Summertime brings the grill out at our house and with it comes one of our favorite foods made on the grill—PIZZA! Making pizza on the grill may seem like making a soufflé in a rice cooker, but it actually makes a lot of sense and works very well. The key to pizza is high heat and that is something a grill specializes in. In addition, the kitchen stays cool. It’s a great party food or a fun way to feed family that just happen to stop in on Sunday night. But most importantly, it is the delicious, slightly smoky and not-too-charred-just-enough-for-taste crust that makes it the best grilled food. All you need is a robust pile of charcoal or a gas grill and an optional pizza stone.
Here’s some tips to help you get started with pizza on the grill:
Get everything ready to go—all the toppings, the sauce, the cheese, whatever you wish. This is key because you have to move fast once you start. Use grated melting cheeses like Mozzarella, Fontina, or Jack. Toppings (meats and veggies) must be pre-cooked or pre-grilled as there is not enough grilling time to cook them as in an oven. I like to have everything in individual containers on a table right next to the grill.
Make the pizza dough or use prepared pizza dough. I like to make my own. My recipe is at the end of the blog.
While the pizza dough is rising, prepare the grill. Give the grill plenty of time to get hot. Once the grill is hot, season the grates or put your pizza stone onto the grates. To season the grates, dip a tightly folded paper towel (or silicon brush) in olive oil (seasoned if you like with garlic, chilies, or herbs) and use a tongs to wipe the grill grates. If you are uncomfortable with putting your pizza directly on the grates, disposable wire mesh grill toppers work well.
Shape the pizza dough on a slightly floured surface. I like to use my hands. My recipe will make one 12-inch round or 4-6 individual rounds. We like to do the individual rounds so everyone can personalize their pizza. Do not put a raised rim on the rounds as it will be too thick to grill properly. The rounds should be rather thin. Place your round(s) on a floured or parchment lined rimless cookie sheet and let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then poke around on the dough with a fork. (This will keep the round from puffing.) If you are preparing for a party or larger number of guests, you can make the individual rounds ahead, stack them separated between parchment paper, and keep in the refrigerator for up to two hours before grilling.
With everything ready to go, brush the top side of the round with olive oil (or seasoned olive oil). Lay the oiled-side of the round onto the hot grill grates (omit if using a pizza stone). Close the lid of the grill and grill for approximately two minutes. After two minutes, open the grill and check the bottom side of the round to see if it is getting brown. If nothing is happening, use a tongs to move or rotate the round. Grill for an additional minute if needed. By this time, the top of the pizza should be bubbling, too.
Once the round has browned or slightly charred on the bottom, remove the round and flip it over. Close the grill to retain the heat. Brush the grilled surface with a little olive oil and then spread on a little sauce. Less is better with grilled pizza. A thin spread of a thicker sauce is better than a thinner sauce so you don’t end up with a soggy pizza. Sprinkle on the toppings, cheese, and then meat (meat should be fully cooked). Again, keep it light as grilled pizza is not panned pizza.
Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill, close the lid and grill for 2-3 minutes more or until the bottom begins to brown or char slightly and the cheese is melted. Remove the pizza from the grill and finish with a light sprinkle of sea salt, if desired.
Pizza combinations are endless. Keep it simple. The best grilled pizzas have two or three toppings max. Consider texture, flavor, and color when picking toppings that go together. (Photo pizza is a combination of leeks, asparagus, and smoked pork without any sauce.) Try it, and I think you’ll be convinced that the grill is an excellent pizza maker!
Pizza dough recipe: 1 cup light beer or water, 1 tablespoon or package active dry yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 ¾ cup bread flour. Heat beer or water to 120-130F. Combine the beer or water, yeast and sugar in a mixer bowl. Stir to combine. Let stand until the mixture foams, about 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil, salt, and flour. Mix until dough comes together. Knead on a floured surface, adding additional flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes. Allow to rest 20 minutes. Punch dough down and let rest a few minutes before forming round or divide dough for individual pizzas and then let rest for a few minutes before forming rounds.