Should You Use Olive Oil to Make Pizza Dough?

When it comes to making pizza dough, one ingredient that often sparks a debate is olive oil. While some swear by its addition, others argue that it unnecessarily changes the texture and flavour of the dough.

The short answer is, if you’re making proper traditional Neapolitan pizza, olive oil isn’t used in the dough. That said, it’s not illegal to use olive oil, and even at the AVPN they drizzle olive oil on top of their pizzas (it’s just not added to the dough). If you’re making any other style of pizza, you’re pretty much free to use olive oil as you please, and it’s commonly used in New York pizza for example.

Here we run through some of the factors to consider when deciding whether or not to use olive oil in your pizza dough, which’ll hopefully help you make the grooviest pizza yet.

Olive Oil on Pizza Dough: To Use or Not?

Enhancing Flavour

One of the main reasons for adding olive oil to pizza dough is to add flavour. The fruity and aromatic notes of olive oil can add depth and complexity to the dough, providing a subtle yet distinctive taste. But if you’re not a fan of olive oil’s taste, you might be better off sticking to the rules of the classic Neapolitan and just focus on your flour, water, salt and yeast.

Balancing Act: Dough Hydration and Structure

While olive oil can offer several advantages, it’s essential to consider its impact on dough hydration and structure. Olive oil adds additional moisture to the dough, which can affect its overall hydration level. For recipes that already have a high hydration percentage, adding olive oil may lead to a wetter and stickier dough, making it challenging to work with and shape.

Also, excessive use of olive oil in pizza dough can weaken its gluten structure. Gluten, the protein responsible for the dough’s elasticity and structure, can be affected by the presence of oil, especially if you go mad with it. This can result in a denser and less airy crust, deviating from the desired light and fluffy texture.

Olive oil also contributes to the overall moisture content of the dough, helping to prevent it from drying out during the baking process. This can result in a softer, more tender crust, but also more crisp…

Improved Handling and Texture

Olive oil can play a significant role in improving the texture and handling of pizza dough. When incorporated into the dough, it can help create a more pliable and elastic consistency, making it easier to stretch and shape. This can be particularly beneficial for home cooks who may struggle with the elasticity of the dough. Additionally, the oil creates a barrier between the dough and the heat source, preventing direct contact and promoting a golden and crispy exterior.

Pizza Preferences and Regional Variations

The decision to use olive oil in pizza dough can also be influenced by personal taste preferences and regional variations. In Italy, the birthplace of pizza, traditional Neapolitan-style pizza dough doesn’t typically include olive oil. Neapolitan pizza aims for a thin, soft, and chewy crust, with a focus on the simplicity and quality of just four ingredients to make the dough.

On the other hand, in other regions of Italy and around the world, olive oil is often incorporated into pizza dough recipes as a way to add flavour and moisture (New York pizza typically uses olive oil). The choice of whether to use olive oil ultimately depends on the desired outcome (which style of pizza you want) and the culinary traditions you want to celebrate.

Experimentation and Personal Choice

In the end, the decision to use olive oil in pizza dough comes down to personal preference and experimentation. Pizza is groovy with and without olive oil. It’s worth trying both olive oil-infused dough and traditional dough to compare the results and find the flavours and textures that align with your taste.

If you choose to incorporate olive oil into your pizza dough, it’s essential to strike a balance. Use it in moderation, or as is appropriate for the type of pizza you’re going for, ensuring that it complements rather than overwhelms the other ingredients. Consider adjusting the hydration level and proportions of other ingredients in the dough, to account for the addition of oil.

Additional Olive Oil Considerations (For Pizza)

It’s worth noting that you can use olive oil sparingly when making pizza, as opposed to adding glug after glug into the actual dough. For example, you could choose to just use it for the purpose of creating a ‘protective’ layer on your dough once balled. This technique helps to prevent the dough from coming into direct contact with the air and avoids a dry crust forming.

Pizza dough with or without the addition of oil isn’t a case of right or wrong; there’s more than one way to make groovy tasting pizza. Just remember, applying oil to just the exterior of the dough will mainly affect  the crust, but if you’re adding it into the dough recipe itself, it can alter the interior crumb of the pizza too.

Summary

In the world of pizza dough, the question of whether to use olive oil is subjective and depends on various factors such as flavour preferences, desired texture, and adherence to traditional recipes. Olive oil can enhance the flavour, moisture, and handling of the dough, resulting in a more tender crust and improved elasticity. However, it can also affect dough hydration and gluten structure if used excessively, leading to a denser crust.

Ultimately, experimentation and personal preference play a significant role. Try different variations of pizza dough, incorporating or excluding olive oil, and observe the outcomes. Taste and compare the crust’s texture, flavour, and overall experience to determine what suits your palate and culinary goals.

It’s essential to remember that pizza making is an art form, and the beauty lies in the diversity of interpretations and personal touches. Whether you choose to use olive oil or not, the key is to enjoy the process, savour the final result, and share the joy of homemade pizza with family and friends…