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How to Grill Pizza Indoors

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

If you've got a backyard or deck and a grill, grilling pizzas is a natural in the summer. After lighting up the grill, hot, crispy-chewy, perfectly blistered crust is just a few minutes away.

But what if you, like me, recently moved from a decked-out Brooklyn apartment to a Manhattan high-rise with no outdoor space? Sure, I can always fire up the oven and preheat my stone at full blast for an hour and get some excellent, better-than-most-pizzeria results, but only if I'm willing to let the ambient temperature of my apartment to climb into the upper 80's, even with the A/C on full blast. I can't handle that kind of heat. You're listening to someone whose honeymoon in a hot, muggy, Vietnam last July was simultaneously the best and most sweat-covered, miserable experience of my life. So what's a pizza-loving, cold-blooded New Englander to do?

The answer seems obvious: Grill the pizza indoors on a grill pan.

I tried doing exactly that using a dough made from "OO" flour, 60% water, 1% yeast, and 2% salt, which I fermented overnight at room temp before it up and allowing it to rise an hour and a half. I followed the same method I use for an outdoor grill: stretch the dough and cook one side while brushing the second side with garlic oil, flip, then top while the second side cooks, putting the cheese under the sauce so that it melts. Remove when the bottom is charred, slice and serve.

It didn't exactly work. The pizza came out totally soggy, showing some major tip sag. In addition, it developed what I've dubbed an "inverse cornicione," which is clearly visible in the picture below. Basically, it looks like the pizza was constructed upside down:

20100628-indoor-grilled-pizza-inverse.jpg

Here's the problem: An outdoor grill gets the air near the grates to at least 500 or 600 degrees, and additionally supplies plenty of radiant energy from glowing coals. It also boasts plenty of ventilation. These three things combined lead to rapid coloring and dehydration of the crust, turning it crispy within a minute or so.

A grill pan, on the other hand, offers nearly no radiant energy, only gets to a few hundred degrees, and has very poor ventilation.

After some futzing around and some serious pizza-eating, I hit upon the solution. All you've gotta do is flip the dough twice before topping it, so that the side that is cooked first ends up sitting face-up for a minute, allowing it to dehydrate. It then gets cooked a second time when you flip the pie again and top it, helping it to further crisp up.

The method also handily solves the inverse cornicione problem:
20100628-indoor-grilled-pizza-6.jpg

So there you've got it: Hot, crisp, blistery pizza in five minutes, and your apartment stays perfectly cool, so no reason to strip down to your underwear. Unless you just want to, that is.

For a full set of instructions on the method, click through the slideshow at the top of the post.

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. Got a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Email Kenji here, and he'll do his best to answer your queries in a future post. Become a fan of The Food Lab on Facebook for play-by-plays on future kitchen tests and recipe experiments

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