Knowing the proper method of storing dough and the best time to use it can make all the difference in everyday cooking, especially if you regularly make pizzas, bread, flatbreads, cookies, and more.
How long does dough last in the fridge? Typical yeast dough can last about 2-3 days in the fridge if it’s kept in a properly oiled and sealed container. Other types of doughs can last longer but there are a few things that you should keep in mind before storing dough for the long term.
Read below to learn more about how you can store dough the right way and how to tell when it has gone bad!
How To Store Dough
Usually, dough is a mixture of water, sugar, salt, yeast, and flour. These ingredients on their own can last a long time but as soon as you mix them and create the dough, the countdown timer goes off. Why?
When the yeast mixture is added to the dough it starts to carbonate the mixture and create gas. This gas is what gives the dough its fluffy and soft texture and helps expand it so that it is double its original size.
When the carbonation process finishes, the dough will start to deflate and lose its texture. This isn’t immediately apparent and can take about 48 hours for you to notice any significant difference in the quality of the dough.
After 2-3 days the dough will start to harden and become difficult to work with. This is also the time when it will start to lose its texture and flavor. You can still use it but it will not be of the same quality as freshly kneaded dough.
The best way to store yeast dough is to keep it in a lightly oiled container with a plastic wrap on top in the fridge at around 40°F.
Make sure that the dough is done rising! Keep in mind that the dough may take as much as 12 hours to completely rise once it has been kneaded so you can use this time to store the dough on the counter.
Once it has reached the right size you can either use it as it is or store it in the fridge.
You can even freeze pizza dough but we recommend that you shape it first for added convenience.
For example, you can create and shape the base of the pizza and store it as it is in the freezer. Use a lightly oiled freezer-safe plastic bag for best results. The dough can last for about a month this way!
You can thaw it overnight in the fridge or assemble the pizza on the frozen dough and cook it as it is.
Storing Non-Yeast Dough
When it comes to other types of dough, especially dough made without yeast, the story is a bit different.
For example, flatbread is made using a mixture of water, salt, sugar, and all-purpose flour.
This type of dough can last for about a week in the fridge but we recommend that you use a non-yeast dough within 3-4 days after kneading it.
You can easily reuse the dough by adding a splash of water to it and lightly kneading it to loosen the gluten strands within.
The dough may slightly darken over time as it oxidizes but as mentioned, it will remain edible for about a week.
You can either remove the darkened layer on top by slicing it or you can just add it to a batch of fresh dough if you don’t want it to go to waste.
This type of dough can also be stored in the freezer for about 2-3 months but working with a large dough can be tough and time-consuming since you will first have to thaw it overnight.
We recommend dividing it into smaller balls.
You can then keep the smaller portions in a lightly oiled freezer-safe plastic bag. Always try to thaw the dough overnight in the fridge as thawing it in the microwave may cause it to lose a lot of moisture.
Keep in mind, since there are many types of dough, it can be difficult to figure out a specific way of storing each which is why we are using a generalized strategy that will work with almost every type of dough.
How To Tell If Dough Has Gone Bad
There are several ways to check if the dough has gone bad. Here are a few popular methods:
This method is the easiest as you will only have to inspect the dough and look for signs of mold which should be very apparent. Any type of green discoloration, fuzz, or growth on the dough would signal that the dough has gone off.
Therefore, it would be best to discard the entire dough than to try to salvage it by removing the moldy part.
Mold may appear on top but it may have already contaminated the entire dough from the inside so please do not take the risk and just remove it entirely.
Edible dough should be dry, smooth, and a bit oily (if you added oil to the container). If you feel any slime or sticky material on the dough then it may be time to discard it.
This slime may be caused by harmful bacteria that have compromised the dough.
The slime may or may not be accompanied by a foul odor too. Either way, the best practice here would be to discard the dough and make a fresh one.
Using Preservatives To Extend The Shelf Life Of Dough
Dough can be chemically altered to last longer. For example, a great way to extend the shelf life of dough would be to use commercial-grade bread improvers.
These mixtures contain specialized ingredients that work to not only make the dough bake and taste better but last longer too.
You can find many ingredients like this in supermarkets. They will probably be in the aisle where they keep yeast and other bread products.
Look for bread improvers and other additives. These ingredients have detailed instructions on how to use them too.
For the most part, you can just add these ingredients while mixing the dry and wet ingredients but you can also follow different recipes for better results.
Dough made using these improvers can last about a week in the fridge and will probably last 1-2 weeks after baking it (or as indicated).
If you want to take the natural route then you can also try using honey instead of sugar in the dough. This will undoubtedly change the flavor but will make it last a bit longer than regular dough.
Another smart way of extending the shelf life of dough would be to go with a sourdough starter.
This type of dough promotes the growth of “good” bacteria that give it its distinct flavor and texture—it also happens to slow down the growth of mold.
Sourdough can last about 4-5 days in the fridge without losing its flavor.
As mentioned above, if you want to go more than a week without spoiling the dough then the best way to go about it would be to freeze it.
Remember, frozen dough can last months if stored properly. You will just need to let it thaw and reach room temperature before using it.
We have discussed how to properly store dough, how to extend its shelf-life, and more. Here are some additional questions that you may have related to storage.
Can you store dough as it is rising?
No, it is recommended that you only store dough after it is done rising. Interfering with the carbonation process can result in a hard-textured dough.
Allow the dough to initially rise after kneading it, then deflate and let it double in size again.
Yeast becomes dormant in cold or freezing temperatures so as soon as you store the dough it will gradually slow down and ultimately halt the rising process. Storing the dough after it has risen will preserve its quality, texture, and flavor.
Can you mix fresh and previously-stored dough?
Yes, you can mix both fresh and old dough but make sure that the older dough is not spoiled.
Typically, you may have to first thaw the older dough by allowing it to reach room temperature. Do not let the dough sit out too long or overnight.
If the dough is frozen, you can thaw it in the fridge overnight and then allow it to warm up outside for not more than 1-2 hours.
When the older dough is pliable, quickly knead it into the new dough and let it rest in the fridge before using it.
Can you bake cold or frozen dough?
Yes, you can bake frozen or cold dough by taking it out of the fridge/freezer and putting it straight into the oven.
The best way to do this would be to store the dough in a baking container. For example, when making a loaf of bread, lightly grease the baking pan and store the dough within it in either the fridge or the freezer.
When you are ready to bake, just preheat the oven and pop the container in, and cook as instructed. The dough may take more time but it should bake properly just as regular dough, provided that it was stored using the above methods.