How to Make Pizza on a Gas Grill

How to Make Pizza on a Gas Grill

One of the best uses for your propane grill is to cook pizza. Believe it or not, gas grilling really knows no bounds. Homemade pizza on the grill can be as easy as buying a few ingredients at the supermarket and throwing them together, or a from-scratch enterprise where you control every part of the pie.

Once you get a good feel for your propane grill, you can anticipate its idiosyncrasies and work with them. Here’s a detailed look at grilling pizza using a few different methods, so you get the perfect, crispy crusted pizza pie every time.

If you’re looking for even more tips on gas grilling, be sure to check out our articles on how to use a gas grill, how to use a charcoal Weber grill, and how to smoke meats on a gas grill.

Why Pizza on a Grill?

Actual pizza ovens get much hotter than any home oven. Good pizza cooks super-fast in the oven resulting in that wonderful crunchy crust and melty toppings. The backyard grill is the only thing that gets anywhere close to the heat a pizza oven puts out.

However, there are other reasons to cook your pizza on the grill. For those hot summer months, it gets the heat out of the kitchen. It’s a great way to make a different kind of al fresco experience for guests. You could even have them make their own pizzas with their own choice of toppings.

Accessories You Might Need

Like many things with your barbecue grill, your success with homemade pizza is a matter of trial and error. Thankfully, even the less-than-perfect failures are still tasty.

Pizza Stone for Your Grill

Many chefs cook their pizza directly on the grill grates. This takes just the right combination of the perfect dough and having grill grates that are tightly spaced. If your grill has hotspots, they are pretty sure to char your crust. Direct, on-the-grate grilling is perfect if you like a thin crust, and you can work fast.

If you’re looking for a thicker pizza crust, you might want to consider cooking the pie on a pizza stone. There are a few benefits to this technique. For one, the stone distributes the heat better, so you don’t need to worry about hot spots. It also provides a flat surface, so you don’t need to worry about the dough sagging down through the grates.

If your grill has widely spaced, thin grates, a pizza stone is highly recommended. It’s also helpful if you’d like your dough to rise a bit while baking. The stone will give you a little more control over the temperature and let you leave it in the oven longer.

A pizza stone for your grill provides a flat surface and even heat distribution. You might find an acceptable substitute in your kitchen stash already. A large cast-iron skillet or griddle would work well. The key to using a pizza stone is to preheat it on the grill and leave it there.

Pizza Peel

If you want to look the part, you’re going to need a pizza peel. A peel is a giant spatula that scoops the pizza out of the oven. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The most common material is wood, but there are many smaller ones available made of metal.

If you don’t have a peel, don’t worry. You can manage with a regular spatula and grill tongs—it just doesn’t look as cool.

Pizza Cutter

A round pizza cutter makes slicing and dicing your pie fast and easy. If you don’t have one, a large chef’s knife will do the trick. Most grilled pizzas are smaller anyway.

Digital Kitchen Scale

If you’re new to baking and planning on making homemade pizza dough, here’s a quick tip. Measuring by weight is a much quicker and far more accurate way to measure flour for baking. Most problems with bread recipes occur due to using the wrong ratio of dry ingredients to wet ingredients. The result is a dough that is either too wet or too dry.

Having an accurate digital kitchen scale will enable you to simply throw the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and knead. Assembling the dough shouldn’t take more than ten minutes once you’ve found a recipe you like using.

The trick to this method is finding a pizza recipe that measures by weight instead of by volume. If you have a recipe you want to use, but it uses cups, you can carefully experiment by taking your time and recording the weights of each item. There are also online conversion calculators that can help out. Remember, different flours have different weights, so as you change the recipe, you may have to change the weights. For example, whole wheat flour weighs more than all-purpose flour of the same volume.

Baking 101: A Few Notes for Beginners

Measuring

For some reason, baking throws a lot of people off. Nearly all other recipes can be regarded as a general list of ingredients that you can customize and play with. The more experience you have as a cook, the more likely you are to make substitutions and forge your own path even with a detailed recipe right in front of you.

This rarely leads to success when baking. Baking is a delicate balance that requires the right amount of liquid for the amount of dry ingredients. Doughs quickly become too wet after being worked, and if the ratios are wrong to start, it can get harder and harder to get it right.

One way to avoid this hassle is to measure the dry ingredients with a kitchen scale. This removes one crucial variable, and that is how accurately you measure with your cups and tablespoons. When you scoop your measuring cup into the flour, you are packing it down and compressing it.

If you don’t have a kitchen scale, use a spoon to fill the measuring cup. Don’t pack it in, but let it settle naturally. Heap it up over the top, and level the measuring cup with the handle of your spoon. The problem with this method is that it’s still prone to inaccuracy. Did the person writing the recipe do it precisely as you did?

Most chefs compensate for this is by gauging the dough once it has formed into a ball. If the dough is noticeably wet and sticky as they work and knead it, they add more flour. If it is dry and crumbles, they add more water. It is a lot easier to add more flour, though.

Yeast

Yeast is another mysterious beast that requires just the right conditions. Yeast is fungi, and they need to be treated right for them to do their job. Yeast comes in “instant” or “active” varieties that claim to be ready to use. Truthfully, it’s not uncommon for you to pull a packet or jar of yeast out of your cabinet that has been around a long time. Even if you just purchased it, you don’t know how well your yeast was treated during transportation and storage.

It’s easier to wake your yeast up before committing them to the job. This process is called proofing, and it tests the yeast before you combine it with the rest of the ingredients. Start the recipe by getting your water to 110℉. The temperature is vitally important. If you get the water too cold, the yeast will take forever to start working. If you get it too hot, it will die. If you don’t have your thermometer handy, you should be able to hold your finger in the warm water for at least five seconds. If you can only hold your finger in the water a few seconds, it’s likely too hot.

Once you’ve gotten the water to the right temperature, add the sugar and the yeast. The sugar is important since the yeast needs something to eat. Give it a quick stir, and let it sit for five minutes or so. It should start to smell “yeasty” and start building up a foamy, bubbly surface. If it does, your yeast is happy and ready to go to work. If not, something went wrong, and it’s time to start over with new.

Basic Steps to Pizza Dough

All pizza dough recipes are going to be very similar. Yeast, water, flour, sugar, and probably a little extra-virgin olive oil are all that is required. If you’re making whole wheat pizza dough, you will likely use a 50/50 mix of whole wheat flour to all-purpose or bread flour.

Once the ingredients are correctly measured out, they are mixed to make a stiff dough. When the mixture begins to cling to itself and not the bowl, you can remove it and start kneading it. The process of kneading is essential. Working the dough creates gluten, which is the chemical structure that allows it to trap the carbon dioxide released from the yeast. This allows the dough to rise.

As you work the dough, it will become smoother and smoother. Add a little more flour occasionally to keep it from sticking. How much kneading does it need? The standard test for pizza dough is the window test. Break off a small ball, and then press it and stretch it as thin as you can. It passes the test when you can get it so thin that you can see light through it. If the dough falls apart before it gets that thin, keep kneading.

Once you’ve worked the dough and built up gluten, it’s time to let the yeast take over the work. Make sure your dough will not stick to the bowl by coating it and the bowl in a thin layer of extra-virgin olive oil. Cover it and set it in a warm place for a few hours. It should double in size. Once this happens, knead it a minute or so and then let it rise again. The second rise doesn’t need to go as long, but the more time it gets, the puffier and softer the results.

If you want a thin crust pizza, you’ll take a smaller amount of dough and roll it out very thin. It can then immediately go to the grill. If you’d like a little rise to your pizza, you’ll want to roll it out, and let it rise for a few minutes before grilling. The more time you give it, the better it will be.

Mamma Mia! Isn’t There an Easier Way?

If all of this has you looking up the local pizza take-out number, fear not. There is an easy way to save yourself some time and effort when it comes to making pizza. Many supermarkets sell ready-to-roll fresh pizza dough. It can usually be found in balls in the bakery section. Do not confuse this fresh yeast dough with the pre-made name brand crusts on the Italian aisle that resemble cardboard.

If you go this route, store the dough in the fridge until ready to use. Roll it out and let it get to room temperature before grilling. If you have the dough made and the toppings ready to go, grilling a pizza won’t take more than twenty minutes including prep time.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Grilled Pizza

Pizza creation rewards the organized and the well-prepared. Like cooking a stir-fry in a wok, once the heat goes on, things happen hot and fast.

Preparation

Once you’ve got your dough ball, the next task is to roll it out. A clean cutting board dusted with flour works perfectly. If you don’t own a rolling pin, a wine bottle will work in a pinch. Start by pressing your dough flat into a circle and working the middle outwards. Once you have the basic shape, use your rolling pin to squish it even flatter. You can try to get fancy and flip the dough, but this isn’t a necessary flourish.

Keep your pizzas small to start until you get a feel for your grill. It’s a lot easier to handle two small pies rather than one large one. This isn’t the time or place for a 21-inch super pie. It’s also not necessary to make perfectly round pizzas. Give your grilled pizza some homemade character.

While the rolled-out dough rests and rises a little, think about the rest of your toppings. Don’t assemble the pizza yet, but have everything you need laid out and ready before you put the dough on the grill.

A simple pizza sauce can be whipped up in a few minutes with some tinned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and a few herbs. Of course, there are also jars of pizza sauce available at any grocery store. The homemade kind is fast and easy, and you can customize it any way you want. Want a white pizza? Go for it—it’s your pie, man.

What else can you put on your pizza? It’s really up to you! Mozzarella is the classic cheese, and you can experiment with the fresh stuff or the more convenient, grated, low-moisture variety. Keep it simple with real mozzarella, basil leaves, and a little extra-virgin olive oil for a classic Margherita pizza. Meats can include pepperoni, bacon, Canadian bacon, sausage, or chicken. Peppers, mushrooms, onions, pineapple, or pretty much any other veggie work, too!

When selecting your toppings, keep in mind that the pizza probably won’t be on the heat long enough to cook the meats and veggies. You might want to consider preparing those in advance unless you want them nearly raw. It’s a personal choice.

Search online for pizza recipes that strike your fancy. Once you understand the basics of cooking it on the grill, any recipe can be converted into a grilled pizza.

The only trick is to not overload the pizza so it becomes a soggy mess! With so many great choices, it’s easy to go overboard on the toppings.

How to Make the Pizza

There’s no right or wrong way to make homemade pizza on a propane grill. It will require some experimentation to find the crust style and quality that you like. Here are just a few possible methods that might work for you.

All methods require you to preheat the grill to get it very hot. Start by putting all burners on their highest setting, and then turning down the ones directly under where the pizza will be. If using a pizza stone on your grill, make sure it’s in place and preheating too.

There are a few ways to keep the pizza from sticking to whatever you use. The primary tools in your arsenal are cornmeal and extra-virgin olive oil. If cooking on the grates, wipe with lots of oil. If cooking on a stone, you could oil the dough, or you could use cornmeal. The oil will give it a nice, crispy crust which is a really nice touch.

You can assemble your toppings one of two ways, and the direction you take will depend on how easily you can get the pizza onto the grill. If working with a big pizza peel, you can assemble everything right on that and slide it on the grill. If working with tongs and a small cutting board, you might have more luck putting the dough on the grill and quickly putting on the toppings, as the crust begins to cook.

Method One: Everything On the Grill and Go!

This method is the purest way. Start with smaller pizzas and a hotter grill. Once the grill is nice and hot, take an oil-soaked rag in your barbecue tongs and wipe the grate down several times. You don’t want it to stick. Assemble the pizza atop your pizza peel, using cornmeal or flour underneath to keep it from sticking. Slide the pizza directly onto the grill and close the lid. Let it cook until the toppings are gooey. Watch the bottom of the crust for charring. Be ready to pull it off the grill using your pizza peel or tongs quickly.

If all goes right, the grill was hot enough to cook the dough crunchy before it began sagging through the grates. The dough will bubble and char a bit here and there, but that’s part of the beauty of a grilled pizza.

If your pizza charred too quickly before the top was cooked, you have two options. First, you could try playing with the heat directly below the pizza. On a four-burner grill, you could start with all four burners on high to preheat. Then, before you put the pizza on the center of the grill, take the middle two burners down to their lowest setting. The two burners on each side should keep the heat high enough to cook the top, and there should be enough residual heat from below to get it nice and crispy.

For another option to keep it from charring, see Method Three below.

Method Two: Using a Pizza Stone or Cast Iron Pan

Instead of using the grill directly, you put the dough in a pan or on a pizza stone. Whatever you use should have been preheated with the grill.

If using a pan or skillet, it is beneficial to have rolled out the dough in the exact size and shape of the pan. You can even let the dough rise in the pan so that it matches perfectly. Use flour or cornmeal to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan, so you can get it out after rising.

Once you get it preheated, make sure you will be able to get the pizza out. If using a pan, you can easily apply a layer of olive oil. If using a pizza stone, it might be easier to apply a layer of oil on the dough and put it on the stone oiled side down.

Method Three: Two-Phase Cooking

If you’re having a lot of trouble getting the temperature in your grill just right, here’s a method that will nearly always work. It takes a little more time, but the results are more consistent and more predictable. This method will work with pretty much any heat source when combined with a heavy-duty cast-iron skillet. You could even make a quick pizza right on your stovetop.

To make two-phase cooking work, you’ll have to assemble the toppings quickly over the grill. That means you’ll want to have them lined up and ready to go with no delays.

Start by placing the dough on the grates or on your pizza stone. Let it cook over high, direct heat until it starts to get crispy but not charred. Quickly apply a little oil to the top of the dough using a basting brush. Flip the dough over onto the uncooked side. Reduce the heat or place the dough on the indirect heat side of the grill. Now, assemble your toppings atop the crust. Close the lid of the grill. Once the toppings are bubbly and delicious, you’re done!

Conclusion

When you first read about making pizza on a grill, you might think it’s a crazy idea and sounds way too complicated. However, if you like a good pizza, it is worth it. Like many things related to cooking, the procedure sounds more complicated than it is. Once you understand the basics and the problems you might have, getting the perfect pizza every time will become second nature.