Once the temperature starts rising, I try to make the most out of my grill. I mean, who wants to heat the house up when you’re trying so hard to keep it cool? Doing more grilling also helps cut down on eating heavy fried foods and gives you a chance to experiment and see your favorites in different lights.
One of my favorites is pizza. You may have never thought of cooking pizza on the grill, but it is so easy, maybe even easier than in your oven. We all know that a wood-fired oven is the best to make pizza in but not all of us have one in our backyards. A grill (gas or charcoal) mimics a wood-fired oven better and the smoke gives it more flavor than your conventional kitchen oven. Summer is also a great time to make pizza because of the variety of fresh toppings found in your stores, farmers markets or your own garden.
Like all things on the grill, there is a trick to making pizza work. A properly heated grill will quickly heat to a lightly charred crust and no dough will fall between the grates. Now here’s the trick: you cook one side of your plain dough first. Then you remove it, flip it over, sauce and top, and then return it to the grill to finish cooking.
Many grocery stores have pre-made pizza doughs or you can make your own. I’ve provided a simple recipe or you can use your own.
Pizza Dough: Makes enough dough for two 10-12 inch pizzas
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F-115°F)
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast (check the expiration date on the package)
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour (can use all-purpose but bread flour will give you a crisper crust)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Making the Pizza Dough
- In the large bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer, add the warm water. Sprinkle on the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Stir to dissolve completely if needed at the end of 5 minutes.
- Attach a mixing paddle to the mixer. Mix in the olive oil, flour, salt and sugar on low speed for about a minute. Remove the mixing paddle and replace with a dough hook. Knead using the mixer and dough hook, on low to medium speed, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer, you can mix and knead by hand. If the dough seems a little too wet, sprinkle on a bit more flour.
- Place ball of dough in a bowl that has been coated lightly with olive oil. Turn the dough around in the bowl so that it gets coated with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place (75-85°F) until it doubles in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or several hours longer, a longer rise will improve the flavor). If you don’t have a warm spot in the house, you can heat the oven to 150 degrees, and then turn off the oven. Let the oven cool till it is just a little warm, then place the bowl of dough in this warmed oven to rise.
A good idea is to make a double batch of the dough. Then divide it, wrap it in plastic and freeze it. Now the next time you want to have pizza for dinner all you have to do is take the dough out in the morning and put it into the refrigerator to thaw. While the grill is heating up, put the dough on the counter to warm.
Grilling the Pizza Crust
Now it’s time to have some fun! Prepare your grill for high direct heat. You’ll need to have a small bowl of olive oil for greasing the grill grates and brushing the pizza. Have all of your toppings prepped and ready to go nearby. Taking the time to prep all of your toppings ahead of time will help you greatly.
Shape your warm pizza dough by flattening it with your hands on a lightly floured surface. Use your fingertips to stretch the dough or hold the dough up while you work your way around the edges and let gravity help stretch it. Let it rest for 5 minutes and then push the edges out again until you have a nice round shape, or close to a round shape, about 12 inches in diameter. Make sure your dough is completely flat. A raised rim will interfere with the grilling.
Once your grill is good and hot, dip a tightly folded paper towel into the olive oil and use tongs to wipe down the grates. Place your pizza on a lightly floured, rimless cookie sheet. (Dust in some cornmeal for that pizza parlor texture if you like.) You can also use a pizza peel if you have one. Let the dough slide off of the sheet onto the grill and close the lid. Let it cook for about 2 minutes.
After your 2 minutes, open the grill and check the bottom of the pizza dough. It should be browned and the top should be bubbling with air pockets. If only half of it is browning, use you tongs to rotate the dough and cook another minute. If the bottom hasn’t begun to brown, cover the grill and cook an additional minute.
Once your dough as lightly browned on one side, use your cookie sheet or peel to remove it from the grill. Make sure to keep the grill covered so that it retains heat. Flip the dough over so that the browned side is facing up.
Top Your Pizza
Brush your grilled surface lightly with olive oil and then lightly sauce your pizza. A lot of sauce will cause you to have a soggy pizza. Sprinkle on your toppings minus the cheese and meat, if you are using them. Cheese goes next and if using, meat goes last. Remember to go light on the toppings or your pizza will be heavy and soggy.
Slide your pizza back onto the grill. For a gas grill, reduce the heat and for charcoal, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly.
Pull of the grill with a spatula onto a cutting board or another flat surface and allow to rest for a few minutes. Cut and enjoy!
Pizzas on the grill is a great idea for parties. Make your dough rounds and stack them separated by parchment paper. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours before cooking.
Get the kids involved and let them help pick the toppings and put them on. Use this as a time to try new things. They will be more inclined to try new foods if they feel like they were part of the decision.
Need a super easy go-to for those not-so-lazy days where we are rushing around trying to get everybody everywhere and the thought of dinner is just one more chore on the list? Try a thin crust frozen pizza on the grill. Stock up on your favorite thin crust frozen pizza the next time your store puts them on sale. Heat and prep your grill like for the homemade and throw them on. Cook until the bottom is charred and the cheese is bubbly. It will only take a few minutes.
Have fun with your pizzas and your grill. Your imagination is your only limit.