Grill That Pizza Pie
The weather here has thankfully gone from wet to dry and feels like a champagne cocktail -- crisp, sparkly and invigoratingly cool. With the Fourth of July weekend now behind us, is anyone else just a wee bit tired of smelling ribs and brontosaurus burgers charring in the backyard?
I'm thinking of changing up the grill repertoire this weekend and I'm asking you to consider joining me in a slab-o-meat-free weekend. Come on, it'll be fun! And if any of you lunkheads are rolling your eyes in anticipation of vegetarian proselytizing, check the attitude as there will be no such thing happening.
Given predicted slightly cooler temperatures, I'm proposing a weekend of dough. This is perfect pizza-making weather, and in particular, a great opportunity to experiment cooking it on the grill. Instead of turning the kitchen into a 500-degree furnace, take the action outdoors and create your very own pizza parlor.
As for logistics, allow yourself a few hours for making dough, which includes one hour of alone time for rising. You can also make it in advance, wrap in plastic and keep in the fridge for up to 48 hours, but make sure to bring it to up to room temperature before rolling.
It had been several years since I had grilled pizza myself, so this week was a bit of a refresher course.
Below, a few tips learned along the way:
While a charcoal grill yields more flavor, a gas grill, which offers more temperature control, makes pizza grilling a snap. The reason? Pizza dough needs a mixed temperature setting. The first few minutes, you want things nice and hot to allow for dough blistering and bubbling. Once the dough is turned onto the second side, however, the temperature needs to be lower, to minimize charring and burnt pizza toast, which is highly unpleasant.
If using a charcoal grill, allow for more prepping time. Instead of the usual 30-minute advance needed for those burgers, prolong that period to about 45 minutes, allowing for coals to cool just a bit.
Spread the coals, allowing for more equal distribution of heat, thus diverting focus from the center, where pizza is most vulnerable.
To minimize sticking, oil-spray grill grate and oil-brush the side of the dough to make first contact with the grill.
Enlist the help of a pizza-loving friend; pizza grilling is a team exercise, particularly when it's time to flip the dough and apply toppings.
Don't go anywhere. The first side takes about three minutes and you'll know it's time when you see it bubbling. Take a peek on the underside and chances are it's starting to char.
Using long-handled, sturdy spatulas to flip dough, and if possible, move it towards a cooler spot on the grill. Have all toppings at the ready; a baking tray filled with bowls (that's what we call mise en place in the restaurant kitchen world) is really helpful here.
Tomato sauce is not a good choice for grilled pizza. I recommend sliced fresh tomatoes which yield less juice and minimize grilling flare-ups. Place cheese on dough first, giving it an opportunity to melt. Quickly add the rest of your fixin's, minus fresh herbs, which will blacken.
If you are the proud owner of a pizza stone, go ahead and use it. This is especially helpful when cooking the second side.
Cover grill and stand by; in about 4 minutes, maybe less, the pizza will be ready for lift off.
Have a baking tray at the ready, turned upside on the flat side. One person holds the tray while the other person carefully, with spatula, moves pizza off the grill.
Those without a pizza stone can improvise should your cheese take longer to melt than your dough takes to crisp up. Use the underside of that baking tray as your buffer for a minute or two more on the grill. Cover grill again, over the baking tray, even if seemingly precarious.
Is this a new adventure or old hat to you? Share your comments and pizza tips below.
One last note: Garlic scape pesto is divine slathered on grilled pizza.
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