Outdoor Cooking: Grilled Pizza
Most people have run into this scenario: You’re having a pool party and everyone starts getting hungry. Half the camp wants to crank up the grill and the other half want to order pizza. There is no reason you cannot have both. Pizza translates well to the grill.
The secret to a really good pizza is a blast of heat from the bottom to cook the crust with a slightly softer heat to warm toppings and melt cheese. That is right in the wheel house of your grill. The open flame, be it from charcoal or gas, is perfect for crispy crust and closing the lid will surround the toppings with a blanket of cozy heat and a kiss of smoke flavor.
For the crust you can purchase some of the pre-cooked “skins” out there like Boboli or Mama Mia’s. You can even get creative and turn various breads into crust like Italian loaf, naan or pita. You can also stop by your favorite pizza parlor and purchase raw dough balls from them and put them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Or you could make the dough from scratch with this handy recipe:
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or 1 oz brewer’s yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
- 3 cups AP flour
- 1/2 cup semolina flour
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles – about 5 minutes.
Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Mold the flour in a mound shape with a well in the center. With a wooden spoon, draw the ingredients together.
- Mix everything with your hands to form dough. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the dough on the floured surface. Knead the dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour, and until it no longer sticks to your hands.
- With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl. On the top of the dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.
- When the dough is double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles. On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces. Knead each piece to form a ball – these are called dough balls.
- On the work surface, using a rolling pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin round layer. Make a pizza about 12 inches in diameter – this is called a skin.
I like to make large batches of pizza dough at one time and then freeze the dough balls in individual zip top bags until I want to make a pie. They take a few hours to defrost at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
Now that you have your skin ready you can either throw it on the grill by itself to cook part of the way (par-cook) before topping it and returning it to the grill or you can top it first and then carefully move it to the grill. The latter will take some practice but you’ll be rewarded with a more cohesive pie. Regardless of which way you go I suggest investing in a peel – the giant spatula that pizza parlors use. You’ll thank me later.
As for toppings, well, that’s up to you. You can stick to tradition with tomato sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella or experiment with less conventional adornment. It is outdoor cooking so why not replace the marinara with BBQ sauce, pulled pork for the pepperoni and pepper Jack for the mozzarella? Try basil pesto with grilled chicken, sun dried tomatoes and feta for a pie that is a good deal more authentic than many in this country know.
For the kids you can make a chili dog pizza with turkey chili, sliced turkey hotdogs and cheddar cheese. Adults can garnish theirs with relish, kraut, onions or even jalapeños. You can take a grilled pizza skin and cover it with yogurt drizzled with honey and sliced fruit for dessert.