerias and bread bakeries.
      As you’re using quite high amounts of yeast and water for pizza dough it will rise quickly so is probably over proofing when you’re using oil.

  • Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this post plus the rest of the site is really good. Dino Foote

  • I forgot to put yeast in my whole wheat dough. Left it out over night. Then put yeast in it to make rise as fast as I could about another 8 hours then I finaly put it pans the next day and baked . Looks just like my other loafs. I found the dough needed a lot of extra flour to work it. It tastes sour. Not bad if I put mustard on it. I ate only two bites and went for a bike ride. I am not ill yet. I feel fine. I through a piece in the toaster and put mustard on it. Wish me luck.

      • Grey puopon of course. Just finished eating two entire loaves left out in 71 degrees for about 20 hours total 8 of which it had no yeast in it yet. Not edible with out mustard. Other wise just fine. May my research inspire others.

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