In the summertime, I cook almost exclusively outside. Maybe it is the memory of our Boston winters or maybe it is the incredible flavors that my charcoal grill produces (yes, charcoal. More on that later), either way, like a moth to flame, I am pulled outside to fire up the grill each night. Some people may think that using one cooking apparatus might be limited or stifling, but I find just the opposite. There are infinite ways to make the most out of your grill and in many cases, the grill is often the best method for many recipes. One such instance is grilled pizza.
When you think of what it takes to make a perfect pizza (extremely high temperatures and an open flame) using a grill makes perfect sense. Pizza should be cooked at a temperature over 500 degrees (ideally between 700-900 degrees) a feat which a charcoal grill can come very close to. Beyond the high temps you can achieve, I am a strong proponent of a charcoal grill versus gas or electric because of the flavor. As my dad always says, 'grilling isn't grilling if you don't use charcoal.' The charred, smokey flavor provided by a charcoal grill cannot be replicated. Just be sure to use only natural charcoals and no lighter fluid!
Grilling pizza is one of the most satisfying, fun and delicious experiences you can have. It is also quite simple. The key to success when grilling pizza is all in the prep. The recipe to make the dough takes a few days, but it is beyond simple and makes all the difference. My favorite dough recipe is a Neapolitan Pizza Dough from Serious Eats.
The Pizza Dough
20 ounces (about 4 cups) wheat flour, preferably Mulino Marino '00' or Tipo 2 'Burrato'
.4 ounces kosher salt (about 4 teaspoons)
.3 ounces (about 2 teaspoons) instant yeast
13 ounces water
1. Combine flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and whisk until homogenous. Add water and incorporate into flour using hands until no dry flour remains on bottom of bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
2. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide into four even balls. Place each in a covered quart-sized deli container or in a zipper-lock freezer bag. Place in refrigerator and allow to rise at least 2 more days, and up to 4. Remove from refrigerator, shape into balls, and allow to rest at room temperature with a damp towel resting over them for at least 2 hours before using.
Use the time while the dough is resting at room temperature to prep all of your ingredients. The options for toppings are endless, but here are some of my key ingredients and tools:
Olive oil (and a brush for brushing the crust)
Gioie Passata (a basic, classic tomato sauce) or crushed San Marzano tomatoes
Fresh Mozzerella, sliced thin
Fresh tomato, sliced thin
A sheet pan brushed in olive oil
A large cutting board for the finished pizza
The Pizza Process
First things first, you must stretch the dough - don't roll it! By stretching it, you will maintain the beautiful air bubbles and fluffy texture that you've been working towards. Once you get it as thin as possible (without tearing), lay the dough down onto the oiled sheet pan. If your dough does rip don't fret - just patch it up. This pizza won't look perfectly round and that's okay! Brush the pizza in olive oil.
By now, you should have all of your ingredients ready to go. Once you flip the pizza dough, you will have to act fast!
Lay the pizza dough on the hottest part of the grill and try to avoid wrinkles and rolls. Keep a close eye on the dough - you are cooking it enough to get a nice char on the bottom. Once it is ready, flip the dough and start assembling - be careful because the grill will be hot! When all of your ingredients are on (except the basil), close the grill and allow to cook for 1 - 2 minutes, checking every 30 seconds. Depending on the heat of your grill, the timing can vary. You are looking for melted cheese and a golden brown crust with bits of char. Once done, remove from the grill (I recommend 2 spatulas) , put on the cutting board and add the fresh basil. Cut and serve!
One of the things that I love the most about grilled pizza is that the opportunities are endless. For personal sized pizza you can cut the dough into eighths. Dinner for two? Throw the extra dough in the freezer (after it rises with the other dough) and thaw when you want to use again. And don't get me started on toppings (I do work in a cheese shop, after all). My current favorite? Nduja. Ask me again next week and it'll likely be something new!
Questions on making grilled pizza at home? Don't hesitate to send me your questions at [email protected]