I've been working on my grilled pizza technique for a few summers now, and I think I've finally hit on a system that works well. When I make one just right, it tastes very much like those coming out of the ovens at our traditional Neapolitan pizza joints here in Seattle (Tutta Bella, Via Tribunali), with a flavorful, slightly charred crust that is paper thin in the middle and a bit thicker and chewy at the edges.
For most pizza pies, I like to use a light scatter of toppings, but this one I loaded up a little, with a combination of fingerling potatoes, caramelized onions and blue cheese. My wife, Sarina, called for that combo and it was a winner.
Here are my thoughts on technique:
For the crust, it really helps to get your hands on 00 (double-zero) flour. (If you are in Seattle, it is available at Big John's / PFI.) Then follow this perfected dough recipe to the letter, preferably by weight instead of volume. Pay particular attention to the times, rests and speed if you use your stand mixer. This allows time for the dough to hydrate properly.
My grill is a Big Green Egg, which is this insanely cadillac ceramic smoker/grill. I've got to be one of about 7 vegetarians in the world who have one, because its main purpose in life is to slow smoke meat. But it also gets up to crazy high temperatures, which makes it work quite well for pizza. So you'll need to experiment with your own setup.
What I find works best for me is to not use a pizza stone, cooking directly on the grate, and use the flip maneuver: grill the naked dough on one side until starting to char, flip, and immediately apply toppings. Close the top for just a minute, open and remove. That way you don't run the risk of having a cooked bottom of the crust but unpleasant doughy interior around the edges. It also helps to have the toppings preheated, or at least at room temperature. If they are cold, they won't have enough time to get hot.
If you can get to your grill grate with it, a pizza peel is the best tool to work with. If not, because the grate is below the level of the grill edge, a very large spatula with an offset helps. In any case, please be very careful and don't do anything you aren't comfortable with or aren't sure you can do safely. I'm not responsible if you burn yourself!
The dough recipe above will make four crusts (and doubles easily), but the recipe below is for just two 12" pizzas; I'm assuming that you will want to make several varieties.
Grilled Pizza with Fingerling Potatoes, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onions
Makes two 12" thin-crust pizzas
- 3 medium onions, sliced moderately thin
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3/4 pound fingerling potatoes
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese of your choice, brought to room temperature
- two balls of pizza dough, about 200 grams each, fully risen and ready to bake
- optional: a drizzle of syrupy aged balsamic vinegar, leaves of fresh thyme
- Preheat your grill to a very high temperature, but allow the flames to die down. You want very hot embers.
- At the same time, in your largest skillet, over a medium flame, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook slowly, tossing occasionally and adjusting the heat so that they don't scorch, until deeply caramelized, at least 30 minutes. Longer is better if you have time, the flavor just grows more complex.
- Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until tender, cool until you can handle them, and slice lengthwise in 1/4" slabs.
- Have everything prepared and in easy range of your grill, as you will have to work quickly. You'll also need a very large spatula. You can't Grab a ball of dough, and stretch it out into a roughly 12" circle. It doesn't need to be perfectly round. It should be nearly transparent in the middle and maybe 1/4" thick at the edges. It works best to do this in the air, just stretching and allowing gravity to work.
- Place the dough on the grill grate. It won't stick because the grate is so hot, it will cook immediately. Cook about 1 minute, until slightly charred in spots. Keep peeking with a spatula. Flip the crust and immediately add a nice layer of caramelized onion, half of the blue cheese, several slices of potato, and more caramelized onions. Close the lid for about one minute.
- Keep checking the bottom of the crust, and when it is done and starting to char in spots, quickly but carefully remove it and serve immediately, garnishing with the balsamic and/or thyme if you so choose.