The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Know Your Limits - Gas Grill

Within the space of a week I’ve had two different cooks, one on my gas grill and one on my smoker, where I’ve pushed the envelope of what I can do with this particular equipment at this time of year. I couldn’t have done it without the knowledge I’ve built up over the last few years and I learned a few new things in the process. One borderline cook was due to my impatience to try a particular recipe that was better left to warmer weather. The other was a case of my not paying attention to the weather forecast until it was too late. This blog entry will cover the GRILLED BREAKFAST PIZZA I made on my gas grille. A future entry will cover the WILDLY STUFFED TURKEY BREAST and BBQ RICE PILAF that I made on my smoker.

The GRILLED BREAKFAST PIZZA was an accidental find. My brother stopped by unexpectedly and when he left I found the movie I was watching on TV was over and a cooking show was on in it’s place. I was about to switch the channel when they showed a teaser for an upcoming recipe for a “breakfast pizza”. It looked so good I had to keep watching. The pizza indeed looked excellent and the recipe showed it was relatively simple to make. It was basically a cheese pizza with bacon, which gets eggs added to it midway through the cooking process. The only remotely tricky part was getting the pizza in and out of the oven to add the eggs. To be more precise: Getting it back in the oven with 4 very runny raw eggs on it. Now I just don’t do pizza in my oven. The grill is the only way to go IMHO. I love having a pizza crust that has been grilled on both sides. Ever since I found a new way to grill pizzas (see BEST YET GRILLED PIZZA blog entry) I have been able to make grilled pizzas year round. Sure they take a little longer in the winter, but that is the price you pay. The older method I used involved direct grilling one side of the crust and then topping the pizza on the grill over unlit burners, before finishing the pizza on the second side directly. While this was practical in the summer, common sense told me it wouldn’t work in the winter. You would let out so much heat topping the pizzas on the grill, the toppings wouldn’t cook before the crust was burnt. The problem with the breakfast pizza is getting the pizza off the grill to add the eggs is easy enough. But getting the pizza back on the grill the grill with those runny eggs on it would not be practical. My grill has a raised front lip, so I really would have to tip the pizza to slide it off the peel and onto the grill. This meant the only way to go was add the eggs to the pizza right on the grill. The question was: Would this be practical in the winter?

The bacon was undercooked slightly so it wouldn’t overcook on the grill, and the eggs were allowed to come to room temperature to help speed up the cooking process. The eggs were cracked into glass bowls and then taken out to the grill just before they were needed.

I couldn’t get this pizza out of my mind. I really had to find a way to make it happen. I finally decided to just go for it and see what happened. After all how long could it take the grill to recover if I added the eggs as quickly as possible? I wasn’t going to be topping the whole pizza on the grill, just adding 4 eggs. I was going to try three things to help out. First I would spray extra olive oil onto the second side of the crust to help keep it from burning. The pizza’s bottom crust would be on the grill longer than normal and even though it was cooking indirectly it could still burn. This is a case of learning from an earlier mistake. There have been several times where I sprayed too much olive oil on a pizza crust, slices of bread or tortillas and they haven’t really browned they way I might have wanted. In this case I was trying to delay the browning so more olive oil for once would be a good thing. The second thing I was going to try was let the eggs warm up prior to using them, so they would cook as fast as possible. Thirdly I would break the eggs into individual glass bowls in the Kitchen and run them out to the grill at the last minute. The eggs would cook faster being closer to room temperature and by having them in bowls I could pour them onto the pizza very quickly. Many cooks break their eggs into bowl first to assure good breakage, good eggs and no eggshells in the mix. By cracking them indoors, I also wouldn’t be rushing to get them all cracked and on the pizza quickly. Rushing to crack eggs is a recipe for pieces of shell in your eggs, not to mention broken yolks. Another decision I made, was to undercook the bacon a little when I was frying it up.

The pizza has indirect grilled for 6 minutes and the cheese has melted, it is time to add the eggs

So it was off to the the grill which had been preheating for 30 minutes, twice as long as I use in warmer weather. The first side of the crust was ready after 3 minutes, which is what I was shooting for. This meant the grill was around 400 degrees at the lid thermometer, which is what I’d be looking for during the indirect phase. I took the pizza off the grill and brought it into the Kitchen to top it with the sauce, cheese and bacon. When I put the cheese on, I was sure to lay it down heavier around the perimeter to help make a cheese “fence” to contain the eggs. Burners 3 & 4 under the pizza were turned off when the pizza was returned to the grill. The pizza was placed over these unlit burners. Per the recipe, I grilled the pizza for 6 minutes and checked to see if the cheese had melted. It had, so it was time to add the eggs. So far I was right on schedule. I added the eggs one at a time as quickly as I could, closing the lid each time. Despite moving as quickly as I could, the lid thermometer had dropped under 100 degrees. I ASSumed it would not take very long to get the temps back. I was quite wrong.

The eggs are on, but I have lost all of the heat needed for indirect grilling.

After a couple of minutes the thermometer had barely risen off the bottom stop. Time to do something. Burners 1, 2, 5 & 6 were set to medium. I didn’t want to raise the heat close to the pizza (burners 2 & 4), so I set burners 1 and 6 to high. This got the temps rising faster, but still not fast enough. Reluctantly I set burners 2 and 4 to medium-high and then high when the temps were still slow to respond. Finally after a full 10 minutes the temps were back up around 400 degrees. The trick now would be to monitor the grill temps on the lid thermometer and dial them back down as they climbed above 400. I knew this would happen with 4 burners on high, but I had to accelerate the recovery process. A quick check of the pizza at the 10 minute mark (16 minutes total) showed the bottom crust was barely browned and the eggs were still clear and runny. This certainly wasn’t a good sign. I was beginning to think I might have been smarter to do this in the Spring. My consolation was I had the numbers of several local pizza places on my phone and I could always call in a pizza. Part of my problem was I had never cooked eggs on the grill indirectly, let alone on a pizza. I had absolutely no idea how long to expect them to take under normal conditions. Plus with my temperature loss from adding the eggs, I had no idea how far into the process I was at this point.

The eggs are finally cooked and it took double the amount of time, but fortunately the pizza was none the worse for wear.

I started checking the pizza every three minutes at the 13 and 16 minute mark and then every two minutes at the 18 and 20 minute mark. When raising the lid I made sure it raise it only a couple inches, just enough to see what was going on. I also kept sniffing the air with my nose for the telltale sign of crust burning, which never occurred. At least the extra olive oil was working as planned. The egg whites were finally beginning to turn white at the 16 minute mark and at the 18 minute mark they were solidly white. I gave them another two minutes to make sure they were fully cooked and when I raised the lid at the 20 minute mark, I was greeted with a pizza where the eggs were done and the crust was now warped slightly. The crust was about raised off the grill grate by about 1”. This was not a good sign, but a quick poke of the egg yolk with a toothpick showed the eggs were cooked. I am not sure what I would have done if the eggs needed more cooking time. Bringing the pizza in to slice it, I was greeted with a bottom crust that was darkened but still not burned. The pizza crust was also a bit crispier than I would normally make, but it was doable. Fortunately slicing the pizza served to minimize the warped appearance. None of the toppings were burnt, particularly the cheese which was one of my concerns. Slightly undercooking the bacon in the frying pan appears to have worked too, since the bacon was just right. Between all of the bacon slices and the somewhat crispy crust, I knew better than to use a pizza cutter. I went straight to my electric knife fitted with a bread blade. I soon had 4 perfectly cut pieces of pizza.

This was a great pizza but it has also served to help define the outer limits of what I can do in the winter on the grill

This pizza was really worth the effort, but I also realize I just barely pulled it off. The over spraying of the olive oil had kept the pizza’s bottom crust from being a blackened cinder after a double length cook. It had not prevented the crust from becoming crispy from the prolonged exposure. While it was doable, any more time and the crust would have begun to be too crispy. Next time in similar conditions I would crank up the 4 burners to high right away in an attempt to raise the temperatures faster. So I guess in conclusion I have defined the outer limits for what can be done in air temps of 32 degrees. I can direct grill at that temperature with no issues, but when it comes to indirect grilling I need to pretty much stick to items where the lid is lifted quickly and the food goes on. This pizza which required lifting of the lid four times in a row to add the eggs, is about the outer limit. This certainly confirms my unwritten rule that paellas weren’t practical in the winter. In conclusion: It is good to know my limits on the gas grill and I am happy that I found out without exceeding those limits. Considering that three years ago I didn’t even think I could direct grill on the gas grill in the winter, having a few well defined limits isn’t the worst thing in the world.


Here are some links for some previous Blog Entries on Winter Grilling & Smoking, as well as the Breakfast Pizza Picture Entry mentioned above

  KNOW YOUR LIMITS - SMOKER (2011 Blog Entry)
  BEST YET GRILLED PIZZA (2010 Blog Entry)
  COLDEST YET 2009 Blog Entry)
  WINTER WISH GRANTED (2008 Blog Entry


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