Grilled pizza is the perfect summer meal, with an easy, crispy crust and whatever toppings make you happy!
As you may have gathered in our previous post on cold brew coffee, it’s getting a bit hot and humid here in the Bayou City. So in addition to planning our daily activities to minimize exposure to air-conditioning-free areas, we also try to cut back on our oven usage. I mean, we still fire that baby up for pies and cookies, because a life without dessert is no life at all, but if we can cook it on the grill, we do (and once I figure out how to grill cookies, I’ll share it with all of you). Luckily, grilled pizza is just as good as oven baked, and just about as easy.
We usually make our own dough for pizza, and we’ve got a few recipes that we rotate through, but the one we are sharing today is easy and dependable. If you are pressed for time, you can also get some pretty good dough from the likes of Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. I like to make up a double batch, and then portion and freeze it, so that I only need to make it every month or two. It’s not too much extra work (especially with a stand mixer doing the hard part).
First things first: mix your yeast, sugar/honey, water, oil, and ¼ cup of flour in the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl if you’re going to do this manually), and make sure your yeast is good. We live in an age where the yeast packets you get from the grocery store are almost foolproof. Almost. I can count on one hand then number of times we’ve gotten a bum batch. But it only takes an additional 10 minutes to make sure you’ve got a good starting point, and literally the only thing you need to do is wait. Go get a glass of wine or crack open a beer… read that article you saw online earlier… overthrow a small government… you know, the little things that keep you sane. After 10 minutes, your mixture should be topped with some foam and should smell, well, yeasty. If you don’t see that, toss it and start over. One thing to note is that you want warm water, not hot. If it’s too hot to wash your hands with, it’s too hot, and you’ll kill the yeast.
But if your yeast is happy and healthy, onward to victory! Install your dough hook, then add your salt and about 1/3 of the remaining flour, and start mixing on low. Keep mixing until it’s mostly combined, and then add another 1/3 of the flour. Repeat until you have all the flour incorporated. At this stage, you’ll have to gauge if you need to add extra water or flour. The dough should gather itself into a single ball that is tacky but not sticky to the tough. If it is sticky, add some more flour and mix it some more. If it’s not coming together, add some more water, but do it a little at a time. Sometime just a little bit of water makes all the difference. Once you’ve reached this stage, you should be feeling the knead for speed. Get it? I’m sorry… I’ll go now… But seriously, up the mixer speed to medium high and hold on to your mixer, because it’s going to knead that dough for the next 5-10 minutes. I know my mixer tends to “walk” over the counter when it’s slinging dough, so I keep a hand on it so it doesn’t tumble to the floor. Ideally, you should let it go for the full 10 minutes if you like that chewy crust, but I know that standing there baby-sitting a mixer gets old, and we’ve gotten excellent results from as little as 5 minutes. Once that’s done, roll your dough into a tight ball, put in a bowl with a little olive oil, swirl to coat, cover with some plastic wrap and stash that sucker in the fridge. If you’re in a pinch, you can use the dough immediately, but it’s much better if you let it rise for at least 12-24 hours.
After the rise, pull the dough out, knead out the bubbles, and portion it as you see fit. We typically get 3 crusts per recipe (4 if we’re exercising a little bit more self-control). Dough you are not using immediately can go in the freezer. Place what dough you’re using on a lightly floured surface and roll it out into your crust. When you roll out your dough, don’t worry if you don’t get a perfect circle. Mine almost always come out amoeba shaped. I typically use my hands to flatten it, but using a rolling pin works fine as well. If you find the dough is starting to break rather than stretch, leave it alone for about 5 minutes before trying again. This will allow the protein in the dough to relax. You can also use this time to prep and/or pre-heat your grill.
Prep. Is. King. Seriously. Aside from the dough, grilled pizza comes together crazy fast. You want everything portioned, cut, and close at hand when you start cooking. I like to use a half sheet pan to store everything because the little lip helps prevent things from spilling as I step over the dog to get to the grill.
As for the grill, get those grates as clean as you can, as it will help prevent sticking. Also, use some oil or cooking spray on the COLD grates before you start playing with fire. Pre-heat with all burners on high. You want it hot hot hot. Stage everything near the grill, and get ready. Place your crust on the grill – I usually do this sort of like laying out a t-shirt for folding – holding what you could consider the “corners” and laying it on the grill grates. Close the lid and drop all the burners to medium low. After a minute, check the crust – it should have grill marks on the bottom, and be super puffy. It’s really personal preference as to how crispy you want your crust, but generally 1-2 minutes is all you need. Next, flip your pizza crust, and then pull the crust off the grill onto a cookie sheet or cutting board. (The uncooked side will be face down.)
Some people may be fast enough to dress their pizza with it on the grill, but I am not one of them. I dress the pizza as fast as can off the grill, and then slide it back on to the grill to continue cooking. I’d recommend a light brushing of oil on the pizza before you apply any toppings (including sauce) to act as a moisture barrier so you don’t get soggy pizza. Once you’ve gotten all your toppings on, slide the pizza back onto the grill, and let it cook for 1-2 minutes. Here’s where it gets a little tricky. You want the cheese to be nice and melty, but you don’t want the crust to burn, so you will need to figure out how to set your grill. Our grill has 3 zones, moving left to right. I leave all the burners on for 1-2 minutes after I return the pizza to the grill, and then I generally turn off the middle burner, letting the heat from the sides get the cheese all bubbly. You may need a few iterations to find what works for you.
Finally, once it’s cooked to your liking, pull it off the grill and WAIT for at least a couple minutes before you eat it. Yes, I know, it looks so good, and you worked SO hard on it. But if you just wait a little bit, the cheese will set up a little bit so it doesn’t slide like a pool of dairy-based napalm onto you when you try to eat it.
Phew. Long post. But I’m almost done running my mouth. Here are few helpful notes for successful grilled pizza:
- Prep, prep, prep. It bears repeating. This will go fast, so you don’t want to be grating cheese at the last minute.
- Long tongs are your friend. Hot grill + short tongs = singed hair. Believe me, I learned the hard way.
- If you are going with fresh mozzarella, cut it and let it drain as much as possible on some paper towels so it doesn’t get soggy.
- As much as possible, try and have all your ingredients at room temperature. It will help everything heat evenly.
And finally, some of our favorite combinations for pizza:
- Sliced sausage, roasted garlic, fresh mozzarella, and basil.
- Prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, and arugula (don’t be afraid to add a lot, it will wilt considerably).
- Brie, granny smith apples (sliced thin) and bacon (pre-cooked and crumbled). Yeah, you’ll suffer a LITTLE heart attack, but it’s worth it.
Now go out and make some pizza! And if you’ve got a favorite topping combination, please share it in the comments. We’re always looking to try new things.
Crust adapted from Fine Cooking.
- 1 lb. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour; more as needed
- 2 tsp. granulated sugar or honey
- 2.5 tsp. kosher salt
- 11 oz warm water
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1.5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- Topping of choice
- Combine the yeast, sugar/honey, olive oil, water, and ¼ cup of flour in the bowl of your stand mixture and let stand 10 minutes.
- If there is a foam and/or bubbles proceed to the next step, otherwise discard the mixture and start again.
- With the mixer on low, add the salt, and ⅓ of the remaining flour.
- Once the flour is absorbed, add the next ⅓ of the flour, and then repeat with the last ⅓.
- The dough should gather into a tacky, but not sticky, ball. If the dough is too sticky, add some additional flour. If the dough doesn't come together, add some more water.
- Once you have the right consistency, turn the mixer to medium high, and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on the mixer so it doesn't topple off your counter.
- Remove the dough from the mixer and place it in a bowl. Coat very lightly with olive oil, cover the ball with plastic wrap, and let it rise in the fridge for 12-24 hours.
- After it has risen, portion the dough out as needed, and either use or freeze.
- Let the dough warm up for 10-30 minutes. It will be easier to work with.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and use your hands or a rolling pin to shape into a crust about ⅛" thick (or to your preference).
- Preheat your grill on high for at least 10 minutes.
- With your toppings prepped and nearby, place your crust on the grill, turn the heat down to medium low, cover, and let cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Flip the crust over, and then remove to a cookie sheet or cutting board (grill marks side up).
- Apply a thin brushing of olive oil and top the the pizza.
- Return the pizza to the grill and cook 1-2 minutes more.
- Check the pizza for doneness: if the bottom is nicely browned, but the cheese is not melted, turn off the central burner and cook for an additional 1-3 minutes, but check frequently as the crust can start to burn.
- Remove the pizza from the grill, and let sit for 3-5 minutes before cutting. This is a good time to add a final sprinkle of cheese like parmesan reggiano or pecorino romano or fresh basil.