What’s The Deal With Grilled Pizza?

Reader question time!

“Do you have an opinion on grilled pizza? I want to try but I am not sure how the dough will cook and not burn. And also, I was looking at pizza stones.”

This is an excellent question. I’ve waxed poetic about stone-cooked wood-fired pizza in the past, so you would think that I’m going to come down firmly in that camp. You would, however, be wrong. In a nutshell, the average gas-grill-owning backyard cook is probably want to go with the grilled option. Really!

Here’s the deal: Unless you have a cooker that has a real indirect heat source – and by that I mean even and equal indirect heat in all areas, not just a gas grill with one side turned off and the food on the other – grilled pizza is going to give you better results than using a pizza stone. Bread likes even heat, period. And no matter how hard you try, an “indirect” cook on a gas grill always leaves you with uneven heat. Period.

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Fortunately, grilled pizza – as long as you understand one rather important limitation – is actually easier than you think. The only caveat is that you can forget about thin crust. Just not going to happen. Otherwise this is as easy as, er, pie. If you want to give it a try, keep reading!

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To make your own grilled pizza creation, you will need:

A fresh-made ball of pizza dough from your supermarket
Your favourite pizza toppings
A good pair of tongs
Grapeseed or peanut oil (grapeseed is best)
A clean cloth
A hot grill
OPTIONAL: A pizza peel of paddle

First, let your dough rise. A lot of people don’t realize that supermarket dough needs to sit at warm room temperature and rise before you can use it. When it is risen and puffy, get your grill (be it charcoal or gas) fired up and on “high”. Prepare all of your toppings – slicing, grating, whatever – and get them into bowls that you can carry to the grill en masse. Roll out or stretch your dough into the shape of a pizza. And finally, gather everything up and head out to the grill.

Things move pretty quickly from this point on, so be ready. Turn the heat down to medium, close the lid, and wait for one minute. Now put a decent amount of oil on the cloth and using the tongs (otherwise, burned fingertips are a serious possibility) rub the oily cloth all over the area of the grill where the pizza will sit. Put some effort into it, and make sure you dont skimp. You want to get as much oil as possible into the open pores of the metal. Immediately lay your pizza dough gently onto the grill. Don’t try to futz with it here: If it isn’t perfectly round, well, it isn’t perfectly round. Close the lid and wait three minutes.

Now take a look at your curst. it SHOULD be nicely crisped, showing grill marks, but NOT burned. If you think it needs more time, you can go up to 5 minutes total on this side. Use your judgement, and remember the total time you used for next time. When the crust has a nice crisp on that side, use your tongs to flip it over. Now add your toppings – sauce, cheese, etc. – to the crisp side in the same order you would when making a pizza in the oven. Work as quickly as you can. When you have everything loaded in, close the lid and turn your heat down to low. The bottom of the crust will probably be almost cooked at this point, so you only want to add in enough heat to get the toppings heated through and the cheese melted, which will probably end up being about three minutes more.

I told you this would go quickly!

Finally, open the lid and check your toppings. If the cheese is melted you are ready to go. Either use your tongs to pull the pizza onto a serving tray, or slide it off with a pizza peel if you have one. And that, as the kids say, is that.

A Quick Note About Store-Bought Dough: I’m suggesting using pre-made dough here for two reasons. One, I don’t have a knock-your-socks off recipe for traditional “bread” pizza dough, so why not save some time and effort and let someone else do it for you? And two, you are probably far more willing to give this a try if I keep things as simple as possible. If you want to use your own dough recipe later, go crazy. But to start, well, why not take a shortcut or two? I won’t tell. Promise.

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