How to Make Grilled Pizza: Some Quick Tips


[Photograph: Adam Kuban]

Grilled pizza. What's there to say about it but that it's pretty awesome and that, yes, you can grill a pizza.

It's much more fun and interesting that that other stuff you're thinking about grilling. Burgers? Hot dogs? Steak? Hmmph. Don't you do those every weekend?

So here's my quickie guide to doing grilled pizza. It's not a step-by-step, hold-your-hand guide—because I don't think doing grilled pizza is that difficult. Are you going to get it right the first time? Maybe. But it takes some practice. So, to get you started, here's what you'll need, along with some helpful tips and links to some good recipes.

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! »

What You'll Need

So you're probably askin': What do I need to grill a pizza? That's not an altogether unreasonable query. Get your answer after the jump.

  • A grill: Duh. Charcoal or gas will work. If you're a beginner, gas is much easier because you can regulate the temperature. Coal is fine, too, but you have to be on top of things to keep your fire at the right temperature
  • A grill with a clean grate: You don't want your dough to stick, right?
  • Pizza peels: You'll need at least two. Ideally, you'd get one wooden peel to build pies on and one metal peel to remove them from the grill. Myself, I use wooden peels for both. It's not like the peel is coming into contact with the grill for any significant amount of time (and if you've done things right, the pizza should come release from the grate easily). If your'e going to get serious about grilling pizza, you should pick up a total of three peels--either three wooden or two wooden and one metal
  • Grilling tongs: If you're using wooden peels, these can assist you in flipping the pizza; use them to grasp the dough by the edge and slide it onto the peel for flipping. They're not 100 percent necessary if you have the metal peel, which you can use as a humongoid spatula
  • Swiftness and attentiveness: The dough cooks quickly. You need an eagle eye and lightning reflexes to flip it at the proper moment
  • Dough: Try your local mom-and-pop pizzeria and see if they'll sell you some dough. Your grocery store may have pizza dough, too. Or, you could always make it yourself. I recommend this recipe; but start it tonight when you get home; it requires at least 24 hours in the fridge
  • Sauce: Easiest is a store-bought sauce that you like. You can also make a quick sauce by following this recipe (but just omit the lemon zest)
  • Prepped toppings: Get your toppings organized and within easy reach. Once you flip the dough, you need to top it quickly because you don't have much wiggle room as far as cooking time goes. If you want any meats that need to be cooked, do so beforehand; on-grill time is too short to allow for cooking all the way through
  • Finely sliced or grated cheese: This should be in "toppings" above, but I wanted to call this out in a separate line. Make sure to finely grate or slice your cheese so it melts faster
  • Plenty of olive oil, a wide-mouth container, a pastry brush: You'll need lots of olive oil it to brush the dough to keep it from sticking to the grill. Pour it in a mason jar so you have easy access to it. Use the pastry brush to apply it

Preheating the Grill

Once you have all the tools and your topping prep work done, light your grill.

Gas: If you're using gas, preheat to medium. Done.

Coals: They're a bit trickier. Before you light them, pour enough in the grill to completely cover the bottom; then stack that amount in a pyramid for lighting or load it into a starter chimney. Light it and let it go till the coals are uniformly covered in gray ash. At that point, spread them around evenly. You'll want to cook over a moderately hot fire. To test this, hold your hand about 4 inches over the coals. It's moderately hot if you can keep your hand there for no longer than 3 seconds.

Going for It

Don't worry: The dough won't fall through the grate. You'd think it would, but it doesn't, and I've tried this on all different grills.

Once the dough is on the grill, you have about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes of cooking time before you need to flip it. But in the meantime, you'll want to quickly brush on a slathering of olive oil on the exposed side. Be careful not to overdo it here; too much oil, and it'll start dripping into the coals, causing dreaded flare-ups. When the dough starts to bubble on exposed side--like a pancake does (right)--it's time to flip. The dough should release easily from the grate at this point, since it frees up after a bit of cooking. Slide the peel under it, and lift off cooking surface.

Flip that thing and sauce and top it like like the devil himself is chasing your ass. This is not the time to go heavy on toppings. You need them to heat through and the cheese to melt. I might add here that it's helpful to have an assistant who serves as the sauce-applier. Once you've got your pizza topped, close the grill lid so heat can reflect down onto the top. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, checking after about a minute for doneness.

When the pizza's ready, use the metal peel--or tongs and wooden peel--to remove it from the grill. Throw it on a flat pizza pan, slice that sucker, and serve.