The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke
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Grilled Pizza Friday

First Image
Now that I am able to bake my own hamburger rolls and hotdog buns, the next item I wanted to do from scratch was pizza dough for grilled pizza. This time around the general process wasn’t a big mystery to me, I just needed some help with the specifics. I was eagerly looking forward to this day. Where this is a BBQ blog and not a baking blog I will gloss over the baking aspects a bit and highlight what I have learned about grilled pizza. I’ve made grilled pizza on other occasions using store bought pre-made crusts, so making my own dough was the last missing piece of the puzzle. If you want to skip straight to the grilled pizza part, go to the 4th paragraph.
 

“Second“Third

Pizza dough is a relatively simple recipe & the other new thing that made it even simple for me was the use of a borrowed hand mixer (left). After one hour the dough had risen.


Now let me just say: You know it is a good day when you get to have a fresh hot home made pizza twice in one day. One big thing I learned was using a hand mixer really speeds up the process and isn’t for wimps. I like the the feel of kneading dough, but sometimes the difference between baking or not is the amount of free time I have. The loaner hand mixer really speeds this mixing/kneading process up. I bought my own mixer the very next time I was out.

“Fourth“Fifth

I divided the dough and rolled it out into two pizza crusts (left). The first pizza crust is oiled and is on the pizza peel which is on a stainless steel sheet pan ready to head out to the grill.


When it was my turn to make a batch of dough I used the brands of ingredients I will be using going forward. The King Arthur flour I use has a totally different texture and took over an hour for it’s rise. When choosing a crust for grilled pizza I like for it to be a bit thicker than you might normally use. This is due to the handling involved with grilled pizza. One of the things I have learned in my short time baking, is adding the right amount of liquid is a bit tricky. The trick is stopping just short of where the dough seems right. The first few times I made dough I’d go too far and then have to add flour. I had a few rounds of too dry, too wet, too dry.... You need to stop just short of the right consistency and the mixing process carries forward and the flour coasts into just right. The mixer made quick work of getting the dough mixed and ready for it’s rise.

“Sixth

The grill is heated to medium low and is ready to go. Notice I have the ingredients turned to keep them as far a possible from the heat coming off the grill lid.


I’ve already mentioned that I like the crust to be a little thicker to help with the amount of on grill handling required. Another key to good handling is to have your grill clean and well oiled. Lastly a pizza peel is great for getting the dough on and off the grill, as well as the mid course move and flip. Another difference with grilled pizza is the relatively short cooking time involved which means you need to keep the topping layer relatively thin. Unlike an oven grilled pizza where the toppings go on before the pizza goes in the oven, grilled pizza grills one side of the crust before the toppings go on. Since there is less time for the toppings, you need to keep their thickness down somewhat. This shorter time may mean that you pre-cook or partially cook some of your potential toppings. For example don’t use slices of sausage, instead pull out the sausage from the casing and brown it up ahead of time. I was making two pizzas one meat, one veggie. For the meat pizza I was using pepperoni, thin sliced Polish ham and prosciutto. For both pizzas I used an imported Italian marinara sauce and an Italian 4 cheese blend. The veggie pizza received some sliced tomato and fresh chopped basil and some Italian seasoning from Penzy’s called Pasta Sprinkle.

“Seventh“Eighth

The crust is heated over Medium Low direct heat (left). After 5 minutes I used the peel to pick up the pizza crust and flip it over to the unheated side to top it.


When the dough had risen, I divided the ball in half because I wanted to get a thicker crust. Next time I may divide the dough into thirds and see how that thickness works out. Using a rolling pin. I rolled the dough out into an approximately 12” crust. It was time to head out to the grill. Having some S/S full sheet pans is great for getting grilled pizza ingredients out to the grill. I’d sprayed both sides of the pizza with some olive oil and placed it on a pizza peel. I had the toppings in glass bowls ready to go. Just a quick tip here while I think of it: When you bring your toppings out to the grill make sure to turn your tray so the toppings are as far from the grill lid as possible. This way the heat coming off the grill lid doesn’t melt the cheese and start cooking the other toppings. One of the things I do in the Kitchen ahead of time is to separate the stack of pepperoni (or other meats) so they aren’t sticking together and are easy to put on the pizza. the other very important thing is getting the grill to the right temperature. I have found that for my grill it is 325 (160 C) on the lid thermometer. This doesn’t mean it is 325 (160 C) at grate level, but for my grill the ideal temperature at grate level is when the lid thermometer reads 325 (160 C). To be more precise about this what I should probably do is set a stand up oven thermometer on the grate. But for now 325 (160 C) on the lid thermo is my yardstick. You will find breads, potatoes and other starches are very temperature sensitive. Just a little too hot and they can turn from undercooked to burned in mere seconds. At the right temperature you have much more time to react.
 

“Ninth“Tenth

The pizza is finished being topped and has been slid back over to finish the second side of the crust over direct Medium Low heat. The last step after the second side of the crust was cooked was to finish off away from the burners using indirect heat.


With grilled pizza you use two temperature zones. One at Medium Low and one Low or in my case off. The pizza dough is carefully slid off the peel onto the Medium-Low side of the grill. I had the perfect temperature and the crust took about 5 minutes to brown which was just about perfect. But with bread or potatoes I always check early and often. For the first pizza I started peeking at it after about a minute and a half and once every minute there after. When it was time to top the pizza the pizza peel made it easy. I scooped up the pizza and then flipped it onto the side of the grill that had no heat. I sometimes use low for the other side, but I was running low on propane and wanted to try to not have to do a tank swap. With the pizza flipped and off to the unheated side it was time to put the toppings on top of the grilled side. Once again keep the thickness of the toppings down. Remember you are adding these toppings midway through the baking of the crust. I was glad that I’d pre-separated the pepperonis and other meats so I wouldn’t be trying to pry them apart while the pizza was cooling off on me. Once the crust was sauced and topped I used the peel to pick up the pizza and slide it back to the heated side of the grill. I grilled the pizza for an additional 5 minutes, once again checking it early and often. In this case I checked it at the 2 and one half minute mark and again at 4 minutes and 5 minutes. When checking the crust try to keep the lid down as low as possible to keep in the heat.
 

“Eleventh“Twelvth

The meat pizza (pepperoni, Polish Ham & prosciutto) is on the left and the veggie pizza (tomato, basil, Italian seasoning blend) is on the right.


After 5 minutes on the second side the crust was ready but the toppings weren’t. So I slid the pizza over to the unlit side to finish it off indirectly and melt the cheese. It is this extra handling: flipping the dough and sliding it back and forth that makes me use a bit thicker crust. Also be sure to make sure the grill and the pizza are well oiled. After 5 minutes the cheese had melted and it was time to eat. One nice thing that had happened during the indirect phase was that while the pizza dough hadn’t browned any more, it had gotten just a little bit crispy which was a nice touch. So it was off to the house to eat pizza number one. I will cut to the chase and say this was the best grilled pizza I have turned out. The crust was browned perfectly, was slightly crisp and had a great texture inside. I always like the little bit of extra sweetness you seem to get with a fresh baked item that is often missing in a similar purchased item. My toppings were all cooked through and I’d made a good choice of sauce and cheese. It was around 1:00PM and I was still full from my 10:30AM pizza brunch, so I could not eat as much as I would have liked. Once I’d sample a couple slices, it was time to roll out the dough for the second veggie pizza using all fresh ingredients.

“Thirteenth

This is the money shot of this session.


The dough had a different texture to it since another 30 minutes had elapsed. I had pre-cut the toppings for this pizza at the same time as the toppings for the first pizza and refrigerated the ones I wouldn’t use right away. I pulled the glass bowls out of the fridge while I was rolling out the dough for the second crust. I probably should have done this a little sooner to give them about 15 minutes at room temperature. The second crust was a bit stiffer and thicker when rolled out to 12” (30 cm). For the future I will probably go for 3 crusts out of this much dough. The cooking process was the same as before:

  • 5 minutes on Medium-Low for the first side
  • Put it on the peel, then flip over to the unlit side of the grill so the just cooked side faces up.
  • Top the side you just cooked, remembering to lay it on thin
  • Use the peel to slide the pizza back over to the Medium-Low side
  • Cook the other side of the crust.
  • If needed slide the pizza over to the unlit side for another 5 minutes to finish it off indirectly.

The homemade crust is well worth the effort to make, but in a pinch store bought will do the trick in a pinch.

So there you have it. I turned out my best pizza to date, with the homemade dough putting it over the top. First thing in the morning I was off to buy my own mixer for making more dough. If you like pizza, definitely try it on the grill. You can use store bought crusts, but if you know how to bake make your own crust too-it is well worth the effort. Just remember a few simple things:

  • Use a bit thicker crust to help it stand up to the handling
  • Keep the grill clean and well oiled
  • Kepp the topping layer thin
  • Keep the temperature relatively low. Too low is better than too high.
For your troubles you will be rewarded with the great taste of a grilled pizza which you get to enjoy cooking outside. Another advantage to doing it outside is that you are not heating up the oven and your Kitchen during the hot summer months. With my last missing piece in place (homemade crust) I can see much grilled pizza in my future.


Addendum 2010

In 2010 I discovered a variation on the cooking method shown here which has some definite advantages. See this blog entry of more information:

  

BEST YET GRILLED PIZZA 2010 Blog Entry




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