My husband LOVES making pizza – he grills it in the summer, bakes it in the winter, and comes up with a new flavor combo each time. In this monthly “guest post,” I’m going to sit back, relax, and maybe take the occasional photo while Jeff makes me a pizza and tells you about it.
Grilled pizza is one of life’s little pleasures because it can be equal parts gourmet (with toppings like prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, zucchini, roasted cauliflower and garlic, etc.) and old world cooking (over an open flame). I cannot stress this enough: The key to grilled pizza is making sure to get some char on the dough, both sides, before adding toppings to ensure that the pizza will be both crunchy and cooked-through. With that being said, away we go . . .
Step 1 – Gather Your Toppings & Preheat The Grill: The process goes pretty quickly once you get started, so it’s best to have all of your ingredients ready before you proceed. This pizza was something Lori called an Antipasto Pizza, but really, she just cleaned out the fridge (also a good strategy for chicken pizza)and tried to use up bits and pieces of stuff we had around: San Marzano brand pizza sauce (it’s awesome), artichokes, 2 and only 2 kalamata olives, prosciutto, capers, fresh basil, red pepper flakes (accidentally not pictured, just pretend you see them up there), fresh mozzarella (sliced), and grated Parmesan cheese.
As far as the grill goes, I like to have half of the grill set to medium-high heat and the other half completely off. These two zones will come in handy later as you’ll cook the dough over the flames but then melt the cheese and warm the toppings through indirect heat.
Step 2 – Prep The Dough: We use a local brand of frozen dough (Tiseo’s). You could also use a homemade version or a different brand of refrigerated or frozen dough. I’ve also heard that most pizzerias will let you buy just a ball of dough for a couple of bucks. I’ve never tried it, but it’s an underground rumor. You probably don’t need to be told this, but if you get frozen dough, make sure it is completely thawed before using. It’s also a little easier to work with if you let it sit out at room temperature for 10 minutes before you start.
Stretch and shape your dough until it’s a rough circle about 1/3″ thick. I like to start out by gently stretching it with my hands in the air, and then finish by putting it on a pizza pan and using my fingertips to finish shaping it.
Once the dough is stretched out, brush the top side with plenty of olive oil. I like to drizzle it on and then use my hand to make sure the dough is coated. You could also use the back side of a spoon or a pastry brush. I use about 1 tablespoon of oil for a 14″ diameter pizza. You might ask “what about the other side?” Well, you can put oil on the other side later, when your pie in on the grill, because not greasing the pan makes Step 1 much easier.
Step 3 – Grill The Dough: When the grill is ready to go – I wait for the temperature gauge to be above 350 degrees – throw your dough (oiled side down) onto the heated side of the grill. Try to move it from the pizza pan to the grill as quickly as possible, because the longer you hold it in it the air, the more oblong your pie will become. But don’t sweat it if it gets a little misshapen, because this will just make it look more rustic and homemade. You may begin panic for a minute or two, because the dough may stick to the grate in some areas, but resist the urge to try to peel it back off the grates or move it in any way. As the dough cooks, it will release itself naturally from the grates. While you’re waiting for this to happen, brush the side facing up with olive oil.
The specific grilling times are an inexact science, depending on your grill. Grill the pizza for about 2 minutes, or until the dough releases itself from the grates, and then flip it. You may not need the full 2 minutes – if it releases and starts to char before that, flip it earlier. Cook it about 2 minutes on the other side. From here, it’s a flipping and rotating game to get an even amount of char on all parts of the dough. I flip and rotate it about 4 – 5 times total, for a total cooking time of approximately 7 to 8 minutes. I try to keep the grill shut when I’m not actively moving the dough around. Again, times will vary based on the size of the grill and any “hot spots” it may have. For our grill, the back right corner is the hottest so I watch that area and make sure the dough doesn’t get too dark back there. After your dough is grill-marked and slightly charred in all areas, transfer it back to the pizza pan.
Step 4 – Add The Toppings & Put It Back On The Grill : – Do it however you like it, but my process is sauce, cheese, and then all of the delicious toppings (minus any fresh herbs). Put the pizza back on the grill on the indirect-heat side. You do this because you don’t want the dough to burn – the nice char you already have is all you need. With this step, really all you’re looking for is to melt the cheese and warm the sauce and toppings. Leave the pizza on the indirect heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. Make sure to open the grill and check it once in while – but quickly, so you don’t let all of the heat out. You’re just looking for the cheese melting and some of the toppings to exhibit cooked-ness (you know, like when pepperoni curls up around the edges).
Step 5 – Finish, Cut & Enjoy: Pull the pizza off of the grill and let it sit for a couple minutes. Don’t worry, it will stay warm. I do this because everybody hates trying to pick up a runny pizza. Sprinkle on any fresh herbs, cut the bad boy up and enjoy.
If it didn’t turn out perfectly the first time, you’re in good company. But don’t despair! I won’t lie – it takes a few times to learn how your grill responds to pizza dough. If you’re nervous about it, it’s a good idea to buy an extra ball of dough in case the first try is a flop. The good news is that once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike. You’ll be able to execute it flawlessly time and time again, on a hectic weeknight, or even when sangria-addled partygoers are lurking over your shoulder, just waiting for a slice.