Short of moving to Naples, nothing can elevate your pizza-eating experience more than learning how to grill pie on your own backyard barbecue. What makes the mind-blowing result even more attractive is that it takes so little effort and so few tools to produce. The essence of grilled pizza is a crispy, smoky, slightly charred crust, which looks and tastes unlike anything you could ever get from a box.
Although gourmet modifications are limitless, grilled pizza has a simple heart, with four key components: dough, sauce, toppings, and cheese. Most pizza dough can be transformed into a heavenly crust with the help of a generous splash of quality olive oil, a dusting of coarsely ground cornmeal, and the heat of your grill. A buck or two will buy you a perfectly serviceable ball at your local pizza joint or grocery store.
For dedicated souls who want to make dough from scratch, mix a cup of lukewarm water, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and a teaspoon of sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle a packet of dry yeast on top. After five minutes, mix three cups of flour with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and mix it into the water 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough feels elastic. Knead it on a well-floured surface for one minute (any longer and it will become tough), then place it in an oiled bowl with a drizzle of olive oil on top, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles in volume, about an hour. Punch it down and knead till smooth. (You'll have enough for two pies.)
The short time it takes to grill will only warm the toppings, so make sure they're either edible raw (e.g., cured meats, olives) or precooked. Sprinkle a handful of cornmeal on your work surface and use a rolling pin or wine bottle to roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Embrace the organic shape and brush both sides with olive oil.
Picking up the dough at two adjacent corners, lay it flat like a tablecloth on the grill over direct medium-high heat. (Fear not; the dough won't fall through the grate.) Close the lid and cook for three minutes, until the bottom is golden brown. Remove the crust from the grate and cover the grilled side with sauce and toppings. Now return the pizza to the grill and cook over indirect heat (with the burners directly beneath it turned off), with the lid closed to let the circulating heat work its magic, until the bottom is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly, about seven to 10 minutes.
Here are five pies to try.
Credit: Christopher Hirsheimer / Courtesy Taunton Press