In the past, I have been leery of cooking pizza on the grill. The entire concept of just putting dough on the grill seemed a bit strange to me. I mean, aren’t grills for meat and veggies? Won’t the dough just stick, start on fire, and then leave me calling for delivery anyway?
The answer to that is no way! Pizza on the grill is so easy, and because of the endless topping possibilities, everyone is sure to find a combo that works for them. Not only is this one of my favorite meals because it’s a crowd pleaser, it’s also really fast from start to finish.
My favorite part is that all of the pizza toppings can be prepared and put into bowls ahead of time then stored in the refrigerator until it’s time to grill, leaving more time to visit with family and friends. After all, it’s been a long time since we have seen each other! To help inspire you to try your hand at pizza grilling, I wanted to share some of my favorite crusts and topping recipes.
When it comes to the crust, I flip back and forth about making my own or not. It’s easy to purchase ready made dough at the grocery store or in the big box club stores, but a few weeks ago, I brought out an old recipe that I hadn’t made for 15 years. My boys fell in love with my Crunchy Cornmeal Crust. It takes about 40 minutes, including rest time, when I make it in my mixer with a dough hook, but if you wanted to knead the dough by hand, you could just add an additional 5 minutes of knead time. Each batch of this recipe yields one 16” hand-tossed thickness crust or two 16” thin crusts. This recipe also freezes really well, so if I want to save some prep work later in the month, I’ll make more than I need then pop the rest into the freezer. You’ll find that the crust is more delicious on the second pizza night because you won’t have as many dishes to do!
Last year, when just about everything was in short supply at the grocery store, supermarkets were short of yeast for months. If you don’t happen to have yeast around — or want to try something fun — you can also make a soft, slightly tangy pizza crust using self-rising flour and Greek yogurt. That’s it. Just two ingredients! Alright, there are technically a few more ingredients because self-rising flour is all-purpose flour with a little bit of baking powder and sometimes salt added to it, but still . . . pretty simple. The baking powder is the leavening agent in place of the yeast in most pizza doughs. Sometimes when I make that crust, I add a little bit of garlic powder and Italian seasoning to give the crust an extra bit of flavor. This crust ends up being on the softer side, so you will have to be a little more gentle when handling it, but sometimes tiny teeth prefer this one.
Once you have made your mind up on your dough, it’s time to think about the sauce. There are so many options! Classic sauce, olive oil, pesto, alfredo, taco, or even barbecue. We often make the kids’ pizza with a classic sauce, either store bought or homemade, and then try to spice things up for the teenagers and adults. Sweet Hot Pepper Pizza Sauce is one that we like to use quite a bit. It also freezes great, so any sauce that you might have left over, you can place in the freezer to use later.
Here are the general directions for preparing pizza on the grill:
Prepare the dough. You can choose to go with homemade dough or store bought. I have done both, and they both work great! The key to making your own dough at home is to make sure it’s not too sticky. You will want to knead in flour if it sticks to your fingers or rolling pin too much.
Once your dough is rolled out and shaped, sprinkle it with cornmeal or brush the dough lightly with oil on the side that will touch the grill. If you are making multiple crusts you can stack the prepared dough by using parchment paper between each one.
Have all of your toppings ready ahead of time.
Preheat the grill. If using gas, I like to make sure that my grill is at 450 before starting. If using charcoal, you will want to let the coals burn down for about 30 minutes before grilling.
Pre-grill the crust on one side for 3-5 minutes to avoid a soggy center. Yes, you can place the dough right on the grates of the grill. If you don’t feel comfortable placing the dough right on the grill, you can use a stone or a pizza screen. Just make sure your dough has a little olive oil rubbed on it. Be sure to use oil sparingly so as to not create a flare up. To remove the pizza crust from the grill, have a tongs or pizza peel ready.
Be aware of the grill temperature and turn it down if necessary.
Remember to close the lid on the grill when you are cooking your pizzas. This is the only way that “baking” will happen on your grill.
Here are some fun topping ideas:
Sauces: Classic tomato pizza sauce, garlic olive oil, pesto, barbecue, taco sauce, refried beans, alfredo sauce, Sweet Hot Pepper Pizza Sauce (see recipe)
Meats: Pepperoni, crumbled Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, cubed ham, cooked shrimp, bacon, browned hamburger, taco meat, grilled chicken, pulled pork, prosciutto
Veggies/Fruit: Bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, thin sliced zucchini, spinach, artichokes, jalapenos, pineapple, sliced olives, red onions, green onions, shaved asparagus, shaved Brussel sprouts, sliced peaches
Cheeses: Mozzarella, parmesan, feta, blue cheese, ricotta, cheddar, gouda, goat cheese, Havarti
Garnishes: Chopped herbs, crushed red pepper flakes, shaved parmesan, honey, hot honey, arugula
Crispy Crunchy Cornmeal Crust
14 ounces of all purpose flour
⅔ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon quick yeast, or bread machine yeast
9-10 ounces of water, room temperature or slightly warm.
In the bowl of your mixer, stir together the flour, cornmeal and salt. Add yeast and water. Using a dough hook attachment, turn the speed to low and let it run for 10 minutes. If the dough seems like it doesn’t want to come together, you may need to add a little more water. If it seems like it wants to stick to the dough hook or the sides of the bowl too much, sprinkle in a little extra flour. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. (The crust can be frozen at this point for up to 3 months)
Using your fingertips and a rolling pin, pat the dough out to desired size and thickness. Set aside.
Preheat the grill to 450 degrees. Lightly oil the side of the dough that will go on the grill. Place oil side down on the grates of your grill, close the lid and cook the dough for 3-5 minutes or until it is marked, but not black, and feels partially cooked through.
Using tongs or a pizza peel, remove the crust from the grill. Place toppings on the grill marked side of the crust. Return the pizza to the grill, topping side up. Close the lid and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the toppings are warmed.
Greek Yogurt Pizza Crust
1.5 cups self rising flour
1 cup Greek yogurt
In a small mixing bowl, combine the yogurt and the self rising flour until the mixture is mostly combined. It will still be a little crumbly. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 7-10 minutes until a smooth dough is formed. If needed add more flour or yogurt to help you work the dough better. You want to be able to get it smooth, but not too sticky. (See pictures on how to knead the dough.)
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to desired size and thickness.
Preheat the grill to 450 degrees. Lightly oil the side of the dough that will go on the grill. Place oil side down on the grates of your grill, close the lid and cook the dough for 3-5 minutes or until it is marked, but not black, and feels partially cooked through. Using tongs or a pizza peel, remove the crust from the grill. Place toppings on the grill marked side of the crust. Return the pizza to the grill, topping side up. Close the lid and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the toppings are warmed.
Sweet Hot Pepper Pizza Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, fresh minced
1 14 ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 15 ounce jar roasted red pepper strips, drained
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt (more or less to taste)
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, heat olive oil to simmering. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional one minute. Place the onions and garlic in a blender with the tomatoes and bell pepper strips. Puree until smooth. Return the mixture to the sauté pan with the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, chipotle, and salt. Cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Use as you would any sauce on pizza. Will keep in your refrigerator for up to 1 week and freezer for 6 months.
How to knead the dough:
Turn the slightly crumbly mixture onto your flour surface. Work until the dough starts to form into a smooth ball. Add more flour or moisture as needed. You do not want the dough too dry, but it also should not stick to your hands too much.
Working on a floured surface, use the heel of your hand, push the dough down and away from your body.
Fold the dough back towards you and use the heel of your hand to again push the dough down and away from your body.
Rotate the dough ½ turn and repeat.
Let the dough rest if needed.
Place the pizza dough directly on grill.