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Tossing Pizza Dough: It’s All in the Wrist—and the Gluten
Tossing pizza dough isn’t just for fun—it’s crucial to making the perfect pie. Check out Groupon’s guide to see how the cooks aren’t just playing with your food.
An experienced cook can make the art of tossing dough—launching it into the air, catching it with their fingertips, and lowering it in a smooth, thin, perfect circle onto the spatula—look effortless, but the spectacle can also take hours to prepare. The ideal tossable dough is pliable but strong, a quality that requires a solid foundation of gluten. A protein naturally found in most kinds of wheat, gluten lends elasticity and structure to dough, but it must be cultivated before it can be controlled; dough must be kneaded to make the gluten strands bind together, and some chefs insist that dough should be refrigerated for two or three days before the gluten has properly developed.
Once ready, though, the gluten helps the dough withstand the intense forces of the toss. The physics are surprisingly complex—the stuff of sliding friction and helical motion and airborne rotational speed—but at heart, it’s all about centrifugal force. As the dough spins, the outer edges tug on the inner circles, resulting in that smooth, thin, perfect circle free of air bubbles and other irregularities.
In a pizzeria, a good pizza thrower must be able to toss quickly and consistently for hours on end, but the best throwers also put on a really good show. Every year, pizzaioli from around the globe gather in Italy for the World Pizza Championship to compete in pizza-tossing events such as individual freestyle and team stunts. In a sign of just how important recipes are to results, competitors are allowed to bring their own dough, so long as it meets size regulations and hasn’t been unfairly stuffed with cork.