Summer grilling season doesn't need to focus solely on classic BBQ fare like smoked meats and grilled veggies. Open-fire cooking has countless applications, and one especially fun (and tasty) way to use your grill involves making perfectly-charred pizzas with vibrant seasonal toppings. If you've never grilled a pizza before, we—along with chef de cuisine Tony Curet of Side Eye Pie in Austin, Texas—have you covered with clear and actionable tips for picking the right dough, figuring out the ideal cook time and temperature, and selecting toppings that will flourish on the grill.
Pizza Dough Types for the Grill
When we asked Curet about the type of pizza dough that's best suited to grilling, he said that "low-hydration doughs do better on the grill because they're more durable and stand up better to the direct heat contact of the grill." Neapolitan-style pizza dough is a prime example of a low-hydration dough that fares beautifully on the grill. The final product's thin, crispy texture comes from heat exposure, so this dough is designed to handle high temps like the ones on the grill grate.
What Toppings To Use
One particular challenge of making pizza on the grill involves the timing of the toppings. You don't want to add the sauce, cheese, meats, and/or vegetables too early, since the high heat of the grill can easily burn the cheese and toppings and dry out the sauce.
According to Curet, toppings should be added once the first side of the dough is grilled (this takes 2-3 minutes) and you've flipped it to the other side. You can add the sauce, cheese, and toppings to the side that's been grilled while waiting for the bottom side to cook through.
When the bottom side is done grilling, Curet recommends that you shift the pie away from the direct flame and onto the cooler side of the grill (more on this later). Once the pizza is moved, "close the lid and allow the cheese and toppings to get melty," which should only take a minute or two (depending on your cheese and topping selections).
How to Make Grilled Pizza
1. Crank up the heat on the grill.
According to Curet, "the biggest mistake that people make when grilling pizza is not allowing the grill to get hot enough." He recommends turning the heat on one side of the grill up to medium-high while turning the second burner to low heat.
2. Prep the dough.
After lighting the grill, "stretch your dough to the size you want and brush both sides with an oil with a high smoke point (like grapeseed oil or peanut oil). This will prevent the dough from flaring up," says Curet.
3. Grill the dough.
"Place the dough oil side down on the hotter side of the grill and cook for about 2-3 minutes," Curet tells us. If you'd like to get the visual appeal of grill marks on your dough, "turn it 45 degrees" halfway through the cook time. "Using two spatulas [to turn the dough] is a pro move," Curet adds.
After grilling for 2-3 minutes, "flip the dough over, brush [the top side] with oil, and begin putting your sauce and toppings on the pizza." Then, wait 2-3 minutes until the bottom side (the side that's against the grill grate) cooks through.
4. Shift the pizza to the cooler side of the grill.
To finish the cooking process, slide the pizza over to the cooler side of the grill (the burner that's at low heat) and close the lid of the grill. Wait 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese fully melts.
5. Pull the pizza off the grill.
"Transfer [the pizza] to a sheet pan with a roasting rack [on top]," says Curet. Letting the pizza cool on the roasting rack set over the sheet pan will allow it to "maintain its crispness." Finally, "cut into as many pieces as you like and enjoy!"
Margherita Grilled Flatbread Pizza
- 4 naan flatbreads
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup pizza sauce
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella
- 2 tomatoes sliced
- 1/2 cup basil torn
- Preheat grill to medium high heat.
- One the grill is preheated, place flatbreads on grill and grill until there are slight char marks, about 3 minutes. Remove from grill.
- In small bowl combine garlic and pizza sauce. Spoon sauce on charred side of pizza. Add mozzarella and tomatoes and place back on grill until cheese is slightly melted, about 6 minutes. Remove from grill and sprinkle with basil.