Grilled Pizza

This entry originally ran on Slice on August 09, 2004. We're putting it in the oven for a reheat here for Memorial Day weekend in hopes that it inspires you to try grilling your own pies. It's easier than you'd think. Have a good one, folks, and, as always ... Hasta la Pizza! —The Mgmt.

Saturday was the umpteenth-annual block party on my street. This stretch is home to Slice HQ, so we were out, grill on the sidewalk, dishing up some delectable pies. Slice editors Adam K., E-Rock, and Seltzerboy were on hand—in addition to some friends who stopped by.

We reported last week on our experiments with grilled pizza, saying they had been mixed. Saturday's pies, however, were more hit than miss, as guest Tien Mao can verify.

I made two batches of dough in the morning, which gave us seven doughballs (one batch split into quarters and one into thirds). Wanting to keep things simple, I grabbed a zesty stick of pepperoni from Rocco at the pork store just around the corner, along with freshly made fresh mozzarella (he said he'd made it not more than two hours prior) and some pecorino romano. Our friend Janelle brought some little portobello mushrooms and a red pepper. We roasted both vegetables on the grill along with hamburger "appetizers."

Update: Our Step-by-Step Grilled-Pizza Guide!

Editor's note (5/27/2010): OK, I know I said I wasn't going to hold your hand through this, but so many people have asked for detailed instrux during the summer grilling season that we have put together The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Grilling Pizza. And though I still think the tips below are good, this all-new updated guide is even better — especially for beginning pizza-grillers!
Check it out here! »

Slice & Co. hang out on the sidewalk (left), just a few doors up from Al Capone's boyhood home ("Scarface" grew up on the street). To make grilled pizza, roll out the dough to no thinner than 1/8 inch (right).

After rolling out the dough to the desired size, brush olive oil on it to keep it from sticking to the grill (left). Using pizza peels (right) makes it easy to transport dough to the grill—if you're fast and skillful, you can turn the peel over to transfer the round to the grate.

Little portobellos and pepperoni. Let the grill do your prep work for you: Coat the mushroom caps with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill them for about 5 minutes per side. We used the stovetop, however, to briefly precook the pepperoni.

mise en place is down pat. I have a large enameled tray that I like to assemble my supplies and ingredients on; it's easy to take grillside. In the foreground are the sauce and romano, with a bowlful of thinly sliced fresh mozzarella, a dish of mushrooms, and a small jar of olive oil along with a brush for application. The sauce itself is easy to make. In a large saucepot, heat four tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Throw in a couple 2lb. cans of whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes (with their purée), breaking them up with your hands as you add them. Add 1.5 teaspoons oregano, a couple teaspoons salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir and simmer, reduce heat to low, and let cook down until sauce is thick, about an hour.

If you don't have a big fancy grill with built-in counter space, it's a good idea to bring some sort of outdoor table close. Place your prepared ingredients on it and make sure there's room on the table to set down the stretched dough; you're going to need both hands to move the dough onto the grill. Gently but quickly move the dough from table to grill.

Immediately after putting dough on, brush exposed side with olive oil. In about a minute, the dough will start to bubble, almost like a pancake on a griddle (left). At this point, it's probably cooked and firm enough to flip; use tongs to test it. Don't keep the first side on too long. It will become the top of your pie, so you don't want it too crisp. It should look something like the photo on the right. Flip using tongs or pizza peel or a combination of both.

As fast as possible, dress the dough with sauce and then top it. Repeat: as fast as possible—you want to get that grill lid down to trap the heat and melt the cheese.

Even though we told you to get the top down on the grill, you have to check the pizza bottom frequently to make sure it's not burning. Use the tongs and the peel to turn the pie to compensate for hotter and cooler spots. When the bottom is done, remove the pie using the peel and tongs. Serve.

E-Rock takes a photo of the crust of his half-eaten slice. Not too bad lookin', if I don't say so myself.

We made a total of five pies that day for a total of eight people plus some neighbors and a few passersby: 1 plain pie, 2 mushrooms, 1 pepperoni, and 1 roasted red pepper. I'm eating leftovers as I type this, trying not to get the keyboard greasy.

As our appetites waned, I had time to relax (except for helping a neighbor kid fix her Razor scooter several times). Seltzerboy and E-Rock worked off their pizza by getting in on a game of stickball (below) with some of my neighbors; they were on opposing teams.

Oh. You wanna know the score? 17 to 9, Seltzerboy's team.

Tien Mao's take on the pizza grilling.