The seven best things created in 1980:
As interesting as the other six may be, today we're here to talk about number 3. For my money, grilling pizza is by far the best way to cook pizza at home. It's the only method that consistently delivers the crisp, blistered crust that the best pizzerias achieve.
Invented at Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1980, the process itself is so simple and its benefits so obvious once you taste the pies that it's frankly unbelievable to me that they didn't exist centuries if not millennia ago. Granted, grilled flatbreads are not a new thing, but still, to combine them with tomato, cheese, and good olive oil is just such a good idea.
The basic theory is easy. Take a round of pizza dough, expose it to the intense heat of a grill, flip it, top it, char the bottom, and serve. Because grills can reach upwards of 600°F and emit radiant energy like a motherfu**er, the pizzas bubble, crisp, and char in about 45 seconds flat per side. That's timing that rivals the hottest wood-burning oven, and just like those pizzas, the result is a crust that is soft and chewy in the center, with a crisp, crackly shell that's deeply charred in spots—especially if you go all out and make it with the finely milled Italian type "00" flour.
Have you ever seen anything this spotty-yummy come out of a home oven?
There Are a Couple of Snags — Here's How to Work Around Them
1. There is no heat source on top of the pies. This means that you have to reverse the order of the toppings, placing the cheese directly against the freshly charred crust so that it melts properly. The tomato sauce (I prefer a simple uncooked sauce of salted canned San Marzanos) has to be applied in dollops so that the melty cheese can show through.
2. It also means that toppings that require cooking must be precooked and added hot—say, sausage chunks or spinach leaves. Additionally, salumi like soppressata or pepperoni will not get the deliciously crisp edges that they do in a normal oven.
As a crust lover, personally, It's a trade off I'm willing to make.
Finally, just like a good stir fry, mise en place is all-important. These things cook fast, so have all of your tools and ingredients on hand before you throw the first piece of dough on the grill.
Follow our recipe for grilled pizza for exact timing and measurements or, if think you've got a good dough and sauce of your own, head into the sideshow above for a quick visual breakdown of the process.
About the author: After graduating from MIT, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt spent many years as a chef, recipe developer, writer, and editor in Boston. He now lives in New York with his wife, where he runs a private chef business, KA Cuisine, and co-writes the blog GoodEater.org about sustainable food enjoyment.