How to Grill Pizza

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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

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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.

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

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Showing 4 of 68 Comments

  • James

    Tried this last night and it was amazing! Thanks Elise! I will be grilling my pizzas for now on!

  • Mark

    Pizza and watching how people make it interesting. When people first discover pizza they go through all sorts of gyrations and concoctions. Some people eventually get serious about how to really make pizza. The Italians are good at it. They’ve been doing it for hundreds of years, even before tomatoes were brought back from the Americas. That said, lots of “Italian” pizzerias in the US produce rubbish. Before tomatoes and cheese, pizza was really just focaccia. Tomato sauce and cheese came later. European Italian pies pizzas are generally much healthier than American pies which are loaded with fat and salt.

    The regulations here prevent me from having a charcoal or gas grill, only electric which loses all its heat when you open the lid. I am forced to use a stone in a pre-heated 500 degree oven and then switch the broiler on when I slide in the pie. Most home-use ovens max out at 500 degrees.

    I used to put the dough in the oven for just a minute or so to make it easier to handle. The toppings can tend to slide off a bit more. Now I just put the completed pie with raw dough into the oven, the way it’s been done for hundreds of years.

    Everybody has different ways of making pizza. That’s part of cooking, arriving at your own destination along a different path.

    Nowadays I make mostly a veggie pie, homemade cold risen dough, homemade sauce with either fresh plum tomatoes or canned San Marzanos, non-Italian extra virgin olive oil*, a couple secret ingredients, fresh mozzarella, onion, mushroom and red and green bell peppers. I typically don’t do pepperoni, sausage, bacon or pineapple and ham, just veggies. Try buffalo mozzarella if you get a chance. That’s Asian water buffalo mozzarella, not the American bison. Water buffalo were brought to Italy from Asia (Marco Polo?).

    If you really want to impress people, get your pies DOC certified. That says you know how to make real pizza, really well.

    *Italians are known to cut their extra virgin olive oil with inferior or even rancid oil. Sometimes they blend in non-olive oils. So I don’t buy any Italian EVOO. American made EVOO is excellent but hard to find because the stores mostly only sell Italian and maybe once in a while you’ll see Greek or Spanish oils on the shelf. Ask yourself, how is it that Italy can export more olive oil than it produces? Where is that extra oil coming from?

  • Steve

    Elise,
    Had some friends over for dinner last night and grilled two pizzas per your instructions. Turned out AMAZING! I don’t know why I hadn’t tried grilling pizza sooner. Thanks so much. :)

  • Scotty Hensdill

    Grilled pizza is crazy!Simple, easy and tasty!

  • Holiday Baker Man

    When we have a crowd over – a few times over the summer – i put 2 pizza stones on our grill and cook the pizzas there!

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