Can You Refrigerate Dough?


Have you recently jumped on the bandwagon of home baking? If you’re interested in making your own bread, you might be wondering what will happen if you increase the proofing time.

You can refrigerate dough for several hours or even overnight if necessary. However, be aware that when it’s in the fridge, your dough will proof very slowly, so this is not a good idea if you want it to rise quickly. Only put it in the refrigerator if you want to increase the proofing time and bake the bread later.

In this article, we’re going to learn more about how refrigerating dough affects it, and whether this is a good idea or not. This should help you decide whether to put your dough in the fridge or not.

dough in refrigerator

Should You Refrigerate Bread Dough?

You should refrigerate bread dough if you don’t want it to rise quickly – although this situation is quite rare. Most people want their dough to proof quickly so that they can bake it and enjoy the bread sooner. However, slowing down the proofing process has some advantages.

For starters, slowing down the rising process gives the yeast more time to break down the big molecules in the bread, and deconstruct the starch. This will lend the loaf a more complex, delicious flavor. Some bakers therefore opt for long rise methods.

A slow rise gives the gluten more time to develop, too, and this will make the texture of the bread better. The gluten is what makes bread elastic, so increasing the development of the gluten will make your bread springy and particularly enjoyable to eat.

Putting your dough in the fridge is also a great idea if something interrupts while you’re making the bread and you find you haven’t got time to bake it. Rather than leaving the dough on the counter and letting it get ruined, you can put it in the fridge and bake it the following day.

What Should You Do If You Want To Refrigerate Your Dough?

If you’re going to put your dough in the fridge, you need to take a few steps to protect it from the cold, dry environment. If you don’t do this, you’ll probably find that the outside of the dough because dry and leathery.

It may crack when you try to shape it, and it won’t produce good bread. This therefore needs to be avoided.

You can solve the issue by putting your dough in an airtight container, or sealing it in plastic wrap. Some people lightly oil the outside of the dough ball, as this will also lock moisture in the dough and prevent it from being lost.

To get your bread dough ready to refrigerate, follow this procedure:

  1. Get a large bowl with a lid, or a Tupperware container. Lightly oil the inside of the container by drizzling some oil in, and then wiping this around the surface.
  2. Place the ball of dough in the container.
  3. Roll the dough around in the oil to lightly coat the outside, locking in the moisture.
  4. Put the lid on the container, or cover the bowl with plastic wrap to create an airtight seal. You may need to add a couple of layers to keep enough air out.
  5. Put your dough in the fridge.

Note that even if you don’t want to oil the outside of the bread, it’s a good idea to put a bit of oil in the container. This will make it easier to get the dough out when you’re ready to bake it. If you don’t grease the container, the dough may stick and then tear when you try to pull it out.

You will then need to leave the dough to rise. Keep an eye on it, and if it seems to be rising too quickly, take it out, punch it back, and then put it back in the fridge.

See Also: Does Dough Go Expire

Is It Okay To Refrigerate Unrisen Dough?

If your dough hasn’t even started to rise, you might be wondering whether it’s okay to put it in the fridge. Will it rise at all if you do?

A lot of recipes say that you must put the dough in a warm place to rise – but this doesn’t mean that it won’t rise if you put it somewhere cold. It will just rise far more slowly. If you place unrisen dough in the fridge, it will still grow as the yeast forms bubbles inside it.

The timing is likely to vary, but in most cases, your dough will take up to 24 hours to rise in your fridge. If your fridge is on the warm side and you use lots of yeast, it might only be about 12 hours. Either way, this will be significantly slower, but it will still happen.

You don’t have to let your dough rise on the counter before you can put it in the fridge – although you can do so if you want to. Which is best will depend on how quickly you want to bake the dough.

Is It Okay To Refrigerate Fully Risen Dough?

If your dough has finished rising completely, there’s a risk of it collapsing if you leave it. This will happen if the yeast runs out of food. You might be wondering whether you can avoid this by putting the dough in the fridge.

You can put fully risen dough in the fridge for a short while. This will slow down the activity of the yeast, and give you longer before the dough overferments. However, it won’t make the dough last indefinitely; it will just slow things down.

If you are going to do this, you want to chill the dough as fast as you can. Break it into small portions so that the cold can penetrate the center as quickly as possible. This will minimize the risk of the yeast continuing to work in the center while the outside’s activity has slowed down.

You can’t keep fully risen dough in the fridge for nearly as long as unrisen dough. There’s no exact estimate because there are too many variables, but you should check on the dough every hour. If it shows signs of deflating, you will have to bake it. The fluffier it is when you bake it, the better the bread will be.

Should You Refrigerate Dough On The First Rise Or The Second?

It doesn’t matter enormously which rise you put the dough in the fridge on. Either will extend the proofing time, which is the point of refrigerating dough – so you can opt for whichever rise works best for you.

However, there are some reasons why refrigerating it during the first rise might work better than refrigerating it during the second, so let’s explore those next.

Firstly, if you refrigerate it on the first rise and something goes wrong, you’re going to have wasted far less time than if you refrigerate it on the second rise. By the time you get to the second rise, you’ve already put a lot of time and energy into the dough, so it’s disheartening if it goes wrong.

Additionally, you may be able to fix it if it goes wrong on the first rise. As long as your yeast hasn’t run out of food, you’re going to be knocking it back, shaping it, and proofing it again anyway. There’s not much to worry about if it collapses on the first rise.

However, if it collapses on the second rise, you’ll have far more issues. You’ll have to reshape it and reproof it, and there’s a greater risk that the yeast will have run out of food. If this happens, your dough won’t rise again, and you won’t be able to bake it.

Additionally, proofing it on the first rise can be easier. You can then just take it out of the fridge when you’re almost ready to bake it, allow it to reach room temperature, and then let it proof normally before baking it. This is often more straightforward to time.

It’s worth noting that most people make sourdough bread the other way around. You generally allow it to do the first proof at room temperature, and then proof it in the fridge for 8 hours or more. This isn’t necessary, though.

What Are The Top Tips For Dough Refrigeration?

This is usually straightforward, but there are still a few things you can do to make your dough work better if you’re going to refrigerate it.

Reduce The Yeast

Cutting down on the amount of yeast in your dough is generally a good idea. You don’t need the full amount, because the yeast will be working so much more slowly.

Reducing the amount further slows the rising process, and this makes the bread taste even better. You can sometimes reduce the yeast by as much as 80 percent, so experiment with this.

Keep An Eye On The Dough

Watch the dough carefully when you first put it in the fridge. Often, it will rise unpredictably to begin with, because it will still have residual warmth from being at room temperature. It can end up puffing up more quickly than you expect.

If this happens, punch the dough down, or split it into small portions so it chills more quickly.

Let The Dough Warm Before Shaping It

Cold dough is much tighter than warm dough, and it will tear too easily if you try to stretch and shape it. Letting your dough sit for at least half an hour after you take it out of the fridge will help. It may sometimes need as much as an hour and a half.

See Also: Can You Leave Bread Dough To Rise Overnight?


Do you have to refrigerate dough?

No, you can do both proofs at room temperature.

What’s the maximum amount of time you can refrigerate dough for?

Unfortunately, this depends on your recipe, your fridge temperature, and the amount of yeast you use. Most recipes will be fine overnight.


It’s fine to refrigerate dough if you want to slow down the proofing process. Don’t refrigerate dough if you want to bake it quickly, however!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *