Neapolitan-style pizza is typically baked in ovens heated past 900 degrees to achieve its signature crackly, thin, charred crust with a moist, stretchy crumb. But you can easily yield similar textures and flavors at home by baking pizza dough directly on the grates of a hot grill until it’s bubbly and crisp.
Picture a thin, chewy crust with a crispy outside. The bottom is lightly charred with marks from the grill. There is a light dusting of flour on the outside of the crust. Its top is slathered in aromatic, garlic-infused, tomato sauce and piled high with fresh greens, melting mozzarella, and steaming tomatoes. There is hot meat cooked into the toppings, too. It could be prosciutto, pepperoni, or sausage….your mouth is watering. It’s time to learn how to cook one yourself.
Let’s explore how to properly grill a pizza, from prep work right until you’re ready to take the first bite. Once you’ve read through this guide you’ll be ready to amaze your friends and family with your masterful grilled pizza skills.
Why Grill Pizza Instead of Using an Oven?
High temperature is what gives pizza flavor. It adds that irresistible crunch to the pizza’s crust and that roasted edge to veggies and other toppings. Although your oven can reach a fairly high temperature, it doesn’t rival the smoky inferno of flavor that your grill can produce. A grill offers the best means (outside of a pizza oven) of cooking delicious pizza precisely because it can get hotter than an oven.
Now get that grill blazing hot. Whether you’re using charcoal or propane, that extra heat is about to add some char that you won’t soon forget.
How to Make Pizza on the Grill?
Now that you know the perks of having pizza straight from the grill, all you need to know is how to make it yourself. Luckily, making a grilled pizza at home is an easy process that any novice chef can pull off. If you’re ready to try your hand at preparing the perfect grilled pizza, check out these eight simple steps below.
Step 1 – Make the Dough
Of course, if you’re going to make pizza on the grill you’ll need some dough. If you don’t already have pre-made pizza dough, this recipe makes enough dough for about eight small pizzas. Note: you’ll probably need around two balls of dough for each person.
The ingredients you’ll need are:
- 2 ½ teaspoons of active dry yeast or 1 ounce of fresh yeast
- 1 ¼ cups of warm water
- 4 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon of kosher salt
- ¼ cup olive oil, with more set aside to coat the bowl
Start by thoroughly mixing the yeast into the water and letting it sit for around 15 minutes. This ensures that the water has been absorbed into all the yeast. Next, combine salt and flour, using a stand mixer bowl if possible. Using a dough hook on a stand mixer will make the process easier. Stir at low speed pouring the olive oil and yeast mix alternatingly into the flour. Knead the mixture for six minutes. By the end it should be elastic.
If you’re not using a stand mixer, you can knead the dough on a floured tabletop or breadboard. When you’re done kneading, make sure the dough has the correct texture. It should be soft and have a little stickiness to it. Don’t worry if it feels dry or grainy, you can remedy this by one tablespoon of warm water until it softens properly. Knead the dough for another couple of minutes until the water is absorbed.
Whether or not you plan to use the dough the same day or the next, put it in a large bowl with a bit of oil in it. If you plan on using the dough on the same day, cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rise for about an hour at room temperature. When you can poke it with your finger and the hole remains, it’s ready to cook. If you need to keep the dough for the next day, refrigerate the bowl and the dough will rise slowly overnight.
You can also freeze the dough for use at a later time. To do so immediately place the dough in a freezer bag and place it in the freezer. It’ll stay good for around a month. One day before using it, remove from the freezer and refrigerate it.
Step 2 – Prepare Your Ingredients
Getting your ingredients prepped and organized is the key to successfully grilling pizza. If you’re using refrigerated dough to make your pizzas, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to warm at room temperature for around twenty minutes.
Next, you’ll want to get your sauce and toppings ready. If you’re using a homemade tomato sauce, now’s the time to whip up a batch. Otherwise, make sure you have a can of pizza sauce on hand. As far as toppings go, make sure whatever you need to chop, dice, or slice is ready so you can quickly add them to the pizza when the time comes.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]If you need some grilled pizza inspiration, check out these delicious topping combos:
- Classic Cheese: Tomato sauce, provolone, cheddar, mozzarella cheese
- Classic Pepperoni: Tomato sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese
- Meat Extravaganza: Tomato sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, mozzarella cheese
- The Everything: Tomato sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, mozzarella cheese, black olives, bell pepper slices, mushrooms
- Quattro Formaggio: Gorgonzola, pecorino, asiago, mozzarella, basil
- Barbecue Chicken: White sauce, chunks of pre-cooked barbeque chicken, bits of bacon, provolone, mozzarella cheese
- Margherita: Cherry plum tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh whole leaves of basil
Along with your ingredients, make sure any grilling tools you’ll need are fully washed and ready to be used. You’ll want a pair of long metal tongs, a basting brush, and an oven mitt or a hot pad while grilling your pizza. You can also keep a spatula handy.
Step 3 – Get Your Grill Ready
Both charcoal and propane grills work great for cooking pizzas, so don’t worry about not having the right kind. If you use a wood fire grill that’s going to be fine as well.
Here’s how to prep your grill:
- Charcoal Grill: The secret here is to leave a third of the grill open for low heat cooking. Pile the charcoal under two thirds of the grate, leaving the rest empty for indirect cooking. This gives you a last resort in case you need to rescue a pizza from burning. Light the charcoal and wait for it to turn ashy before cooking over it.
- Gas Grill: Preheat your gas grill to medium heat. Ideally, it will be between 350 degrees Fahrenheit and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it heat up for around 15 minutes and set all the burners to medium. There is not really any need to keep part of the grill free as in the charcoal grill. If your pizza starts burning or getting too charred, simply turn off the burner.
Get a bowl and pour some olive oil into it. When you’re ready to throw the first crust onto the grill, prepare the grill for cooking by using a brush to coat the grate with the oil. You can also fold up a paper towel, dip it into the olive oil with tongs, and then rub the grill with the oiled paper towel.
Step 4 – Stretch Your Dough
Once your pizza dough has warmed up to room temperature, you can start getting it ready for the grill. To start, flour a tabletop, countertop, or breadboard. Divide your ball of dough into eight balls, roughly four ounces each. Placing each ball on the floured table, use your hands to stretch it and flatten it until it’s in the shape of a disk. It should ideally be about half an inch thick. Because it is such an elastic material don’t be surprised if the dough wants to spring back into the original shape; just keep working it.
Once you get them where you want them, cover the desks with plastic wrap so that no moisture can escape. Leave them alone for five minutes. Then go about stretching and using a rolling pin to flatten each disk even more. The sections of dough should be around one-eighth of an inch thick. These pizzas are best served thin, so make sure the crusts aren’t too thick. Each disk should be between eight and ten inches in diameter.
If your dough is stubborn, and doesn’t want to conform to the shape you are insisting upon, cover it again with plastic and give it a few more minutes to rest. While you do this, take a baking sheet and line it with waxed paper. Lay a disk down on it, then place another piece of waxed paper on top and lay the next disk down, continue until all the disks are stacked. You’re now ready to use the dough.
If you need to wait before grilling the pizza, the dough can be refrigerated for up to four hours. Note that you shouldn’t give the pizza a raised crust, as this will make it hard to handle when it’s time to grill.
Step 5 – Give the Crust a First Grilling
You’ll be cooking one side of the crust first, then the other. Take a rimless baking sheet and lightly flour its surface, so that the crust can slide easily once it’s placed on it. Ensuring you’ve brushed the grill with olive oil, bring the crust over and let it slide off the baking sheet onto the grill. Use an oven mitt or hot pad to close the lid and let it cook for about two minutes
Use a spatula to check the underside of the dough. You can tell it is cooking by the formation of air pockets. The underside should be browned. Occasionally, one side of the crust will brown while the other stays white. If this is the case, simply rotate it so that the other side can cook. Let it cook for another minute.
Step 6 – Remove from the Grill
When the crust has turned light brown on the bottom and has air pockets on top, use your tongs to take it off the grill and place it on a baking sheet. Flip the crust upside down on the baking sheet with its cooked side up. Close the grill cover so it doesn’t cool off, you’ll need your grill to retain its heat through the next step.
Step 7 – Add Your Toppings
Now that your half-baked crust is off the grill, it’s finally time to add some toppings! Although piling on all your favorite toppings is the most exciting part about making homemade pizza, make sure you go light on your grilled pizza toppings. Variety is fine, but don’t put too much food on top of your pizza; it will weigh it down, making it soggy and more difficult to grill.
First, take your olive oil brush and apply a light coating over the grilled top of the crust. Then spread no more than a ladle of sauce onto your pizza. Resist the temptation to add more, or your pizza will get mushy. Sprinkle all the toppings you prepared earlier over the top of the pizza, ending with the cheese.
Step 8 – Put the Pizza Back on the Grill
When you’ve assembled your dream pizza, take it back to the grill on the baking sheet. Note that if you’re using a propane grill, it might be a good idea to turn the burners down a bit at this point. For a grill with charcoal, turn the vents all the way closed on top of the grill to stifle oxygen and reduce heat. You may also need to reapply a light coating of olive oil to the grates.
Let the pizza slide off the baking sheet, feeding it onto the surface of the grill. Close the lid, it should cook for between two and three minutes. You’ll be able to tell it is ready when the cheese is bubbling, or the bottom starts to get charred, or both. Take the pizza off the grill using your tongs or large spatula, and let it cool down for a few minutes before serving.
Once your grilled pizza has cooled a bit, slice it up and enjoy!