Grilled Pizza Party

(Photo courtesy of The Bitten Word)

This post originally appeared July 7, 2006, just a few months after A Mighty Appetite was born. To mark the first “official” weekend of the summer grilling season, I’ve updated my grilled pizza prose and spiffed it up with a purty picture on loan from Zach and Clay, the savvy cooks from DC-based blog, The Bitten Word. While your dough rises, have a looksee at the following tips based on my first-hand experiences with pizza a la grill. I’ve also shared the recipe details for my version of dough, which has served me well for the past 9 years.

* 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 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 to flip when you see it bubbling on top.

* Use 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.

* Marinara 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.

* Cover grill and stand by; in about 4 minutes, maybe less, the pizza will be ready for lift off.

* Have a baking tray turned upside down on the flat side, or a pizza peel, at the ready. One person holds the tray/peel while the other person carefully, with spatula, moves pizza off the grill.

* You can also grill a pizza on a pizza stone. While coals heat up (after the fire has subsided), place the stone directly on the grill, just as you would use in the oven. No need to flip dough onto second side. On a gas grill, place stone on grate and preheat to 500 degrees, with lid closed.

Pizza Dough
1 cup water
1 envelope active dry yeast
Pinch sugar
Approximately 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat water until about 100 degrees and pour into a small bowl. Sprinkle contents of yeast packet, sugar and 1 tablespoon of flour over the water. Stir until dissolved and cover bowl at room temperature, until mixture is slightly foamy, about 15 minutes.

In a larger bowl, add 1 cup of the flour, salt and olive oil, and stir to combine. Add yeast mixture and whisk until just combined. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and switch to a wooden spoon for stirring in between flour additions. You are looking for a soft, sticky dough that just clears the sides of the bowl. Depending on weather (humidity, heat), the amount of flour used will vary between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 cups total. It's unnecessary to use maximum amount.

Lightly dust work surface with flour and pour mixture out of bowl. Begin kneading dough in the following manner: Punch (gently but firmly), fold (in half) and turn (rotate 15 minutes on your imaginary clock, or 1/4 turn). Make this your mantra until your dough becomes a smooth, soft, springy ball, as smooth as a baby's bottom.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot, away from drafts. Let rise until doubled, about an hour.

At this point, risen dough may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated (or frozen) for later use. (Let chilled dough warm up at room temperature for about 45 minutes before rolling and shaping.) For two pizzas, cut ball in half and work with one half at a time.

To roll out, wipe work surface clean of dough scraps, then dry thoroughly before rolling out dough. Flour-dust work surface and rolling pin (or empty wine bottle). Gently pound on dough so that it begins to look like a disc. After every few motions, rotate dough 1/4 turn. Roll out dough from center, continuing to rotate, careful not to tear dough. Roll to desired thinness and shape.

Dust a pizza pan, stone or bottom side of a baking sheet with cornmeal, for texture (and to help keep from sticking as you transport dough to the grill). Fold your dough circle in half and carefully lift onto transporting surface.

Makes one larger, 16-inch-ish pie or two smaller, 10-12-inchers

By Kim ODonnel |  May 22, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Entertaining , Flames , Summer
Previous: What's Your Favorite Farm Market? | Next: The Summer of Food Docs


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Yeah! Homemade pizza a perennial favorite. In winter we do it in the oven using a bread stone, in summer outside on the grill. We still use the bread stone on the grill. It cuts down on preheating, provides that heat-retention you want for the pizza, and makes it easier to handle a large pizza.

I "cheat" a little though and mix the dough in the food processor... takes about 45 second!

And the toppings are endlessly unlimited, so that there is never pizza fatigue....


Posted by: rowandk | May 22, 2009 8:59 AM

The first few times I made grilled pizza, I stressed about having all the fixings outside and compiling things on the grill. No more. We spread the fixings out on the kitchen counter and when the crusts are ready I bring them in so everyone can make his or her own specialty. Then they go back out to the grill for a few minutes. It's much easier than rushing while you've got a flame going!

Posted by: lois4 | May 22, 2009 1:07 PM

A good friend of mine is a fan of grilled pizza. I had the grill going tonight, but already committed to fajitas. Will have to give this a go sometime (though might cheat and use store bought dough).


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 25, 2009 9:07 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company