How to Cook Pizza on a Barbecue
Cooking pizza on a barbecue is both an art and a science. And while there are a few things to learn along the way, with a bit of practice you can set up your grill, roll your dough, and barbecue a delicious pizza. If you’d like, you can even serve it along with other grilled treats!
- 1 pound (0.45 kg) of pizza dough
- 0.5 to 1 cup (120 to 240 ml) of tomato sauce
- Cheese (grated Asiago, grated Parmesan, torn mozzarella)
- Tomato sauce
- Desired toppings, thinly sliced
- Olive oil
Confirm that your barbeque has a working thermostat and lid. Purchase a grill thermometer from a local hardware or big-box store if your grill doesn’t have a working thermostat. It should be able to reach and maintain a temperature of around 428 °F (220 °C), which provides enough radiant heat to cook the toppings. If temperatures are too low, you will only be cooking the crust from below.
- If your barbecue doesn’t have a lid, you can use an upturned roasting pan instead.
- Try and use a grill with a large, flat hot-plate. Slotted grills can still cook your pizza, but they’re much more likely to make a mess.
- For wood-fired barbecues or fire pits, you need a fixed frame made of bricks and a hot roasting pan filled with hot coals.
Cover your barbeque with an upturned roasting pan if you have no lid. Use bricks to create 2 side walls and a back wall. Each should be 2 bricks high. Leave the front and top spaces open. The distance between the 2 side walls should be small enough that the roasting pan sits firmly and safely on top of them.
- The pizza is cooked by placing it into the space inside the “walls” and placing the roasting pan on top to radiate heat down onto the pizza.
- Practice utmost care with this method to avoid burns.
- Remove the roasting pan when the pizza is cooked to access the pizza. If it’s browning too quickly on top, remove it from underneath the pan.
Place bricks around the barbeque to provide a more even heating. If you’d like, you can place clean bricks around the barbecue before preheating to simulate a baker’s oven. It will take more time to preheat adequately using bricks, but the heat will be more even and appropriate for cooking pizza.
- Your bricks should be free of any dirt that could burn and wrapped in tinfoil for maximum security.
Preheat your grill to 550 to 600 °F (288 to 316 °C). Clean the plate with dish soap before and after use. Give it at least 10 to 15 minutes of preheat time to burn off any debris. If the barbecue is not clean it will smoke the food too much and overpower the flavor of your pizza.
- If your barbecue has no flat plate (only slotted or bar grills), cook the pizza on a heavy cast iron skillet, a pizza stone, or other heavy-duty and flame-proof flat pieces of cookware.
- A high temperature is essential to making a really good thin crust.
Part 2 – Prepping the Pizza
Place 1 pound (0.45 kg) of pizza dough onto a slightly floured surface. Sprinkle some flour onto an appropriate surface, such as a peel, baking sheet, or chopping board.
- Either purchase dough from a local grocery story or create your own. If you make your own dough, whole meal flours or fine cornmeal make for a more protein-rich and chewier dough. However, they also take longer to cook through.
- Be sure to temper the dough if you make it yourself—this is when you let the dough come to room temperature so the gluten can settle a bit.
Roll your dough outwards into a circle with a diameter of 12 inches (30 cm). Drag the roller in up and down motions along the dough. Thin crust pizza should be between 0.25 to 0.125 inches (0.64 to 0.32 cm) thick. Be sure to rotate the dough and flatten it in as many directions as possible to ensure a consistent thickness.
- Try and create a thin crust – most barbecue pizzas have thinner crusts and few raw ingredients because they cook from the base up.
- A barbecue with really good heat control can allow more variations to crust thickness and structure; you’ll need to experiment to learn what works best with your own barbecue.
- You can precook or pre-grill the base in advance and then freeze it. The bases do freeze very well, so try making a batch of them at a time.
Slice each of your toppings into pieces with consistent thicknesses. Use 3 toppings at most. Common pizza toppings include green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms. You can also use spinach, artichokes, and other less common options. For meats, pepperoni, sausage, and chicken are common.
- If you want to keep it simple, make a barbecued pizza by briefly cooking your dough on both sides like a pancake. Afterwards, brush it with herb and garlic oil and either eat it as is or wrap it around other foods.
Cook raw meat toppings before adding them to your pizza. This is especially important for seafood and chicken. You don’t want your meat to come out too rare. It’s best to place meat closer to the edges of the pizza to cook it faster.
- Use your cooked meat as soon as possible. If you have leftovers, store it in sealed, clean containers on a lower shelf in your fridge at 41 °F (5 °C) or lower. Keep all cooked meat separate from ready-to-eat food and raw meats.
Place your ingredients onto a platter with the necessary tools. The platter should contain all of your toppings (sliced, cut, or shredded), sauce, olive oil, a cooking brush, a spoon, and a large spatula.
- A pair of tongs is also useful, but not necessary.
Part 3 – Cooking the Pizza
Place your pizza onto a peel. You can also improvise with a wooden chopping board, baking sheet, or other flat item to allow the smooth transfer of pizza onto the barbecue plate.
- If you’re using a homemade dough and not a pre-cooked base, try not to allow the dough to rise too much or it will go soft and tear easily.
Brush the top of the pizza with olive oil. Apply olive oil to your cooking brush and gently brush it along the top of your pizza. Continue applying until the surface of the dough has a thin layer of oil.
Heat your pizza olive-oil side down for 1 to 2 minutes with a lid. Remove the grill’s lid and gently lay the dough onto the grill. Give your dough about 3 minutes to cook without a lid, or between 1 to 2 minutes if you’re keeping the lid on.
- Lift the dough with your tongs every 30 seconds. Your pizza should be cooking enough that there are grill marks on it, but it shouldn’t be crispy.
Flip over your crust using a spatula. Place a spatula under the dough as far as possible, and place your free hand on the unheated top portion of the dough. Gently turn the dough over and lay it onto the grill.
- Your pizza dough should come off easily without tearing. If it’s delicate enough that it tears or looks like it might, keep it on for another 30 seconds and then check it again.
- If your crust is getting browned on just one side, rotate it 90-degrees with your spatula or tongs and cook it for another 1 minute.
Brush the top with olive oil and add 1 ladle of sauce. Pour some olive oil onto your cooking brush and gently brush it over the grilled surface of your pizza. Afterwards, scoop 1 ladle of sauce onto the pizza and use the bottom of a spoon to spread it evenly across.
- You can use more than 1 ladle if you like extra sauce, but you risk the pizza getting soggy.
Add your toppings and cheese onto the cooked side. Start by layering your toppings evenly around the pizza. Afterwards, sprinkle your cheese over the top of the pizza, and if you’re adding meat add it on top of the cheese. Avoid flooding your pizza with toppings, particularly cheese and different sauces.
- Cheese caramelizes quickly and melts, so too much may cause the toppings to ooze.
- Too much cheese can also be a flame risk and smoke the pizza beyond eating.
Cook the pizza for 3 to 5 minutes on gas grills. After adding your toppings, close the lid and let your pizza cook. Use your smell and best judgment to gauge the cooking process—if you smell burning, remove the lid. You can also move the pizza to a cooler part of the grill.
- If your pizza keeps burning even after moving the pizza or removing the barbeque lid, decrease the temperature to around 500 to 550 °F (260 to 288 °C).
Close the vents for 2 to 3 minutes for charcoal grills. Be sure to close the vents on the cover nearly all the way. After 2 to 3 minutes, or whenever the cheese begins to bubble and the bottom chars, pull it off the grate with your spatula and place it onto a cutting board for 1 to 2 minutes before serving it.
- Remove the pizza when the cheese looks sufficiency melted.
Slice your pizza into 4 pieces. Gently hold the side of the crust and cut a straight vertical line down your pizza. Afterwards, cut a horizontal line through the first cut to make 4 even slices.
- You add another 1 or 2 diagonal cuts if you want smaller pieces, but 4 pieces is the ideal amount for this size of pizza.
- If there are various people eating with you, ask for several helpers to keep tending the pizza cooking so that you can share the duties and enjoy eating when your own pizza is ready.
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