Pizza is my go-to dish for cozy nights in and for entertaining. The only problem? My little retro-style oven doesn’t even come close to the temperatures required to re-create those wood-fired restaurant dough bubbles I love so much.
My grill, on the other hand, does.
If you haven’t already, this summer is high time to embrace the magic of grilled pizza — and it’s a myth that you need any special equipment. A grilling pizza stone or a regular pizza stone will help distribute the heat evenly, but the dough can also cook directly on the grill grate. A pizza peel also comes in handy for transferring the dough to and from the grill, although the back of a baking sheet makes a fine substitute.
For professional advice, I’ll hand it over to our grilling guru Fred Thompson, author of Williams-Sonoma Grill Master. Here are his tips for achieving a crackly crust and smoky flavor every time.
- Make your own dough. Most folks judge a good pizza by its dough. Making your own is rewarding and fairly simple. If you are rushed for time, frozen dough and dough purchased at a pizzeria are good alternatives.
- Choose the toppings. The recipe below is for classic pizza Margherita, but don’t let that hinder your creativity.
- Wait for the heat. Be patient and let the grill get as hot as possible. You may want cooler conditions after you flip the crust, but you want a hot fire to start.
- Dust the pizza peel with cornmeal. Be sure you dust the pizza peel — or the back of a rimless baking sheet — with cornmeal before you slide the dough round onto it for transport to the grill. The grains of cornmeal act like ball bearings, helping to slide the dough easily over the fire.
- Don’t rush the grilling. Once the dough round is on the grill, let it set up and become firm on the underside before you turn it.
- Work quickly. You need to work quickly to get your toppings on the crust and get the grill lid closed to maintain the heat. As soon as the cheese is bubbly, your pizza is ready.
For the pizza dough:
2/3 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
1 package (2 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Cornmeal for dusting
2 cups marinara sauce or 30 to 40 plum tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced, or low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 cups torn fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
To make the pizza dough, in a bowl, whisk together the water, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 cups flour, the 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Pull the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead a few times, then form into a ball. Oil a second bowl, put the ball in the bowl and turn to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free area. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. Brush and oil the grill grate.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface, then divide into 4 equal portions. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out each portion into a round about 8 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Brush the edge of each round with olive oil.
Slide 1 round onto a pizza peel or the underside of a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal, and then carefully slide the round off the peel onto the grill directly over the fire. Repeat with the remaining 3 rounds. Cook the crusts until the underside is well grill-marked, about 2 minutes. Using the peel, transfer the crusts, grilled side up, back to the work surface.
Top each crust with one-fourth of the sauce or tomato slices, then top with one-fourth each of the cheese, basil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Using the peel, return the pizzas to the grill, cover the grill, and cook until each crust is firm and browned at the edges and the cheese has melted a bit, 4 to 6 minutes.
Transfer the pizzas to a cutting board, cut into wedges and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Grilling authority Fred Thompson shares more than 100 delicious recipes in his book Williams-Sonoma Grill Master. The iBook version includes exclusive videos; to buy, search “Williams-Sonoma” in iBooks on your mobile device.
About the author: Olivia Terenzio grew up in Mississippi, where she cultivated a love of sweet potatoes, crawfish and cloth napkins at a young age. A passion for sharing food with friends and family led her into the kitchen and later to culinary school, where she learned how to roast a chicken and decorate a cake like a pro. As a Williams-Sonoma blog editor, she’s now lucky enough to be talking, writing and thinking about food all day.