Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza Recipe

A few nights ago we made the first grilled pizzas of the summer. With fog enveloping San Francisco, Wayne and I bundled in our best jackets and scarves and clambered up the steepest hill in the neighborhood, our bags packed with an assortment of pizza toppings. Our friends Aaron and Malinda have an outdoor oven in their backyard and the plan was to give it a good workout. A parade of pizzas commenced until the fire died out. With many summer nights ahead, I thought I'd pass along a few of the things I've learned about getting grilled pizzas right.

Grilled Pizza Recipe

The dough: I've done grilled pizzas with a range of pizza doughs. If you're looking for a dough made with whole grain flour, try this one. It's a riff on Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough recipe I wrote about a few years ago - I've had success with both on the grill. As far as the thick or thin debate goes - I like to pull my dough out parchment thin - to the point where it almost rips and you can see through it. That being said, leaving the dough a bit thicker yields a pizza with a different personality, still delicious - try both to see what you like. I haven't had any trouble with my dough sticking to the grill, start with a clean gill and I'd try adding a bit of heat if you are having any trouble with sticking.

Temperature: Controlling the temperature of the grill is key to your success - and I wish you luck. That being said, if your luck and skill is anything like mine - this is a battle that some nights you'll win, and some you'll lose. The heat from the oven we used this time was nice and round - I'd qualify it as medium-hot. We didn't have any trouble with burning, and the dough crisped up nicely. When using a gas grill, the lid is my friend. I use the lid to control the heat, and to get the hot air circulating all the way around the dough. If you need your toppings to cook/melt more quickly - slap the lid on for a bit. Keep in mind, you have to be particularly vigilant with pizzas you've pulled parchment thin - they'll burn through in a flash. Broadly speaking, whatever type of outdoor oven/grill I'm using I obsessively check the bottom and top of the dough and let it tell me what it needs - more time, more heat, a flip, etc.

Grilled Pizza Recipe

Be organized: Once you throw that dough onto the grill, the next steps come in rapid succession whether you're ready or not.

Toppings: Use flavor-packed, fast cooking ingredients that have a tendency to melt quickly for your grilled pizza toppings. This time around we did a range - Aaron made the caramelized fennel & olives (pictured above), we also had spinach/pea & ricotta pesto, potatoes & smoke chile sauce, and tomato & roasted red peppers. I like thinly sliced potatoes on my pizza, I also like them creamy and tender, so I saute them ahead of time. As far as cheeses go, it's hard to go wrong - I like salted ricotta, good mozzarella, and shredded aged gruyere. Don't be afraid to pre-cook ingredients if needed. And lastly (I almost forgot this one), don't go overboard with the toppings - thoughtfully curate each pizza so that the flavors of each ingredient have room to speak. You want to avoid the kitchen sink approach.

If you've never grilled pizzas before, give it a go. It's fun for a small crowd because everyone can take a turn making their own custom pizza. If you have favorite topping ideas, give a shout out in the comments - I suspect this won't be the last time we grill pizzas this summer.

Grilled Pizza Recipe

I included many pointers in the main entry for this post about temperature, dough, toppings and the like - so, be sure not to miss that before you get started. The pizza in the photo was made with my favorite tomato sauce, Aaron's caramelized fennel & olives, and a bit of grated Gruyere cheese.

Pizza dough:
I've had success with White Whole Wheat Pizza Dough or Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough recipe.

Toppings:

- my favorite five minute tomato sauce

- caramelized fennel & olives: Made by slicing fennel thinly, but not paper thin (a mandolin does the job). In a large skillet over med-high heat, saute the fennel in olive oil for 3 or 4 mins, to brown a bit. Turn down the heat to low and cook for another fifteen to twenty minutes. A few minutes before the fennel is done, toss in a handful of your favorite pitted olives.

- Gruyere cheese, grated

When you are ready to pull out the dough, go for it. I try not to over handle the dough, but like it to be an even thickness throughout (so you aren't fighting parts that are burning, while other parts are still doughy). Brush olive oil on one side, and turn that side down onto the grill. Now that the dough is on the grill, brush the side that is face up with olive oil. If you are on a gas grill, this is when I'd slap on the cover in 20-30 second stretches. Check on the bottom of the dough often, and when it is deeply golden, flip the dough.

Get the toppings on quickly. In this case, brush a thin layer of tomato sauce across the pizza, a dusting of cheese, and a generous tangle of the fennel and olives. Check on the bottom of the dough regularly, and when it is deeply golden use a baking sheet or pizza peal to remove. Dust with a bit more cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and enjoy.

Experiment with different toppings, that's half the fun. One of the other pizzas we did (not pictured) was with a spinach & pea ricotta pesto, thin slices of new potatoes, Gruyere, and a drizzled of this hot sauce from SNC.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

  • We've been making some delicious grilled pizzas w/whole wheat dough for a couple of years. One of my favorites has a pesto sauce with fresh tomatoes, but it's not August yet, so we have had caramelized vidalia onions with olives and blue cheese. A big hit even with those who are committed to a red sauce on pizza ( my husband). I wish I had read your idea about fennel and olives a few days ago - we just ate the fennel from our garden-I'll buy some for this-it sounds delicious. Thanks for a great read and some really amazing recipes.

    Sue
  • Great advice on how to grill a pizza and I love the pictures. What is the ideal temperature to get your grill to?

    Jason Adams
  • I would never think to put fennel and olives on a pizza. I've never even had grilled pizza before, this is some great advice. The best pizza ever is with ground beef, canned black olives and fresh mozz.

    Nick
  • Hi Heidi, Your site is one of my favorite ones. I like very much the way you write and the recipes are so nice. I have already tried some and it was really good. I bought your book too. :) I saw in some of your recipes the indication of King Arthur Flour, but I am not in the United States and I would like to ask you if I can use a regular whole wheat flour instead of King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour. Thank you! Carla

    Carla
  • Our favorite pizza-on-the-grill topping so far is preserved Meyer lemon, Parmesan, roasted garlic, and olive oil. Really, anything that looks good on pasta looks good on pizza, that's my rule of thumb.

    Katie in Berkeley
  • Awesome! I was planning on making grilled pizza Friday night and was looking for tips. Smoked chiles? Do you buy them or smoke them yourself? If you do buy them, where? Thanks :)

    bitchincamero
  • Love pizza on the grill - so much more flavor then the oven. Your toppings look good, never tried caramelized fennel. My favs are feta, tomatoes, black olives/kalmata, zucchini and red onion.

    Tracy
  • I love fresh pizza... I know this will probably sound like a poke in the eye to the rest of you, but I have a real, built-in, Italian wood-fired pizza oven in my basement. Of course my basement is located in real, built-in Monte di Procida, Italy... we're about 30k outside of Naples, so pizza in my area is spectacular. I do love to make pizza, but with Lo Sfizio and Salvatore's about a 10 minute walk from our place I've become lazy. They cook in stone ovens, and because they keep them at a constant temperature all night I can watch Salvatore throw the dough, make the pizza, and have it hot at my table all in a matter of 10 minutes - it really is incredible, and until I experienced it I would probably have said that this was against the laws of Physics. The fast cooking time might be due, in part, to an ability to read the paper through Salvatore's crusts after he throws them (ok, not literally, but you get the point) he's a master. Another reason why I often prefer to head to town on Pizza night... I've not yet mastered the ultra-thin part of the thin Naples style pizza...

    Ammaliatrice
  • Such a wonderful summer dish, nice idea with the caramelised fennel :) Question - the little Italian stand in our local market, recommends using a large quantity of flour when rolling out the pizza dough to be cook in an oven. Does this work well for your grill technique ? Erika

    Erika of SWEET PEA blog
  • It can help greatly if your grill is big enough to have a side that's hot and a side that's cooler in case you need to move it around to get things even. This works in gas grills with dual burners. off topic, cast iron is an awesome launching/lunching platforms for pizzas. I use a 10" Lodge for deep dish, and I picked up one of those super-cheap after closeout flat "emeril" branded chinese ones for thin and regular crust. I'll NEVER go back to the old stones. You've got to have some Muenster love to give your pizza an extra mile of delicious!

    Mike
  • Those pizzas look fantastic! Perfect and ever so scrumptious! There's nothing better than homemade pizzas! Cheers, Rosa

    Rosa
  • I've been wanting to try grilled pizzas for quite some time, but since I don't have a grill I'll have to rely on the kindness of friends. We've been meaning to get a grill, but I suspect we won't, again, this year. As for favorite toppings, I love caramelized onion on top, a good mozzarella and a few slices of good chouriço (or chorizo). Since I'm Portuguese, we can get a really good one around here. On a vegetarian approach, I'll still have the caramelized onions, the good mozzarella, paper-thin sliced mushrooms and maybe some rocket on top. Hmmm, I'm getting hungry! :) Hug * mariana

    mariana
  • this looks amazing! a great recipe for my oldest child to help me with now that she's on summer holiday. yum!

    Tai
  • Your pictures are making my mouth water! This is my second summer with my Weber charcoal grill, but I've not yet tackled pizza. Would you suggest putting it directly on the grill or using a pizza stone to keep a bit of control in the burn department?

    Mari
  • Cast iron skillets are the very best for reheating pizza: a dry skillet with a lid, and the heat on pretty much as low as you can make it, and pizza will be much better than fresh in about 10 minutes. I've made pizza in cast iron before, but -- at least if you're doing it on a stovetop -- you have to not pre-heat nearly as much as you would either for cooking pizza in the oven or for cooking anything in cast iron. (Well, maybe if you had a literally parchment-thin crust...)

    threemilechild
  • Oh darn. I don't have a grill. But after discovering your brussels sprouts recipe, I'm currently obsessed with my cast-iron skllet and universal lid. I am going to try making pizza in it and I will let you know whether it turns out to be totally awesome or the most horrifically burnt doughy mess ever.

    Sam
  • Oh, yum! It seems a little daunting, but definitely worth trying! And perfect for a hot day when you don't want to cook in the house.

    Kitt
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