Thursday, July 21, 2011

grilled pizza, my new obsession

Although I've expanded my culinary horizons quite a bit since I was a child, I remain the same as my ten-year-old self in one respect:  pizza is still my favorite food. It's bread, cheese, vegetables, and (usually salty and fatty) protein all rolled into one--so how could I have found anything better in the last 15 years?

For most of my life, my pizza intake was limited to what I could find in restaurants and the freezer aisle of the grocery store. Eventually I graduated to baking homemade pizzas in the oven, adding better-quality ingredients along the way--a little whole-milk mozzarella here, some fresh basil there, perhaps a dash of Italian red pepper flakes to top it off. But I always baked my pizzas in the oven, partly because that's all I had and have, and partly because no other method occurred to me.

Then three weeks ago, my life changed. I grilled pizza for the first time.

Okay, so maybe "life-changing" is a bit of an overstatement, and maybe it wasn't the first time I had thought of grilling pizza, but for some reason I had never gotten around to trying it. Over the 4th of July weekend, the perfect opportunity presented itself:  I was at the beach with a giant gas grill, my dad to man it, and two impulse-bought balls of pizza dough from Whole Foods.

I was amazed at how easy it was; the whole thing went off without a hitch. I liked it so much that despite not having a grill of my own, I have found ways to grill pizza two more times in the two weeks since.

So if you have a grill, have a friend who has a grill, or can afford to buy a grill, you should try this. As long as you're prepared when you actually start grilling, it takes very little effort. The only special equipment you need is something to brush the crust with oil and tongs to flip the pies. Make sure to have your ingredients and equipment ready and waiting when you put the dough on the grill. The pizza cooks amazingly fast, so you won't have a lot of time to get everything on there.

Yep, that's my foot.

You can top your pizza with whatever you like, but here are a few of my favorite combinations:
-olive oil base with mozzarella, feta, tomatoes, bacon, & basil
-tomato sauce base with mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, & spinach
-barbecue sauce base with mozzarella, blue cheese, chicken, caramelized onions, &
-olive oil base with brie, pear, brown sugar, and arugula

grilled pizza
inspired by The Kitchn and Serious Eats

pizza dough (I've made my own using Peter Reinhart's recipe, but Whole Foods has
  very good white, wheat, and multigrain versions)
olive oil (nothing fancy, although I like to infuse mine with garlic)
toppings of your choice

Preheat the grill. Depending on whether you go with charcoal (better flavor) or gas (more precise), the specifics of this step vary.

If you're making more than one pizza (which you should), preheat your oven to 200 degrees to keep the first pizzas you make warm while you grill the others.

Prepare the dough by stretching or rolling it into thinnish circles. You don't want to dough to tear when you put it on the grill or flip it, so you might want to make it a little thicker than normal. Since I've been making a few pizzas at a time, I stack my rounds of dough on a cookie sheet with foil in between, making sure to brush each layer with oil so they don't stick to the foil or to the grill!

Prepare your toppings and put them all together, so you can put them on the pizza quickly. Also have a small bowl of oil to brush the pizza with if it looks dry when grilling or sticks at all.

When the grill is preheated, use the foil to pick up a round of dough, and flip it onto the grill. Cook until the bottom looks done and begins to char just a little, anywhere from 2-8 minutes, depending on how hot your grill is.

Using your tongs, flip the dough over, then arrange (or throw, depending on how much time you have) your toppings on the cooked side. If your grill has a cover, cover the pizza during this part so the cheese melts more thoroughly.

Once the bottom is done, slide the pizza off the grill and onto a cookie sheet. If you have more to go, keep your already-made pizzas in the oven until ready to serve.


  1. I'm glad you posted this- for some reason I have a mental block against grilling pizza because I don't have fancy equipment. BUT we have a charcoal grill that looks like it will do a trick!

  2. Oh my gosh, you have to make it! You will love it!