If you’ve never tried it, it’s high time you learned how to grill pizza. It’s probably your best option all year round, but especially in the summer, there’s no reason to cook it any other way. The best part? You don’t even need a pizza stone or steel—just a charcoal or gas grill, a ball of pizza dough, and your toppings of choice. It makes great Labor Day grub too.
grill can’t sense it. That gradual, subtle seasonal shift signaling that, once again, it’s almost time to hand the baton off and let the oven reclaim your undivided culinary attention. You may be a bit wistful, too—saying farewell (for now, too soon) to charred hot dogs and hamburgers, BBQ skewers, and grilled watermelon, and eating all of the above and then some on the patio. But before it gets too cold and wet outside, make the most of your charcoal by grilling everything you can. Pizza should certainly be on the menu if it hasn’t yet made an appearance this summer. In fact, grilled pizza will probably be far better than anything you’ve ever pulled out of your oven.Don’t think your dear old
Related Reading: 15 Things You Didn’t Even Know You Could Grill
Unconventional though it may sound, the grill is actually a very logical choice for making great Neapolitan-style pies. Because it can get so much hotter (and in a shorter period of time, too) than a traditional oven, the grill actually functions as a closer approximation to a wood-fired oven. It’s a perfect way to consistently achieve that kind of swoon-worthy, crisp, charred crust and still-doughy interior. Plus, the grill (both charcoal and gas grills work) lends the dough a lovely, light smoky flavor.
And, bonus, it really doesn’t require all that much work (summer is for leisurely meals, after all).
All you need to do is make a basic pizza dough, which you can do the night before, divide it up into rounds, stretch it out, and shape it into something round-ish and manageable-sized (it doesn’t need to be pretty). Or, just buy a ball of fresh dough and shape it. Then, prep some toppings, fire up the grill, and lay the dough down directly on the grates. Wait a minute or two as the dough starts to puff up and bubble, checking for even doneness on the underside and shifting as necessary, and then flip. Add your desired topping, close the top, and another couple minutes later—boom—pizza’s ready.
Just keep the following in mind to avoid some common pitfalls:
Before you even begin, you’ll want to make sure your grill grates are nice and clean, because the dough is going to go directly on them. See CNET’s tips on How to Clean a Grill if you’re in doubt about what exactly you should do besides give the grate a couple scrapes with your ancient grill brush. Even if you’re going to use a pizza stone on the grill and your dough won’t touch the grate, it’s always smart to start with a clean slate (er, grill).
Emile Henry Pizza Stone, $49.95 from Williams Sonoma
Use it on the grill or in your oven.
Baking Steel, $99 from Food52
Another option that works equally well indoors or out.
Because you’re working over a blazing hot grill here, you’re going to want a fairly sturdy dough that is easy to work with and won’t require much finicking. It helps to have a dough that is nice and dry, not sticky (you can imagine what kind of mess that might make). Some recommend adding just a touch more flour than you normally might to help ensure this, or even using bread dough, although this risks sacrificing some of the chewiness.
Dough Size and Shape
Grilling pizza is all about embracing amorphous round shapes. It doesn’t need to be a circle, and it doesn’t need to be perfect. “Rustic” is your inspiration word here. And no need to make that classic rounded pizza edge. Remember, the side the ends up with the toppings is going to hit the grill first and the raised edge would interfere with the even cooking. Be careful not to make it too big and thin—it’ll be too difficult to transfer to the grill and will also likely cook faster than the toppings have a chance to heat up. Somewhere around ¼ inch thickness is usually good.
Hot in Here
A bit of a no-brainer, but it doesn’t hurt to be extra clear: For this to work well, your grill needs to be real hot. Most recommend preheating your grill for about 10 to 15 minutes. A temperature of around 500 degrees works well or, for the daring, until it’s too hot for you to hold your hands over the grill for more than a couple seconds.
Oil Up Good
Greasing up is essential to helping make the dough easy to handle and not stick. Before laying your dough down on the grill, grab a pair of tongs to brush an oil-soaked, folded paper towel across your (very clean!) grates—or use a silicone brush. It also doesn’t hurt to to brush a little oil on the side of the dough you’re going to grill first. Oh! And don’t forget to lightly oil the raw, top side as the bottom is grilling so that it’s ready when you need to flip. Speaking of flipping, a good pair of tongs or a metal spatula should do the trick.
M Kitchen World Silicone Basting Brush, 2 for $7.99 from Amazon
Use this heat-resistant brush to oil your grates (and crust).
Weber 2-Piece Grilling Set, $24.99 from Amazon
Sturdy tongs and a spatula will help you maneuver your pizza (and other grilled food).
Grilling pizza takes what you know about the traditional topping process and turns it on its head. Unlike in an oven where heat surrounds the pie, using a grill means that you basically just have the flame underneath to cook the dough and heat the toppings. Therefore, adding the cheese first, before the sauce, helps ensure proper meltage (and hey, that’s how they do it in Detroit). This works especially well if you’re using large pieces or big dollops of cheese, and you can ladle the sauce in sections around them.
Similarly, any toppings that need to be pre-cooked or pre-heated should be prepped and ready to go as such before hitting the dough. Remember, these pies cook up fast (about a minute or two per side) so having your mise en place on point is key. Another quick word on that quick cook time: If you’re not comfortable working over the hot grill to top your pie (because, you know, hot flames), feel free to transfer the half-cooked dough to a cookie sheet or clean work station to conduct your topping artistry before returning it to the fire to finish.
Getting Your Pizza Off the Grill
When the pizza’s done and it’s time to take it off the grill and to the table, a pizza peel can come in very handy—but a plain old sheet pan and a pair of tongs will also work as long as you maneuver carefully.
Pomodoro Aluminum Pizza Peel, $39.99 from Amazon
This will come in handy when it's time to take the pizza off the grill.
Epicurean Pizza Cutter, $19.95 from Williams Sonoma
Cut your pizza without shoving around your carefully arranged toppings!
Grilled Pizza Recipes
Hungry yet? Here’s some recipe inspiration to help you achieve Grilled Pizza Master status.
As much as I’m a toppings maximalist, the simple, classic Margherita pie will always reign above the rest from me. The combination of zesty tomato sauce, plump mozzarella, and fragrant fresh basil the standard of transparent, ingredient-focused perfection all pizzas should reach for. Get our Mozzarella, Tomato, and Fresh Basil Grilled Pizza recipe.
Give tomato sauce the night off and give garlicky, basil-packed pesto a chance to shine instead. The punchy sauce is as good on pizza as it is on pasta, and is a perfect platform for fresh asparagus, crumbled bacon, and spoonfuls of tangy goat cheese. Get our Bacon, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese Grilled Pizza recipe.
The classic sausage and peppers combo of deli sandwich fame is out of the hoagie here and living it up large on a crisp, char-grilled slab of pizza dough. Get our Roasted Pepper and Spicy Sausage Grilled Pizza recipe.
Even if you’re not normally a white pie person (like me), this sauce-less pizza is sure to convert you. Inspired by the iconic rendition at the famed Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut, this grilled version features the same winning combination of briny-sweet chopped clams, garlic, and punchy Pecorino Romano cheese. Get the Pepes’s-Style Clam and Garlic Grilled Pizza recipe.
Grilled corn is a summer staple, so, really, it’s only fitting that it makes a dynamite topping for a seasonal grilled pizza. The light char gives the sweet kernels a subtle smokiness, while the rosemary adds a bright, woodsy herbaceous note. (Or, if you want to get a little luxe with the concept, you can always add sweet corn’s best friend, lobster, to the mix.) Get the Charred Corn and Rosemary Grilled Pizza recipe.
Grilled peaches with honey and ice cream are a favorite warm weather dessert, but it turns out the grilled fruit works equally well in a savory application, as this pizza proves. Here, the slices of charred peach are matched up with generous strips of salty prosciutto, creamy mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and spicy red pepper flakes. Get the Peach and Prosciutto Grilled Pizza recipe.
A classic cheese board pairing gets the grilled pizza treatment here, partnering wedges of luscious figs, tart balsamic onions, and rich, funky-savory gorgonzola. Pass the wine, please. Get the Fig, Balsamic Onions, and Gorgonzola Grilled Pizza recipe.
Guilty food pleasure confession time: I love California Pizza Kitchen’s barbecue chicken pizza. Chalk it up to childhood nostalgia, I don’t know, but I just have a soft spot for that craveable combination of tangy-sweet BBQ sauce, juicy grilled chicken, melted mozzarella, and thin slices of zesty red onion. It’s not quite the original, but this grilled pizza rendition might even be better. Get the Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza recipe.
Arugula, goat cheese, and cherries sound like the makings of a great salad. One way to make it even better? Take it all and throw it on top of a piece of grilled pizza dough. Sorry not sorry, as far as I’m concerned, carbs always improve a party. Get the Cherry, Goat Cheese, and Arugula Grilled Pizza recipe.
For those who feel like mushrooms always get the shaft in the toppings department, playing second fiddle to superstars like sausage and pepperoni, this pizza is for you. A mix of portabella, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, this umami-fest of a pie gives the beloved ‘shroom the spotlight it deserves. Get the Triple Mushroom Grilled Pizza recipe.
I like pizza in the evening, and at supper time, but there’s something about having pizza in the morning that just feels like an extra-special treat. Crispy, salty strips of bacon, sunny-up eggs with decadent runny yolks, and plenty of gooey melted cheese on thin grilled pizza dough? Brunch game status: legendary. Get the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Grilled Pizza recipe.
Veggies may not always elicit the excited “oohs” and “ahhs” that some other pizza toppings do, but this zucchini pie is here to lend the concept some legit street cred. Ribbons of summer squash are kept raw to retain a slight crunch, and dollops of fluffy ricotta and aromatic lemon zest keep it light and bright. Get the Zucchini and Ricotta Grilled Pizza recipe.
Enjoy blueberries in a different kind of pie with this clever, perfect-for-summer dessert grilled pizza. The crisp, slightly smoky dough is the perfect contrast to the cool cream cheese and sweet, gooey berry compote. Get the Blueberry Grilled Pizza recipe.
Look, anytime Nutella is in the picture, I’m a happy camper. But when it’s slathered over grilled dough and topped with roasted fresh fruit, I’m even happier. Plus, a grilled pizza is a hell of a lot easier to make than a crepe. Get the Nutella and Roasted Fruit Grilled Pizza recipe.