In the summertime, when the Frenchman and I (sporadically) have access to a grill, we often grill pizza. It’s especially good for feeding a crowd: it’s pleasing to every palate, can be adjusted for special diets, involves just the right amount of group participation, and makes a great breakfast the next morning. All the ingredients (dough and toppings) are prepared ahead of time, which makes it easy to pull off outdoors, or in a kitchen not your own. I usually choose toppings based on what’s in season at the moment.
Two general rules: You can load pizza made on the grill a little more heavily than pizza made in an oven. Also, you’ll want all toppings to be pre-cooked or pre-prepared, since once on the pizza they’ll cook for just a few minutes–basically, only long enough for the cheese to melt.
Pro tip: I like to prepare all my toppings in little bowls or containers before I get started–mise en place. Move the bowls to the largest baking sheet you have, and then place it right next to the grill. Now it’s easy to build each pizza quickly. This preparedness allows the cook to enjoy eating the first pizza with guests, before moving on to making the next one.
Spring: grilled asparagus; ramps (grilled or pickled); spinach; fresh peas; garlic; squash blossoms; scallions; young (charred) onions. Summer: cherry tomatoes (slow roasted* or raw); zucchini (roasted or marinated**); corn (raw in the flush of summer or grilled); peppers (marinated or blistered); fennel (raw, sliced wisp thin, or roasted); shishito peppers/pimientos de padrón (blistered). Fall: mushrooms (raw or roasted); onions (caramelized or grilled); brussels sprouts (shaved or roasted); roasted cauliflower; sauteed kale; potatoes (roasted or boiled).
Toppings: crumbled (cooked) sausage; any cured meat that strikes your fancy; hard cheese (parmesan, pecorino, grana padano); semi-soft cheese (mozzarella, fontina, taleggio); soft cheese (ricotta, goat cheese); capers
To finish: basil, chives, parsley, cilantro, arugula, (hot) honey, balsamic reduction.
(Obviously, there are other toppings out there. I’m listing what I use the most.)
*Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes: Heat the oven to 250F/120C. Toss 2 pints mixed cherry tomatoes with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 5 cracks black pepper. Bake for 2 hours at 250F, then lower the heat to 200F; continue baking 1 more hour. (Can make 2 days ahead; refrigerate.)
**Marinated Zucchini: Thinly slice 1 medium-large (275 grams) zucchini. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Let the zucchini sit for 15 minutes, until it slackens.
Method: I use frozen, individual-sized balls of pizza dough. (But feel free to use your favorite pizza dough recipe.) The night before grilling, I move the dough to a bowl. (If serving pizza for a crowd, each dough ball gets its own bowl.) Pour 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over the dough. Cover the bowl, and move it to the fridge overnight, where it will slowly defrost. About 1 hour before cooking, remove the dough from the fridge. [If using fresh pizza dough, still rub it all over with 1 tablespoon olive oil.]
Since I’m not a professional pizzaiolo, here’s my method for stretching the dough: move the olive-oiled dough to the back of a baking sheet. Using your fingers (or a spatula), slowly widen the dough circle, until it covers roughly half of the baking sheet. (The olive oil aids the stretching process, as does the temperature of the dough–hence the reason you take it out of the fridge an hour ahead.)
Heat the grill to about 425F/218C. When it’s nice and hot, you’re ready to start. Quickly walk your fingers across the dough lengthwise, until you’ve scooped up half the pizza. As fast as you can, spread the dough across the grill, speedily making sure the dough is as stretched as possible, not bunched up in spots. Grill the dough on that side for about 5 minutes, or until the underside has grill marks and makes a hollow sound when you tap your finger against it, but is still a bit spongy. Flip the dough. Now build the pizza of your dreams. Close the grill, and allow the pizza to cook another 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.
When the pizza has finished cooking, pull it onto a cutting board using tongs. Slice it right away, and enjoy hot.