We all know the best pizzas are made in the hottest ovens, but as the temperature rises outside, many of us prefer not to heat up our kitchens. A fancy brick oven is not required to make a tasty pie. A grill, a Green Egg, or a Pizza Kettle can produce delicious pizzas with crisp crusts and a bit of smoky char.
Making pizza on the patio is great for entertaining. The hosts can mingle with guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen, and everyone can be involved. Whether it’s a simple family dinner or a party for 10, making your own pizza is just plain fun. You can make dinner with wine glasses in hand, and everyone can create their favorite combinations.
The key to really good pizza is of course, the crust. Pizza dough can be purchased from a pizza parlor or grocery store, or you can easily make your own. I’ve experimented with several recipes, and I love the versatility of this one by Faith Durand at The Kitchn. It gives you the option of making pizza with only a short rise time for the dough, or making the dough ahead and refrigerating it up to three days, or even freezing it for later use.
(makes 8 small pizzas)
1 2/3 cups water
1 to 2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast *
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ cup olive oil
5 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons salt
* If you want to use the pizza dough that same day, use 2 teaspoons yeast. If you are going to let the dough rise overnight, use 1 teaspoon yeast.
A side note about using yeast—for some reason, lots of people are terrified by it. Don’t be, it really is simple. The temperature of the water is important—too hot and the yeast dies, too cold and it doesn’t activate. 110 degrees is recommended, but don’t worry if you don’t have a thermometer. Run your tap until the water feels warm, then bump it up until it feels hot, but not hot enough to wash dishes with. That’s your sweet spot.
Mix the water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Add the ½ teaspoon sugar and stir. (The sugar feeds the yeast and speeds up the process.) Let stand for a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved and starts to foam. This may take five to 15 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is. Stir the oil into the yeast mixture, then add the flour and salt. Mix with a spatula until a shaggy, floury dough is formed.
Kneed the dough on low speed with a dough hook for five to seven minutes, or knead by hand on the counter for six to 8 minutes. When kneaded, the dough should form a smooth ball, feel smooth to the touch, and spring slowly back when poked.
Use a knife to cut the dough into 8 lumps. Grease a baking pan lightly with olive oil. Place the dough balls in the pan and turn them over so they are coated with oil. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.
To make pizza the same day
Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 to 1 1½ hours, or until it has doubled in bulk. At this point the dough can be used immediately, or refrigerated or frozen for later use.
To make pizza the next day (or later)
Place the covered pan immediately in the refrigerator and let it rise slowly overnight or up to 24 hours.
Before making the pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for at least one hour.
To grill the pizza
Preheat your gas grill with all the burners on high for 10 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, start a charcoal grill.) Once heated, turn off or lower half the burners, creating an area of direct heat and an area of indirect heat. (If using a charcoal grill, create the same areas by banking the charcoal.) Set up a workspace near the grill with space for shaping the pizza and bowls with sauce and toppings.
Working with one piece at a time, pull and stretch a dough ball in your hands into a round. Once it becomes large, drape it over your fists to continue stretching it into a large, thin round. Or you can also roll or pat it into a rustic oblong shape. Aim for about ¼-inch thick. I like to do it directly on a lightly floured pizza paddle for ease. Brush dough with about two teaspoons of olive oil.
Flip the shaped pizza dough onto the grill over the direct heat and close the grill. Once the crust looks set, turn it over. This should take about two minutes. Remember every grill is different, so time can vary.
Use tongs to flip the crust over and move it to the indirect heat. Quickly spread it with sauce and then a thin layer of toppings over top. Don’t overdo the toppings as this will interfere with it cooking quickly and thoroughly. Close the grill and cook until the toppings are warmed through and the cheese is melted, another two to three minutes. Again, times will vary. If pizza smells like it is scorching, rotate it into a cooler spot.
Slide the finished pizza onto a cutting board. Cut the pizza into slices and serve. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough; as you get more practice, you can start a second pizza over direct heat while the first pizza is finishing over indirect heat.
If you prefer thin and crispy pizza, you can roll your dough out thinner and use a pizza stone. Just make sure to place the stone on the grill before heating. This will ensure it is as hot as the grill and also prevents it from cracking. If your dough is too thin, it has a tendency to fall through the grates.
My favorite red sauce for pizza is canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand and spread in a thin layer on the crust. It’s light and fresh and tastes like Italy! Sprinkle with salt and pepper and you’re ready for the toppings. However, if you want more of a “sauce,” your local market has many choices in jars, cans, or freshly made in the deli. Pick one you like and keep it simple.
The flavor combinations are only limited by your imagination. It’s nice to have a variety of ingredients so everyone can choose their favorites. Just remember to top your pizza lightly so it cooks properly. Heavy pizzas tend to have soggy crust. These are some of my family’s favorite topping combinations…
Green bell pepper
Chopped or caramelized onion
Sliced fresh mushrooms
Pitted and sliced Castelvetrano olives
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh basil leaves, shredded
Sausage and onion
Browned and drained sweet Italian sausage, crumbled
Sliced onion Ricotta—small dollops scattered across the pizza
Fresh basil leaves, shredded
Grilled peach and prosciutto
Peaches, nectarines or plums
Burrata cheese or fresh mozzarella
Brush peach halves with olive oil and grill until char marks show, cool and slice.
Brush a thin layer of olive oil on pizza crust instead of red sauce.
Tear pieces of prosciutto and scatter over crust, add peaches, fresh thyme leaves and cheese. ✦