The Correct Way To Throw Pizza Dough

Tossing pizza dough — seems simple, right? Take a lump of pizza dough and throw it in the air like they do at your local parlor and magically it will become a perfect pie. Not so fast. The art and science of throwing pizza dough to stretch it out looks deceptively simple in the hands of a skilled pizza chef. To the untrained tosser, however, it's not so "amore" when the moon (or the dough) hits your eye.

You don't have to toss your dough to make a pizza, as long as you don't mind a pie that's a little off shaped. Newsweek reports, however, that the best pizza in the world comes from Naples, Italy, where tossing is a Unesco intangible heritage. The process for learning to throw (or "spin" as the Italians call it) pizza dough boils down to practice, as one writer found at America's Test Kitchen

So if you want your pizza to be extra authentic, and look cool making it, learning to toss your dough is simple as long as you are up for a little practice and can live with sacrificing some flour and yeast along the way. All it takes to throw like a pro is some good quality dough, a little physics, and some patience, and soon you'll be showing off your moves at the next pizza night, or training to compete with the experts at the World Pizza Games.

Prep your pizza dough

The most important step in throwing pizza dough is to start with a stretchy dough. Store-bought balls work great for practicing to save on labor (a few balls may hit the floor). You could also make a big batch of your own dough and save on cost. This easy recipe will work well, just note that it needs to be made in advance as it is refrigerated overnight. 

Next, make sure your dough is at room temperature for optimal tossing texture. If the dough is too cold, the gluten proteins won't stretch as well, according to The Pizza Heaven. While your dough is warming up, try practicing tossing with a wet kitchen towel, which when squeezed out has a similar heft to a piece of dough according to The Takeout.

Once your dough is at a perfect temp, it's time to stretch. Take off any jewelry, and fingernails should ideally be short and trimmed per The New York Times. Sprinkle some olive oil or flour on your work surface to prevent sticking and press the dough into a disk the size of a dinner plate. Start passing the dough from hand to hand to start gradually stretching (per America's Test Kitchen).

Time to toss

Now the fun begins. Much like learning to juggle, throwing pizza dough is really a matter of trial and error until you build muscle memory. 

Chef Justin Wadstein, a 13-time world pizza champion, explains in this video for Wired that you first need to master the initial toss. "I put my fingertips at the edge and kinda stretch it like a rubber band," he says. "And then you're gonna twist and throw up with one hand and catch with the other." 

Once you get your initial toss down, Wadstein continues, you can practice spinning. The key, according to Wadstein, is making sure you aren't using your direct fingertips, more the side of your hand, because your fingertips will easily poke through the dough. This spinning is crucial because the rotation creates centrifugal force, which causes the dough to move out and away from the center of the disk, thus creating a circle that is perfect for pizza.

The pros will then repeat tossing and spinning, often using a flip or whip maneuver, Wadstein said, to keep the unruly blob from going oblong. Keep practicing your throws until you get the perfect pizza shape, and don't be discouraged by a few failures — even when it doesn't look perfect, it'll still taste good. If you want to see some pros in action, check out this list of the 100 best pizzas in America and find a local parlor where they throw their dough.