Grilled Pizza

1 Jul

Here's the finished product, cooked and ready to be cut.

I decided that for my first post, I needed to make something that I’ve never made before. Then, I decided I needed to make something that would impress all of you, and as such I thought that maybe I should make something I have experience making. This left me in a headache-inducing loop of back-and-forth, and then I came to a brilliant compromise: I could take something I’ve sort of made before, and do it in a way that’s new.

Enter grilled pizza. I’ve made pizza several times, I’ve grilled almost everything there is to grill, but in spite of that I had never put the two together. Then I decided that if I was going to make grilled pizza, I was going to do it RIGHT — no pre-packaged nothin’. When you’re making pizza from scratch, you’ve got to make your dough from scratch, too. After reading a few recipes, I decided that I generally liked this one the best, so I used it as a starting point and off I went.


The Dough

If you decide to follow this blog, you will quickly learn that, even if I credit a recipe like the one I started with for this dough, I will never, ever actually follow it. Let that be a lesson to you if you try to cook the things you see here: cooking is not science, it’s art. There’s plenty of food chemistry and science you should get a grasp of if you’re going to participate in the art, but never let somebody else’s recipe keep you from making stuff the way you want to make it. Okay, words of wisdom imparted. On to how I actually made my pizza dough.


1 packet of dry yeast

2 T. honey

2 c. warm water

6 T. olive oil, plus extra

2 t. salt

5 c. flour (2/3 bleached, 1/3 whole wheat), plus extra


Stir up the yeast water and honey so they all get to know each other. I used a fork because they're easier to clean than whisks, and I hate doing dishes.

Take the yeast, water and honey and mix them together in a big mixing bowl and walk away and do something else for a couple minutes so that the yeast can wake up from its nap and start eating the delicious sugars in the honey. Why honey instead of sugar, like the original recipe called for? Because honey is way more delicious and exciting than plain old white sugar, that’s why.

Once a couple of minutes have passed, put the oil and salt into the yeast and water mixture, and then it’s time to start actually making dough. If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, throw the dough hook attachment onto the end, put about half of your flour into the bowl, and let it mix on low until stuff is combined. If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, do this by hand. It’s more fun anyways. I started with a mixer, but about 1/3 of the way through the process smoke started coming out the back of it and the kitchen started to smell like an electrical fire, so I switched to the mix-by-hand method. Cooking is all about going with the flow. Keep adding flour and mixing until the dough reaches a consistency that is definitely more solid than cake batter but still moister than cookie dough or most other bread doughs. I actually ended up using the 2 cups of water and 5 cups of flour ratio exactly.

Once you’ve mixed the dough pretty thoroughly, turn it out onto a floured board and knock it around for a few minutes. Something about the process of kneading dough, aside from being a good way to release pent-up aggression and frustration, makes gluten do crazy stuff that makes bread turn into bread, or something. Anyways, rinse out the gunk from your mixing bowl, rub some olive oil in it, and put the dough back into it. Cover it and let it rise for a couple hours. I went to a baseball game and came back. Check out the picture montage to see how much my dough actually rose in about 4 hours.

Some folks have fancy dough knives for separating into sections. I don't, so I just used a chef's knife.

Once you’ve been amazed by the dough, pull it out onto a floured board again and knead it around for a couple minutes and then make it into an oval shape. I made it into an oval because I’m going to be making 3 pizzas, and the oval was the easiest to cut into three equal sections. Take each section, make it into a round, and wrap it up in plastic wrap covered in oil. The oil will keep the dough from getting nasty crusts on the edge, like Play Dough gets when you don’t close the lid all the way. Put these bundles of gluteny joy into your refrigerator overnight for tomorrow’s pizza making extravaganza.

I made my dough ahead of time because I read somewhere that giving dough time to sit for a day or two makes it sour a little bit and therefore more delicious. I like things that are more delicious, so I followed this advice. When I actually ate the final product, I could definitely tell the crust had aged, and it made for a way more delicious end product.

The Sauce

If you have to pick between making your own dough or sauce, go ahead and make the dough. While I think that homemade sauce is 1000 times better than the stuff in a jar, it is pretty time-consuming and can be expensive. This sauce, however, was crazy cheap, because there’s a grocery store here in Phoenix (I live in Phoenix for the summer, by the way) that has insanely cheap produce prices. Like 50¢/pound tomato prices. It is my favorite place ever. 

While there’s a little bit of flexibility to the dough recipe above, there is a ton of flexibility to this sauce recipe. I like to sneak some extra heat into pizza sauce (I used at least a full teaspoon of cayenne in this one), some people like to sneak some extra sweet into theirs with sugar, carrots or even fruit juice. In terms of why I used some fresh herbs and some dried ones, it was purely based on what I had available/what was at the grocery store for reasonable prices.

Also, I made way more sauce than I needed for the 3 pizzas. We froze the extra to use next time. If you don’t like freezing stuff, cut this recipe by like 75%.


My attempt at an artsy photo of the sauce ingredients

4 lbs. fresh roma tomatoes (or any other tomatoes that are in-season)

1 large yellow onion, rough chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 c. olive oil

2-4 oz. tomato paste

1 T. dried oregano

1 T. dried thyme

2 T. fresh rosemary, rough chopped

2 T. fresh basil, chopped fine

2 bay leaves

cayenne pepper, to taste




Take a big stock pot and fill it with enough water to easily cover the tomatoes. Bring the water to a boil, and then put the tomatoes in there, ideally without burning the crap out of yourself. After the water comes back to a boil, let the tomatoes boil for 5 minutes or so. The skins will start to split and come off — don’t panic, they’re supposed to do that. Using a slotted spoon or some similar utensil, move the tomatoes into a bowl of ice water. If you use tongs, tomatoes will explode and you will burn yourself. Anyways, the ice bath will stop the cooking and make the removal of the peels extremely easy. Dump the boiling water out of the big pot, put the pot back on the stove, and add the oil and onion. Cook on medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes, and then throw in the dried herbs. Let the dried herbs cook for a couple minutes, and right when your kitchen starts to smell magical, add the garlic and at least a teaspoon of salt.

Before you squish the tomato, poke a hole in it. Otherwise, it will explode and you will be messy.

While the onions are cooking, pull the tomatoes out of the ice bath one by one and remove their skins. For pizza sauce, I leave the seeds and ends on them, because I feel wasteful throwing that much tomato away. You’re going to end up cooking this stuff long enough that it all breaks down anyways.

Once the onion and garlic start to turn brown it’s time to add the peeled tomatoes. Wait until the onions really start to brown, as this caramelization is where a lot of the natural sweetness in the pizza sauce comes from. Adding the tomatoes is a lot of fun. Take each of the peeled tomatoes and squish it into the pot with the onions. Once all your tomatoes are in the pot, turn the temperature down to low, give it a good stir and throw a lid on it and walk away for 20 minutes or so. This will give everything time to start breaking down and let flavors start to marry.

Pull the lid off of the sauce and give it a good hard stir. While you’re stirring, try to break up the big pieces of tomato and onion with the spoon. At this point, add any fresh herbs, black pepper and cayenne. Put the lid back on and leave the pot alone for a few minutes again. After the sauce has been cooking for 30-45 minutes, add some tomato paste. The purpose of the paste is to thicken and smooth out the sauce, so use however much you need to do to achieve that goal. Cook the sauce for about an hour total, then turn it off: it’s time to make pizza.


 The Pizza

Once you’ve made your sauce and your dough, it’s time to make pizza. When I did this, I made the dough the day before and the sauce the day I was going to make pizza. I pulled the dough out of the fridge when I started making sauce so that it would be room temperature by the time I started cooking. I also pulled out my cheese and other toppings (roasted red peppers and artichokes). When you’re deciding how to top your pizza, remember that, for grilled pizza especially, less is more when it comes to toppings. If you over-top the pizza it will either be soggy or cold in the middle, and you will be sad. Right. Let’s get to it.


pizza dough

pizza sauce

olive oil

mozzarella cheese (ideally fresh in water, but if that’s not an option, just go for the one at your local grocery store that’s the softest/has the most moisture)


fresh basil,  chiffonaded


pizza toppings (again, less is more. Maybe some fancy pepperoni or italian sausage, or some good olives, mushrooms or a second kind of cheese)


Yes, I am wearing a chef's hat. My sister just bought it for me. It is awesome.

Grab one of your sections of pizza dough and put it on a floured board in front of you. Flour your hands, then shape the section of dough into a disc. Once your disc is nice and round and about as thin as you can get it without a rolling pin, it’s time to take it to the air! Set the disc on the back of your hands and throw it into the air with some rotation. This takes practice, and I am by no means an expert. If you can’t make it work, there’s only a little shame in resorting to a rolling pin instead. Also remember that grilled pizza is a rustic looking food anyways, so you certainly don’t have to get all the way to cracker thin.

I’m more than glad to admit that I had to start over more than once on the first pizza crust. If you punch a hole in the dough or it’s just too lumpy or misshapen to salvage, go ahead and ball it back up and start again. If you do this more than once or twice, though, you’ll have to let the dough sit for 10 or 15 minutes because the gluten will need time to relax.

Once you’ve got your pizza looking round and thin enough for your tastes, repeat with the other 2 (or however many you decided to make) sections of dough. Drizzle all your rounds with olive oil, and head out to the grill for a pre-grill. My friend Tom worked in a restaurant where they made really good grilled pizza, and he

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that you'll probably screw up even really round crusts flipping them on a grill. It's part of the rustic appeal.

said that the secret was pre-grilling the pizza dough for just a little while to firm it up and make sure that it cooks through. I decided that I would heed this advice, and I’m glad I did. Get your grill to medium or medium-low heat and grill each round for about 1 minute a side. Flipping the amorphous mass of pizza dough on a grill can be challenging, 2 big spatulas make it way easier. If you mess up and the dough get’s folded over a little bit or off to the side, don’t panic, just use your utensils and fingers to fix the problem. Once you’ve pre-grilled all your crusts, decide which side is more done: this side will be the topping side of the pizza. Now it’s time to assemble your pizzas and grill for real.

Take each crust and drizzle the top with just a little bit of olive oil, then put a very light layer of sauce down, getting as close to the edges as you want. Make sure you do not put so much sauce on that it pools up anywhere, or your pizza will be soggy and you will be sad. For my  12-inch or so pizzas, I probably used half a cup of sauce apiece. Once you’ve got your crusts sauced, put your cheese on. I like hand-sliced pieces of mozzarella better than grated or pre-sliced because they look way prettier, but you could use shredded if you preferred.

Basil makes everything look gourmet.

Once you’ve got your sauce and cheese down, it’s time to add whatever else is going on to your pizza. My pictures should give you a pretty good idea of how lightly I topped mine, and I was really pleased with the final result. Yes, I realize I topped my pizza with red peppers and artichokes, and not pepperoni or sausage. I’m living with vegetarians for the summer, and I’m generally trying to cook food I don’t have to eat by myself. Also, roasted red peppers, which I will teach you how to make in a later post, are freaking delicious.

Once I had my peppers and artichokes on the pizza, I cracked some fresh pepper on top of everything, drizzled it with olive oil, and then threw on the fresh basil. Then, we were headed back out to the grill. The grill here is a gas grill with no lid, which made cooking the pizza a little bit more of an adventure. If I were in a perfect world, I would have been using a charcoal grill like a Weber or one of those Big Green Egg contraptions and would have been able to maintain something right in the ballpark of 400 degrees. Cook the pizza for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is just starting to bubble and the edges of the crust are turning golden brown. At this point, hit the top with one more drizzle of olive oil, let it cook another 2-3 minutes, and then pull it off the grill.

See how thin the sauce is spread? Am I reinforcing the "don't over-top the pizza" motif enough?

Once your pizza is off the grill, cut it into whatever kind of pieces you deem fit (I used a chef’s knife to cut rectangles, because that fit the shape of my finished product best) and serve. We had a delicious green salad, some cold homebrew watermelon wheat beer (thanks Jay!) and a delightful Thursday night dinner. If you decide to try your hand at grilling pizza, I’d love to hear how it turned out, who you ate it with, and what you had on the side.

I really like the unique shapes and the rustic look of grilled pizza, don't you?

Let’s Eat!


4 Responses to “Grilled Pizza”

  1. Graham 1 July 2011 at 11:03 am #


  2. icec20 1 July 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Dude that looks incredible. Love the step by step and the ingredients list. You’re making it easy for the rest of us


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