5 Tips for Better Grilled Pizza

Gatherings from The Kitchn

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The first time my husband and I grilled pizza, we burned the bottom to a crisp. The second time we tried a pizza stone, but that didn't get hot enough to give us the char we wanted. For our third (and fourth, and fifth) attempts, we tweaked the dough's thickness, the heat intensity, and the timing. We asked grill master friends for advice, and then finally, we hit the sweet spot.

Needless to say, all this troubleshooting came in quite handy when we decided to grill pizza for our porch party earlier this month! Here are 5 things we learned in our quest for better grilled pizza:

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Grilling Pizza on Charcoal vs. a Gas Grill

I'll say up front that the following tips come from working specifically with a charcoal grill. However, the principles should apply equally to a gas grill. For more on how to grill pizza specifically on a gas grill, check out these posts:

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5 Tips for Better Grilled Pizza

1. Make sure your grill is hot enough. First things first: your grill should be incredibly hot. If it's not hot enough, you won't get that crispy pizza char. For our charcoal grill, we let the coals heat up for a good 30 minutes before we started grilling the pizza. If you have a gas grill, you should let the burners preheat on high for 15 minutes, or until the grill reaches at least 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Be patient, don't rush it!

2. Create direct and indirect heat zones: Moving between two heat areas is the key to a successful grilled pizza. The direct heat zone on your grill should be used for grilling the dough first without any toppings, while the indirect heat zone is best for cooking the pizza once you've added toppings. When we tried to cook the whole pizza on one heat source or another, it either burned or came out too soft. Here's the method we settled on for our charcoal grill:

  • We put the pizza pie (no toppings) onto the direct heat side of the grill, left the grill lid off, and let the dough cook for 3 minutes.
  • After 3 minutes, we flipped the pizza with a set of tongs so the grill marks were side up, put the toppings on, and moved the pie over to the indirect heat side.
  • We then put the grill lid on and let the pizza cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until the toppings were hot and melted.
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3. Set up a workspace near the grill for toppings and sauces. When grilling pizza, everything happens quickly. You're dealing with very high temperatures, flipping dough, and moving in between heat zones. Waiting too long or not long enough can mean the difference between undercooked, perfectly cooked, and burned to a crisp. Make sure all your toppings and sauces are within arm's reach of the grill. You won't have time to run into the kitchen!

4. Use dough with a good amount of olive oil in it, and make the round a tad thicker than you would normally: We experimented with a couple different doughs, and found that a dough with a higher olive oil content wasn't as prone to scorching. The Kitchn's recipe for grilled pizza dough uses a 1/4 cup olive oil, and that's just perfect!

We also made each pizza round a little thicker than we would have if we were making pizza in the oven, which made the dough easier to handle.

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5. To finish the pizza, move it to direct heat for 1 minute: After we topped the pizza and let it cook on the indirect heat side for 3-5 minutes (see above), we finished it off by sliding the pizza back over to the direct heat side for just a minute. This final high heat blast gives a good char to the bottom.

Do you have any great tips to share for grilling pizza, either on a charcoal or gas grill?

Photographed by Kristin Teig
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(Image credits: Kristin Teig)

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