Around this time of year in Michigan once all the snow has melted away and the weather takes a turn for the better, everyone gets sort of giddy about the wonderful sunshine and milder temperatures. You can't go anywhere without talking about the lovely days that we earned by surviving another harsh winter. Farmer's markets start opening back up for the season, and it is time to grill. Grill anything and everything in sight. Naturally, grilled pizza just feels like the right thing to do.
My love for perfectly grilled food does not change the fact that I love having pizza for dinner every week or so. Time to practice my pizza grilling skills once again. I tried it a few times in years past, but got frustrated after I burnt a couple of crusts. That's not the case this time. I made several batches of My Favorite Homemade Pizza Dough, bought a huge bag of charcoal, and lots of different toppings and spent an entire Saturday perched on my porch grilling pizza after pizza until I mastered the technique that worked for me.
Charcoal grills work best, in my opinion, but use what you've got. You need heat your charcoal and place it all to one side of the grill, creating a hot side and a cooler side. This is called direct heat and indirect heat.
These are the techniques that I tried, and what I thought about the results:
- Pizza grilled directly on grill grate over direct heat- Worked well, but you need to watch really carefully and be ready to flip and move the crust over at any moment since it will burn easily this way. Great technique if you like the characteristic dark grill marks and don't mind a little bit of black on your crust.
- Pizza grilled directly on grill grate over indirect heat- My favorite technique. This works wonderfully. The indirect heat cooks a little bit slower, with less likelihood of sudden blackening of the crust. The slower cook time also allows the dough to cook through before the outside is browned, eliminating the possibility of raw dough inside. This technique yielded the perfect amount of "grilled" flavor without tasting scorched.
- Pizza grilled on cast-iron pizza pan without flipping dough- This didn't work great. When you bake a pizza in an oven you are getting heat from all sides, more so than on a grill where the heat is coming from below. During this attempt, I prepared my pizza just like I would for the oven except I did not preheat the cast-iron pizza pan (I learned not to do that the hard way...Burnt on bottom, raw on top...)
- Pizza grilled on cast-iron pizza pan, flipping dough halfway through cooking- This technique worked really well. The results were the most similar to a pizza baked in an oven. Not quite as much of the "grilled" flavor as the pizzas grilled directly on the grill grate, and also no grill mark lines. Delicious pizza.
This is the cast-iron pizza pan that I own, and I LOVE it. I use it all the time for baking pizzas, scones, biscuits, etc. It also works amazing on the stovetop as a huge griddle for pancakes, grilled cheese, etc.
No matter which technique you decide to try, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
1. Brush dough with oil. Use regular olive oil, not extra-virgin as it has too low of a smoke point and can taste scorched. Oil one side of the dough, then grill oiled side down. While it is cooking, carefully brush the second side of the dough with oil so that you're ready to flip it when the bottom has reached your desired golden brown appearance.
2. Flip dough after 3-4 minutes. Once flipped, add the toppings, cover the grill and let cook about 4 more minutes. (If grilling over direct heat, I suggest sliding the dough over to the indirect heat section of the grill while you add the toppings, then slide back once you're finished topping it. That way you're pizza doesn't get too dark while you're still adding your toppings.)
3. Pay close attention and peek at the bottom of the crust frequently. Depending on the temperature of your grill, you may need to adjust the cook times accordingly.
Need an awesome yet easy grilled dessert idea?
Try this Grilled Pineapple with Nutella!