How to Grill Pizza

The first time I heard of making pizza on a grill all I could think of was, why would anyone want to do that? Now that I’ve done it more than a few times I can think of several reasons, the first being who wants to heat up an oven to 450°F or higher on a hot summer day?

If you use a grill to make pizza, you can keep the heat outside where it belongs. Grills also better mimic a wood fired oven than your conventional indoor oven. Whether using charcoal or gas, the smoke from the grill will help give your pizza great flavor that you simply cannot get from a regular oven.

It’s also easy! No, the pizza dough does not fall through the grill grates. Assuming you’ve properly heated the grill, your dough will form a lovely lightly browned crust.

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The trick is that you cook the plain dough first, on one side, on the grill. Then remove it, flip it, brush the grilled side with sauce and toppings, and return the pizza to the grill for final cooking.

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This is a quick how-to on the grilling steps. I’m assuming that you already have pizza dough ready to go, but if not, we have a great recipe here on our homemade pizza post.

Here’s a suggestion. Make a double batch of the dough, then divide it, wrap it in plastic and freeze it. Then, when you want pizza for dinner, take the dough out of the freezer and put it into the fridge before you go to work, and when you come home take it out of the fridge and put the dough on the counter to warm while you heat up the grill.

Updated from the recipe archive. First posted 2010.

How to Grill Pizza

Make pizza dough from scratch using our pizza dough recipe. Alternatively, you may be able to find prepared pizza dough, in the frozen foods section, at your local supermarket.

Yum

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (if using our pizza dough recipe note that it makes enough dough for 2 pizzas)
  • Olive oil
  • Standard toppings of tomato sauce, herbs, cheese (mozzarella is the best), and maybe some thinly sliced onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, or pepperoni
  • Some flour or corn meal for dusting the cookie sheet or pizza peel

Method

1 Make the pizza dough or use prepared pizza dough.

2 Prepare the grill for high direct heat. Prepare a small bowl with olive oil for greasing the grill grates and for brushing the pizza. Prepare the toppings so they are ready to go on the pizza—tomato sauce, cheese, and anything else you wish.

3 Shape the pizza dough by flattening it with your hands on a slightly floured surface. Either use your fingers to stretch the dough out, or hold up the edges of the dough with your fingers, letting the dough hang and stretch, while working around the edges of the dough.

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Once you've stretched the dough, let it sit for 5 minutes and then push out the edges with your fingers again, until you have a nice round shape, about 12-inches in diameter. Do not make a raised rim, it will interfere with the grilling process.

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Note that if you are preparing the pizza dough for a party, you can make several pizza dough rounds, stack them separated by parchment paper, and keep them in the refrigerator for up to two hours before cooking.

4 Once the grill is hot (you can hold your hands an inch over the grates for no more than 2 seconds), dip a tightly folded up paper towel in olive oil and use tongs to wipe the grill grates. Then place a pizza dough round on a lightly floured (or you can use cornmeal) rimless cookie sheet (or pizza peel if you have one). Let the dough slide off the cookie sheet onto the hot grill grates. Close the lid of the grill and let cook for 2 minutes.

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5 After 2 minutes, open the grill and check underneath the dough to see if it is getting browned. If it is on one side, but not another, use a spatula or tongs to rotate the dough 90 degrees and cook for another minute. If it is not beginning to brown, cover the grill and continue to cook a minute at a time until the bottom has begun to brown. It should only take a couple minutes if you have a hot grill. The top of the pizza dough will start bubbling up with air pockets.

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6 Once the pizza dough has browned lightly on one side, use your cookie sheet or pizza peel to remove it from the grill. Use a spatula to flip the dough over so that the grilled side is now up. Keep the grill covered so it retains its heat for the next step.

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7 Paint the grilled surface of the pizza with a little olive oil, then cover with 1 ladle of sauce – no more, or you'll end up with a soggy pizza. Sprinkle on your toppings, ending with Mozarella cheese (if using), and if using meat, put that over the cheese. Remember to go light on the toppings, or your pizza will be heavy and soggy.

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8 Slide the topped pizza back onto the grill. If you are using a gas grill, reduce the heat. If working with a charcoal grill, close the vents on the cover almost all the way. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until the bottom begins to char and the cheese is bubbly. Pull off the grate with a spatula onto a cutting board or other flat surface and let rest for a couple minutes before cutting into slices.

Slice and serve!

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How to Grill Pizza

Showing 4 of 65 Comments

  • Nate @ House of Annie

    I love grilled pizzas. Anything done in an oven can be done (better) on a grill, I think.

    Good that you mention to use only one ladle of sauce and go light on the toppings. Less is more!

  • Allen Wright

    If you don’t have a pan with no rim you can use the back of a cookie sheet.

  • Matt

    I’ve been using the grill the past few years as well, and there is no other way to make pizza IMO. Here’s what I’ve found to work best…

    Get 4 equal sized cans…or maybe bricks and place them on the grill grate and put a pizza stone on top of them. Close the grill to make sure everything fits happily and your pizza won’t be smushed. Next crank the grill as hot as it goes for 30-45minutes(mind you you’re grill isn’t meant for this…don’t do it often), I have a webber that easily reaches 900+ degrees according to the thermometer in the front. This is the heat of your average pizza oven and will eliminate the need to par broil the crust which I used to think was necessary else It would turn out all soggy. Also keep in mind the cans are necessary to give enough space between the stone and the heating element so it doesn’t burn the bottom of the crust too quickly. Whenever I skipped them I’ve wound up with a burnt bottom and undercooked top.

    I’ve started making smaller 12″ pizzas as I can actually get those off of the peal without making a mess..used to try to cover the entire stone which just never worked out. The 12″ pies cook in about 7-10 minutes depending on how browned/burnt you like it. After about 5 minutes open the lid and give it a half turn

    Another tip would be if you make your own dough to leave it in the fridge a few days to ferment assuming you’re using a slow fermentation process. It gives the dough a far better flavor, I have had the best results from the ‘boulle’ bread recipe in “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg.

    Good luck! I’ll never use the oven again to make pizza.

    Great tips Matt, thank you! I had a friend put a pizza stone directly on the grates with the result being that the stone broke. Raising the stone onto cans would ensure air flow under the stone and fewer extremely hot spots. Also I do like making the dough a day ahead of time. The extra fermentation does do wonders for the flavor. ~Elise

  • Charlene

    Love grilled pizza! I have found it much easier to make several small (7″ or so) pizzas. Also, I heat the oven to 200 degrees to keep the first ones hot while I do the rest. It will be on the menu this week. Thanks for the reminder, Elise! I’ll be using a couple of your tips, I’m sure.

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