pepperoni and cheese
On any given day, up to 25% of Americans are eating pizza. That’s a sizable chunk of calories for a single food category!
According to one food blogger’s investigation, the ingredient lists of nearly every major pizza chain contain enough chemicals to fully stock a chemistry lab. Thankfully making pizza at home from scratch is much healthier — plus it’s easy and the whole family can do it together.
It’s especially fun to use your grill. You’ll love the amazing brick oven-crispy-chewy, full-flavored pizza, and you’ll also appreciate not heating up the kitchen in the summer.
With these techniques, your grill, and my special Italian pizza dough and sauce recipes (some of which I learned while in Italy) expect to be transported across the sea to Naples, the birthplace of pizza.
Homemade pizza crust is a great entry-level baking project. You don’t need special skills or equipment (although having a stand mixer with a dough hook is helpful), and you can make great pizza… easily!
The secret to a great tasting crust is a long, slow rising time; so be sure you schedule enough time for that flavor to develop before you want to eat. I like to start my dough the day before and then let it rise in the refrigerator just like they do at pizzerias in Italy.
Once you have the crust made the toppings are up to you; read labels and be sure to use mozzarella made without growth hormones, sausage or pepperoni made without modern nitrite processing methods, and olives or pepperoncini without chemical preservatives.
Also, be sure to have all your toppings ready to go on platters or bowls before you start grilling. Cooking goes quickly and you won’t have time to stop and chop, slice, or shred anything.
The technique for grilling pizza is a little different from making it in the oven. You begin by grilling the crust alone — so it is cooked on one side before you flip it, top it, and finish it. The trickiest part of the whole process is getting that circle of raw dough neatly onto the grill. The first time you try this, you might want to make a double batch of the dough — to allow for bloopers!
Now let’s go from start-to-finish, beginning with the crust.
Neapolitan-Style Pizza Crust
- 1-1/2 cups room temperature filtered water
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur brand)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
Combine the yeast, flours, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the water and mix until well combined. Knead by hand or with the dough hook of a mixer for 15 minutes. The dough will be sticky, but resist the temptation to add more flour unless you absolutely have to. By the end of the kneading the dough will change in texture from shaggy to fairly smooth. Don’t worry if it seems a little slack, the long rise time will continue to change the texture and consistency. Place the dough into a container that is about three times larger than the ball of dough, cover and allow it to rise on the counter for at least 8 hours or as long as 16 hours. The longer you let it rise the more flavor will develop. I like to use the Italian technique which is to make it the day before, cover and let rise in the refrigerator for 24 hours or more, then remove it an hour or so before using it to let it come to room temperature. You can also mix in a bread machine and just let it rise in the machine without baking.
While the crust is rising, gather together the toppings you want to use. Also, be sure your grill rack is clean and you have plenty of propane or charcoal.
Then make an easy pizza sauce with the following recipe.
Easy Homemade Pizza Sauce
- 1 8-ounce can organic tomato sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon each of dried oregano, basil, rosemary and marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Now It’s Time to Grill!
Gather the following equipment for grilling your pizza:
- parchment paper
- a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet
- long-handled tongs
- basting brush
- small bowl of olive oil
- charcoal or gas grill with lid or cover
1. Preheat your grill on high for 10 minutes, or prepare your charcoal fire to a medium-hot temperature. (Medium-hot means you can only hold your hand five inches above the heat for about 2 to 3 seconds.) Enough heat is key to the crust releasing from the grill racks. Remember, a brick oven can get upwards of 900 degrees Fahrenheit — so don’t worry about getting your grill too hot. Have your sauce and toppings prepped and ready at a table near the grill.
2. Divide the dough into four equal balls. Working with one ball at a time on a floured surface, press it into a flattened disk and then work it into a larger and larger circle by pressing, turning, and stretching as you go. I like to shape my crust on parchment paper. You want the crust to remain loose on the surface, not stick, so you can transfer it easily to the grill. You can use a rolling pin to shape it, or if you are adventurous you can try tossing it. The goal is even thickness to ensure even cooking; a perfect circle is not important. In fact the non-round shapes have a charming, rustic appeal. I find thinner crusts work the best, giving a nice crispy exterior while still yielding open pockets and chewy interior. Too thick and you have foccacia instead of pizza, or it might not cook all the way through before the outside burns.
3. If you have kept your dough loose as you shape it you will be able to slip the shaped crust onto the pizza peel or (floured) rimless baking sheet. Using a basting brush coat the entire top of the crust with the olive oil.
4. Think of this next step as if you were turning a giant pancake and just flip the crust quickly, oiled side down, onto the grill. This is why I recommend making that double batch of dough, because the first couple of tries may end in a few wrinkles or folds. (Or, you could hold the crust by the edge and drape it across the grill, but be careful not to tear the dough as you are holding it up.) Soon you will get the hang of it and the crust will flip neatly onto the grill with a satisfying sizzle. Shut the lid for about two minutes.
5. When you open the lid you will see the top side of the crust has bubbled up while the underside has magically released somewhat from the grill and now has nice grill marks underneath. Use tongs to slip the crust back onto the pizza peel. Brush the uncooked side with oil. Then flip it over on the peel, so that the uncooked side is down.
6. Now it’s time to add your toppings to the grilled side. Carefully slide the topped pizza back onto the grill. Cover the grill again and let the toppings cook while the underside of the crust gets grilled (and those beautiful tell-tale grill marks). The amount of time this takes depends on how you topped it. Your grill can get close to that intense brick oven heat, so a simple Margherita pizza of sauce, cheese, and basil leaves will take only 3 to 4 minutes, while a super supreme loaded pizza might take 6 minutes. If the crust bottom is already done but the toppings are not, you can move the pizza away from the direct heat to continue cooking without burning the crust.
7. Slide the finished pizza back onto the peel and then onto a cutting board or cooling rack. Slice and enjoy that crispy, smoky, homemade, authentic Italian pizza!
With these easy techniques and my special pizza dough recipe you can have that amazing brick oven crispy, chewy, full-flavored pizza right in your own backyard. Why settle for someone else’s idea of “better ingredients” when you can make the best yourself at home!
Or, I tested the grill technique using Udi’s Gluten Free pizza crust. I oiled the premade crust, grilled one side, oiled the other side, added toppings and returned it to the grill to finish. The Udi’s crust held up to the grilling without cracking or crumbling and the finished pizza was quite tasty.
Have you made grilled pizza? What are your favorite toppings? Got any tips to share?
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