By Amelia Nierenberg, The New York Times
Homemade pizza is great. A 500-degree oven in August is not.
But if you have a grill, you can turn it into a makeshift pizza oven. You won’t end up with the most traditional pie — it’ll be more like a flatbread — but that’s OK.
Grilled pizza, done right, will be ready in minutes. It’s delicious, and your friends will be impressed. It’s also a great way to use up all the yeast and flour you panic-bought in March.
Make and shape the dough
Pizza dough is pretty straightforward: flour, water, salt, yeast. Some recipes call for a little sugar and olive oil. If you’re looking for inspiration, look to the Cooking section of The New York Times website, which includes a recipe specifically for grilled pizza.
You’ll want a thin dough, but one that isn’t floppy: You don’t want it to droop between the grill grates. So use your hands instead of a rolling pin to stretch it out. Stop when it’s about as thick as the length of your fingernail.
Don’t try to make a separate crust. It probably won’t cook through, and isn’t necessary to the recipe.
Get that grill hot
Pizza is a high-heat food. If you have a thermometer, aim for around 500 degrees. If not, just hold your palm about 6 inches away from the heat. When it’s uncomfortable after a few seconds, you’re ready to go.
The heat distribution in a pizza oven is sort of like surround sound. “It’s above it, below it, swirling around it,” explained Anthony Falco, 41, an international pizza consultant.
But on a grill, the heat comes from the bottom. You can, of course, mimic a pizza oven by closing the lid. Or you can embrace the flatbread-y quality and keep the lid up.
A pizza stone works, or you can go straight on the grate
If you have a pizza stone — or even a metal sheet-pan — you can just put it on top of the grill. It’ll give you a more consistent crust and might help with heat distribution.
Slapping the dough down straight on the grate, though, might be more fun.
“When something has those char marks, you can taste the barbecue aspect,” said Audrey Kelly, 34, a pizzaiola and the owner of Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage in Boulder, Colorado.
Either way, put the dough down fast to keep it from sticking. A dusting of flour should do the trick. A little olive oil will, too, but go easy. You don’t want your pizza to burst into flames.
Keep an eye on the dough
If you’re cooking it on a stove or a sheet-pan, you can probably follow the recipe with minimal changes.
But if you’re a straight-to-the-grate maverick, think of the preparation in two stages: a dough stage and a topping stage, with a flip in between. Watch the surface of the dough. Once it has some big air bubbles and the char marks are starting to brown, flip the dough so it cooks evenly on both sides. This when the toppings are added.
If you want a benchmark, Kelly suggested shooting for an 8- minute cook time: 4 to 5 for the dough, flip, then 3 to 4 for the toppings.
Consider your toppings
Sauce, regrettably, is probably an iffy bet. Too little will leave the pizza under-flavored. But too much might make it soggy. If you are going to sauce, a small amount should suffice.
If you’re adding meat, cook it beforehand, as well as some vegetables. Summer markets are flourishing right now — take advantage.
“The key is you’re getting the best produce, and you’re treating it very simply,” Falco said, 41.
If you’re looking for a guiding cheese principle, try to think of what your other toppings don’t yet fulfill. If you’re salt-less, try some shaved pecorino. If you need something creamy-ish, dollop some ricotta. If you’re looking for texture, think mozzarella.
Portion your pie size
A big pizza is going to be harder to flip and harder to evenly heat.
So make a few dinner-plate-sized ones instead. This is a great thing to do with kids — set up a topping station and let them make their own pizza.
And remember, it’s summer during a pandemic. If it works out, it’ll be fun to share. If not, the worst thing that happens is that you just call for pizza delivery instead.