The hotter it gets outside, the less inclined we are to turn up the heat on the oven inside. If you use a grill to make pizza in the hot summer months, you can keep the heat outside where it belongs. Grills also better mimic a wood fired oven than your conventional indoor oven. Whether using charcoal or gas, the smoke from the grill will help give your pizza more flavor. It’s also dead easy… so we finally, after years of saying we would make grilled pizza, actually did! Although we did not make the crust from scratch (we had two store-bought pizza crusts in the freezer), it did renew our resolve to create from scratch in the near future.
For starters, the crusts were thawed in the frig overnight, kneaded and put in a towel covered bowl to rise according to package directions. Once ready, it was quite humorous watching Russ try to roll out some semblance of a circle. We finally settled on more of a rectangle for one crust, and an amoeba shape for the other (not winning any contests in the shape department here.)
A few nights previously, we had grilled a vegetable medley of peppers, onions, garlic and eggplant with plenty left over so that was the basis of our toppings. For the first layer, instead of a pizza sauce, we used seeded and sliced heirloom tomatoes from our garden, pressed to remove much of the moisture. Then scattered on the vegetable medley, followed by sliced fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan. Once aptly topped, close the grill lid and let heat through until the cheese is melted. Slide onto a large pizza stone or cutting board and sprinkle on your fresh herbs (and of course, crushed red pepper!)
- Make the pizza dough or use prepared pizza dough. Roll out your dough about 1/4 inch thick and try to keep it pretty even. Pizza is a very forgiving dish so you don’t need to break out the calipers for this one. Just keep the dough uniform and well floured.
- Prepare the grill for high direct heat. Prepare a small bowl with olive oil for greasing the grill grates and for brushing the pizza. Prepare the toppings so they are ready to go on the pizza – tomato sauce, cheese, and anything else you wish.
- Shape the pizza dough by flattening it with your hands on a slightly floured surface. Either use your fingers to stretch the dough out, or hold up the edges of the dough with your fingers, letting the dough hang and stretch, while working around the edges of the dough. Once you’ve stretched the dough, let it sit for 5 minutes and then push out the edges with your fingers again, until you have a nice round shape, about 12-inches in diameter. Do not make a raised rim, it will interfere with the grilling process.
- Once the grill is hot (you can hold your hands an inch over the grates for no more than 2 seconds), dip a tightly folded up paper towel in olive oil and use tongs to wipe the grill grates. Then place a pizza dough round on a lightly floured (or you can use cornmeal) rimless cookie sheet (or pizza peel if you have one). Let the dough slide off the cookie sheet onto the hot grill grates. Close the lid of the grill and let cook for 2 minutes.
- After 2 minutes, open the grill and check underneath the dough to see if it is getting browned. If it is on one side, but not another, use a spatula or tongs to rotate the dough 90 degrees and cook for another minute. If it is not beginning to brown, cover the grill and continue to cook a minute at a time until the bottom has begun to brown. It should only take a couple minutes if you have a hot grill. The top of the pizza dough will start bubbling up with air pockets.
- Once the pizza dough has browned lightly on one side, use your cookie sheet or pizza peel to remove it from the grill. Use a spatula to flip the dough over so that the grilled side is now up. Keep the grill covered so it retains its heat for the next step.
- Paint the grilled surface of the pizza with a little olive oil, then cover with 1 ladle of sauce – no more, or you’ll end up with a soggy pizza. Sprinkle on your toppings, ending with Mozzarella cheese (if using), and if using meat, put that over the cheese. Remember to go light on the toppings, or your pizza will be heavy and soggy.
- Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill. If you are using a gas grill, reduce the heat. If working with a charcoal grill, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly. Pull off the grate with a spatula onto a cutting board or other flat surface and let rest for a couple minutes before cutting into slices.
Slice and serve!
Now that you have the basics down you can enjoy the best part of pizza, the versatility. When it comes to pizza, there’s no such thing as a bad topping (except for maybe moldy cheese.) Another tip is to make small pizzas for gatherings and let your guest choose what they want on their pizza. The grill is a fast way to prepare pizzas so you can cook a lot of them in a short time.
Note that if you are preparing the pizza dough for a party, you can make several pizza dough rounds, stack them separated by parchment paper, and keep them in the refrigerator for up to two hours before cooking.