Saturday, June 13, 2009

Grilled Pizza

Fig.1. Grilled focaccia: chopped rosemary and garlic mixed with olive oil and sea salt.
Fig.2. Grilled Margherita: sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella finished with a light drizzle of olive oil.

If I had to choose one item or dish that I get asked about the most at any social gathering it would unquestionably have to be grilled pizza. I have been grilling pizza on my barbeque ever since I saw a television segment on Pizzeria AlForno, located in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1982, George Germon, confessed borderline pyromaniac, decided it might be fun to make pizza over hot coals. After much trial and error, he got the procedure down pact. Pizza guru, Ed Levine gives Germon and his grilled pizza high praise in his book, Pizza: A Slice of Heaven, stating, “Germon’s sparsely topped pizza is unique and absolutely wonderful. It’s crispy, chewy and just oily enough, a perfect confluence of tastes and textures.”
There is no universal set of instructions when it comes to grilling pizza; it changes depending on one’s grill. Always begin with a low heat setting on gas grills, and if using charcoal it’s important to wait until the coals become white, and even then, never set your dough directly over the coals unless you want a team of fireman storming into your backyard--which I believe is one of my wife’s fantasies.
The key to great grilled pizza is practice, but, once you get it right there’s nothing like it.


Turn on your BBQ and preheat on high for about 10 minutes.
Flatten out your dough (I buy my dough at my local pastry shop; also, if your dough is cold letting it come to room temperature will make flattening a lot easier.) Don’t make it too big, keeping it small will make it easier on you and small pizzas make great appetizers. Brush the dough on both sides with olive oil, with a pizza peel, (if you don’t have a peel use an upside down cookie sheet to move the pizzas around, and you can even serve the pizza on the bottom of the cookie sheet just like they do at Figs in Boston) place your dough on your hot, clean grill and immediately lower your heat to the lowest setting. Make sure there are no flare ups or hot spots under the dough; if there are, move your dough, or, cook over indirect heat—or better yet, invest in a new grill.

Fig.3. Don't try to move your dough as soon as you place it on the grill, let the grill do its work; and make sure your dough is oiled or it will stick.

Fig.4. After about 5 minutes the dough will firm up and be movable, I like to get it slightly golden before flipping it.

When the bottom of the dough turns golden and the grill marks are visible, turn over (at this point your dough will have firmed up and be easy to move around) and begin to dress your pizza. (It’s important to have all of your ingredients ready and keep it simple; I like to use 3 or 4 fresh ingredients, cured meats such as salami or prosciutto are O.K. but any raw meat, such as bacon or sausage needs to be cooked before you put it on your pizza.) Once the pizza is dressed close the lid and let the pizza cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. When done right, the pizza will be crispy on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside.

Fig.5. As soon as you flip the dough dress the pizza, have your ingredients ready to go. A proper mise-en-place is essential to getting it right.