With a little practice, making pizza on the grill may be one of the best things you make all summer. Melty cheese, succulent meats, fresh vegetables and a smoky, crispy crust.
The trick, experts and home cooks say, is lots of patience. Failure is a given.
Just ask, Alan Harris and Katrina Tonkogolosuk of Fresno. The avid cooks have had their share of delicious successes and a few charred casualties. They laughed recently about the time the dough didn’t quite slide smoothly off the pizza paddle, or peel, and flopped on the other half.
“It became a calzone,” Tonkogolosuk says with a smile.
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Often, mastering the crust is the toughest part of learning how to grill a pizza. You can buy pre-made pizza dough at several stores, including Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Sam’s Italian Deli & Market and P*DE*Q Bakery in Clovis.
Harris makes his own from scratch. He even gives it a few tosses, a skill he learned as a teenager working at Fratellis Deli, an Italian eatery in Fresno that has since closed.
While there are different methods for grilling pizza, Harris and Tonkoglosuk prefer not to cook their dough before assembling the pizza.
“We prepare it like we are putting the pizza in an oven,” Harris says. “We put all the ingredients on and then put it on the grill.”
They roll out their crust onto a paddle, dusted with masa harina, or corn flour. Harris says masa flour makes it easier to slide the dough off the paddle.
Once he places the dough on the paddle, he gives it a slight jostle to make sure its not sticking. Then, you can begin assembly, including sauce, cheese and the ingredients of our liking.
The couple like stuff on the spicy side. They recently put together a pizza with roasted jalapeños, a spicy sauce, hot Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese. It was a fiery combination with explosive flavor.
Making homemade pizza on the grill is a great idea when you are hosting a party
Kindra Franzen, a Visalia-based food blogger
The fun part of grilling pizza is that you can add whatever you like. Instead of pizza sauce, try a spicy barbecue sauce, or something sweet like fig jam. Combine that with a salty meat like prosciutto, sausage, or salami. For added sweetness, try summer tree fruit or fresh tomatoes.
“Making homemade pizza on the grill is a great idea when you are hosting a party,” says Visalia’s Kindra Franzen, who does The Goodie Goodie Foodie blog. “You have your guests bring their favorite pizza topping, lay it out on a big table and make pizzas.”
Franzen, Harris and others recommend using a pizza stone for a crisper, evenly cooked crust. Preheat the stone on the grill for a minimum of 15 minutes. Harris likes to keep the temperature on his charcoal grill between 400 and 425 degrees. If the grill is too hot, your dough will burn. As you perfect your skills, you will figure out if direct heat or indirect heat works best for you.
If you don’t have a pizza stone, or you like the look of grill marks, Chef Crystal Bermuded recommends you chill your dough first. If the dough sits too long at room temperature, it may get soft and droop through the grates on the grill.
Bermuded, who has worked at several local restaurants, prepares a very thin, flat bread style, pizza dough. But remember, the thinner you make your dough, the quicker it cooks.
“It’s almost like cooking a tortilla,” Bermuded says. “One, maybe two minutes at the most and then pull it off, add your toppings and put it back on the grill”
She has made grilled pizzas with sliced fruit, fresh vegetables, savory meats and several types of cheese.
“There is so much available right now and a lot of it is local,” she says.
Emily Silveira of Clovis, a home cook who enjoys making grilled pizza, has a favorite recipe that her family loves: arugula, goat cheese and fig jam. The peppery tasting arugula coupled with the creamy, slightly salty, cheese and sweet fig jam is a delicious combination. Occasionally she’ll switch it up a little and add prosciutto, or locally grown tomatoes.
Silveira is a follower of the indirect cooking method. She lights one side of her gas grill, places her ingredients on her uncooked dough and slides it onto the grill and closes the cover. The pizza cooks in about 10 minutes.
“The goat cheese melts down a little bit and once when you bite into it, you get that nice sweet taste of fig jam,” she says. “It is so good.”
Alan and Katrina’s Yosemite Special
(Makes 2 pizzas)
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/4 lb. uncooked spicy Italian sausage, browned and drained
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 jalapeños roasted, skinned and sliced
1/2 bell pepper sliced in rings
6 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
1 package of masa harina
1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste
6 oz warm water
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
7/8 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
For active dry yeast, dissolve with a pinch of sugar, in 2 tablespoons of lukewarm water. Let the yeast and water sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded. If using instant yeast, skip this step.
Combine the dissolved yeast (or the instant yeast) with the remainder of the ingredients. Mix and knead together — by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle — till you’ve made a soft, smooth dough. If you’re kneading in a stand mixer, it should take 4 to 5 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl. Don’t over-knead the dough; it should hold together, but can still look fairly rough on the surface.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow it to rise until it’s very puffy. This will take about an hour using instant yeast, or 90 minutes using active dry. If it takes longer, that’s OK; just give it some extra time.
Assembling the pizza: Place one ball of dough aside on a lightly floured surface to reserve for second pizza. On lightly floured surface take ball of dough and press out with palm of hand to make small circle. Pick up ball and run fingers around the circumference to extend the circle.
Place round dough back on floured surface and use lightly floured rolling pin to roll into circle approximate size of pizza paddle.
Spread a generous amount of masa harina over pizza paddle.
Apply 1/2 the pizza sauce to rolled out pizza crust. Spread sauce evenly over crust. Distribute one half of sliced mozzarella evenly over sauce. Spread half of the sausage, mushrooms, jalapenos evenly over cheese. Grate fresh parmesan cheese over the top.
Take paddle with pizza out to a medium hot grill with pizza stone, gently shake pizza loose on blade and ease onto pizza stone.
Close cover and let cook 7-12 minutes checking after 7 minutes.
When done, pull from grill to wire cooling rack and let sit for 2-4 minutes before transferring to cutting board to slice. For a variation, you can add sliced bell peppers along with the other ingredients.
Gluten-free BBQ pizza
By Kindra Franzen
1 tablespoon Burroughs Family Farms orange extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup arugula
6 slices of peppered salami
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
6 figs, quartered
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
Pizza crust, makes 1 10” thin pizza crust
1 cup cassava flour
Pinch pink salt and pepper
1 teaspoon agave or honey
2/3 cup very warm water
1 teaspoon gluten-free yeast
For the crust: Preheat grill to 400 degrees, place pizza stone on grill while preheating. Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine thoroughly.
While the grill and baking stone heat, add pizza dough to parchment paper and form one 10″ pizza crust, careful to not making any spots too thin. Dough may be slightly lumpy.
Carefully transfer parchment to baking stone and cover grill. Bake for 7 minutes.
Reduce grill temperature to 350 degrees. Add pizza toppings and be careful not to add too much liquid to crust. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove pizza from stone and parchment with pizza paddle or hard edged cutting board. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut and serve.
Arugula, goat cheese, fig, grilled pizza
By Emily Silveira
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup goat cheese crumbles. (Amounts depend on your taste)
4 to 5 tablespoons of fig jam.
1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon, coarse sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cups of arugula
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 package of pre-made pizza dough
Pre-heat your grill. If using charcoal push coals all the way to one side of the grill. If using a gas grill, light only one side.
On stove top at medium low heat, sauté medium garlic clove in 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Add 2 cups raw arugula and sauté until wilted - about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from stove and let cool while you prep the rest of pizza ingredients. Discard garlic clove.
Roll pre-made pizza dough (Whole Foods makes a good one) into a 7” round.
Top the rolled out pizza round with the sautéed arugula, add crumbled goat cheese over that, dollop fig jam on top of goat cheese.
Transfer to grill, and cook on unlit side of the grill for 10 minutes or until golden brown crust develops and toppings melt together. After you remove the pizza from the grill, immediately sprinkle with coarse sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste, and add a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Tips: when using a charcoal grill, your grill is ready when the coals are completely white. The less coals, the better - don’t over load the grill with charcoal.
Add fresh Proscuitto di Parma to the recipe for an added savory bite.
Bruschetta grilled pizza (gluten free)
By Flavia Flores
10 ounces of Pizza*Q Dough (available at P*DE*Q Bakery in Clovis)
4 roma tomatoes or 2 beefsteak tomatoes, diced about 1/4 inch and lightly salted
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
3 fresh basil, chopped
Begin by grilling the crust. Preheat grill to about 600 degrees. Roll out pizza dough on slightly floured foil. Grill the dough for about 3 minutes, with the grill covered.
The crust will form bubbles and it will start to crisp on the bottom. Take the crust off the grill.
Brush the crust with olive oil. Top with tomatoes, feta, basil and garlic. Return the pizza to the grill and cover. Grill for another 5 minutes.
Summeripe grilled flat bread with plum wedge
By Peggy and Alexandra Thurlow
1-2 Summeripe plums, pitted and cut into thin wedges. May substitute nectarines, peaches and/or pluots.
1 thin pizza crust (Mama Mary’s original with large outer edge removed) or any thin crust pizza
Pesto sauce, (Three Bridges pesto made from kale) or any traditional pesto sauce of your choice
1 small yellow onion, sliced into thin rings
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil, diced
1 1/2 ounces prosciutto, cut or torn into 1 inch pieces
2-3 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin pieces
2 ounces parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat gas grill on medium high heat.
Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a cast iron skillet on the gas grill or stove top, sauté the onions until brown and caramelized. Remove skillet from the heat and toss the diced sun dried tomatoes into skillet and toss with the onions. Set aside.
Spread one tablespoon of olive oil on the pizza crust. Place directly onto the hot grill until lightly brown and warm on both sides of pizza crust, a couple of minutes. Remove pizza crust to a work surface and spread pesto sauce on one side of the crust. Top mozzarella cheese, sautéed onion and sun dried tomato mixture, prosciutto, parmigiano reggiano cheese and plum wedges evenly onto the crust. Place pizza crust back onto hot grill until warm and cheese is melted, 5-10 minutes. Let cool. Slice and serve.