Makes 2 approximately 12-inch pizzas; serves 2 to 4
Pizza is arguably The Best Food on the Planet, according to most kids (and most everyone else); sometimes even bad pizza is good. And, your family likely has its fair share of pizza in the given course of a month. But if you want to make your kids’ heads explode, pizza on the grill has the capacity to amaze and dazzle like few other dinners.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll make this a summertime staple. You can stick with tomato sauce and cheese, or you can get inventive with the toppings (see the Fork in the Road). This recipe looks long (well, it is long) but only because it has lots of advice and options—the actual time it takes is quite reasonable.
Olive oil, for coating the dough and baking sheets
Coarsely ground cornmeal or all-purpose flour, for rolling and stretching the dough (see Note)
1 cup store-bought or homemade tomato sauce, or pizza sauce
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh
1 1⁄2 cups toppings (see Fork in the Road)
1⁄4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves (optional)
- If you’re using the Homemade Pizza Dough, follow the recipe directions. If you’re using store-bought dough, divide the dough into two balls, gently coat each with olive oil, and let the dough come to room temperature either in a large bowl or on the counter, covered with a dish towel, about 1 hour.
- Lightly coat two baking sheets with olive oil. Sprinkle a work surface with cornmeal or flour. Gently begin to stretch or roll each ball of pizza dough into a 12- to 14-inch circle or a rectangular shape. You will need to stretch or roll the dough a bit, then give it a few minutes to relax before stretching it again, so that it doesn’t keep springing back into a smaller shape. The goal is to make the dough less than 1⁄4-inch thick (it puffs up on the grill). Give the dough one final stretch. Don’t worry about a small hole or two and definitely don’t worry about an uneven shape; that’s part of the pizzas’ charm. Transfer the shaped dough to the prepared baking sheets.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high.
- Put the tomato sauce in a small bowl. Bring it along with a pastry brush, some olive oil, the mozzarella, and the dough on the baking sheets.
- Pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella is delicious, but if you’re adding other toppings (Fork in the Road), bring them to the grill, too, so they are prepared and ready to go.
- Brush the top of each stretched pizza dough with olive oil. Using a swift motion, pick up each circle or rectangle of dough by one edge and flip it oiled side down onto the grill grate. Close the grill lid and don’t open it for 3 minutes, which gives the dough a chance to rise a bit and firm up.
- Open the lid, peek at the underside of the dough, and check to see that nice grill marks have formed. Lightly brush the uncooked tops of the crusts with olive oil and turn over each crust. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Carefully brush the entire surface of each crust with 1⁄2 cup of the tomato sauce and sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella evenly over each top. Sprinkle any toppings, if you are using them, evenly over the pizzas. Close the lid of the grill and let the pizzas cook for 4 minutes, then begin checking to see if they are done. The cheese should be completely melted and the crust should have a nicely browned underside and be stiff when you lift it with tongs.
- Remove the pizzas from the grill, sprinkle them with the fresh basil, if using, and cut the pizzas into pieces. Now you get to relax.
Note: If you think your kids will be annoyed by the nicely rustic texture that cornmeal gives the dough when you use it to form the dough into the crust shape, you can use plain flour, but it’s nice to have that bit of pleasing crunch in the crust.
Homemade Pizza Dough
Makes enough dough for two 12-inch pizzas or four 6-inch pizzas
For when you’re feeling inspired.
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for coating the bowl
3 cups all-purpose flour
- Place the yeast and sugar in a large bowl, add 1 cup of warm water, and let sit until small bubbles form, about 10 minutes. Mix in the salt and olive oil. Add the flour gradually, mixing until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it until smooth, about 4 minutes (you can also use a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment to do this). Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover it with a damp dish towel or with plastic wrap.
- Let the dough sit undisturbed in a warm place until it is doubled in size, 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours. Punch down the dough, divide it into 2 balls, and proceed with the Grilled Pizzas recipe; there’s no need to let the dough rest again if it is at room temperature.
Make Ahead:Whether you are using store-bought pizza dough or making your own, you’ll want to allow enough time for it to rise and relax before you start the grilling process, so plan accordingly.
What the Kids Can Do:
Top their own pizzas! But have the kids do it off the grill, then you return the pizzas to the grill grate.
Depending on your choice of toppings, these pizzas can be as vegetarian as you like.
Here are the three major tips to remember when grilling pizzas.
1. Let the dough “relax,” and handle it gently. Realizing that word relax is so alien to moms in general, in this case it should be interpreted as letting the dough rest, so that the gluten in the dough that has been activated by handling it or punching it down is given a chance to unclench, making the dough more pliable and supple. (Note to family: If we moms were given more chances to relax and unclench we would likely be more pliable and supple, too.)
2. Adjust the heat as needed. Watch the grill temperature. If it’s too hot, the pizza can scorch and if it’s too low it might stick or come out soggy.
3. Turning the crusts over after three minutes or so means that the firmed-up bottom becomes the top crust, and now you can layer on your sauce and cheese and toppings and not end up with an undercooked layer of dough underneath the toppings.
Once the bottom crusts are ready to be turned over, you can do this right on the grill and add the sauce and toppings there or, if the heat is too much for you, turn them cooked side up onto oiled baking sheets, load on the toppings, and carefully transfer the pizzas back to the grill.
Fork in the Road:
Chopped cooked broccoli, pepperoni, sliced black olives, sautéed sliced mushrooms, sautéed chopped onions, roasted or sautéed bell peppers, in strips or pieces—all are delicious on pizza. Or how about sausage and provolone? Blue cheese and figs? Greek olives and feta? Broccoli and fontina? Bacon, scallions, pepperoncini, and mozzarella? Chopped fresh tomatoes instead of sauce? Homemade pizza is the poster child for Fork in the Road cooking; let the kids—and your friends—invent their own combos. You will want to precook some of the more dense raw topping ingredients, like broccoli, onions, or sliced red peppers, and have all of the toppings sliced, slivered, or grated and ready to go before you begin the grilling. You can do this a day ahead of time and store everything in the fridge. For a crowd, you can double, or even triple, the recipe as desired.