Cooking your pizza on the grill keeps the heat out of the kitchen and results in a crispy crust pie with smoky elements that mimics the flavor of pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. Photo by Jim Flint.
Keep the toppings light for the perfect grilled pizza. Red sauce, onions, crumbled cooked sausage, sliced pepperoni and shredded whole milk mozzarella are a great combination. Garnish with torn fresh basil leaves after removing from the grill. Photo by Jim Flint.
It’s easy, delicious and doesn’t heat up the kitchen
If you’ve never grilled pizza before, what are you waiting for?
It’s quick. It’s easy. Best of all, whether you’re using charcoal or gas, you get a hint of smoky flavor that mimics pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven.
And who wants to heat up the kitchen oven on a hot summer day? When you use a grill, you keep the heat out where it belongs.
The trick is to grill regular pizza dough on one side, remove, flip, add sauce and toppings, and return to grill to finish cooking.
It works with any type of pizza dough. You can make it yourself, buy a ball of dough from your favorite pizzeria, or use refrigerated dough from the supermarket.
If you are having a party and need more than one pizza, stretch the dough for as many pizzas as you will need, toast lightly on each side, let the crusts cool on a wire rack so the steam below does not make them soaked, then refrigerate until ready to use. When it’s party time, add the sauce and toppings and finish cooking on the grill.
Shape the pizza dough with your hands on a lightly floured surface, using your fingers to stretch it out. You can hold the dough with the backs of your hands, letting it hang down while working around the edges of the dough, pinching as you go.
It will be easier to broil if the dough is still cold. If you let it get hot, it can stretch too much during the transfer. In fact, if you’re using refrigerated dough from the supermarket, just roll it out on the grill.
So if you’re making dough from scratch or from a ball of dough, refrigerate for a few minutes after stretching to help keep it in shape.
If you make a hole in the pizza while stretching, simply layer the dough and press down with your fingers to seal the hole.
You can use store-bought pizza sauce. There are good ones available. But for the best taste, make your own. It’s surprisingly simple and easy to do.
A bad red sauce can ruin a pizza, the kind where the tomato flavor is overpowered by garlic powder and oregano. With just a few ingredients from your pantry, you can make your own heavenly red sauce.
Start with a can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes. If you can’t find them at the store, any canned Italian-style tomato puree will do. Here’s what you need for the sauce:
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, halved and peeled
6 crushed garlic cloves
2 sprigs of basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to finish
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the tomatoes, onion halves, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool. When the sauce reaches room temperature, remove and discard the onion halves, basil sprigs and garlic cloves. Stir in olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Unused sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also use the sauce to dip garlic bread or mozzarella sticks, and it’s delicious tossed into pasta for a quick weeknight dinner.
Do not load your grilled pizza. Keep it light to avoid soggification.
Because it takes so little time to cook on the grill, some toppings will still be raw when the pizza is done. For some vegetables, it’s fine if you want a little crispiness. But the meats must be pre-cooked before being placed on the pizza. Mushrooms are best sautéed in advance, to sweat out the water content.
Grate your own cheese from a piece of whole milk mozzarella. It melts better and tastes better than packaged shredded cheese.
For a tasty 12-inch pizza, use these ingredients in the following order:
1/2 cup red sauce
Slightly scattered pieces of cooked sausage
Light coverage of grated mozzarella
A few slices of pepperoni (delicious with those charred edges)
Torn fresh basil leaves to add after the pizza comes off the grill
For a vegetarian pizza, skip the meat and add a few slices of green pepper and halved grape or cherry tomatoes, with the cheese added last.
Grill the pizza
Preheat the grill for high, direct heat. Adjust so that the temperature is between 500 and 600 degrees. A hotter grill can burn the crust.
Prepare a small bowl with olive oil to grease the grill grates and to brush the pizza when you flip it before topping.
Prepare the toppings for the pizza.
When the grill is hot, dip a tightly folded paper towel in the olive oil and use tongs to wipe down the grates.
Lightly dust an upside-down cookie sheet or pizza peel with cornmeal and slip the stretched pizza dough onto it. Open the grill lid and carefully slide the pizza onto the grates and close the lid. After 2 minutes, open the grill and check under the batter to see if it is lightly browned. Otherwise, leave another 30 seconds.
When the bottom of the pizza is lightly browned, remove it from the grill with a shovel or slide it onto a cookie sheet with tongs. Re-oil the grates and leave the grill covered while you top the pizza.
Flip the pizza over and lightly brush the browned side with olive oil. Add toppings and return to grill.
If using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium. With a charcoal grill, close the lid vents almost completely.
Bake the pizza for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly.
Remove the grill to a cutting board, add torn pieces of fresh basil, finish with a drizzle of olive oil and let the pizza rest for a few minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy!
Contact Ashland writer Jim Flint at [email protected]