The next best thing to an oven-baked, wood-fired pizza is grilled pizza! Roll up your sleeves and crank up the grill for a lesson on how to make pizza on your gas or charcoal grill!
Chicago-style, Sicilian, California or Detroit-style - it’s always the right time for crispy-baked, golden crusted pizza! At least that’s what my ten year old tells me. And really, what’s not to love about this classic Italian dish?
Simple ingredients, an endless variety of choices, some fuel, and you can enjoy your very own pizza hot off your grill. Follow our tips to avoid the most common mistakes and you’ll be on your way to master level grilling in no time!
Now let’s get started!
1. Oven-baked Vs Grilled Pizza: Which One Is Better?
Not that there’s anything wrong with baking pizza in your oven. But, if it’s a matter of quality, grilled pizza is much closer in taste to brick oven pizza than oven-baked pizza. And it all boils down to temperature, really.
A conventional oven has a maximum temperature of 550F, but a gas or charcoal grill can get as high as 800F or more. In the high heat, the pizza cooks rapidly, crusting the outer layer in minutes while leaving the inside moist.
2. Tools You’ll Need
- Charcoal Or Gas Grill: This can also include a kamado egg.
- Pizza Stone: Surface used for baking the pizza on the grill
- Pizza Cutter: Optional, but makes slicing your pizza much easier
- Deep Dish Pizza Pan: For thick-style pizza (eg Chicago, Sicilian)
- Thin-sheet Pizza Pan: For thin-crust pizza
- Pizza Peel: Can be either wood or metal, for removing the pizza from the cooking surface, grill or oven safely and easily
- BBQ Gloves: Leather, suede, or silicone
3. Choosing Your Pizza
As with any grill recipe, whether it’s smoked brisket or Neapolitan-style pizza, planning ahead will lead to much more satisfying results. There are several types of pizza to choose from, and each requires different ingredients. You’ll want to prep these in advance so that you can focus your attention on the grill, especially if you’re dealing with charcoal.
If you’re serving guests or catering to multiple tastes, deciding how much gluten-free dough you’ll need, for example, needs to be worked out ahead of time.
The selection below features only five varieties of pizza, but there are many more. Of course, you can always make your own signature kind too!
5 Common Types Of Pizza
- Original Italian-style pizza imported to the US
- Thin, crunchy crust with minimal toppings
- Typically made of Tipo 00 wheat flour
- Best grilled on a pizza stone (pizza pie)
- Thin-crust pizza, similar to neapolitan
- Pliable crust is slightly crisped
- Apply minimal toppings to prevent sagging
- Best grilled on a pizza stone (pie shape)
Chicago Thin Crust
- Thin and crunchy
- Sags with too many toppings or too much oil
- Typically cut into squares
- Best grilled on a pizza sheet
Chicago Deep Dish
- Requires deep dish pan
- Exceptionally thick crust holds a lot of toppings
- Tomato sauce goes over the toppings
- Requires longer cooking time
- Cut Diagonally
- Best grilled with a deep dish pizza pan
St. Louis-Style Pizza
- Thin crispy crust is made without yeast
- Topped with provel cheese instead of mozzarella,
- Best grilled on a pizza stone
4. Thick Or Thin: Pizza Crust Types
- Thinner the bread slices in a typical loaf of store-bought bread, thin-style pizza has a doughy edge and a thin crust that can be slightly crisp or even crunchy.
- In almost all cases, you can bend or fold thin-crust pizza, making it an easy go-to for feeding kids who won’t sit still at the dinner table!
- Since the crust is very thin, it’s best not to load it with a lot of toppings. Cheese, tomato sauce, and one topping is ideal. Two toppings really is the limit before it starts to sag and droop. Is there anything worse than watching your toppings drip right off the surface of your pizza onto the floor?
- Deep dish pizzas feature a thick crust that can hold a lot of toppings. The thickness can range anywhere between 1/8 to 1/4 inch, depending on the type.
- With their elevated edges to hold in toppings, you typically add the tomato sauce, uncooked, after you’ve added the toppings.
- When you’re preparing your pizza dough, mold it into the shape of the pan you’re using. By adding the tomato sauce last, you prevent the dough from absorbing the sauce, allowing the cheese, vegetables and meat to adhere to the bread.
5. Using A Pizza Stone On The Grill
When it comes to grilling pizza on a gas or charcoal grill, a pizza stone is an absolute must. Grill grates aren’t really made for handling dough, and you don’t want grill marks seared into your pizza crust!
A pizza stone is a flat, circular cooking surface that uses radiant to bake your pizza. The stone is placed directly onto your cooking grates above the open flames. Exposed to the flames, the pizza stone quickly heats up, distributing the heat evenly across its surface to achieve that delicious golden brown, toasted color on the crust.
Most of today’s top brands of pizza stones are made of a highly heat resistant refractory material called cordierite, but there are several types of traditional types that work just as well. You can find a pizza stone to fit your charcoal or gas grill almost anywhere where quality cookware and grilling utensils are found near you.
On a charcoal grill, use a chimney to light the coals when you use the pizza stone.
3 Types Of Pizza Stone
- Stone or Clay Pizza Stones: best suited for baking pizzas on a grill, should be washed regularly to avoid contamination
- Ceramic Pizza Stones: Need to cool before touching, retains heat for long periods of time, needs to be washed regularly to avoid bacteria
- Cordierite Pizza Stones: Can withstand high temperatures, synthetic metal heats rapidly and takes longer to cool than metal
What is a Pizza Steel?
Essentially, a pizza steel is a utensil with a long handle and a flat metal end, similar to a large spatula, for sliding under the pizza to remove or handle for serving. Even with gloves, removing a pizza from your grill can be tricky without one. The pizza requires full support underneath or you risk tearing before it reaches your plate or serving dish.
With its flat end, a pizza steel can make your job much easier when it’s time to remove your pizza or add it to the grill.
6. Preheating The Pizza Stone
- Pre-heat your gas grill for approximately 10 minutes on the ‘High’ setting.
- Place the pizza stone on the grill grate. Do not grease or oil.
- Sprinkle the stone surface with a little cornmeal to aid in removal of your pizza.
How To Use A Pizza Stone On Your Grill
7. Tips For Preparing Your Pizza Dough
Once you’ve chosen a style of pizza and picked out the ingredients, you’ll want to prep the pizza dough ahead of time. While each recipe calls for different requirements, there are a few fundamentals when it comes to getting your pizza dough just right.
On the grill or in the oven, these pizza dough tips will enhance your results:
- Use Bread flour: More finely ground than all-purpose
- Add sugar to the dough: The sugar allows the yeast to feed off of it and gives your crust color when baking.
- Kneading is important. Use a food processor. If you don’t, there is another way. Just stir together all of your ingredients, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough sit out overnight. The next day your dough will be ready to shape, proof, and stretch.
- Use a rolling pin: Helps to achieve a more even distribution of dough, particularly when making thin crust pizza
- Cold ferment the dough: After making and rising your pizza dough, place in a large resealable bag or plastic container and refrigerate overnight. When ready to use, let it sit out for an hour before shaping it. By cold-fermenting the dough, the gluten can properly absorb the carbohydrates, which improves the flavor and browning of the crust.
- High temperatures will cook best: Turn your grill up to the highest that it can go and bake it at a short time until golden brown. Thick crust especially needs more cooking time so keep the temperature steady. Your finished pizza should be crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.
Tips for Preparing Your Dough
8. Grilling Your Pizza
- Heat the grill: By now the pizza stone should be on the grill and preheated. On a gas grill with precision temperature aim for at least 550°F. With the lid closed, the internal temperature should read 600 degrees fahrenheit or higher.
- Create a nonstick layer: Sprinkle cornmeal on the stone to prevent the dough from sticking when you need to remove it.
- Place your pizza on the stone using your pizza steel: If your gas grill is designed with the option of direct and indirect heat, grill the pizza over direct heat.
- Close the grill lid and cook the pizza at 500°F: Set your time for 10 - 12 minutes.
- Rotate your pizza after 5 minutes: After the first 5 minutes, quickly rotate the pizza 180 degrees for a more evenly cooked crust.
Remember, when it comes to grilling a delicious pizza…
- Plan your pizza meal ahead of time (type, dough, ingredients, toppings)
- Don’t place your pizza directly onto the grill grates, especially dirty ones
- Cold-fermenting is an important step you shouldn’t skip. Don’t cook the dough immediately after you make it.
- Flash-cook the dough with olive oil first.
- Prepare your toppings in advance
- Less is more when it comes to toppings
- Coal positioning is important. Use a chimney stack on a charcoal grill. Heap the coals in a pile at the center of the grill.
- Zone grilling offers direct and indirect grilling. Partitioning your grill’s cooking surface will yield better results.
Tips For Grilling Pizza To Perfection
As a starting point, these grilling tips for making a delicious pizza cover all the essentials you’ll need. Explore recipes online and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Trial and error will make you a pitmaster in time, but it takes practice.
Let us know if you have any hacks, shortcuts, or suggestions to help fellow readers grill their own perfect slices of pizza-heaven!