How to Make Grilled Pizza
10 tips for success and 18 recipes to try this weekend
Warm, crisp-bottomed and a touch smoky, homemade grilled pizza is hands-down one of the tastiest things you can cook outdoors. Novelty, and the sheer fun of cooking over fire, make it a must-try technique, but it’s also a great excuse for some home-grown weekend entertainment.
While grilling pizza isn’t difficult, understanding a few concepts can make the difference between a ta-da experience and one that involves scorched or undercooked dough, or toppings that tumble off into the fire. Prep the dough for easy cooking, have everything you need right at hand, heat the fire to the right temp: These are the basics for how to grill pizza. Oh, and throw in a little flair at the end. But we’ll get to that.
1. Yes, you can start with pre-made pizza dough
While you’re perfecting your skills — and hey, even after you’ve got grilled pizza down pat — there’s no need to stress over kneading and proofing dough. Grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods sell fresh, high-quality pizza dough in balls, and it freezes well, so you can keep it on hand. (That said, if you want to try a homemade dough recipe at some point, go for it.
Rachel Cooks smears grilled store-bought pizza dough with creamy ricotta cheese and adds browned pork sausage and asparagus for a five-ingredient recipe.
2. Keep the toppings simple
Less is more when you’re grilling homemade pizza. You want to taste the gently smoky crust, but more importantly, you want pizzas that are easy to maneuver, not so loaded down they’re floppy or falling apart. So add toppings with a light hand. Options can be quite basic to a bit more involved: Tomato sauce (or not); one or two kinds of cheese like mozzarella and Parmesan; sliced mushrooms, grilled vegetables, or lightly cooked sliced potatoes; and maybe some pepperoni or crumbled cooked Italian sausage.
Instead of the ricotta that Rachel Cooks likes for her white pizza, What’s Gaby Cooking goes for mozzarella cheese and crumbled goat cheese and adds browned mushrooms and slivered red onion.
3. Do you need a pizza stone to grill pizza? Get the right tools
While you can put a pizza stone on a grill and it works beautifully, you can get excellent results without a pizza stone (by cooking directly on the grill grate), so we're going to skip it here. In addition to a grill, of course, you need a couple of rimless baking sheets (or the back of sheet pans) or a pizza peel, or parchment paper to easily transfer shaped dough to the grate. (See Shape and prep the crust, below.) You also need a wide grilling spatula and grilling mitts. Long tongs may be helpful for retrieving any pizza toppings that escape.
As for the grill, you can make pizza on a gas grill and you can make pizza on a charcoal grill; both work well. In the Fine Cooking recipe here, cookbook author Elizabeth Karmel explains how to use different set-ups for each kind of grill to create the perfect conditions for her toasty potato, pancetta, and Gruyère pizza.
4. Get organized before you start cooking
Grilled pizza goes from raw to done in just a few minutes. That means you need to plan ahead if you want to catch it at golden-brown, not charred. With that in mind, be sure to have your crusts shaped, toppings and tools ready, and everything at hand next to the grill before you begin.
5. Shape and prep the crust (and then try our clever parchment-paper trick)
Lots of grilled pizza recipes have you roll out dough on a floured board, transfer it a floured rimless baking sheet, and slide it from there onto the hot grill. Instead of a baking sheet, though, some cooks like to use parchment paper. Here's our secret technique: With the dough on parchment paper, simply flip it dough-side down onto the grill (with the parchment paper up). Give it a couple seconds for the dough to start cooking and stick to the grates a bit; that makes it easy to then peel the parchment smoothly off the top. Check out these two variations on the idea:
Good Housekeeping pats out the pizza dough on a floured surface, transfers it to the parchment, and oils the top of the dough before flipping it onto the grill. If your market doesn’t carry sopressata (an Italian dry salami) feel free to sub prosciutto.
My personal favorite way to shape pizza dough is with the method described by Ambitious Kitchen in the post that the Best Grilled Pizza recipe links to. It uses parchment paper as the prep surface, and adds a generous coating of olive oil to the mix. Ambitious Kitchen coats both the parchment paper and her hands with olive oil and simply presses out the dough to the correct thinness. She lets the dough warm to room temperature beforehand, which means it pats out into a flat disk effortlessly. She then flips it onto the grill as above. The extra oil makes for a nice crisp crust on her margherita pizza.
6. What temperature do you grill pizza?
Crispy on the bottom, cooked through, chewy, and nicely browned with minimal char — that’s the goal with grilled pizza. To get there, go for medium-high direct heat (about 425°F) or consider a two-zone fire with hotter and cooler areas, as in the potato pizza above.
The Spruce Eats takes the straight approach with medium-high heat for their Grilled Fig and Arugula Pizza. The delicious combo of sweet grilled figs, nutty manchego cheese, and peppery arugula is what sets this pizza apart.
7. Start with a clean grate
To keep pizza from sticking, be sure to give the hot grates a scrub with a wire brush before you set the dough over the fire.
8. Grill pizza in two stages
My biggest tips for easy grilled pizza are to cook it in two stages and add the toppings off the heat. First grill the dough on one side with no toppings. It should look cooked, not raw, on the underside, and you'll have some light grill marks. Then take if off the heat and take a pause (for a few minutes or even a few hours; keep this flexibility in mind should you decide to host a pizza party at some point). When you’re ready to press "go," turn the pizza cooked side up and arrange the toppings. Then set it back on the grill. No overcooked crusts, no singed eyebrows.
Epicurious takes you through two-step grilling with an exciting pizza topped with the spiced chili paste called harissa, plus a refreshing salad.
9. Cover the grill
You’re turning your grill into an outdoor pizza oven, so it makes sense to keep the lid down as much as possible to capture the heat and help it circulate.
Sauteed mushrooms, nutty fontina cheese, and sweet caramelized onions add up to one of my favorite pizza combinations.
10. Throw in some flair
Maybe your pizza got a little misshapen during rolling. Maybe the edges got a tad scorched. No matter. You’ve taken it off the grill and it smells divine. To add a final bit of drama, chop up some herbs such as fresh basil or Italian parsley (The Pioneer Woman goes for rosemary) and scatter them on top. Add a generous grind of pepper, some shaved Parmesan, even a drizzle of good olive oil. Pizza doesn’t get any better than this.
More grilled pizza ideas
If you’re wondering how to grill pizza on a premade crust, see the recipes below for using naan bread or other flatbread. We’ve got options for how to make a gluten-free pizza crust with a gluten-free baking mix or cauliflower. You’ll also find ideas here for summery heirloom tomato, red pepper, and grilled corn pizzas, and even pizza for breakfast.
Expand your grilling repertoire
Practice makes perfect when you're learning new skills, and lucky you — you get to eat the results! Here are some ways to improve your skills and experiment with more ideas on the grill this summer.