Grilled Pizza for Summer in San Francisco and St. Paul

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People kept asking us whether our very wet, stored dough could be grilled directly on the grates of a hot gas grill, and the answer is a very delicious yes– I stopped lugging my stone outside last summer.  Zoe and I will be teaching a class on this at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul, MN on July 19. We’ll also be talking summertime bread baking in San Francisco, where we’re headed tomorrow night to promote the book (see our events listings 6/26/08-6/29/08).  Read on if you want to see some highlights on how to grill the pizzas I made for friends in my backyard this past Saturday night…

First, pre-heat your gas grill with medium flame on all burners (you’ll be grilling over “direct” heat).  I have a Weber Genesis A, which gives nice even heat, but you can get this to work with any gas grill (here’s a more recent-model Weber grill on Amazon).  Roll out about a half-pound to a pound of your favorite non-enriched stored high-moisture dough (eg., Master page 26, Peasant page 46, or Olive Oil Dough page 134); use a rolling pin to achieve a thickness of about 1/8-inch.  This is important, because thicker grilled pizzas can burn before being baked through.  I rolled this one directly on a silicone mat, drizzled it with olive oil and pressed some herbs into it (oil and herbs are optional).  Dough doesn’t stick to these mats, so you can use very little flour.  Also, I knew I’d be dousing this thing in olive oil, which tends to make a mess of my wooden board.  If you only have a wooden board or wood pizza peel, that’s fine too.

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You have two choices:  you can either oil the grill grates with canola or other high-smoking point oil (use a paper towel), or you can oil the dough round, as I did here.  In that case, you can use olive oil, which has a lower smoking point but will do fine when it’s applied to the pizza rather than to the grates.  If your grates are in really good shape (not corroded), you can omit the oil altogether and just be sure that the dough round is well-dusted with flour when you put it on the grates.

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This dough round couldn’t be slid off a pizza peel, because of the oil (it would have stuck).  I just picked it up with my fingers and dropped it into place (be careful).  What you see here has been on the grill, above direct heat (the burner is lit, right below it), for about three minutes.  Keep the lid closed except for the occasional peek or it’s going to be difficult to get the dough to bake through.  The trick to to understand just where to set your grill for “medium.”  It’s going to vary by grill.  You know you’re probably ready to flip when the top surface looks puffy (as above), and the bottom surface is nicely browned.  In some places, it will char.  You may have to rotate your pizza to get even doneness.

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Once you’ve flipped the dough (above), you’re ready to apply tomato, cheese and other toppings; be relatively sparing because you’ll be depending on the closed grill top to retain heat so that the cheese melts and the flavors blend.  It’s going to be difficult to get the cheese to brown but there’ll be so much beautiful caramelization and browning in the bread that you won’t be disappointed.  It will take another three to five minutes, depending on the heat your grill delivers.  You obviously won’t be able to flip again, and watch carefully to remove from heat before the bottom burns.  Keep the lid closed as much as possible, and use your nose to detect when that bottom crust is just beginning to char in places (sniff, sniff).  I’m serious.

You don’t need a picture of me putting toppings on here, do you?  Good, because I got to talking with my guests and lost interest in my camera.  Sorry about that.  Here were the results– we actually made three pizzas Saturday night; one was untopped altogether to make a grilled flatbread to eat with vegetables and yogurt-garlic-chive-mint dipping sauce.  There’s a little bit of char and that’s just fine:

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Then we had the fresh mozzarella, asparagus, calamata olive, and artichoke pizza pictured; here’s a closer view of the toppings (something like this will be in our second book):

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We also made a chicken pesto pizza:  no cheese, but same idea, with basil, olive oil, pine nuts done in the food processor.  Then pre-grilled chicken scattered on top.  The thin, caramelized crust in this picture is really what you are going for.  It crunched in our mouths:

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More details when we see you at the “Cooks” class on July 19, or maybe even in San Francisco.  Grill on.

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others using one of the social sharing buttons above. Thanks, Jeff and Zoë

64 thoughts on “Grilled Pizza for Summer in San Francisco and St. Paul

  1. A bit off topic here but I need advice – I just tried baking my bread on the grill. Not much success. May very well be operator error tho as it was at 600 when I looked so I turned it down & gave it time to cool to about 450 and then slid the dough in.

    Went out after about 15 minutes to look and euwwww was that burnt aroma a tad strong. Burned the bottoms in a big way and the top wasn’t even close to looking brown, not even tan.

    So the dilemma – d’you think it was a stone still being too hot issue or is baking the bread on the grill not really an option? I am trying to not heat up the house anymore than I have to which is why I tried the grill.

    Thanks for your thoughts – Ann

  2. My original intent was to do a pizza on the grill for lunch and decided as long as it was hot, I’d bake the bread out there too.

    So while the bread is baking, I checked in on the website – a nice surprise to see Pizza here. You just saved my Asparagus Pizza from being a disaster! Many thanks!

  3. Ann: I have done loaf breads, both in and out of pans, out on the grill, but with a stone in place as you did. Yes, I do think that 600 is a but much, so turn it down and try again. Steam doesn’t hold in the grill, so if you want a crackling crust, cover the loaf with a roomy aluminum roasting pan to trap steam, or do it in a covered cast-iron pot.

    But I do prefer flatbreads, pitas, and pitas out on the grill. Thin breads usually come out better in this situation.

    I want to hear how this asparagus pizza comes out! Thanks for checking in.

    Jeff

  4. 2nd attempt at bread turned out pretty good, until I ran out of gas…..

    On a good note, the aluminum pan worked great!

  5. Grilled pizza could be on Sunday’s menu. I’ve been baking mine in the oven on terra cotta tiles and having best luck by baking to set the crust, removing, flipping, topping, and baking to finish. We’re eating wa-a-a-y more pizza than we ever did before 5-minute bread dough. And loving it!! I so love having dough available all the time!

  6. Ann: glad the aluminum pan is working for you as a cover, to create the steam environment.

    Bubbles: One of the readers (the guy who cuts my hair) ONLY makes pizza from our book. You can do it yo9ur way, and that’s fine too (flipping it in the oven too).

  7. I’ve been making pizza on the grill for many years, but I have to admit I’ve always been too lazy to make my own dough. I usually pick some up from Trader Joe’s but I’m looking forward to trying it with 5 minute dough!

    Zoe and Jeff, it was great to meet you today! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, I hope you enjoy the rest of your time in the Bay Area!

  8. Just wondering if doing the grilled pizzas on a charcoal grill is an option. I notice the post specifically mentions a gas grill – so is there a reason you couldn’t use a charcoal one? Thanks!

  9. Jess, there’s no reason it wouldn’t work, but I haven’t tested it so I can’t advise. The problem might be that you can’t really control the heat in a covered charcoal grill. Once it starts burning after the second side is turned and toppings applied, what would you do? Timing and heat would have to be just so; you can’t “turn it down” if it starts burning.

    But my guess is that the flavor would be great. Jeff

  10. We tried making flatbreads on our tiny charcoal grill tonight, using the whole wheat dough. Big experiment: we’d never tried grilling bread directly on the charcoal grill, and we’d never used the 100% whole wheat dough! We made the flatbreads very small in size. They took forever to cook, at least twenty minutes, even using a potlid to cover them. I’m guessing it’s a combination of the dough and the inconsistency of the heat on a charcoal vs. gas grill. I think next time we’ll use the light wheat dough, which is our standby, or the olive oil dough.

  11. Allison: Great minds think alike; my guests just left after a marathon 100% whole wheat pizza night. I use the gas grill, and I was pleased that the method works pretty much the same. Given the thin-ness of the crust, at least one guest didn’t realize they weren’t eating whole grain pizza at all.

    My guess is that you’ll be able to succeed with 100% WW and charcoal; please keep me posted. I think it’s mostly the heat source and its controllability. Jeff

  12. You inspired me to make grilled pizza. I have made it twice this week. It was fabulous both times but I have a few problems. I don’t have a silicone mat. I rolled the dough out on a floured cookie sheet. I sprayed the top side of the dough with olive oil and tried to flip the cookie sheet over the grill hoping the dough would fall on to the grill. It did not work as planned either time. I had to use a spatula to free the dough from the cookie sheet. Next problem. After the first side was done I flipped the dough on to the sheet with the raw side down and put the toppings on. Of course the dough stuck again but not as bad. There must be a better way. What am I missing?

  13. Good questions, Barbara. OK, you have to EITHER use the dusty-dough-round method OR the greasy-dough-round method. If you use the dusty dough method, don’t additionally spray or brush it with oil. Just oil the grill grates (though I haven’t had to if the dough was dusty enough).

    Then, when I flip, I wait till it’s well-set (solidified and caramelized on the bottom). It then flips very easily with the “raw” side down. Then I put the toppings on. I never use the cookie sheet as an intermediary at that point (for the flipping). I just use a large spatula and my fingers.

    I should really post some video on this, maybe we’ll video it at the Cook’s class on July 19 in St. Paul MN. Jeff

  14. Another off-topic comment (not pizza), but yesterday I made a modified (by accident) Challah (half the butter and eggs), and it worked great for hamburger buns last night and the pecan sticky buns this morning. I’m having so much fun!

  15. I just made the Master recipe for the first time this weekend. LOVED how the bread turned out! I want to try making pizza on the Gas bbq, but I am a bit freaked out about how I get the “gooey” dough onto the grill? I don’t have a silicone mat, or a pizza peel ( i know, I gotta get one…)…so, how *do* you move the dough from rolling it out to the grill so it doesn’t end up a big mush ball?

  16. Hi MsC: There are two choices, oil it and drop it on with your hands, or keep it well-dusted with flour and slide it off a pizza peel or a wood cutting board. Lately I’ve been doing the well-dusted version:

    WELL-DUSTED VERSION: You have to use lots of flour as you roll out the pizza, enough so that it doesn’t stick to the work surface or the rolling pin while you are working. The dough round should be movable when you shake the pizza peel around. Assemble the pizza on the wood cutting board if you don’t have a peel. But you have to have one or the other.

    OILED VERSION: You don’t neccesarily need a Silpat, just any surface you don’t mind getting oily. After you roll out the dough, oil it well on both sides. Then lift it to the grill surface and drop it on.

    Hope that helps!

    Jeff

  17. Thanks for replying so quickly Jeff! I made the pizza tonight. It was a HUGE hit with the wee ones (22 months and 3.5!) and hubby and I. I went the floured-board method and no glitches to report!! AWESOME!

  18. I’m so happy!! I think that most people will end up doing it with the floured-board method. It really isn’t all that hard, as you’ve found out. Have a great summer!

    Jeff

  19. I just finished reading this month’s Eating Well magazine, and was going to use their grilled pizza recipes with your dough and checked your web site and you had already done so! I used light whole wheat dough to make grilled pizza last night… a huge success! I
    made sauce and cheese for the kids and tomato-basil-fresh mozzarella for my husband and I-
    I have to admit, when I put the first round on the grill and saw it sink down thru the grates I thought I would be scrapping dough of the grill, but when I opened it in 3 minutes to flip it was perfect!
    Loved the crispy texture of the dough.
    Next time I am going to make flat bread for grilled vegetable sandwiches!
    Fantastic… my husband thanks you profusely- he is a pizza fanatic he absolutely loved it. No more take out for him.

  20. Thanks Mandy… you’re right, it can sometimes seem like it’s conforming to the grates a little too much for comfort, but it always works out.

    Now, make your husband do the pizzas! (Don’t tell him I said that; what happens on the web stays on the web).

    Jeff

  21. I’ve made grilled pizza on a charcoal grill w/ herbed dough and with the master recipe. It turned out wonderful. You want to use a hot grill – but cook the pizza over the indirect heat – putting all of the coals on one side of the grill works really well for me. Several years ago weber grills had an online cookbook on grilled pizza with lots of tips/advice and recipes. It might still be available online.

  22. Doreen: Thanks for the great info. I’m going to try this when I go camping next month; maybe sooner in town. It’s really different than the experience with the gas grill, where direct heat is the way to go. I’m not surprised– otherwise it’s going to scorch. Jeff

  23. opps… I should have checked to make sure the link inside that blog entry worked. It looks like Weber remove the pdf file from their website. I’ve still got a copy of the booklet and would be happy to email it to you if you’d like.

    Doreen

  24. you’re welcome Jeff. It’s great resource for grilled pizza!! I’d never heard of grilled pizza until I saw that booklet from Weber – I tried grilled pizza and loved it!!

    Doreen

  25. Hi Jeff and Zoe,

    I had a great experience last night not with grilled pizza but with skillet pizza, and I wanted to tell you how surprisingly well it worked using your ready-to-go bread dough.

    I always keep a bucket of your dough recipe in the fridge, ready to make pizza at any time. An hour and fifteen minutes, tops, and it’s on the table. Except last night, as I was babysitting for a suddenly very hungry three year old, I got an unexpected and urgent request for some of “my” pizza.

    Far be it from me to turn down a request like that, but I had a feeling an hour and fifteen minute wait for the oven to heat up wasn’t going to cut it with this little one. I turned to my husband with what must have seemed like desperation, and he quickly suggested, “How about a skillet? Would that work?” Well, I tried it, and it *did* work, like a charm!

    No time to let the dough rest — right from the fridge, I rolled it out very thinly then sprayed the bottom of a preheated cast iron skillet and turned on the broiler. I placed the dough on the bottom of the skillet, lowered the flame to medium low, added the topings, then covered it till the dough puffed up and felt firm to the touch — about 5 minutes, I guess. When the dough seemed ready, I transfered the pizza, iron skillet and all, to the broiler to finish it off — another 5 minutes, maybe less. Guess what? It was terrific! Crisp on the bottom and brown and bubbly on the top. My three year old was more than pleased (as was my husband.)

    Obviously I didn’t have much time to experiment with this (not sure the pan *really* needed to be sprayed with Pam) but for a quicky pizza, I thought it more than fullfilled expectations.

    I can’t say enough about your great dough recipe. It’s been a staple in our house since I got the book for Christmas last year.

    Thanks,
    Barbara

  26. Thanks Barbara, this is terrific. I’ve tried that as well, and even though the cheese doesn’t caramelize, it’s a great and fast result. My kids loved it too! Jeff

  27. Actually, Jeff, the cheese browned quite nicely during those last few minutes under the broiler. Is that what you mean by carmelization?

  28. My mistake, I missed that in your comment! I need to start doing it that way, what a great idea. Thank you again for posting. Jeff

  29. Hi, Question about the pizza dough-in the oven….I followed the directions exactly. The pizza looked beautiful on the peel-only let it stay on the peel a few minutes-as suggested…….but wouldn’t come off and ended up falling off in a lump.Tasted OK, but looked horrible. I had used a lot of cormeal on the peel as a lubricant as suggested as well. It also stuck to the bottom of the pizza pan(metal)- from Sur Le Table I think . The peel from KA is metal as well . Could this -metal versus wood or stone-make a difference. Could I lay the rolled dough on a room temp cormeal sprinkled baking pan and then stick it in a preheated oven? HELP.-Sue

  30. Has any one used a George Foreman grill to grill pizza-any suggestions for “how tos” if you do. As you see above my first try in the stove didn’t come out too well !-Sue

  31. Sue: any chance you used a lot of toppings? It’s much easier to slide off if you go easy on the toppings.

    I’m not crazy about the metal peels; seems they don’t nicely distribute the cornmeal. That MAY be the problem.

    Make sure the surface of the dough is nice and dry before you lay it out on the peel. That means dusting with LOTS of flour.

    But the baking pan idea will work, maybe with a less crisp crust. But till you get more experienced, go with that. Haven’t use the George Forman grill, anyone else use it?

    I’ve asked Zoe to visit your question on the English Muffin page… Jeff

  32. Yes, I used lots of toppings,but it also felt fairly sticky beforehand. I will try dusting with a lot more flour next time. You mean dusting the surface you roll on, not incorporating into the dough…right.Also,If I put cormeal on the room temperature baking peel before plopping on the dough will it smoke too much?THANKS for taking the time to answer all these questions.Love the book. When is the next one coming out?-Sue

  33. Yes, try not to incorporate into the dough; though in truth, if you use a rolling pin (which is pretty much essential), you’ll dust and roll, dust and roll, and I’m sure you’re incorporating a bit. That’s OK. But don’t work handfuls of flour into the dough with your hands– that will end up tough.

    Cornmeal, flour, or even parchment will work on the peel. Parchment cannot miss–it always slides right off, though the crust isn’t as crisp.

  34. We tried making pizza on the gas grill last night and it was a disaster! We used the olive oil dough and followed the instructions in the book carefully. We checked the pizza after 3 minutes and it was charred beyond saving. I also have a blackened, burnt- looking pizza stone that won’t come clean! Any suggestions? Thanks!

  35. Dale: Sorry for the experiment gone bad! First off, you should be able to scrape down the stone with a dough scraper– let me know if you need a URL to see this kind of product on Amazon (or see our Amazon store on the home page, the Oxo Good Grips product on the 1st page).

    Then… it sounds like your gas grill applied too much heat– is it equipped with a thermometer– no higher than 500 or 550. Bottom line is that some gas grills provide harsh heating and aren’t great for pizza. You’ll need to turn down the flames in order to get this one to work. I’ve had great results with the Weber products, less so with other brands. What are you using? Jeff

  36. hi – first a comment then a question. I ordered the Oxo scraper a while back and Amazon cancelled the order because they said they couldn’t get it.

    My question – I am surprised that I really can’t figure this out – but: if you use the olive oil on the dough, do you put it oil side down first on the grill? I have been having trouble getting the dough from the silicon onto the grill and it usually flips oil side down by itself. Just wanted to know if that was okay. (so far all I’ve gotten is goofy shaped pizzas but they taste great so I don’t really mind *G*)

  37. Hi Suzan,

    You may just need to lift the dough up and place it carefully onto the grates. If your grates are not corroded you don’t need to use any oil on the bottom of the dough, but if they are at all old, like mine, you may need to brush them with some oil.

    I hope that helps! Zoë

  38. We just got a new gas grill, and the first thing we cooked was an herbed light-wheat flatbread (an experiment to test for future use for pizza). While it tasted wonderful, it puffed up so much that I can’t imagine ever being able to assemble toppings on it once it’s flipped. I thought I had rolled it out too thin, but apparently not. Have you had trouble with too much pouf? If so, what do you suggest to minimize this? I may have had the temp up too high.
    Like so many others, I can’t say enough good things about your book and baking methods. I’ve converted a number of folks in two countries now!

    • Hi Linda,

      It sounds like you baked it without toppings, is that right? If so, you need to dock (poke holes with a fork) the dough or it will puff up just like a pita bread. If you dock the dough first it will inhibit the bubbles from growing so large. Let me know if this sounds like it may be the issue.

      Thanks, Zoë

  39. Question?? Have you tried using a pizza stone on the grill. It seems to me using indirect heat and a little hickory wood chips at the end would make one great pizza. I use stones alot in the oven and I cannot see why they wouldn’t work on the grill.

    • Hi Steve,

      Yes, I have a stone parked on my grill all summer long. It is wonderful.

      If you search grill on the site you will find lots of recipes for grilled breads.

      Thanks, Zoë

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