Cooking Tips: Grilled Pizza

NEW on my house menu this summer - Grilled Pizza's. I'm all about using my grill to cook outside as much as possible. I loathe turning on the stove or especially the oven to cook my meals once the weather even remotely warms in our South East Corner of the Philadelphia region. After years of failures and half-baked successes, I finally discovered how to make pizza on the grill with near perfect results. Aided with the help of a fool-proof and easy to use cookbook, Grilled Pizzas and Piandinas by Craig Priebe, and with the additional help of a rimless cookie sheet, cornmeal and a gentle push onto the grill, my pizza dough cooked to a crackling blistery finish in minutes. This past weekend's batch of pizzas was made with Trader Joe's Whole Wheat and Pesto Dough. I found the trick to making a store bought dough roll out easily was to cut it into 3 smaller portions and to use enough extra flour to make the dough not sticky. Other tips I learned from Mr. Priebe's insightful cookbook, you need to have a pizza peal in order to move the dough from surface to the grill, without it, you wind up with a soggy dough blanket that bunches and flops in all the wrong places.

This isn't a recipe post as much as a tricks of the trade post. Here are a few things I learned to making pizza on the grill work. Rather than purchase a pizza peal, an item that has only one use, I opted instead to buy a commercial grade rimless cookie sheet - something I'm sure I'll put to good use all year long. Without the edge, a pizza dough can be scooted right off the sheet tray and onto the grill with minimal effort. The main trick to doing this easily is to make sure you have cornmeal or flour on the cookie tray underneath the pizza dough, otherwise the sticky dough will adhere and tear as you attempt to slide it off the tray.

Tip #3 - (if you were counting, there was a tip before the pizza peal bit!) Pre-grilling the dough is the main trick to making a pizza on the grill. You grill one side first, for about 3 minutes on a well-oiled grill grate. This sets the dough and allows you to maneuver the pizza shell and/or to make enough shells in advance for a large crowd or for later usage. The grilled side becomes your topping side; the un-grilled side then becomes the bottom and goes back onto the grill for finishing.

Tip #4 - Don't over-load the pizza shell! Minimal toppings and sauce, just enough cheese to adhere it all to the pizza shell. An overly loaded pizza is top heavy and will get too soggy or be too difficult to slide back onto the grill.
Tip #5 - Pre-cook your ingredients. Meat and fish needs to be cooked. Rotisserie chicken should become your kitchen's best friend. Veggies - cook 'em on the grill for a that outdoor smokey taste and then top on the pizza. Pizza sauce made easy: Combine a large can of tomato puree or tomato sauce, a small can of tomato paste, 4 or 5 roasted and minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of Italian Seasonings toasted in olive oil, a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sea or kosher salt. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze in small batches and use as needed.
Tip #6 - Make extra dough and grill it all. It keeps better pre-grilled and you'll always have something on hand for a last minute meal.
Menu Ideas: Grilled or roasted chicken with garlic, lemon and rosemary on a pizza. Brush the shell with olive oil, top with chopped chicken and season with a bit of lemon zest, a few sprigs of rosemary and minced garlic. Top with Mozzarella cheese. Grilled vegetables - onions, roasted peppers and zucchini - either with or without pizza sauce. Top with a mixed shredded cheese. Pizza Margherita - brush the shell with olive oil, top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. When I made the pizza's, I pre-cooked four doughs - two whole wheat and two basil/pesto doughs, cut into a total of 12 pieces. I had three shells left over that went into the freezer. After I cooked the pizza shells, I grilled a few zucchini; two red peppers; a large Spanish onion (I hate raw onions but love them cooked, sauted, or my favorite, caramelized); and three chicken breasts, sliced thin into cutlets. I had on hand pizza sauce that I made, fresh rosemary and basil and two packages of shredded cheese - low-fat mozzarella and a Colby/Jack/Cheddar mix. This gave me a variety of options and I made up each pizza as I went along. The idea is to have a different taste in each bite and to use what you have on hand.

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