How Long to Bulk Ferment Pizza Dough

I’m pretty sure that if you don’t love pizza, it can only be because you must not have had the right slice yet! And what’s better than eating pizza? Making your own pizza…and THEN eating pizza! but the question is how long to bulk ferment pizza dough?

Pizza dough is not only relatively easy to make, but it is a fascinating process. Working with pizza dough might seem intimidating, especially if you have a lot to make. Learning that I had to ferment the dough, alone, made me a little nervous!

If you’re anything like me, and you’re coming to the kitchen totally new to the pizza-making experience, you may be wondering how the whole process works.

After doing my research, I found that pizza dough should ferment for at least 12 hours, while fermenting pizza dough at its best should take 18 hours.

Figuring out how to make pizza dough won’t do you any good if you’re not sure how the bulk fermenting process works. Let’s find out together how to bulk ferment pizza dough for at least 12 hours, why that’s the right time, and what the rest of the pizza-making process looks like!

Bulk Ferment Pizza Dough For the Right Length of Time

Fermenting pizza dough is just one step in the overall job of making pizza dough. When I went to make my own pizza from scratch, fermenting the dough in bulk was the part I, personally, was most worried about.

However, once I figured out how bulk fermenting pizza dough for the right length of time fit into the overall process, I was more confident, and my pizza came out tastier for it!

Check out the list below to see how to bulk ferment pizza dough for the right length of time, step-by-step!

1. Make the Pizza Dough

2. Knead the Pizza Dough

3. Place Dough in An Airtight Container

4. Cover Container

You’ll make a fantastic pizza if you know the ins and outs of the preparation of the dough. Let me share with you what I’ve learned about each of these steps.

1. Make the Pizza Dough

The first step, how you make the actual pizza dough, is important if you want the bulk fermentation process to go smoothly.

This is because fermentation, which is a chemical process much like a science project, starts with your dough recipe. The most important part of this dough recipe, at least when it comes to bulk fermenting, is the yeast.

Whisk 1 gram of yeast into 230 grams of cold water

Yeast is actually a type of fungus! I know, that’s kind of a gross concept, right? But it is the truth!

Here’s what I learned about yeast: all commercial baking yeast, like the kind you buy at the grocery store, are the same species, and they all wind up dying as soon as they’re baked at 130 degrees. The

best level of heat for pizza dough to bake at is around 750 Fahrenheit, so that will take care of the yeast.

The main thing to remember about yeast is that, when it comes into contact with water, yeast organisms wake up and gets ready to eat the sugar found in your flour. While the yeast is eating and multiplying, it releases carbon dioxide and ethanol, and those are what cause your dough to rise! I hope you find that as neat as I did.

Whisking one gram of yeast into 230 grams of water will combine the organism thoroughly, so that all of the yeast is awake and ready to get to work.

Weigh out 390 grams of pizza flour, then combine with yeast mixture

While your yeast is waking up in the cold water, go ahead and measure out 390 grams of flour. When you’re sure you have the right amount, its time to let the yeast start eating the sugar in that flour!

When you whisk the flour into the water and yeast, it will be important to remember not to over mix. A good rule of thumb is to only mix it together enough for the flour to be thoroughly wet. Your dough should look like a shaggy, fluffy clump if you’ve mixed correctly.

2. Knead the Pizza Dough

The next step before the bulk fermentation can begin is to knead the pizza dough. It is important to the fermentation process because kneading the dough is what creates little pockets in the dough for CO2 to get trapped. Specifically, kneading the dough makes the flour produce gluten, which is what traps the CO2.

Isn’t it interesting, how much science goes into baking?

The CO2 itself will be created by the yeast as it eats the sugar in your dough during bulk fermentation. As long as you’ve kneaded your dough well enough to make space for that air, your pizza dough will have a lovely, light consistency. I’m making myself hungry just thinking about it!

Knead the dough by hand for 20 minutes, or automatically for 10 minutes

Kneading the dough doesn’t have to be done by hand if you’re not a hands-on baker! Personally, I deal with a wrist injury, so using a mixer is my preference when kneading anything.

If you decide to use your hands to knead the dough, simply roll the dough into a long, rope-like form on a clean counter space. Then, hold on to one end of the dough with your fingertips while stretching it out with the heel of your other hand. Then flip and repeat!

If, on the other hand, you decide to use a mixer, all you have to do is put your setting on medium-high and let it mix for about eight minutes.

When the kneading process is complete, it is finally time to move on to the bulk fermentation!

3. Place Dough in an Airtight Container

This is the part of the process where bulk fermentation can begin! Bulk fermentation is called “bulk” because at this point, when your dough is mixed and kneaded, it is in one large mass, ready to ferment all at once.

Even though the waking of the yeast during mixing and the creation of gluten in the flour were technically all part of the process, fermentation really begins when you place your dough in an airtight container.

Fermentation starts when your little yeast friends are eating the sugar in the dough, creating CO2 pockets (which will make your pizza crust light and fluffy!) and running out of oxygen.

To put it simply: if your container isn’t airtight, your dough won’t run out of oxygen, and it won’t experience bulk fermentation!

4. Cover the Container

Next, cover the container. Bread dough of any kind, including pizza dough, will dry out if it is exposed to any air. That means your pizza dough won’t be stretchy. The whole point of dough’s stretchiness is so that it can rise in the covered container, making a fluffy, enjoyable pizza consistency!

The pizza dough should be left covered by plastic wrap for 30 minutes to an hour. This process is called autolyse by experienced bakers. Then, take the dough out and repeat the kneading process.

Allow pizza dough to finish bulk fermenting in a cold environment.

Finally, we’ve reached bulk fermentation’s climax! It may not seem very exciting, because this is the part where you simply have to wait. Remember that when asking how long to bulk ferment pizza dough, the answer is 12 to 18 hours.

While you wait, I’ll tell you why this is important!

How Long to Bulk Ferment Pizza Dough

Why you should wait on bulk fermentation for 12 to 18 hours

The basic rule that I learned about bulk fermentation is that dough ferments faster in a warm place, and more slowly in a cold place.

The process of bulk fermentation is what gives your crust a richness of flavor. If the yeast is given enough time to work and a warm environment doesn’t rush the little organisms, they’ll create a flavorful, fluffy dough.

On the other hand, if your dough is warm instead of cold during the time it sits in the covered container, or if you take the dough out to handle it before at least 12 hours have gone by, you’ll get flat, tough, and even flavorless pizza crusts! Yuck!

When your dough has bulk fermented for 12 to 18 hours, take it out of its container and divide it. Give it one last knead as you shape the dough into pizza, then select your toppings, bake, and get ready to enjoy the fruits of your bulk fermentation!


Hopefully now that you’ve joined me in understanding what makes bulk fermentation for the right amount of time so important, you’ll be excited to make pizza instead of nervous.

Remember, in summary, how long to bulk ferment pizza dough is the main factor behind how your crust will stay flavorful and fluffy. Twelve to eighteen hours is how long to bulk ferment pizza dough if you want the best results!

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Sam Brett

Sam Brett is the founder and editor of Pizzachefhq, a pizza enthusiast who writes about what he's learned on the way of being a pizza creator and sharing his advice, tips, and research.

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