It is Memorial Day weekend in the US, which is the official kick off of barbeque season. And that means it is time to pull out the barbecue to make grilled pizza!
"Grilled pizza?!?," you say. "Are you out of your mind?!?"
No, actually, grilled pizza is wonderful and great fun to prepare. And, let me tell you, the looks your friends and loved ones give you the first time you walk out to the barbecue with a large gob of dough in your hand is priceless.
Click "Read More" for the low down.
In American Pie, Peter Reinhart suggests that this may be "the next big thing." When I first read that I thought he was out of his mind, but after trying it I'd have to agree with him. The smokiness imparted to the bread is a wonderful addition to the already powerful flavors in pizza.
I'm not going to go into nearly as much detail as Peter does in his book. My intention is just to get people off the ground. If you try this and like it, I'd suggest picking up a copy of his pizza book for more information.
The dough used here is almost identical to the Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Dough I printed a while back. The only difference is that this dough contains a little more olive oil.
I've used the two recipes interchangeably: baked this dough in the oven and grilled the Neo-Neapolitan dough. So if you have some extra Neo-Neapolitan dough in the freezer and want to try grilling it, go for it.
Makes 6 10 inch pizzas
5 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 to 2 cups room-temperature water
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or mix in an electric mixer. After you've combined all of the ingredients, set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. Stir again for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more water or flour if necessary. Generally speaking, you want the dough to be wetter and stickier than your typical bread dough. It should be dry enough that it holds together and pulls away from the side of the bowl when you mix it, but it doesn't need to be dry enough to knead by hand. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 6 pieces. If you are going to grill in an hour our two, place the pieces on a plate covered with a thin coat of olive oil. Turn the pieces to coat the outside with oil, cover with a clean dish towel, and set aside to rise.
If you are going to grill them much later in the day, place each piece of dough into an oiled freezer bag and then put them into the refrigerator. Pull them out of the fridge at least one hour before you are going to grill to take the chill off.
If you aren't going to bake them that day, place each one into an oiled freezer bag and throw the bags into the freezer. They should keep for at least a couple of months.
Grilled pizza does not spend a lot of time over the fire: 5 or 10 minutes max. So you want to top the pies with ingredients that are already cooked or don't require much heat. I love just spreading a pesto sauce over the dough. In season, chopped fresh tomatoes are also excellent, as are olives, sun dried tomatoes, and capers.
A simple pesto sauce:
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic
4 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor. If it is too dry to make a paste, add another tablespoon of olive oil and try again.
If you want your cheese to melt it works better to place the cheese below the toppings, directly on top of the hot bread. Recently I've just used chopped feta or goat cheese, which is creamy, instead of a melting cheese like mozzarella or parmesan. Experiment to figure out what you like best.
Preparing your Work Area
Get the grill going. This works out best if you can have a hotter area directly over the flames and a cooler area to the side. I use a big Weber barbecue and stack the coal against one side, which gives me a range of temperatures to work with.
About 15 minutes before you are ready to grill, stretch the dough out into 6 or 7 inch diameter circles, basically until you start to get some resistance, and let them rest on the oily plates. Flip them over and make sure they are coated with oil on both sides.
Bring all of your toppings, cheese, and sauce out by your grill. You won't be topping the dough until after it has been on the grill for a minute or two, so you need to keep the ingredients handy.
When you are ready to go, pick up one of the oily pieces of dough and stretch it as thin as you can without tearing it. It should be thin enough that you can almost see through it, as shown above. Place it over the hot section of the grill.
It should not need long over the high heat: thirty seconds, one minute, two minutes tops. Use a spatula, peel, or combination of tools to flip the pizza over. If it was nice and oily to begin with you should not have any problem with it sticking to the grating.
Now that it has been flipped over, slide it to the cooler sections of the grill and apply your toppings.
Tonight I am just preparing mine with the pesto sauce described above.
I've found that closing the grill all but an inch or so is the best way in my grill to trap heat and make something like an oven without ending up with soot all over my food. I'm certain that there different techniques for doing this on fancy gas grills, so use whatever technique you can come up with to heat the toppings and melt the cheese without burning the underside of the pizza.
5-10 minutes is usually all it takes. Remove the pizza from the grill, slice, and serve immediately.
Last fall, when I had both tomatoes and basil in my garden, I made this two or three times a week. This year I have garlic in my garden too, so I can nearly make the entire thing with homegrown ingredients.
Now that you've got the grill hot you can go ahead and make your hot dogs, hamburgers, Gardenburgers, chicken, or whatever. Grilled pizza makes an excellent appetizer, and lets your inner baker celebrate the season along with everyone else.