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. Would love to see a video of grilling pizza/flatbreads with your expertise. I’ve been reading all the above comments and think I’ll give it a try tonight :)

  2. Last night I thought I’d try grilled flatbread, even though I hadn’t read this string yet. I like the well-floured dough surface myself, and I made two rounds (roughly half-pound each, 7-8 inches across), which I let rest briefly on two well-cornmealed cutting boards. Brushed them with olive oil, sprinkled on coarse salt and chopped rosemary, and poked them all over with a paring knife–now I know this is called docking! I was worried about grill grate sag, so I used a flat roasting rack made of wire squares. Slid the dough rounds onto that in the kitchen, walked out to the grill and popped the whole thing in place. They got a little dark on the bottom, because I didn’t think about moving the coals to one side for indirect heat… I flipped them over briefly to get a little golden on top. I didn’t know what the timing should be, so when you smell the bread, run to the grill! These were a hit with my dinner guests, and grilled pizza will be next up! Thanks for this wonderful website.

    • Gretchen: So glad this recipes working for you– thanks for writing with your experience, I’m going to post on more grilled breads soon. Jeff

  3. Hi,
    I am trying out the Olive Oil dough and want to try grilled pizzas on a Big Green Egg grill. Can I preheat a cast iron pizza pan on the grill and then just put the pizza with parchment paper on the pan to cook? I would love to hear your suggestions about the parchment in particular:)

    • Hi Vanessa,

      I have never baked in a Big Green Egg, but I hear they are fantastic for baking pizzas because they get so hot. This great heat may mean that parchment won’t work so well, it may burn? I have baked it at 450, but nothing higher. How hot does the grill get? You may want to test it out before you bake a lovely pizza. You may also want to try foil under the pizza if you don’t want to just slip the pizza directly onto the preheated stone.

      Thanks, Zoë

  4. I was brave and made pizza on my charcoal grill today. I pushed the ashen coals to one side, oiled the grill well and flipped the dough (Italian Semolina) from my flour-dusted silpat. I had to turn the dough to get the sides cooked evenly. Then I flipped it over and topped it as fast as I could. I left the dough on as long as I could stand (It took maybe a total of 20 minutes; next time I might use more coals.). What fantastic crust! It was crispy and wonderful. I did miss the carmelization of the toppings I get from the oven, but on hot days I’m so doing pizza on the grill. Why did I take so long to try this? Thanks for the helping hands, Zoë and Jeff. Couldn’t have done it without you.

    PS–Love, love, love (!) the bran muffin bread with honey butter. They have changed my life and my breakfast.

    • Hi Becky,

      Thank you so much for letting us know about your coal fired pizza. We both grill pizzas all summer, but do it on our gas grills. It is wonderful to know you had such a good experience.

      Thanks for the lovely feedback about the bran muffin bread, you may be the first to try it, or at least to tell us! :)

      Cheers, Zoë

  5. We make grilled pizza all the time. I roll them out on the counter in the kitchen. Take a big piece of Parchment paper and rub it to the dough. It allows you to peel it up off the counter pretty easily. Then put it on the grill and peel the paper off for reuse. We cook the first side well and the 2nd side for only 30 seconds or so until it isn’t shiny anymore. Top the more cooked side and then re-grill and it comes out perfect. No oil needed, except if your grill grates need a little.

  6. HELP! I made the semolina pizza dough and grilled it for my 2 grandsons the last two years. This year, we arrived and my cookbook is at my other house. Can I PLEASE get a recipe? I have the bread flour, semolina flour and this house is 2 1/2 hours from ANYWHERE I could find the book. I’d be forever thankful.

    • Hi Gail,

      3 cups lukewarm water
      1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
      1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
      3 cups durum flour
      3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

      Enjoy the pizza and the grandkids! Zoë

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