- One must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. Machiavelli Niccolo
Toss Pizza Dough in the Air
Slap the dough between your hands (optional)
Slapping is an easier way to hand shape your pizza. Some chefs slap, some toss, and some start with slapping and finish with a toss or two. None of these methods are more correct than another.
If you decide to slap, here's how it goes:
Drape the dough over your palm and forearm. The more of your arm you use, the less likely the dough is to break. "Slap" the dough onto your opposite palm, letting it drape over your other hand and forearm. If your dough is in danger of tearing, let it drape gently instead of using force. Repeat this motion back and forth. Each time you "slap," the dough should rotate about one quarter turn. This rotation is vital for making the dough wide and even.
Drape the dough on a fist and palm
If your dough looks strong and hasn't yet reached the desired size, it's time to adopt the tossing position. Extend your dominant hand as a flat palm, with fingers together. Keep your other hand in a fist to "anchor" the dough. Drape the pizza dough over both hands, supporting opposite sides of the dough.
Rotate your arms toward your body
Rotate your arms inward to get ready for the throw. (If you are using your right palm, rotate your arms to the left.) This allows more rotation during the throw, imparting the spin that shapes the dough in the air.
Bring your hands up and around
Bring your palm up and around, until the back of your hand is in front of your face. Follow with your fist to continue supporting the pizza, but focus on your palm, which will do the tossing. Practice this motion without tossing the pizza first, then try again with moderate speed during your toss. Start with a more gentle throw than you think you need. Too little force, and the pizza doesn't leave your hand. Too much force, and the pizza flies across the room.
Release the pizza
Bring the upward motion of your palm to an abrupt stop when it comes in front of your face. This will send the pizza flying upward a short distance. In the air, it should spin at the same speed your hands rotated. The force from spinning pushes the dough flatter and wider, without pressing out the air.
Although your hand stops moving upward, it should still complete the arch of its movement after the pizza is released. Follow through by moving your palm around and out, as though swatting a fly in front of your face. A smooth follow-through ensures that your hand is rotating at the moment when you release the pizza. Don't worry too much about this for your first few tosses. It's more important to catch the falling pizza than to get the right hand shape.
Catch the dough
Catch the dough with both fists and forearms. Use as much of your forearm as you can, to avoid puncturing it. If you have a strong dough, you may be able to catch it on one fist, but this is risky for most recipes. If you tossed with your right palm, catch the dough mostly on your left arm. Expert dough tossers "catch" the dough on their fingertips, sending it spinning again without letting it rest. This is a complex technique that involves sending the dough in multiple trajectories and angles. It's best not to try this until you're a more experience pizzaiolo.
Repeat as necessary
If you slapped the dough or hand-stretched it heavily, you may only need one toss to get your pizza to the size you need. If you only used light hand-stretching, you may toss it several times. Once the pizza reaches the desired size, place the dough on a pizza screen, pizza stone, or baking sheet. You're ready to add the toppings. The dough is ready when you say it's ready. The size of your oven and personal preference for crust thickness are the only criteria you need when cooking at home.