Grilled Pizza

What started out as a frozen margherita pizza ended up a kale, Swiss chard and Italian sausage grilled pizza. 

Someone out there is recoiling right now. A frozen pizza? On the grill? What are you, completely uncouth?

I’ve certainly been called worse, but when it comes to pizza, I cast little judgment — and that includes frozen pizza on a grill.

Grilling pizza is not a new idea. A smoky, wood-fired pie is delicious, but you can do it at home cheaper than what it costs to order one for dinner. It’s also a quick meal, especially when going the frozen pizza route. Often relegated to the image of a late-night stoner snack or a college student’s drunken feast, using a frozen pizza as your starting point will save you time and money. Plus, the toppings are endless when it comes to creating your personalized taste.

The basics for grilling pizza

We are starting simple here, using a frozen pizza. My choice is Safeway’s Signature Select line of ultra-thin crust pizzas. It grills easily and gives you a nice, crisp crust. If you’re into thick-crust pizzas or rising-crust pizzas, you can use those as well. Remember, this is all about what you like but thicker crusts might require more time on the grill, so keep an eye on it.

Preheat your gas grill to 400-450 degrees with the lid shut, about 10 minutes. When heated, turn the burners to low. Slide the frozen pizza onto the grate and grill about 4-6 minutes with the lid shut. Open the lid and rotate the pizza 160 degrees, close the lid, and finish grilling for 4-6 minutes more until the crust is browned and crisp and the cheese is melted. Remove from the grill, slice and serve.

What about a pizza stone?

You can use a pizza stone on the grill, and it’s great tool if you’re using raw dough, but be sure to use a pizza stone that can handle the grill’s high heat. You’ll want to let the stone heat up for about 30 minutes before you slide your uncooked pizza onto the stone.

While the grill and stone are heating, prep all your ingredients and make your pizza. Anything that needs precooking (raw meats or some vegetables) needs to be done at this point. Next, assemble your pie. Eight ounces of pizza dough should give you a roughly 12-14 inch pizza, whether you’re using homemade or store-bought dough. Also, try not to go crazy with toppings. Too many and your pizza won’t cook evenly.

Place the pizza onto the pizza stone using a large paddle. To keep the dough from sticking to the paddle, dust the paddle with cornmeal or a light coating of flour. Slide the pizza onto the stone, close the lid, and grill for 10-12 minutes until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted. Be sure to do a check halfway through — you might need to rotate the pizza for it to cook evenly.

When it’s done, remove the pizza using the paddle, slice and serve hot. 

No pizza stone? No problem

Don’t have a pizza stone, but still want a grilled pizza using your own dough? Not a problem. You can do that too, but it’s the most work of the three methods.

Stretch out your pizza dough to 12-14 inches, brush the bottom side lightly with olive oil, and place it on the pre-heated grill or grate over direct heat for about 45 seconds. The idea here is hot and quick — you want the heat to sear the outside of the dough fast enough that it holds in place but doesn’t burn the crust. Brush the top side with olive oil and flip it over, grilling for about 45 seconds.

Move it to indirect heat and immediately add sauce, toppings and cheese, and grill the pizza for 10-12 minutes. Slice and serve when it’s done.

Careful with the toppings

A good rule of thumb here is watch your toppings. A personal rule is no more than three, and that’s not counting sauce or cheese. Too many toppings and your pizza won’t cook adequately. Sometimes less is more, and pizzas are a good example of that adage.

My favorite I came up with was adding kale, Swiss chard and finely-sliced Italian chicken sausage to a frozen thin crust margherita pizza before topping it with a drizzle of basil olive oil and extra cheese. I turned a plain pepperoni pizza into a meaty feast by adding salami, Italian chicken sausage, lots of fresh oregano, red pepper flakes and more cheese. Another winner was a chicken garlic Alfredo pizza I kicked up with the addition fresh rosemary, caramelized onions, Swiss chard and, of course, cheese.

Don’t be afraid to try different flavor or texture combinations, either. An herby goat cheese with some crisp veggies would make a wonderful contrast. The rosemary, oregano, kale and Swiss chard all came out of my garden, and they made great additions to my weekend pizzas. If you’re not growing any veggies at home this summer, hit up a farmers market for a selection. 

To smoke or not? What about charcoal?

That’s up to you if you want a smoky pizza. A handful of wood chips (I used pecan) can impart a wonderful flavor here, and that’s just another layer of taste your adding to your pie. Be sure to soak your chips for 15 minutes or so beforehand so they smoke rather than just burn, and add them to your grill in your smoker box or directly on the coals if you’re going the charcoal grill route.

And yes, you can do all this on a charcoal grill. The cooking times will remain relatively the same but be sure to keep an eye on the heat as charcoal is harder to control than gas for a constant, relegated heating source.

Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.