In an earlier post I mentioned that I was trying a new thing in cooking - grilling pizza. It's taken about six tries to get this right but the end product was as good as I can hope for, and I wanted to share this with readers. Making grilled pizza has been a real challenge. The dough has to be right, the grill must be at the right temperature and the timing is critical. Unless you are an accomplished cook it's not likely that you will get it right the first time, but be patient.
The pizza was made on a Charbroil TruInfrared charcoal grill. If your are using a Weber or other grill the amounts of charcoal used and times in the grill will likely be different. I'll show you what I did.
First off, the dough. I've learned that pizza dough is wetter than bread dough. The recipes that I used for a guide as well as the bread machine recipe called for about 3 1/2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water. I used half whole wheat and half white flour, and added tablespoon of olive oil. The pizza cycle in the Panasonic bread machine was used because I'm a lazy arse and don't want to knead dough. This is a 10 minute knead/ 10 minute rest cycle which is repeated. As soon as the second knead was finished the dough was put in a bowl and allowed to double. It was then punched down and divided into 3 equal pieces, 2 of which were put in the freezer. This pizza was made from one of the frozen balls. I took the dough ball out of the freezer this morning and put it in a metal bowl to defrost. If you have worked with yeast and dough this is probably basic stuff.
OK, so the making of the pizza: By evening the dough ball had expanded a little and looked ready. I started the charcoal - about 50 briquettes. Your mileage may vary with your grill. There's no air intake control with the Charbroil grill so it's important to start off with the right amount of charcoal to get the proper temperature. A Weber will probably take a little more charcoal.
Then I began making a crust. The ball was put on a floured board and punched out a little. The extra flour on the board actually gets the dough to a workable state where it doesn't stick to everything. The dough was stretched until it became what looks like a pizza crust. Once the crust was stretched I moved it onto a cookie sheet dusted with corn meal. The corn meal is like many tiny ball bearings and lets the crust slide off the sheet onto the cooking grate. I've found this transfer of the fresh dough onto the cooking grate is the trickiest part, and the corn meal really helps.
Once the charcoal was ashed over it was dumped out of the chimney and the briquettes were pushed out to the edge, making a ring. The cooking grate was oiled, set in place and the lid was closed. I waited for the temperature inside to reach 300 F by the thermometer on the grill. Once the grill was at temperature the crust was slid off the sheet onto the grates. This is the pre-bake of the crust.
I learned from the previous attempts that the pre-bake takes about five minutes. At about three minutes I lifted the lid and brushed some olive oil on the top of the crust. I was looking for the dough to make some gas and blister a bit, and that's what it did. Perfect.
After five minutes on the grill the dough was picked up with a spatula and flipped over onto the cookie sheet. Yes, flipped over. The toppings go on the side that was toward the heat. At this point the crust is stiff enough that it can be handled easily. There it is, a nice golden brown but not burnt. although it's a bit more done at the edges, which are closer to the coals.
The crust was taken inside the house for topping. I've found that there is no rush to top the pizza. The grill remains at cooking temperature for about 45 minutes, enough time to make two pizzas actually. The crust was spread with a thin layer of marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella, basil, Jimmy Nardello peppers and pepperoni. Since the dough has been toughened by the heat, the toppings do not soak in and make the crust soggy. Here it is ready for baking:
Then came the easy part, returning the pizza to the grill and baking it. At this point the grill had reached 375 F, a little hotter than I wanted but not a deal breaker. The temperature in this grill can be controlled to some extent by the vents in the cover, and I had closed them which raises the temperature. This may not sound like a very hot temperature but keep in mind that the grate is hotter and will transfer heat into the pizza by conduction. The pizza was baked for eight minutes then put on the cookie sheet to cool. I would have liked a temperature of 350 F and a bake of ten minutes but it came out fine.
The pizza was delicious. It could have benefited from some garlic, but you can only improve when there is imperfection. There was still plenty of heat in the grill. No point in wasting it. I put a batch of Jalapeno peppers on it.