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Grilled Pizza: Fun Family Meals and Easy Entertaining

Grilling Pizza: Fun Family Meals and Easy Entertaining

There are very few things as easy, fun, and delicious as grilled pizza. Whether you’re a traditionalist who prefers classics like cheese and pepperoni or a foodie who enjoys exotic toppings like shrimp and fig, pizza on the grill is the perfect outdoor meal for an evening of family fun, entertaining friends, or a quiet date night. It doesn’t matter if you own a gas grill, charcoal grill, or pellet grill, anyone can grill perfect pizza.

Pizza Night….On the Grill

A kid favorite, an easy way to entertain, a laid back date—pizza has long been a favorite choice for a quick meal that satisfies every taste—from the devoted vegetarian to the ravenous carnivore. There was a time when pizza night meant ordering in or heading out to the local pizzeria. Now, grilling pizza at home is more popular than ever, in part because it’s simple and inexpensive, but also because pizza can be whatever you want it to be—a fast dinner for the kids, a tasty party appetizer, or a gourmet meal that will impress any date.

Family Fun: A Grilled Pizza Party

It’s a fact, kids love pizza. Actually, it’s a safe bet no parent has ever had to beg their child to eat pizza. But pizza night is also a treat for parents—it’s a night off from planning and preparing a family meal. Easy-to-make and affordable, grilling pizza is a fun family-friendly activity, that allows parents to serve a wholesome meal kids enjoy without spending a lot of money eating out or ordering in. All you need is dough (pre-made is fine), cheese, and toppings. It’s so easy that kids can join in, making their own personal pizza creations. Using the right ingredients, it’s also healthy—pizza is an easy way to get kids to eat vegetables (unless you load up on cheese and processed meats).

Host an Adult Pizza Party—Appetizers, Dinner, and Date Night

Forget the kids, there’s nothing better than sitting in the open air on a Friday night, sipping a great Cabernet or juicy IPA, enjoying pizza fresh off the grill. Whether you’re having it as an appetizer or the main course, pizza is perfect for entertaining. Quick and easy, it allows you to serve creative crowd-pleasing food and enjoy time with guests. There’s very little prep work, takes only 10 minutes to cook, and can be catered to a variety of tastes—from veggie pizza for health-conscious guests, to prosciutto and pineapple for more adventurous eaters, and even cinnamon apple pizza for dessert. Looking for a quiet date night? Enjoy gourmet grilled lobster pizza under the stars with your favorite local wine or beer.

What You Need to Make Pizza on the Grill

Perhaps the biggest upside to grilling pizza is how little you need. Here are the basics:

The Ingredients

One of the biggest hang-ups people have with making pizza at home is the dough. By all means, if you’re an overachiever, make your own. For the rest of us under-achievers, there’s fresh pizza dough available in most grocery stores. It’s usually refrigerated (sometimes frozen), costs no more than $2.50, and only needs to sit out at room temperature for an hour. Just put the dough in a bowl, coat it with a little flour, then cover the bowl with a towel to let the dough to finish rising. Depending on the amount of dough, you should be able to get up to 4 mini pizzas from one bag of dough. (If this sounds like too much of a hassle, you can always get Pillsbury pizza dough.)

As for toppings, be creative. Get traditional sauce and shredded cheese, as well as your favorite meats and vegetables, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Try sliced garden tomatoes instead of sauce; include fresh basil, oregano, or parsley; use leftover chicken, pulled pork or brisket; consider coating the dough with pesto or Alfredo sauce; or offer different cheeses, such as feta, goat cheese, and blue cheese. Making your own pizza allows you to customize it to your tastes, so let your culinary imagination run wild.

Pizza Accessories

You don’t need a lot of accessories to grill pizza, but if you’re going to do it regularly, there are a few you may want to consider. It can’t be said enough, but a pizza peel makes life easier, allowing you to quickly and easily transfer the pizza to and from the grill. It also serves as your prep station—building your pizza right on the peel prevents too much unnecessary moving and handling of the dough. Although you can cook pizza directly on the grill grates, we recommend using a pizza stone or pizza pan, especially if you’re going to be cooking over direct heat. Available in a variety of sizes and a wide range of prices, they absorb the heat and distribute it evenly for perfectly cooked crust. If you own a Weber Kettle, Kettle Pizza makes a kit that turns your grill into a high-intensity pizza oven and includes a peel and stone (or pan, depending on the kit).

Lastly, we suggest using cornmeal. Spreading a little over the pizza peel and stone helps the dough slide off and on without sticking. Many pizzerias also use it because it adds a nice flavor and a little texture to the crust. We wouldn’t make pizza without it!

The Best Grill for Making Pizza

Charcoal, gas, pellet—which is the best grill for making pizza? The one you have. While each cooks pizza differently, the truth is that any grill will do. However, this is where having a quality grill pays off. You can cook pizza at 400-450°F, but authentic pizzeria-style pizza is cooked at 600°F+, which allows the dough and cheese to cook at the same rate. Better grills are able to reach these temperatures, but if yours can’t, just allow a few extra minutes of cooking time to ensure the dough cooks through.

Charcoal Grill Pizza

There’s nothing quite like pizza on a charcoal grill. For one, you can usually get high temperatures from charcoal, particularly lump charcoal, and especially if you have a kamado grill. Secondly, using all-natural charcoal infuses the pizza with a light smoky flavor that only charcoal can produce. If you have a large charcoal grill, you may be able to cook small pizzas right on the grates by setting up an indirect cooking zone. If not, definitely use a pizza stone or pan.

Pizza on a Gas Grill

There is probably no easier way to grill pizza. Most quality gas grills are capable of achieving 600°F+—and all you have to do is turn the knob. In order to reach that temperature, though, you’ll probably have to fire up all the burners, so definitely consider using a pizza stone or pan, since cooking over direct heat could burn the bottom of the pizza.

Pellet Grill Pizza

Because pellet grills are fueled by all-natural hardwood pellets, your pizza comes off the grill smelling and tasting like it was cooked in a traditional wood-fired oven. Also, since pellet grills primarily use indirect cooking, you can put the pizza right on the grates without worrying about burning the dough. Some pellet grills can’t get beyond 425-450°F, so you’ll have to cook the pizza a little longer. However, more advance pellet grills by brands such as Memphis, Fast Eddy's, Louisiana Grills and FireCraft can reach temperatures of 500-700°F.

How to Grill Pizza

Don‘t let all that incredible flavor fool you, there’s very little to cooking pizza. The hardest part might be choosing your toppings! Otherwise, it’s fairly easy and straightforward. While we recommend letting kids take part in making their own pizza, make sure an adult is running the grill and doing the actual cooking. Also, because of the high heat radiating from the grill, you may want to consider using grill gloves. For perfectly cooked pizza, just follow these simple steps:

  1. With a pizza stone on the grates, preheat your grill to 450ºF (higher if your grill has the capability—we shoot for 600°F) then let the stone heat up for about 20 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle a small amount of cornmeal over a pizza peel.
  3. Portion your dough into 2-4 servings, depending on the size of the pizzas you want.
  4. Work the dough with your hands, stretching it thin while keeping the thickness consistent throughout the crust. It doesn’t have to be perfectly round—the shape plays no part in the flavor!
  5. Once your grill is ready, slide the pizza from the peel onto the stone and close the lid. Keep it closed!. Depending on how hot your grill is, it could take as little as 7 minutes or as long as 15 minutes to cook.
  6. Once the crust and cheese have browned, use the peel to remove the pizza.
  7. Enjoy!