Grilled Pizza

From Cooks Illustrated

Restaurant-Style Grilled Pizza at Home
Written: Jul 2005

Burnt or bland, most homemade versions of this restaurant classic can’t come close. Could we make grilled pizza a success for the backyard cook?

The Problem: Grilled pizza can be a nightmare. The thin crust burns easily while the sauce and cheese drip onto the coals.

The Goal: We wanted a lightly charred, cracker-thin crust topped with perfectly balanced toppings.

The Solution: The dough was our first challenge: It had to be slack enough to be stretched yet strong enough not to rip. We strengthened the dough by using high-protein bread flour and increased elasticity by adding plenty of water. We had a breakthrough when we added olive oil to the dough: It not only added flavor but also prevented the crust from sticking to the grill. A little whole wheat flour, sugar, and extra salt boosted the flavor even more. For grilling the pizza, a single-level, medium-hot fire was best. We left one-quarter of the grill free of coals, thereby creating a cool safety zone for pizzas at risk of burning. We also discovered that we needed drier and more potent toppings than usual to prevent a soggy crust and drippy cheese. Salted and drained tomatoes kept the crust crisp, and full-bodied, soft fontina cheese mixed with a little Parmesan was potently flavored but didn’t ooze.

Grilled Tomato and Cheese Pizzas For Charcoal Grill
The pizzas cook very quickly on the grill, so before you begin grilling them, be sure to have all the equipment and ingredients you need at hand. Equipment includes a pizza peel (or a rimless baking sheet), a pair of tongs, a paring knife, a large cutting board, and a pastry brush; ingredients include all the toppings and a small bowl of flour for dusting. Timing and coordination are crucial; if you are unsure of your skill level, try cooking the first two pizzas one at a time, then work up to cooking the final two in tandem. The pizzas are best served hot off the grill but can be kept warm for 20 to 30 minutes on a wire rack in a 200-degree oven. Hardwood charcoal and charcoal briquettes work equally well. Whichever you use, it is important that the coals be spread in an even layer over three-quarters of the grill bottom; coals placed any higher will scorch the crust.
Makes four 9-inch pizzas

Dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water (8 ounces), room temperature
2 cups bread flour (11 ounces), plus more for work surface
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast

Topping
1 1/2 pounds medium plum tomatoes (5 to 6), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces fontina cheese , shredded (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese , finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 recipe Spicy Garlic Oil (see associated recipe)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Coarse salt

1. FOR THE CRUST: Combine oil and water in liquid measuring cup. In food processor fitted with plastic dough blade or metal blade, process bread flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms tacky, elastic ball that clears sides of workbowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. If dough ball does not form, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until dough ball forms. Spray medium bowl lightly with nonstick cooking spray or rub lightly with oil. Transfer dough to bowl and press down to flatten surface; cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in draft-free spot until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2. When dough has doubled, press down gently to deflate; turn dough out onto work surface and divide into 4 equal-sized pieces. With cupped palm, form each piece into smooth, tight ball. Set dough balls on well-floured work surface. Press dough rounds with hand to flatten; cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. FOR THE TOPPING: Meanwhile, toss tomatoes and table salt in medium bowl; transfer to colander and drain 30 minutes (wipe out and reserve bowl). Shake colander to drain off excess liquid; transfer tomatoes to now-empty bowl and set aside. Combine cheeses in second medium bowl and set aside.

4. Gently stretch dough rounds into disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Working one piece at a time and keeping the rest covered, roll out each disk to 1/8-inch thickness, 9 to 10 inches in diameter, on well-floured sheet of parchment paper, dusting with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. (If dough shrinks when rolled out, cover with plastic wrap and let rest until relaxed, 10 to 15 minutes.) Dust surface of rolled dough with flour and set aside. Repeat with remaining dough, stacking sheets of rolled dough on top of each other (with parchment in between) and covering stack with plastic wrap; set aside until grill is ready.

5. TO GRILL: Ignite 6 quarts (1 large chimney) hardwood charcoal or briquettes in chimney starter and burn until fully ignited, 15 to 20 minutes. Empty coals into grill and spread into even layer over three-quarters of grill, leaving one quadrant free of coals. Position cooking grate over coals and heat until grill is medium-hot, about 5 minutes (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill grate for 4 seconds); scrape grate clean with grill brush.

6. Lightly flour pizza peel; invert 1 dough round onto peel, gently stretching it as needed to retain shape (do not stretch dough too thin; thin spots will burn quickly). Peel off and discard parchment; carefully slide round onto hot side of grill. Immediately repeat with another dough round. Cook until tops are covered with bubbles (pierce larger bubbles with paring knife) and bottoms are grill marked and charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes; while rounds cook, check undersides and slide to cool area of grill if browning too quickly. Transfer crusts to cutting board browned sides up. Repeat with 2 remaining dough rounds.

7. Brush 2 crusts generously with Spicy Garlic Oil; top each evenly with one-quarter of cheese mixture and one-quarter of tomatoes. Return pizzas to grill and cover grill with lid; cook until bottoms are well browned and cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes, checking bottoms frequently to prevent burning. Transfer pizzas to cutting board; repeat with remaining 2 crusts. Sprinkle pizzas with basil and coarse salt to taste; cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Grilled Tomato and Cheese Pizzas for Gas Grill
The pizzas cook very quickly on the grill, so before you begin grilling them, be sure to have all the equipment and ingredients you need at hand. Equipment includes a pizza peel (or a rimless baking sheet), a pair of tongs, a paring knife, a large cutting board, and a pastry brush; ingredients include all the toppings and a small bowl of flour for dusting. Timing and coordination are crucial; if you are unsure of your skill level, try cooking the first two pizzas one at a time, then work up to cooking the final two in tandem. The pizzas are best served hot off the grill but can be kept warm for 20 to 30 minutes on a wire rack in a 200-degree oven.
Makes four 9-inch pizzas

Dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water (8 ounces), room temperature
2 cups bread flour (11 ounces), plus more for work surface
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast

Topping
1 1/2 pounds medium plum tomatoes (5 to 6), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces fontina cheese , shredded (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese , finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 recipe Spicy Garlic Oil (see associated recipe)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Coarse salt

1. FOR THE CRUST: Combine oil and water in liquid measuring cup. In food processor fitted with plastic dough blade or metal blade, process bread flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms tacky, elastic ball that clears sides of workbowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. If dough ball does not form, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until dough ball forms. Spray medium bowl lightly with nonstick cooking spray or rub lightly with oil. Transfer dough to bowl and press down to flatten surface; cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in draft-free spot until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2. When dough has doubled, press down gently to deflate; turn dough out onto work surface and divide into 4 equal-sized pieces. With cupped palm, form each piece into smooth, tight ball. Set dough balls on well-floured work surface. Press dough rounds with hand to flatten; cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. FOR THE TOPPING: Meanwhile, toss tomatoes and table salt in medium bowl; transfer to colander and drain 30 minutes (wipe out and reserve bowl). Shake colander to drain off excess liquid; transfer tomatoes to now-empty bowl and set aside. Combine cheeses in second medium bowl and set aside.

4. Gently stretch dough rounds into disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Working one piece at a time and keeping the rest covered, roll out each disk to 1/8-inch thickness, 9 to 10 inches in diameter, on well-floured sheet of parchment paper, dusting with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. (If dough shrinks when rolled out, cover with plastic wrap and let rest until relaxed, 10 to 15 minutes.) Dust surface of rolled dough with flour and set aside. Repeat with remaining dough, stacking sheets of rolled dough on top of each other (with parchment in between) and covering stack with plastic wrap; set aside until grill is ready.

5. TO GRILL: Light all burners and turn to high heat, cover grill, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes; scrape cooking grate clean with grill brush.

6. Lightly flour pizza peel; invert 1 dough round onto peel, gently stretching it as needed to retain shape (do not stretch dough too thin; thin spots will burn quickly). Peel off and discard parchment; carefully slide round onto hot side of grill. Immediately repeat with another dough round. Cook (with grill lid down) until tops are covered with bubbles (pierce larger bubbles with paring knife) and bottoms are grill marked and charred in spots, 2 to 3 minutes; while rounds cook, check undersides and slide to cool area of grill if browning too quickly. Transfer crusts to cutting board browned sides up. Repeat with 2 remaining dough rounds.

7. Brush 2 crusts generously with Spicy Garlic Oil; top each evenly with one-quarter of cheese mixture and one-quarter of tomatoes. Return pizzas to grill and cover grill with lid; cook until bottoms are well browned and cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes, checking bottoms frequently to prevent burning. Transfer pizzas to cutting board; repeat with remaining 2 crusts. Sprinkle pizzas with basil and coarse salt to taste; cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Spicy Garlic Oil

Makes enough for 4 pizzas
4 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (4 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Cook all ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic starts to sizzle, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

Grilled Flatbread
Many cuisines offer up some take on grilled flatbread. It can be eaten almost plain, merely slicked with our Spicy Garlic Oil (see recipe below), or dressed with any number of simple toppings other than tomatoes and cheese. Flatbread can serve as a quick appetizer or a light accompaniment to a meal — once it’s been cooked the coals should still be hot enough to grill meat or fish. For the best flavor and texture, grilled flatbread should be served as soon as possible. Spinkle with coarse salt before serving.
Makes Four 9-inch Flatbreads

Dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water (8 ounces), room temperature
2 cups bread flour (11 ounces), plus more for work surface
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast

Topping
Coarse salt
1 recipe Spicy Garlic Oil (see recipe below) or plain olive oil

Optional Topping Choices
2 ounces Parmesan cheese , finely grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped herbs , such as thyme, parsley, basil, marjoram, and oregano
3 tablespoons sesame seeds mixed with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves; sprinkle lightly with lemon juice before serving
1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves and 6 ounces crumbled feta
2 tablespoons minced anchovy , mixed with 6 tablespoons chopped black or green olives
1/2 cup basil pesto or tapenade

Spicy Garlic Oil
4 cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. FOR THE CRUST: Combine oil and water in liquid measuring cup. In food processor fitted with plastic dough blade or metal blade, process bread flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms tacky, elastic ball that clears sides of workbowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. If dough ball does not form, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until dough ball forms. Spray medium bowl lightly with nonstick cooking spray or rub lightly with oil. Transfer dough to bowl and press down to flatten surface; cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in draft-free spot until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2. When dough has doubled, press down gently to deflate; turn dough out onto work surface and divide into 4 equal-sized pieces. With cupped palm, form each piece into smooth, tight ball. Set dough balls on well-floured work surface. Press dough rounds with hand to flatten; cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Gently stretch dough rounds into disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Working one piece at a time and keeping the rest covered, roll out each disk to 1/8-inch thickness, 9 to 10 inches in diameter, on well-floured sheet of parchment paper, dusting with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. (If dough shrinks when rolled out, cover with plastic wrap and let rest until relaxed, 10 to 15 minutes.) Dust surface of rolled dough with flour and set aside. Repeat with remaining dough, stacking sheets of rolled dough on top of each other (with parchment in between) and covering stack with plastic wrap; set aside until grill is ready.

4. TO GRILL: For Charcoal Grill: Ignite 6 quarts (1 large chimney) hardwood charcoal or briquettes in chimney starter and burn until fully ignited, 15 to 20 minutes. Empty coals into grill and spread into even layer over three-quarters of grill, leaving one quadrant free of coals. Position cooking grate over coals and heat until grill is medium-hot, about 5 minutes (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill grate for 4 seconds); scrape grate clean with grill brush. For Gas Grill: light all burners and turn to high heat, cover grill, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes; scrape cooking grate clean with grill brush.

5. Lightly flour pizza peel; invert 1 dough round onto peel, gently stretching it as needed to retain shape (do not stretch dough too thin; thin spots will burn quickly). Peel off and discard parchment; carefully slide round onto hot side of grill. Immediately repeat with another dough round. Cook until tops are covered with bubbles (pierce larger bubbles with paring knife) and bottoms are grill marked and charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes; while rounds cook, check undersides and slide to cool area of grill if browning too quickly. Transfer crusts to cutting board browned sides up. Repeat with 2 remaining dough rounds.

6. Brush grilled sides of 2 crusts generously with garlic oil; top each evenly with one-quarter of topping, if using. Return flatbreads to grill; cook uncovered until bottoms are well browned and toppings are heated through, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer flatbreads to cutting board; repeat with remaining 2 crusts. Sprinkle flatbreads with salt to taste; cut into pieces and serve immediately.

Spicy Garlic Oil:
Cook all ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic starts to sizzle, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

Indoor Grilled Tomato and Cheese Pizzas

If you don’t have two wire cooling racks, the pizzas can be baked directly on the baking sheet for a slightly less crisp crust. You will need a grill pan to make this recipe.
Makes four 9-inch pizzas

Dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for brushing grill pan
1 cup water (8 ounces), room temperature
2 cups bread flour (11 ounces), plus more for work surface
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast

Topping
1 1/2 pounds medium plum tomatoes (5 to 6), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces fontina cheese , shredded (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese , finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 recipe Spicy Garlic Oil (see associated recipe)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Coarse salt

1. FOR THE CRUST: Combine oil and water in liquid measuring cup. In food processor fitted with plastic dough blade or metal blade, process bread flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms tacky, elastic ball that clears sides of workbowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. If dough ball does not form, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until dough ball forms. Spray medium bowl lightly with nonstick cooking spray or rub lightly with oil. Transfer dough to bowl and press down to flatten surface; cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in draft-free spot until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2. When dough has doubled, press down gently to deflate; turn dough out onto work surface and divide into 4 equal-sized pieces. With cupped palm, form each piece into smooth, tight ball. Set dough balls on well-floured work surface. Press dough rounds with hand to flatten; cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. FOR THE TOPPING: Meanwhile, toss tomatoes and table salt in medium bowl; transfer to colander and drain 30 minutes (wipe out and reserve bowl). Shake colander to drain off excess liquid; transfer tomatoes to now-empty bowl and set aside. Combine cheeses in second medium bowl and set aside.

4. Gently stretch dough rounds into disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Working one piece at a time and keeping the rest covered, roll out each disk to 1/8-inch thickness, 9 to 10 inches in diameter, on well-floured sheet of parchment paper, dusting with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. (If dough shrinks when rolled out, cover with plastic wrap and let rest until relaxed, 10 to 15 minutes.) Dust surface of rolled dough with flour and set aside. Repeat with remaining dough, stacking sheets of rolled dough on top of each other (with parchment in between) and covering stack with plastic wrap; set aside until grill pan is ready.

5. TO PAN-GRILL AND BAKE: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Set two wire racks into rimmed baking sheets and set aside. Lightly flour pizza peel (or rimless baking sheet); invert one dough round onto peel, gently stretching it as needed to retain shape (do not stretch dough too thin; thin spots will burn quickly). Brush grill pan with oil and heat over medium-high until barely smoking, 2 to 3 minutes. Peel off and discard parchment; carefully slide round onto grill pan. Cook 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until clear grill marks form on underside of dough (use tongs to check), then rotate dough 90 degrees, piercing large air bubbles with paring knife, and cook for an additional minute. Lower heat to medium, flip dough, and cook on opposite side for 2 minutes or until spottily charred. Remove to prepared baking sheets (two pizzas per baking sheet) and repeat with remaining dough rounds.

6. Brush all crusts generously with Spicy Garlic Oil; top each evenly with one-quarter of cheese mixture and one-quarter of tomatoes. Place baking sheets in oven and bake until cheese, melts about 6 to 8 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through cooking. Transfer pizzas to cutting board and sprinkle with basil and coarse salt to taste; cut into wedges and serve immediately.

STEP BY STEP: Grilled Pizza 101

1. Shape dough into 4 smooth, tight balls.
2. With pin, roll each dough ball on parchment paper to form 9-inch round.

3. Stack dough rounds, separated by parchment.
4, Arrange lit coals in even layer over three-quarters of grill.

5. Invert dough round onto floured peel, remove parchment, and slide onto grill. Cook 2 dough rounds at once.
6. Using tongs, lift up dough round and peek to make sure it’s not scorching. If it’s cooking too fast, slide pizza to cool part of grill.

7. Transfer dough round to cutting board, browned side up. Brush dough round with garlic oil and top with cheese mixture and tomatoes.
8. Return pizza to grill and cover grill to help cheese melt.

Categories: Adventures in the Kitchen, Breads, Main dishes, Summer Fare

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