How and Why You Should be Grilling Pizza

Last week Esther Sung wrote about where to get the best slice of pizza and offered recipes for making your own. Well, like Esther, I love pizza. My affection applies to the artisanal options I regularly indulge in at New York City restaurants (especially Otto, Una Pizza Napoletano, and Lil' Frankie's) as well the corner pizza shop. I'm also not above frozen pizza (Amy's is my favorite and was the winner of ourfrozen pizza taste test) and I have a minor obsession with pizza bagels. But, my absolute favorite pizza comes from my parents' own backyard grill.

So, why do I love it so much? The main reason is that cooking dough over a hot fire lends it an irresistible charred flavor. With that charring, I could probably do without any sauce, cheese, or toppings though I doubt I'll give those up any time soon. And, speaking of toppings, since you're making your own pie, you can do whatever you fancy whether it's a traditional margarita, a veggie pie, or something more unusual like a sauce-less pizza topped with thinly sliced potatoes and drizzled with truffle oil, crème fraîche, and chives. Regardless, grilled pizza has an incredible fresh quality that in my opinion can't be beat (even by the fancier versions I get in New York ).

My family started grilling pizza about ten years ago (it was my Mom's idea) and our first attempt was almost a disaster. The final product was delicious, but getting there was a bit of an adventure. We were at my parents' summerhouse and as usual, it took us a while to drag ourselves off the beach, shower, have a few cocktails, and finally start on dinner. So, by the time we were actually grilling, the sun had set, and I found myself holding several flashlights over my Mom's head, while she struggled to get the dough on the grill.

Ten years, many pizzas, and at least one outdoor light later, we've mastered the fine art of grilling pizza. The basic method is to roll out the dough, briefly grill one side (until the dough stiffens a bit and grill marks appear), then add your toppings to the grilled side and return the pizza to the fire. It's done when the crust is crisp and the cheese is melted.

If grilling pizza sounds good to you (and I can't imagine why it wouldn't), here are some tips to get you started:

"We've had great results with this basic pizza dough recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis. It calls for a food processor, which I don't have, but the dough can be mixed and kneaded by hand. If you don't have time to make your own, some pizzerias will sell you a ball of dough. Or, you can use the frozen kind found at supermarkets.

"It took my family a while to figure out the best way to roll out the dough but we've settled on a combination of rolling pin and hand stretching. Start by using your lightly floured pin to get the dough into a roughly circular or rectangular shape (I prefer a rectangle because it fits better on most grills), then use your hands to gently pull and stretch the dough, aiming to make it as thin as possible without creating too many holes. (There's nothing wrong with a few holes though. In fact, I think they add some personality to a pie.)

"As our grilling primer explains, it's safer to oil the food, not the grill. But, to be completely honest, that's not the method we use. Instead, we use one of those olive oil sprays and liberally coat the grill racks with it. I think this works really well but for safety reasons it might be better to brush your rolled out dough with olive oil, then flip it onto the grill (and remember to brush the bottom of your pizza with oil before you return it to the grill).

"When it comes to getting the raw dough on the grill racks, four hands are better than two. If you take two corners of your rectangle and have someone else take the opposite corners, you can gently place the dough over the flames. Of course, if you have a pizza peel, that would likely eliminate this problem.

"Make sure you have proper light. Either start grilling at a reasonable hour or get yourself a good outdoor light.

Have you ever grilled pizza? Tell us about the experience.

For more on grilling, including recipes, menus, gear, and videos, check out our ultimate guide to grilling.

by Lauren Salkeld


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