Grilled Pizza

Exploring the Charms of Grilled Pizza

Grilled pizza offers a unique twist to the traditional oven-baked favorite. It’s known for its smoky flavor and rustic charm, which comes from cooking over an open flame. This method has gained popularity as more people seek to replicate the pizzeria experience at home.

The concept of pizza dates back to ancient times with seasoned flatbreads. Modern pizza evolved in 18th-century Naples, Italy, with the addition of tomatoes to focaccia. The idea of grilling pizza is much newer, especially popular in the U.S. where grilling is a favorite pastime.

The trend of grilled pizza began in the 1980s, pushed by innovative chefs experimenting with grilling dough directly on the grill. This technique not only adds a distinct charred flavor but also offers a quicker cooking solution without overheating the kitchen. Today, grilled pizza is prized for its crisp texture, smoky taste, and versatility with toppings.

When grilling pizza, the dough must be thin yet sturdy enough to withstand intense heat and hold various toppings. Ingredients are often pre-cooked or sliced thin to ensure they cook quickly and blend well with the crisp crust. Grilled pizza remains a creative culinary practice, allowing grill lovers to enjoy a global favorite outdoors.

Equipment and Ingredients 

Essential Grilling Equipment

Grilling pizza requires specific tools to ensure a crispy crust and perfectly cooked toppings. Key equipment includes:

  1. Grill: A gas or charcoal grill can be used, with charcoal offering a more authentic smoky flavor.
  2. Pizza Stone: This helps distribute heat evenly and prevents the dough from sticking to the grill.
  3. Pizza Peel: Essential for safely placing the pizza on and off the hot stone or grill.
  4. Grill Brush: Keeps the grill clean and free of debris.
  5. Tongs and Spatula: Useful for handling toppings and rotating the pizza.
  6. Thermometer: Ensures the grill reaches the optimal temperature for cooking pizza.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

The success of grilled pizza largely depends on the quality of the dough and toppings. For the dough, opt for a high-gluten flour like bread flour to ensure it can withstand the direct heat of the grill without tearing. The dough should be stretched thin to crisp up nicely.

For toppings, select ingredients that cook quickly and can handle high heat. Vegetables should be sliced thinly or pre-cooked, and meats like pepperoni or sausage should be pre-cooked to ensure they’re heated through. Cheeses that melt well, such as mozzarella or provolone, are ideal. The key is to keep toppings light to avoid overloading the dough, which can lead to a soggy pizza.

Dough Preparation

Homemade vs. Store-Bought Dough

Choosing between homemade and store-bought dough can significantly impact the quality and flavor of your grilled pizza.

Pros of Homemade Dough:

  • Customization: You can adjust the thickness, size, and ingredients according to your taste.
  • Flavor: Homemade dough often has a fresher, more authentic flavor, with the possibility of fermenting it for complexity.
  • No Additives: Lacks the preservatives and artificial ingredients found in many commercial doughs.

Cons of Homemade Dough:

  • Time-Consuming: Requires time for preparation and proofing.
  • Skill Level: Making dough from scratch requires some practice to perfect consistency and handling.

Pros of Store-Bought Dough:

  • Convenience: It’s ready to use, saving time and effort, especially useful for impromptu grilling sessions.
  • Consistency: Commercially produced dough usually offers uniform quality and performance on the grill.

Cons of Store-Bought Dough:

  • Flavor Limitations: Often lacks the depth of flavor that can be achieved with a homemade recipe.
  • Additives: May contain preservatives and artificial ingredients.

Recipe for Grilled Pizza Dough

For those ready to tackle homemade dough, here’s a simple recipe suited for grilling:


  • 3 cups of bread flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 packet of instant yeast (about 2¼ tsp)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water (around 110°F)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


  1. Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.
  2. Add Water and Oil: Mix in the warm water and olive oil until the dough begins to come together.
  3. Knead the Dough: Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 7-10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.
  4. First Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. Divide and Shape: Punch down the dough and divide it into portions. Shape each portion into a ball, then flatten into a disk.
  6. Second Rise: Allow the disks to rise for another 15-20 minutes before grilling.
Pizza on the Grill

Selecting Toppings and Sauces

Best Toppings for Grilled Pizza

Choosing the right toppings for grilled pizza is crucial as not all ingredients are suitable for the high heat and direct exposure of a grill. Here are some recommended toppings that cook well on a grill:

  • Vegetables: Opt for quick-cooking vegetables like bell peppers, onions, thinly sliced zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. Pre-grilling or sautéing denser vegetables like mushrooms and artichokes can enhance their flavor and ensure they’re cooked through.
  • Meats: Pre-cooked meats such as grilled chicken, pepperoni, sausage, and bacon are ideal as they only need to be heated and slightly crisped.
  • Cheeses: Choose cheeses that melt well without burning. Mozzarella, provolone, and gouda are excellent choices for a gooey, delicious topping.
  • Herbs and Aromatics: Fresh basil, oregano, and garlic added towards the end of grilling impart fresh, aromatic flavors that are not overpowering.

Sauce Preparation

The sauce for grilled pizza should complement the smoky flavor imparted by the grill without overwhelming the other ingredients. Here are some tips on preparing the perfect pizza sauce:

  • Classic Tomato Sauce:
    1. Ingredients: Use high-quality canned tomatoes for a rich, deep flavor. Add salt, a touch of sugar to balance acidity, and Italian herbs like basil or oregano.
    2. Preparation: Blend the tomatoes until smooth for a uniform texture. Cook the sauce briefly on the stove to thicken it slightly and concentrate the flavors, which ensures it doesn’t make the dough soggy.
  • White Sauce (Garlic Cream Sauce):
    1. Ingredients: Combine cream, minced garlic, and parmesan cheese for a rich and creamy option.
    2. Preparation: Simmer the cream and garlic together until slightly thickened, then stir in grated parmesan until melted and smooth.
  • Pesto:
    1. Ingredients: Fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.
    2. Preparation: Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pesto is best used fresh and can be drizzled over the pizza after grilling to maintain its vibrant color and flavor.

Mastering the Grill

Grilling the Dough

Grilling pizza dough directly on the grates can transform a simple dough into a deliciously charred and smoky crust. Here are some techniques to ensure you achieve the perfect grilled pizza base:

  1. Preheat the Grill: Ensure your grill is hot enough before placing the dough on it. A temperature of around 500°F to 600°F is ideal. This high heat helps to prevent the dough from sticking and ensures a crisp crust.
  2. Prepare the Dough: Roll or stretch the dough into a thin layer, about 1/4 inch thick. The thinner the dough, the crisper the crust will be. Lightly brush one side with olive oil to help it not stick and to add flavor.
  3. Grill One Side: Place the dough, oiled side down, directly on the grill grates. Close the lid and cook for about 2-3 minutes until the underside has grill marks and is golden brown.
  4. Flip the Dough: Use a pizza peel or large spatula to flip the dough. Quickly brush the grilled side with a thin layer of sauce and a sprinkle of your chosen toppings and cheese.
  5. Control the Heat: If the grill is too hot and the bottom crust is cooking too quickly, reduce the heat or move the pizza to a cooler part of the grill to avoid burning.
  6. Use Indirect Heat: For thicker crusts, after the initial direct grilling, move the pizza to a cooler, indirect heat area of the grill to finish cooking without charring the bottom.

These steps will help you master the art of grilling pizza dough, creating a base that’s perfectly crispy and robust enough to support your toppings.

Adding Toppings and Melting Cheese

Efficiently adding toppings and ensuring the cheese melts perfectly requires timing and technique:

  1. Choose the Right Toppings: Since the grill cooks quickly, use pre-cooked or quick-cooking toppings. Cut vegetables thinly and meats into small pieces to ensure they cook through.
  2. Add Toppings Sparingly: Overloading the pizza can result in a soggy crust. Distribute toppings evenly in a single layer.
  3. Melting the Cheese: To melt the cheese evenly, cover the grill after adding the cheese. The trapped heat will create an oven-like environment, helping the cheese to melt and the toppings to cook without overcooking the crust.
  4. Finishing Touches: Add any fresh herbs or delicate ingredients after the pizza is removed from the grill to preserve their texture and flavor.

By following these techniques, you can efficiently add toppings and achieve perfectly melted cheese, ensuring your grilled pizza is deliciously balanced and thoroughly cooked.

Pizza on the Grill

Final Touches and Serving

Adding Fresh Herbs and Finishing Oils

The right finishing touches can significantly enhance the flavors of a grilled pizza. Here’s how to use fresh herbs and oils effectively:

  • Fresh Herbs: Sprinkle herbs like basil, oregano, or thyme over the pizza right after it comes off the grill. The residual heat will release their aromas without wilting them too much.
  • Finishing Oils: A drizzle of high-quality olive oil or a flavored oil (like garlic or chili oil) just before serving adds a layer of richness and depth. Use a light hand to not overwhelm the other flavors.

These additions not only boost the taste but also add a gourmet touch to your grilled pizza, making it visually appealing and deliciously aromatic.

Best Drinks to Pair with Grilled Pizza

Choosing the right drink to complement your grilled pizza can round out the meal beautifully. Here are some suggestions:

  • Wine: A light red wine, such as Pinot Noir, or a crisp white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc, pairs well with most pizzas, especially those with traditional toppings.
  • Beer: Choose a lager or pale ale for its crispness to cut through the richness of the cheese and meats.
  • Soft Drinks: For a non-alcoholic option, sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or a light soda complements the meal without competing with the pizza’s flavors.

These beverage options help to cleanse the palate and can enhance the overall dining experience, making each bite of pizza as enjoyable as the first.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common questions about making grilled pizza, focusing on dough handling, cheese selection, and managing grill temperatures.

  1. How do I prevent the dough from sticking to the grill?
    • Ensure the grill is very hot before placing the dough and brush both the grill and the dough lightly with oil.
  2. What is the best cheese for grilled pizza?
    • Mozzarella is popular for its meltability and mild flavor, but provolone and gouda are excellent for a deeper flavor.
  3. What temperature should my grill be for pizza?
    • Aim for a temperature range of 500°F to 600°F to achieve a crispy crust without burning the toppings.

Expert Grilling Tips

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Grilled pizza can present challenges; here are tips for common issues:

  • Dough Sticking: If the dough sticks, it may not have been oiled sufficiently, or the grill wasn’t hot enough. Always preheat the grill thoroughly.
  • Uneven Cooking: Rotate the pizza during cooking to ensure even exposure to heat, especially on grills with hot spots.
  • Toppings Not Cooking Through: Pre-cook denser toppings and keep them thinly sliced to ensure they cook quickly and evenly.

Innovative Topping Combinations

Explore creative topping ideas to enhance your grilled pizza:

  • Sweet and Savory: Try combinations like pear and gorgonzola or prosciutto and fig.
  • Spicy and Smoky: Add chorizo and jalapeños for a kick, or smoked gouda with caramelized onions for depth.
  • Seasonal Specials: Use fresh, seasonal vegetables like asparagus in spring or butternut squash in fall.

External Links and Recommended Anchor Text

  1. Here are some external links for grilled pizza recipes:
    1. Easy Grilled Pizza Recipe – Tastes Better From Scratch: Easy Grilled Pizza Recipe This site provides a detailed guide on how to make grilled pizza with various toppings, offering a simple approach for enhancing your pizza-making experience.
    2. How To Grill Pizza Recipe – Simply Recipes: How To Grill Pizza Recipe This link leads to a comprehensive recipe that explains the techniques and tips for grilling pizza to achieve the best results.
    3. Grilled Pizza Recipe – King Arthur Baking: Grilled Pizza Recipe Explore different methods and recipes for making grilled pizza with detailed instructions from King Arthur Baking.
    4. Best Grilled Pizza Recipe – Plays Well With Butter: Best Grilled Pizza Recipe This site offers a variety of recipes and tips on how to grill pizza, along with creative topping ideas to inspire your next outdoor cooking session.


In conclusion, grilled pizza is a delightful twist on a classic dish, perfect for those who enjoy the smoky flavors that only an open flame can provide. It combines the traditional elements of pizza with the unique char and crispiness of grilling. This cooking method not only enhances the dining experience with its distinct taste and texture but also offers a fun, interactive way to cook outdoors. Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or a novice looking to try something new, grilled pizza is a versatile and satisfying option that brings people together around the fire.

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