It's a familiar scene: you're at a pizzeria and behind the counter you see disks of dough flying high into the air. Whether you've witnessed it in person or seen it in the movies, it's a familiar sight -- and one that makes us pretty hungry.
While this display seems like it's just for entertainment, there's more to this show than meets the eye. Tossing dough in the air actually serves a purpose.
As Mario Batali explains, "Although it's a little 'guido,' throwing pizza actually gives you the best way of extending [the dough] without pushing your fingers through it." It's an efficient and safe way to avoid tearing the your future pizza.
Tossing pizza dough in the air also helps retain moisture. Some pizza makers use a press or dough sheeter to flatten out and spread the stuff out, but these devices lead to dry, crunchy crust. Spinning flattened circles in the air not only avoids this dilemma, but the technique actually helps ensure the correct amount of moisture. "The airflow over the dough's surface dries it out just enough to make it less sticky and easier to handle. And the perfect amount of airflow makes for a perfectly crispy crust," How Stuff Works says.
Finally, throwing the disk sky high helps keep the crust uniform -- a difficult task when you're using your hands to pat out the shape.
To achieve the perfect toss, and subsequently the perfect pizza crust, rotation is key. The technique is similar to putting spin on a basketball or a frisbee. To toss the with spin, anchor it with one hand and lay your other hand flat underneath the disk. Then use your flat hand to guide the dough around in front of your face and release to toss.
The movement looks like this:
When you're a pro tossing the real thing, it looks like this:
Watch the video below from Bon Appetit to see Mario Batali make his own homemade pizza, dough toss and all.