Everybody loves pizza, don’t they? A great pizza starts with a great dough and homemade pizza dough is pretty easy to make. If you’ve never grilled pizza it will be a revelation of flavor. The smoky, lightly charred crust is completely addictive.
For years I made a pizza dough that was very tight and fairly dry. I used bread flour and kneaded the heck out of the dough thinking I had to have a really elastic dough for a good chewy crust.
But, as with almost all of my breads, I’ve gradually changed the way I make the dough. I switched out the bread flour for all-purpose flour and I knead it much less to keep the irregular air bubbles in the dough for a more interesting texture and lighter crust. Occasionally, I’ll replace about 1/3 to 1/2 of the flour with whole wheat flour when I want a whole grain crust.
Of course I recommend making your own starter for the best results, but if you don’t have a starter you can follow the alternate instructions in the notes section of the recipe and still achieve a good crust.
I’ll eat pizza any time and we have a favorite local spot for takeout. Homemade pizza tends to be a summer specialty at our house because I like to make pizza outside on the grill. I have both a gas and a charcoal grill, but I always use charcoal for pizza. I love the smokey flavor the charcoal imparts on the dough and I love the charred bits on the bottom of the crust. You could probably use the same method on a gas grill by lighting the side burners and leaving the middle burner off. I’ve never made it on the gas grill so you’d have to work out the method by trial and error.
Of course you can bake the pizza in the oven. Make sure it’s a really hot oven, 450°-500°f and if you have a pizza stone that’s a great way to get a crispy crust.
I’ve been making pizza over charcoal for almost 20 years, and I would say it took about 10 years to figure out a system that works for me every time. It took many burnt crusts (and fingers) to come up with this method. First I build a split fire, I put 1/2 the coals on each side of the grill and leave an open space between. (If your charcoal grill is too small to do a split fire you can try the same method with one hot side and one cool side.) To tame the heat a bit, allow the fire to burn for about 10-15 minutes before putting the pizza on the grill.
Once the fire is ready, slide the dough onto the middle grate. Poke it all over with a fork to pop the bubbles that will form as soon as the dough hits the heat. After a minute or two the edges of the dough closest to the fire should no longer be raw. Use two large spatulas to spin the dough a quarter turn so that the two sides closest to the coals are away from the heat and the other two sides are now facing the coals. Lift the dough occasionally to make sure no spots are burning.
After about 4-5 minutes the first side of the dough should be baked and just lightly browned. Use the two spatulas to flip the dough over. Brush the baked side with olive oil and then add the toppings. Keep an eye on the bottom of the dough and continue to spin quarter turns to avoid burnt spots (personally, I like a little char). Sometimes I’ll move the pie over one of the hot spots very briefly to evenly brown the bottom of the crust.
You can remove the pizza from the grill and finish baking it in the oven if the bottom of the crust is done baking before the toppings are ready. I usually preheat the oven so I can finish baking the first pizza while I put the second pizza on the grill.
I happened to have some sauce from last summer’s tomatoes in the freezer, so I made a traditional tomato sauce and mozzarella pizza. I vary the toppings based on my mood and what I have in the house. I like pesto with goat cheese and roasted peppers or fresh summer tomatoes with mozzarella and basil. The possibilities are truly endless.
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