How to Tell If Dough Has Gone Bad

How to Tell If Dough Has Gone Bad?

How to tell if dough has gone bad?

It’s a question that many newbie pizza-makers have asked themselves at some point and one that can be difficult to answer.

After all, there are multiple factors at play here, such as how well you store it, where you store it, the storage temperature, and finally, the amount of yeast and water used in the dough.

Pizza dough is a very perishable item, which means that it has a short shelf life (up to 5 days in the refrigerator) and must be used quickly after being made. If you don’t plan to use the dough right away, it’s important to freeze it properly so that you don’t end up with spoiled pizza. When frozen, the dough will typically last up to 3 months.

The truth is, most people don’t think about the shelf life of their pizza dough until after they’ve opened it and realized that it has gone bad.

So here I am today to tell you all about pizza dough expiration dates and storage methods so that you don’t have to Google your way out of a potential disaster anymore.

Tell-tale Signs That Your Pizza Dough Is Beyond Rescue

Pizza dough can go bad quickly if not stored properly. If it’s sitting out for over 8 hours, the chances are high that the dough is spoiled.

If you’re not using your pizza dough right away, store it in the fridge for 3-5 days. This will slow down the activity of yeast and keep the dough fresh longer.

Signs of Bad Pizza Dough Description
Sour or off smell If the dough has a sour or off smell, it may have gone bad due to bacteria or yeast growth.
Strange or abnormal color If the dough has a strange or abnormal color, such as gray or green, it may have gone bad due to bacteria or mold growth.
Sticky or slimy texture If the dough is sticky or slimy, it may have gone bad due to bacteria or yeast growth.
Hard or dry texture If the dough is hard or dry, it may have gone bad due to drying out or being left out for too long.
Powdery or chalky If the dough has a powdery or chalky texture, it may have gone bad due to drying out or being left out for too long.

The best way to tell if your dough has gone bad is by looking at its appearance and smell. If it’s dried out, cracked, or moldy, then you should discard it immediately because there’s no fixing that kind of damage.

Below I have summed up the unmistakable signs of spoiled pizza dough:

1. Change in Texture and Mold Growth

Opening up my container of homemade pizza dough after forgetting about it for too long, I was greeted by a furry green surprise. Large patchy clumps of mold had grown over parts of the dough, giving a fuzzy appearance.

exture and Mold Growth

The mold was white in some spots and turned dark green or black in others. Mold on breads usually appears as woolly dots, threads, or powdery growth – so any dense patches or clumps mean it’s gotten seriously moldy. Toss dough at the first sight of heavy mold.

Mold can be identified by its off-white or black color and fuzzy texture. If you notice that your pizza dough has developed mold growth, don’t think twice and throw it away. Mold is not only unsightly but also dangerous because it can cause food poisoning if ingested.

2. Noticing Odd Colors in the Dough?

When closely inspecting my pizza dough, I discovered strange grayish discolorations throughout the ball of dough. Instead of the usual slightly yellowish off-white color, there were unappetizing gray spots and streaks.

From prior experience, I know dough should always look uniform in color – any weird colors like this generally mean spoilage has set in. The gray tinge likely came from yeast overgrowth or mold taking root. Either way, funky colors mean the dough has taken a turn.

A greyish appearance can also be a sign of over-proofed dough or freezer burn. Either way, the dough is of no use to you now. A well-proofed dough should be light yellow, while an under-proofed dough will be on the whiter side of the spectrum.

3. Off Or Sour Smell

Another dead giveaway for me has always been unpleasant aromas coming from the dough. I got a whiff of my pizza dough after a few days in the fridge and smelled a sharp, beer-like stench. The yeasty, doughy scent had shifted into something more vinegary and unpleasant.

Smell plays a big role in our perception of food, so this sour and “off” smell was a red flag not to use the old dough. Trust your nose – rancid odors mean trouble.

Spoiled pizza dough will smell sour and alcoholic. That’s because over-proofed dough undergoes a chemical reaction that creates acetic and lactic acid. If you notice this smell, it’s best to throw the dough away.

A sour smell is also a sign of bacteria growth and should be avoided at all costs. Even though appearance can be deceptive at times, a bad smell will never be misleading.

4. Lots of Air Bubbles

While properly risen dough will have a sponge-like texture, giant bubbles spell proofing problems. If the yeast causes dough bubbles to grow rapidly out of control, it leads to a shapeless mess riddled with holes.

What Is the Shelf Life of Homemade or Premade Pizza Dough?

Determining exactly how long homemade or premade pizza dough will stay fresh can get tricky – but having some shelf life guidelines helps. When stored properly, dough lasts 1-2 weeks in the fridge and 1-3 months in the freezer typically before the quality dips.

That said, no matter what, dough quality declines over time. My rule is consume ASAP for best flavor and texture. But paying attention to storage and signs of spoilage will maximize any dough’s shelf life! Let your senses guide you on when it’s time to toss out over-the-hill dough.

How to Prolong the Shelf Life of Your Pizza Dough?

Moisture and air are the biggest enemies of pizza dough. If your dough is stored in an airtight container or wrapped tightly, it will stay fresh longer. Also, make sure that you keep the dough away from heat sources like ovens and stoves. 

The most foolproof way to prolong the life of your pizza dough is by freezing it. 

Check the table below to quickly figure out the method that works best for you:

Tips for Prolonging Pizza Dough Expiration Description
Store in the refrigerator Pizza dough should be stored in the refrigerator to slow down the growth of bacteria and yeast.
Use an airtight container or wrap To prevent the dough from drying out or absorbing other odors, store it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or foil.
Use within 2-3 days Pizza dough should be used within 2-3 days for the best quality and flavor.
Freeze for longer storage. Pizza dough can be frozen for longer storage, up to 3 months. To freeze, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil and then place in a freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
Follow proper handling and preparation techniques. To prevent contamination, be sure to wash your hands and any utensils or surfaces that come into contact with the dough. Do not leave the dough out at room temperature for extended periods of time.

To Prolong Homemade Dough Shelf Life:

  • Keep dough balled up tight: Form a nice, smooth round ball when shaping dough – this creates less surface area exposed to air/fridge moisture.
  • Coat it lightly in oil: Before storing, add a thin sheen of olive oil by rubbing over the ball of dough. This creates a protective barrier against contamination & drying out.
  • Stick to 1-2 weeks max: Even oiled, tightly balled dough keeps well only about 7-14 days refrigerated. Yeast still slowly ferments, eventually deteriorating texture.

For Premade Dough Shelf Life:

  • 2 weeks or by use-by date: Premade dough sold at grocers or bakeries should display a clearly printed expiration or “use by” date. This is the safest duration for peak freshness.
  • Check for mold: Inspect packaging carefully for signs of moisture accumulation or spotty mold growth which shortens life.

How Long Can You Store Pizza Dough in the Refrigerator?

If you plan on making pizza shortly, it’s best to store your dough in the refrigerator. This will slow down the growth of yeast and prevent it from spoiling too quickly. 

You can keep your dough in the fridge for up to five days before using it, but be sure to bring it back to room temperature before using it. For best results, try to bake the dough within three days of refrigeration.

How Long Can You Freeze Homemade Pizza Dough?

Your homemade pizza dough will last in the freezer for up to 3 months. Make sure to freeze it only after letting it rise for at least an hour. This will allow the yeast to activate, which will make for a more flavorful crust when you’re ready to use it again. 

To freeze the dough, cut it into small balls and put them in freezer bags or wrap them tightly with cling film.

Use a double layer of cling film and put the dough into a freezer-safe bowl to keep the moisture out and minimize the risk of freezer burn.

How to Tell If Your Frozen Pizza Dough Has Gone Bad?

Weeks ago, when defrosting frozen pizza dough for dinner, I noticed the ball of dough felt unusually stiff, dense, and dry. Instead of a soft, pliable texture that I could easily shape, this dough cracked as I tried to stretch it out.

The normally moist dough had gone dry and tightly compressed during freezing. This physical change in texture was a signal that my frozen dough endured some freezer damage. Needless to say, it became unusable.

How to Thaw a Frozen Pizza Dough?

There are a couple of ways to defrost frozen pizza dough. The method you choose will depend on how quickly you need to use the dough. Here are your options:

The Cold/Warm Bath Method

To speed up the thawing up, fill a bowl with cold water and place the wrapped pizza dough in it. You can also use warm water for the same.

Just make sure the water isn’t hot to the touch. The cold/warm water bath method should defrost the dough in 1.5 to 2 hours or less. 

Once the dough has softened, transfer it to an empty bowl and let it sit on the countertop for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

Word of caution: make sure the dough is sealed properly before leaving it in water. Otherwise, the water may leak into the dough.

Thaw in the Refrigerator

This method takes a little longer, but it’s the easier way. Just put the sealed dough in a dry bowl and place it in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 6 hours. Once thawed, remove from freezer and let sit on the countertop for 30 minutes before rolling out.


This is perhaps the quickest way to thaw pizza dough. But it’s also the riskiest because the heat can cook the dough, so be careful. For this method, take the dough out of the freezer bag or unwrap it, and put it on a microwave-safe plate. 

Cover it with a bowl to protect it from direct heat. Turn on your microwave’s defrost setting and defrost the dough in 30-sec increments for about 3 minutes. Place the dough in a dry bowl once thawed and let it sit for about 30 min on the counter before baking. That will do the trick.

What Causes the Pizza Dough to Spoil?

Want to know why your pizza dough spoils? Here are the main reasons:

  1. Mold: If there’s a speck of mold in your ingredients, it will spread. It might appear as white specks or green or black spots. Toss out anything with heavy mold growth. You don’t want that in your pizza!
  2. Yeast overgrowth: Yeast is good – but too much yeast is bad! When yeast ferments unchecked, the dough absorbs liquid and bubbles too much. The dough gets a boozy smell and develops gray spots, and the bubbles interfere with the texture.
  3. Overheating: Dough that is proofed too long in a hot area can spoil. The dough becomes pockmarked, oddly stretched, and gives an unpleasantly sour smell. Keep the dough in a stable, neutral temperature zone.
  4. Drying out: Dough improperly sealed and stored can dry out. If the dough starts cracking like a dry sponge, the texture will suffer. Keep dough balls tight in plastic wrap or bags to hold moisture.
  5. Freezer burn: Don’t freeze dough too long! The surface cracks and toughens as moisture leeches out from extended freezing time. Use frozen dough within a month at most.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Pizza Dough?

If your pizza dough has gone past its expiry date, it’s wiser to just let it go instead of trying to fix it. Eating pizzas made out of spoiled dough can cause food poisoning.

Common food poisoning signs include cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In rare cases, you may also experience fever, muscle pain, dry mouth, and headaches.

A rotten dough could be a breeding ground for E. Coli bacteria. It can be very dangerous because this species can survive in your stomach longer than other types of bacteria. 

If left undiagnosed, it can cause a serious complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is a condition that affects the kidneys and red blood cells, causing the latter to break down prematurely.

The longer you leave E. Coli bacteria in your system, the higher your chance of getting HUS. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to getting HUS, but it can happen to anyone. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above after consuming spoiled pizza dough, see a doctor immediately.

As you may already know, all biological activities are slowed down at sub-zero temperatures. This includes the growth of microorganisms that cause spoilage. If you want to keep your pizza dough for a long time, store it in the freezer and use it within three months.

How long is takeout pizza good for?

The general rule of thumb is that takeout pizza will last for up to two days. Make sure to store it in the fridge and heat it up properly before consumption.

If you are going to refrigerate overnight only and you have a thing for cold pizza, like me, it’s safe to consume it cold. I have been doing this for years, and I’m still fit enough to write this article.

How long does refrigerated pizza last?

Ideally, you should consume the pizza within 2 days of refrigeration. However, according to the USDA food safety guidelines, the leftover pizza will last in the fridge for up to 4 days if refrigerated within 2-hours of baking. 

After the 2-day mark, it will start losing taste and texture. If you want to keep the pizza for a longer period, it’s better to freeze the leftovers. Yes, you heard it heard. You can also freeze cooked pizza for up to a month.

How long is cheese pizza good for in the fridge?

If stored below 40 degrees F, cheese pizza will stay good for about four days. 


See what I mean? There are many factors at play in dough spoilage. Use good ingredients. Store your dough tightly wrapped. Monitor for bad smells or visual cues. You’ll get to enjoy fresh, homemade pizza more often!

Do not be tempted to try and fix a bad pizza dough. If it’s too dry, has specks of green or grey on it, and smells sour, toss it out. Life is too short to get food poisoning from spoiled pizza dough. 

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