It’s no surprise that I love cooking according to the seasons.   I plan all of my meals according to what’s fresh, local, and in harvest.  And while I do love a good homemade soup or stew,  you won’t catch me slaving over a hot stove in the summer.  Heck, I don’t like turning my oven on to roast veggies during the warmer months!  If it were up to me, I’d prepare all of my meals outside in a beautiful outdoor kitchen similar to these.   I know this is a luxury, but I’d seriously get more use out of a space like this probably six months out of the year than in my regular kitchen   Plus, I’d get to spend more quality time with my boys.  A typical summer evening for us usually involves my husband cooking the majority of dinner on the grill in between playing with our son, while I prep the rest of the meal inside.  Then it’s lots of balancing plates, glasses, cutlery, and food, as we go in and out of our back door setting up our porch table for dinner.  Hopefully one day we’ll be able to invest in and enjoy an outdoor kitchen, but for now, we make gooooooood use out of a basic charcoal grill.

Over the years, my husband has mastered the charcoal grilling technique.  We love the smokey flavor imparted onto food from the coals so much we don’t even own a gas grill (Unless you count a portable tailgating grill fueled by small propane tanks).  And despite all the claims that charcoal grilling is less convenient and more time-consuming than gas grilling, I’m here to dispel those myths.  Once you know what you’re doing, preparing a charcoal grill for cooking takes less than 30 minutes.  In that time, you can get your meal prepped or wind down from the daily grind with a cocktail and conversation with your significant other. (A ritual my husband and I look forward to and that helps keep us connected almost every night, not just on the weekends.)

With that in mind, last weekend we were craving some of homemade pizza, but with temps in the high 70s, there was no way I was staying cooped up in the kitchen on a beautiful Friday night.  With a little persuasion, I convinced by perfectionist husband that we try pizza al fresco on the grill.

Of course, Nate’s biggest concern was burning the crust, but after a little research, we amended our traditional pizza making technique with just a few simple steps.  Surprisingly, our first attempt at grilled pizza was a rousing success!  The high temperature (over 500 degrees F!) created a perfectly crispy, slightly charred crust while staying chewy (but not underdone) on the inside.

Besides controlling the quality of ingredients, fat, and calories, we make the majority of pizza at home because Nate needs to it to be gluten-free and most of the pizzeria gluten-free crust options we’ve tried have been subpar (Not to mention pricey!) at best.  Our gluten-free crust recipe was a winner on the coals, which means this meal might become a weekly weekend staple in our house this season.

So without further adieu, here are the secrets to grilled pizza perfection.  Plus, a few of our favorite topping recipes.

Briquette Basics: Creating a “Safety Zone.”

First off, if you’re new to this whole charcoal grilling thing, take a crash course in preparing and lighting a charcoal grill.  Don’t be ashamed, I had to do this recently when Nate was out of town for work. Once you’re got that down, prepare the charcoals for both direct and indirect heat cooking. To do this, simply arrange the charcoals on one side of the grill instead of in a mound in the middle, as shown below.   This area will be used for direct heat cooking.  The side without the coals is your “safety zone” – a cooler area to move the pizza if it’s cooking (hopefully not burning) too quickly but will allow the toppings to cook/melt through.

Baby the Grill and that Dough!

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

After arranging and lighting the coals, you’ll want to get them nice and hot, preferably around 550 -600 degrees Fahrenheit.  Temperature changes are achieved by opening and closing the grill’s air vents.  You want to have the vents wide open at first to increase to the desired temperature.  Once you’re at the 550-600 mark, close the vents just enough to maintain the temperature above 500.

Next, prep your dough.  We love this gluten-free dough recipe, but if you’re not up for making your own, you can find dough balls in the deli or freezer section of the grocery store.  Health nerds like me – if you don’t have to worry about gluten-free options, look for a whole wheat dough (I support my husband and his food allergies, but a nutty, fiber-rich whole wheat crust is my favorite!).  You can even call you local pizzeria and ask to purchase a dough ball. Most dough balls will make 1 large (think New York style) pie or 2-3 8-12 inch rounds.

After rolling out the dough to your ideal size (I’ve found smaller is better to prevent breaking when flipping), brush with olive oil.  This helps prevent sticking.  You can throw the dough directly on the grill grate or use a handy non-stick pizza pan.  This pan has a removable handle that aids during flipping and removing the pie from the hot grill.

Cook the dough, about 4-5 minutes on one side, with grill lid on. Check on the dough halfway through to make sure crust isn’t cooking too fast. Grill marks are good – burns marks bad!  Brush exposed side of dough with olive oil, flip over, and cook an additional 2 minutes with grill lid on.  This side will finish cooking after topping.

Topping Organization and Assembly

This is the biggest difference to preparing the pizza in a traditional oven and the key to success.   Prep all of the toppings and set up on a nearby bench or table.  For our pizzas, I made the pesto, prepared the sauce, cut the cheese, veggies, and herbs, and brought everything out on a tray. We don’t have any fancy countertops near the grill so we just moved a table to the end of the deck near the grill.

Move the crust to the indirect heating side of the grill and top with your favorite toppings.  Here, you can see our simple yet beautiful Margherita pizza ingredients including San Marzano tomoatos, mozzarella cheese, and basil.

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

Remove pizza from grill, cut into slices, and enjoy!

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

Grilled Margherita Pizza

This simple pizza is all about quality, not quantity, using a handful of the best, most fresh ingredients.

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 12-inch dough rounds
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 can (from a 28oz can) San Marzano tomatoes, slightly crushed with a potato masher
  • 1 8oz. ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4” slices
  • 1/4 cup untorn basil leaves
  • Pecorino/Romano cheese (for garnish)
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare charcoal grill as described above, maintaining heat between 550-600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a pastry brush, brush one side of the dough with a little olive oil.
  3.  Cook the dough, about 4-5 minutes on one side, with grill lid on. Check on the dough halfway through to make sure crust isn’t cooking too fast. Grill marks are good – burns marks bad! Brush exposed side of dough with olive oil, flip over and cook an additional 2 minutes with grill lid on.
  4. Make sure to prep and have all topping ingredients accessible at the grill.
  5.  Move crust to the cooler side of the grill or remove completely to add toppings.
  6.  Smear the dough/crust with tomato sauce, being careful not to over sauce your pie (This will make the crust mushy, not crispy).
  7.  Top the sauce with untorn basil leaves.
  8.  Add the mozzarella cheese slices over the basil leaves. (Fresh herbs have a tendency to burn and become bitter under high temperatures. Here, the cheese acts as a barrier to the grill’s heat while still allowing the basil to cook with the rest of the pizza.)
  9. Add a final sprinkle of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese, sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper.
  10. Transfer pizza back to the hot side of the grill.  Cook about 5 minutes with the grill lid on, checking the crust once or twice for overcooking/burning.  If crust is cooking too quickly, move pizza to the “safety zone” until toppings are warm and melted through.

Pesto, Artichoke, and Tomato Grilled Pizza

An abundance of garden basil and tomatoes off the vine were the inspiration for these beautiful pizzas.  Our gluten free option is shown on the left.  I had a small whole wheat dough ball in the freezer and couldn’t resist pairing the salty bite from the pesto with that nutty whole-grain goodness.

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 12-inch dough rounds
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Pesto  (Yes, you can buy a premade pesto, but homemade pesto is definitely worth the effort when basil is in abundance.)
  • 3/4 can artichokes, sliced
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes sliced
  • 1 cup Parmesan-Romano Blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped Parsley
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare charcoal grill, as described above maintaining heat between 550-600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a pastry brush, brush one side of the dough with a little olive oil.
  3.  Cook the dough, about 4-5 minutes on one side, with grill lid on. Check on the dough halfway through to make sure crust isn’t cooking too fast. Grill marks are good – burns marks bad! Brush exposed side of dough with olive oil, flip over and cook an additional 2 minutes with grill lid on.
  4. Make sure to prep and have all topping ingredients accessible at the grill.
  5.  Move crust to the cooler side of the grill or remove completely to add toppings.
  6.  Smear the dough/crust with pesto, being careful not to over pesto your pie (This will make the crust mushy, not crispy).
  7. Top the pesto with the tomato and artichoke slices, shredded cheese, and a few cracks of sea salt and black pepper.
  8. Transfer pizza back to the hot side of the grill.  Cook about 5 minutes with the grill lid on, checking the crust once or twice for overcooking/burning.  If crust is cooking too quickly, move pizza to the “safety zone” until toppings are warm and melted through.
  9. Remove pizza from grill.  Garnish with parsley.
Grilled Margherita Pizza

Grilled Margherita Pizza

This simple grilled pizza is all about quality, not quantity, using a handful of the best, most fresh ingredients. Achieve that perfect pizzeria-style crunchy, slightly charred crust by cooking over a screaming hot charcoal grill.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-inch dough rounds
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 can (from a 28oz can) San Marzano tomatoes, slightly crushed with a potato masher
  • 1 8oz. ball fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4” slices
  • 1/4 cup untorn basil leaves
  • Pecorino/Romano cheese (for garnish)
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare charcoal grill, maintaining heat between 550-600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a pastry brush, brush one side of the dough with a little olive oil.
  3. Cook the dough, about 4-5 minutes on one side, with grill lid on. Check on the dough halfway through to make sure crust isn’t cooking too fast. Grill marks are good – burns marks bad! Brush exposed side of dough with olive oil, flip over and cook an additional 2 minutes with grill lid on.
  4. Make sure to prep and have all topping ingredients accessible at the grill.
  5. Move crust to the cooler side of the grill or remove completely to add toppings.
  6. Smear the dough/crust with tomato sauce, being careful not to over sauce your pie (This will make the crust mushy, not crispy).
  7. Top the sauce with untorn basil leaves.
  8. Add the mozzarella cheese slices over the basil leaves. (Fresh herbs have a tendency to burn and become bitter under high temperatures. Here, the cheese acts as a barrier to the grill’s heat while still allowing the basil to cook with the rest of the pizza.)
  9. Add a final sprinkle of grated Pecorino-Romano cheese, sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper.
  10. Transfer pizza back to the hot side of the grill. Cook about 5 minutes with the grill lid on, checking the crust once or twice for overcooking/burning. If crust is cooking too quickly, move pizza to the “safety zone” until toppings are warm and melted through.

Vegetarian, Gluten-free

http://libertyloveblog.com/index.php/2017/06/14/grilled-pizza-perfection/

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Pesto, Artichoke, and Tomato Grilled Pizza

Pesto, Artichoke, and Tomato Grilled Pizza

An abundance of garden basil and tomatoes off the vine were the inspiration for this pizza. Achieve that perfect pizzeria-style crunchy, slightly charred crust by cooking over a screaming hot charcoal grill.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-inch dough rounds
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Pesto (Yes, you can buy a premade pesto, but homemade pesto is definitely worth the effort when basil is in abundance.)
  • 3/4 can artichokes, sliced
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes sliced
  • 1 cup Parmesan-Romano Blend cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped Parsley
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare charcoal grill, maintaining heat between 550-600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a pastry brush, brush one side of the dough with a little olive oil.
  3. Cook the dough, about 4-5 minutes on one side, with grill lid on. Check on the dough halfway through to make sure crust isn’t cooking too fast. Grill marks are good – burns marks bad! Brush exposed side of dough with olive oil, flip over and cook an additional 2 minutes with grill lid on.
  4. Make sure to prep and have all topping ingredients accessible at the grill.
  5. Move crust to the cooler side of the grill or remove completely to add toppings.
  6. Smear the dough/crust with pesto, being careful not to over pesto your pie (This will make the crust mushy, not crispy).
  7. Top the pesto with the tomato and artichoke slices, shredded cheese, and a few cracks of sea salt and black pepper.
  8. Transfer pizza back to the hot side of the grill. Cook about 5 minutes with the grill lid on, checking the crust once or twice for overcooking/burning. If crust is cooking too quickly, move pizza to the “safety zone” until toppings are warm and melted through.
  9. Remove pizza from grill. Garnish with parsley.
http://libertyloveblog.com/index.php/2017/06/14/grilled-pizza-perfection/