Summer is here and with it, grilling season, but sometimes you might get the urge for another classic American dish that doesn’t require hours over a fire: that is, pizza. But with all the hot weather, who wants to fire up an oven to 450 degrees inside the house?
Luckily, your backyard grill is a perfect substitute for the oven–maybe even a step up when it comes to pizza–and with just a little practice, you’ll never want to go back to oven-baked pizza! Grills do a better job of mirroring the effects of traditional wood-fired ovens with their high heat and real flame, making it possible for you to easily capture the essence of rustic pizza at home.
The key to great grilled pizza is getting back to basics. Whereas pizza dough is often just seen as a delivery vehicle for toppings, grilled pizza bring a completely new dimension to this old favorite by adding smokey depth and char spots to a pleasing crunch. With your dough ready to steal the spotlight, add in a couple of your favorite toppings and you’ll have one of the best pies you’ve ever tried.
It make take a few tries to perfect grilled pizza, but unlike an expensive cut of meat, you won’t have to feel bad if you make a few mistakes on the way. Making grilled pizza is a relatively straightforward process, but here are a few tips to help you get started.
Cook one side of the dough first, then add toppings to it. Don’t try to put a fully assembled pizza with raw dough straight onto the grill. The key is to cook one side first for a couple minutes, flip the pie, dress the cooked side with toppings, and then finish it off for six to eight minutes on the grill.
Double your batch of dough: If you’re making dough from scratch, make twice the recipe so that you can put half of it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it (up to a week) or freeze it (up to three months) until the next time you want to make pizza.
Tailor your pizza to your heat. You can grill your pizza over direct heat, but you have to keep moving and watch it like a hawk, making this a better option for thin crusts. On the other hand, indirect heat is more forgiving and allows for longer cooking times. Beginners might think about starting out with an indirect heat source until they’re comfortable, then moving on to the finesse required by direct heat.
Rotate the dough on the grill to make sure it cooks evenly. This is particularly true when using indirect heat, as the cooking times are longer.
Be sure to dust the dough with grits or cornmeal to make sure the pizza doesn’t stick to the grill. Besides adding a rustic touch and another layer of texture complexity to your pizza, this will save you a headache from trying to scrape the dough off the grates.
Don’t worry about dough sagging through the grates. The relatively high heat of a grill gets the dough cooking right away.
Keep your toppings simple. This isn’t deep dish pizza! Grilled pizzas tend to be on the smaller side, and given the shorter cooking times a higher temperatures, you don’t want to overload the pizza with toppings. Try to limit it to three or four toppings to highlight the grill’s effects.
Try reversing the usual order of toppings. Put the cheese right onto the crust and spread your sauce with a light hand over the cheese. This will allow the sugars in the sauce to caramelize in the high heat.
Grilling your own pizza is a great party idea. Light up the grill, lay out a buffet of toppings, and let people make their own.