Pizza on the Grill Adds a Spin to BBQ Fare

PATIO PIE: Forget the ribs and burgers. Grilled pizza is a crispy alternative to the usual fare, and crusts can be as varied as the toppings. // Photographs by Cybelle Codish // Styling by Stephanie Potts

Michigan summers are all about the grill.

There’s something intoxicating about foods cooked over wood, coal, or gas flame. Pizza is no exception.

Perhaps pizza tastes better grilled because of the contrasts within a grilled crust: bubbly, chewy yet crispy, and lightly charred with distinct grill marks. Or it could be that the act of forming misshapen dough rounds, sprinkling favorite toppings over, and waiting just mere minutes for pizza nirvana is (nearly) instant gratification.

Grilled pizza is quite simple, so much so that perfection attainment can make us feel as if each of us is a pizzaiolo — pizza chef extraordinaire. And you can cook it in a flash; it takes just about two to three minutes for the crust. Once the toppings are added, grill for another three minutes.

It all starts with the crust. Dough made at home can be as easy or complicated as you like. You can knead the yeast dough by hand for a 15-minute workout, or you can cheat a bit and make a shortcut version with a food processor.

But why stop with traditional crust? Fresh baguettes, split lengthwise and slightly hollowed, make for definitive French-bread pizza, cooked a little slower at lower temperatures to ensure toppings are cooked just so without burning the bread. Tortillas and lavash make for crunchy, thin crusts that crackle with each bite. Mini pocket pitas can even be transformed into tiny grilled calzones. You get the idea.

Homemade sauce, made with summer’s fresh tomatoes, is sublime. So, too, is a sauce made with Italy’s most famous varietal tomato, San Marzano, known for its optimal sweet-acid balance. Of course, no sauce is all the rage. Pizza Bianca (white) means no tomato sauce at all. Olive oil, drizzled over the crust with shavings of cheese and herbs, is all that’s required.

Use as much and as many toppings as you can divine. Drizzle each finished pizza with really good extra-virgin olive oil and dive in.