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The Secret to Instant Pizza Dough Is Hiding in Your Cooler

Pizza is not exactly hard to come by. Regardless of where you live, you can typically have a pizza delivered in less than 30 minutes when a craving strikes. Frozen pizza also commonly ranks as one of our collective favorite meals, serving even fresher-from-the-oven results than you can get from takeout or delivery.

What about those moments when your freezer is devoid of frozen pizza options, and it seems like you’ve already ordered delivery several times this week? Pizza doesn’t have to be expensive, but takeout adds up quickly when you default to it too often. What if I told you that fresh, homemade pizza could be yours in less than an hour — start to finish, even including making the dough — with no need for yeast or even time to rise?

peroni in front of dough mixture

There’s no faster way to make pizza dough rise than a crisp Italian lager. 

Pamela Vachon/CNET

Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it to you. This is the easiest, instant pizza dough hack I use all the time for fast, consistent, satisfying results.

dough ingredients on table

This is everything you need for delicious beer pizza. 

Pamela Vachon

The easiest pizza dough comes from a can…or a bottle

Second to having one of those pop-open cans of pizza dough on hand, the next best quick pizza dough solution comes from a bottle (or can) of beer.

“Beer, with a little help from baking powder, is a great substitute for yeast,” says Maureen Traughber, Chicago-area professional baker and personal chef. 

Leave your fancy fruited sours and peanut butter and jelly IPAs for another occasion, and reach into your fridge for a basic lager or pilsner. One 12-ounce bottle or can is all you need to transform simple pantry ingredients into the base for your homemade pizza.

Why beer works for your pizza dough

Beer works in two ways to replace the yeast in a pizza dough recipe. “Beer is made through fermentation and therefore has a yeasty flavor,” says Traughber, “and it can give your dough a boost through the carbonation.” The carbon dioxide trapped in beer as carbonation isn’t quite enough to give your dough all the airiness it needs, so baking powder is also employed to assist. The baking powder alone will make the dough rise, but it will lack the hallmark, bready pizza dough flavor that comes from yeast, which beer provides. 

Technically, any fermented, carbonated beverage would probably work here. Since beer is already made from fermented grains rather than fruit, it’s especially suited to the task. (Feel free to use non-alcoholic beer as well.) Will your dough taste like beer? Only insofar as beer and bread share yeast-flavor qualities; you won’t otherwise detect anything distinctly beer-like in the finished dough (so long as you didn’t get cute with a multiple-modifier craft beer). The alcohol will evaporate during the cooking process, leaving only a bready flavor behind.

Read moreWhat’s the Difference Between an Ale and a Lager?

How to make pizza dough with beer

Nothing complicated is needed to get your homemade pizza underway. Ingredients-wise, to make about two 12-inch pizzas, you will only need the following:

  • 3 cups plain, bread, or all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading/rolling
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 ounces pilsner or lager style beer, ideally at room temperature
  • Olive oil (optional) for coating baking pan

For equipment, gather:

  • Large bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rolling pin (mostly optional, see workaround below)
  • Any baking vessel for the pizza: pizza stone, cast iron skillet, sheet pan, casserole pan, etc.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl, stir or whisk to combine. Add beer, and stir until just combined with the flour mixture. The dough should be wet and shaggy at this stage. 

smooth and elastic

When your dough looks like this, it’s ready to roll.

Pamela Vachon/CNET

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic — at least 5 minutes. Add more flour as needed so the dough doesn’t stick to the surface.

Allow dough to sit, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 15 minutes. Then, divide into two portions (feel free to freeze half for later) and roll on a floured surface to fit the desired baking pan or pans. 

resting covered dough for 15 minutes

With this fratboy-friendly hack, your dough is ready to go in about 15 minutes. 

Pamela Vachon/CNET

Some workarounds here if you don’t have a rolling pin: first, just shape the dough with your hands, then stretch by lifting it and revolving it along the edge of the dough. If you kneaded the dough well in the previous step, the dough will be muscular enough not to rip. 

If you do rip, just patch with more dough and keep going. You can also just press and stretch the dough with your fingertips on a flat surface until the desired shape/size. For my favorite hack: since you now have an empty beer bottle handy, you can just use that as a rolling pin.

dough being rolled out with peroni bottle

You better believe I used the beer bottle as a rolling pin.

Pamela Vachon/CNET

Once the dough is fitted to the baking pan or pans, top it with your favorite pizza toppings, and bake for 15-20 minutes until the crust has started to brown, or more, to your liking. (Hopefully, you didn’t get this far in the pizza dough-making process without considering what tomato or cheese products you may have on hand for topping pizza.)

bite taken out of dough showing off perfect structure

Beer can do for your pizza dough in minutes what yeast alone takes hours to do.

Pamela Vachon/CNET

Are there any drawbacks to using fast, beer pizza dough?

I suppose if you used up your last beer for the dough you won’t have any to drink with your pizza.

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