Summer and grilling go together like marinara and mozzarella, like pesto and goat cheese, like olive oil and Parmesan. Which is to say, summer and grilling go together like grilling and pizza.
If you’re entertaining, grilled pizza makes a versatile crowd-pleaser, topped with familiar flavors for the timid, or showing off the season’s produce for the culinary adventurer.
It’s also impressive. Pizza on the grill sounds like a feat, but with the right prep work, it’s fairly easy to pull off. Plus, there’s no need to turn on the stove or oven, and what Inland Northwest cook doesn’t love that for summer meals?
The grill’s heat works quickly on pizza dough. Your crust will take on a lovely golden hue in about 4 minutes. Because it browns so quickly, a thin crust is best. Think flatbread, not fully loaded. Pre-grilling certain toppings maximizes the grilled flavor. So does cooking the crust on one side, then flipping it over and topping the browned side while the underside bakes through.
For the sake of comparison, I recently served grilled pizzas made with two crusts: one using homemade dough, and one using premade dough from in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. While everyone preferred the homemade dough, all agreed that the store-bought dough was plenty tasty and makes a great option for those without the time or inclination to mix up dough themselves.
When it comes to toppings, everyone has a favorite combination. If mushrooms and olives are your thing, go for it. Here, we’re sharing ideas for some less-conventional flavors that will be sure to impress your guests. All three combos received rave reviews from grown-up tasters, though the 7-and-under set preferred an old standby: tomato sauce and mozzarella. Because these pies are on the small side (each grilled pizza serves two to three people), it’s easy to provide something for everyone, and to try more than one.
Tips for grilled pizza success
Each 10-ounce pizza crust will hold about 1/3 cup of sauce and up to 4 ounces of cheese. Any more than that, and the delicate crust will turn soggy. You’re aiming for a thin, even layer of sauce, and just enough cheese to cover it. If you’re using more than one variety of cheese (say, mozzarella and feta), aim for 4 ounces total.
As far as your base layer goes, don’t be afraid to think beyond tomato sauce. Pesto and alfredo make good alternatives. You can even spread the crust with ricotta or soft goat cheese, letting the heat aid you in keeping the layer thin. Or let a brushing of olive oil suffice and taste how your other flavors shine through.
Pre-grill any veggies you want cooked thoroughly. Once a topping is on the pizza, it will really only have time to heat up before the crust browns. Fresh herbs can be added either before or after the pizza grills. Greens such as fresh spinach or arugula fare best if they’re added after the pizza has been removed from the heat.
Dough for grilled pizza
This recipe, adapted from Chowhound, makes two 10-ounce crusts.
1 cup warm water (110 to 115 degress)
1 1/8 teaspoon yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoons olive oil
Place water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook attachment, sprinkle yeast on top, and let rest until yeast dissolves and begins to foam, about 5 minutes.
Whisk together flour, sugar and salt.
When yeast mixture is ready, add flour mixture and olive oil and mix on low until flour is moistened and dough starts to come together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium low and mix until dough starts to get smooth, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and stretchy, about 6 to 8 minutes more.
Let dough rise in a covered bowl until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (The dough can also be covered and placed in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)
Once dough has risen, punch it down, shape, and grill as desired.
Method (if you’re using store-bought dough, start here)
On a floured surface, roll 10 ounces of dough into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle.
Brush a piece of aluminum foil with olive oil, place dough rectangle on the foil, and brush top with olive oil. Let dough rest 10 minutes or so.
Place the dough, foil and all, on a medium-hot grill. Close lid and grill 4-6 minutes, until crust begins to puff and bottom gets some color. Flip the crust with tongs or a spatula, add toppings, and grill another 4-5 minutes, until bottom is browned and cheese is melted.
Bountiful Harvest: Top crust with pesto sauce, kernels from one ear of grilled corn, a handful or two of halved cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese.
Pretty Peas: Top crust with ricotta cheese, grilled snap peas, and grilled Walla Walla sweet onion. Just before serving, add a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle top with lemon zest and finely chopped mint leaves. Toasted walnuts or pine nuts make a nice addition as well.
Peachy Perfection: Peel a peach and cut it into chunks. Toss with chopped arugula, grilled fennel (one small bulb) and balsamic vinaigrette. Top pizza crust with goat cheese and salad mixture.