Recipe Review

Alton Brown’s Secret to Chewy, Crispy Pizza Dough

updated Sep 8, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Alton Brown loves this pizza dough recipe so much, he made it every stop of his Alton Brown Live tour (86 cities over the course of 2 years)! In fact, the dough was intentionally developed to be mixed on his tour bus and provide reliable, stage-worthy results. I should know; I worked with Alton during those two years.

Alton is known for his detailed, analytical approach to cooking, and this recipe is no different. While the ingredients are, for the most part, what you’d expect for pizza dough — flour (although you’ll need bread, not all-purpose), salt, water (but it’s gotta be bottled), and yeast — the technique requires trust and patience. Will “your patience be rewarded,” as Alton often promises? Let’s find out.

A quick note about the recipe: This is not Alton Brown’s beloved Good Eats Pizza Dough, which appeared on the very first season of the cult classic Food Network show — although that recipe is quite good, too. Instead, this particular recipe is a culmination of all of Alton’s culinary experiences.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

How to Make Alton Brown’s Pizza Dough

Alton’s dough requires an 18- to 24-hour rise in the fridge, so if you want pizza on Friday evening you’ll need to start the dough after dinner on Thursday at the latest. Before mixing, make sure you’ve got bread flour and bottled water on hand (more on that in a bit) and also active dry yeast, kosher salt, sugar, and olive oil.

All the ingredients for the dough can be added directly to a stand mixer bowl set on a scale (you’ll measure in grams). This makes the prep for Alton’s dough incredibly easy and reliable. You’re going to question the amount of salt you measure out (it will seem like a lot) — but Alton knows (and you will see) that the salt helps control the rise of the dough over a long period of time. Mix up the dough with your stand mixer for 5 minutes, knead on the counter, and then cover and refrigerate the dough overnight.

Alton’s pizza dough has the most water content of the four doughs I tested, which makes it very loose and bubbly after the overnight rise. (Don’t be surprised if it bubbles up out of the bowl or container you stored it in). You’ll divide the dough into 3 balls and let them rest for 30 minutes while your oven preheats and you gather toppings. If you’d like, you can rest the dough for another 8 hours at this stage — cover the dough balls with flour, wrap them in plastic, and return to the fridge.

Of the four recipes I tried, Alton’s gives the most exact directions for shaping, topping, and baking the pizza. He requires 2 ounces of sauce, 3 kinds of cheese, and a brush of olive oil along the pizza’s crust before baking on a very hot preheated pizza stone. The pizza baked up very bubbly, with lovely burnished bits on both the top and bottom of the crust.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

A Biased Review of Alton Brown’s Pizza Dough

Look, I don’t want to pretend that I don’t have a bias in favor of this dough after making it countless times with Alton as part of my day job years ago. But it was eye-opening to make it at home with two hungry kids eager to eat pizza.

Alton’s pizza dough is very, very good. The salt and the slow rise create layers of flavor and texture. The crust is just on the edge of too salty, but has a light sourdough-like flavor to keep things balanced. The large bubbled pockets of dough add a delightful chew (a chew which will block out the sound of your kids fighting over the largest bubble, ask me how I know). The underside of the crust is tender-crisp, and it beats all other doughs in the beautifully burnished category.

What kept this dough from being my first-place winner is the timing. You simply can’t mix up this dough and cook it the same day. And given the dough’s long, slow rise, it seemed counterintuitive to break out my stand mixer for this dough. I simply cannot make time to drag out the mixer and whip up pizza dough on Thursday between bedtime for two kids and sending out PTA emails. If time is less of a consideration for you, I would high recommend you give Alton’s pizza dough a try.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

If You’re Making Alton Brown’s Pizza Dough, a Few Tips

When you set out to make Alton Brown’s pizza dough, here are a few pointers.

1. Use the bread flour and filtered water Alton calls for. Bread flour has more gluten than all-purpose flour, which gives this dough a lot of elasticity for bubbling and its characteristic chew — so don’t skip it. Alton’s ask for bottled water seems annoying, but it’s the one ingredient that gives the consistency that Alton promises in the dough. If you’ve got a filter pitcher at home, that water works too, as long as it isn’t chilled.

2. A bigger bowl is better when it comes to this dough’s rise. We used large Cambro containers for storing this dough in Alton’s studio, which I completely forgot about until I reached into our fridge for my morning half-and-half to find the dough hanging over the sides of the bowl. Grab the biggest bowl you have and cover it tightly with plastic wrap before stashing this dough in the fridge overnight.

3. Have patience with shaping the dough. Expect it to shrink a bit in the oven, too. This bubbly, stretchy dough will be tight straight from the fridge or on a cool day. If you run into problems stretching out the dough, let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then try again.

  • Difficulty to Make: 7/10
  • Taste/Texture: 9/10
  • Appearance: 10/10
  • Overall Rating: 8/10

Have you made Alton Brown’s Pizza Dough before? Tell us what you think in the comments!