11 Apr Special of the day: Perfecting Pizza on the Grill
You could say I had something specific in mind when I prepared myself to perfect pizza on the grill last week. Signs of spring such as sweetly singing birds and buds of new life bursting forth seemed to signal to me that it was safe to get grilling again. And the one thing I had been yearning to try on the grill was pizza.
I had a vision in my mind of the culinary conclusion, conjuring up an image of a beautifully-bubbled, nicely-browned, thin-crusted creation topped with sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, grilled chicken, gooey smoked gouda cheese and paper-thin red onions, all adorned with fresh cilantro sprigs. Yum!
Serious about achieving a pizza that rose to the occasion for my brother Tyler’s long-awaited arrival home and belated birthday celebration, I went straight to an expert for tips on perfecting pizza on the grill.
Truth be told, my great fear was flopping the pizza onto the grill only to see it stretch and ooze beneath the grate and onto the flames, igniting in one flammable flash of light and heat. Poof! And the labor of love was up in smoke. It was just counter-intuitive for me to think a doughy base would slide right onto the grill without dripping down onto the fire melting into a horrible mess.
A quick email to our good friend Mark Tronson, the expert whom I had watched effortlessly glide pizzas onto the grill with no problem was speedily returned with his tried-and-true tips on making pizza on the grill. Great news for me!
As was the recipe our pal Jamie Doan shared for pizza dough she had used with success from the Better Homes and Gardens Pizza Cookbook. Jamie had never made it ahead and refrigerated it, but I did, and it worked wonderfully.
Mark’s tips are worth writing down and filing away for future use, so I am sharing them here for all of you home cooks out there who, like me, have been wanting to try pizza on the grill.
First, Mark said, use a fairly dry dough. The recipe below works well when you roll it out thinly and transfer it to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel which will simplify the transfer directly onto the preheated grill. If you don’t have the time to make the dough, Mark recommends buying pizza dough from Howard’s Pizza.
Preheat your barbecue to the lowest heat setting, about 350 or 400 degrees. Be careful not to let the grill get overheated as this will burn your carefully crafted crust in a hurry! (Believe me on this one. I charred the heck out of a previous pie, not watching the thermostat on the grill skyrocket, sadly scorching it to a crisp.)
Roll out the dough on a lightly-floured board as thinly as possible, about ¼ inch thick.
Transfer the crust to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel. A pizza peel is a flat shovel-like tool used to transport pizzas and other baked goods to and from ovens, or in this case, the grill. While pizza professionals have their personal preferences on primo pizza peels to use, I can recommend using a flat wooden one lightly dusted with cornmeal for easy transfer onto the grill.
Take the pie (pre-ingredients) and grill it directly on the preheated grill on both sides, browning one side slightly and leaving the other side barely cooked at all.
Transfer partially cooked pizza crust to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel, browned side up. Arrange pizza ingredients on top of the browned side and slide it onto the grill. Put the lid down and cook just until cheese is bubbly and crust is browning beautifully. Brushing the crust with olive oil during the last few minutes of cooking will help it to brown.
Jamie’s dough recipe together with Mark’s specific directions worked like a dream. I was able to prebake the crust so all I had to do when guests arrived was to arrange the toppings and transfer the pizzas onto the grill, which thankfully went off without a hitch! Making sure the grill was at the lowest heat helped guarantee gorgeous golden-browning of the crust. The dry dough grilled well, producing authentic New York-style pizza bubbles and crisping of the crust. Success!
Fire up the grill and practice your grilled pizza prowess with this week’s Special of the day: Perfecting Pizza on the Grill with step-by-step illustrated instructions for making BBQ Chicken Pizza on the grill. Happy Pizza Grilling!
Recipe adapted from Jamie Doan’s recipe
Taken from Better Homes and Gardens Pizza Cookbook
(makes crust for two pizzas)
1 cup warm water (about bath temperature, too hot will kill the yeast)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
2 ¾ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Put warm water in small glass bowl.
Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
Sprinkle yeast on top of water, stir gently and let proof.
Yeast will bubble and get foamy.
Add flour, salt and olive oil to bowl of electric mixer.
Fit mixer with dough hook attachment.
Pour yeast mixture into bowl and use dough hook to mix.
Continue mixing until dough forms a ball.
Remove dough from bowl and transfer to lightly floured board.
Knead dough until smooth and elastic, two to three minutes.
Cut dough in half and transfer to plastic baggies.
Seal baggies and refrigerate dough until ready to assemble pizzas.
(Can be made several hours ahead.)
Preheat barbecue to lowest heat setting, 350 or 400 degrees.
On lightly floured surface, roll out one ball of dough to a 12-inch circle about ¼ inch thick.
Transfer to cornmeal-dusted pizza peel.
Grill on preheated barbecue, browning one side and barely cooking the other.
BBQ Chicken Pizza
(Inspired by James McNair’s BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe)
Recipe by Sydne George
Makes one 12 inch pizza
Make the Barbecue Sauce:
3 cups ketchup
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Combine all sauce ingredients in medium heavy saucepan over medium high heat.
Cook, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat.
Grill the chicken:
1 ½ pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts
Preheat barbecue to 400 degrees.
Place chicken breasts on work surface and cover with waxed paper.
Pound chicken breasts to a thickness of ½ inch.
Remove 2/3 cup barbecue sauce from saucepan.
Brush chicken breasts with barbecue sauce to cover.
Grill chicken breasts on preheated barbecue 5 minutes.
Turn chicken breasts and grill other side for an additional 5 minutes, continuing to baste with barbecue sauce.
Remove grilled chicken breasts, tent with foil and let rest.
When cool, slice grilled chicken breast into thin slices.
Assemble the pizza:
1 pre-grilled pizza crust
Grilled chicken slices
¼ pound Fontina cheese, grated
4 ounces smoked gouda, grated
½ red onion, sliced in paper-thin slices
Place pre-grilled pizza crust browned side up on cornmeal-dusted pizza peel.
Spread barbecue sauce over crust, just to cover (you may have extra sauce-reserve for alternate use), leaving a 1 inch border around pizza.
Arrange grilled chicken slices in a single layer atop sauce.
Sprinkle with grated cheeses.
Top with red onion slices.
Slide prepared pizza onto preheated barbecue.
Close lid and let cook until cheese is mostly melted and crust is beginning to brown.
Brush olive oil around crust.
Close lid and let cook until crust is nicely browned.
Use pizza peel to remove pizza from grill.
Top with fresh cilantro sprigs.
Use pizza cutter to slice.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.