Tuesday dinner: Grilled pizza napoletana

IMG_3349This was supposed to be dinner on Monday, but there was a cookout at the neighbor’s house and I wanted to see if it was possible for me to go two straight nights (and three out of the past four) without cooking. I was successful.

Today was the first foray into grilled pizza. I’ve heard about it and read a couple of pieces on the topic at Serious Eats by the genius J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. My primary concern was the dough sticking to the grill grates and I considered a pizza shell from a local bakery to avoid that problem. Unfortunately, or fortunately I suppose, the bakery near the house with shells was closed on Monday, leaving me to pick up a ball of dough at the highly vaunted and slightly overrated Columbus Bakery on Syracuse’s North side.

IMG_3337The prep here was two-fold. You really need a clean grilling surface so that way the char on the dough is burn and not leftovers from last week’s burgers. Regular scrubbing and a canola oil rubdown (for the grill, not me) took care of that. As for the dough, using enough flour while pressing it out is essential. I tried to stay in the area between copious and sufficient, because why do something right when you can overdo it?

IMG_3341As for topping it, I stayed toward fresh mozzarella, a can of drained and chopped San Marzano tomatoes and some torn basil from the garden. Using more seemed like a hassle for a weeknight as Lopez-Alt writes:

Topping a grilled pizza is a completely different beast from topping a regular pie. Why? Because once you add the toppings, they don’t get heated again like they would in a normal pizza oven. That means that every topping you use has to either be par-cooked, grilled, or thin enough that it’ll cook through via the residual heat in the pizza.

There is also a method how you top the pizza with cheese and sauce. You have go with cheese as the base layer, getting directly on the just cooked dough so it will melt. Lopez-Alt again:

Grilled pizza is made by laying a stretched piece of dough directly on the grates over hot coals, cooking the first side, flipping it, topping it in reverse order (that’s cheese, then sauce), then returning it to the fire to cook the second side. As the second side cooks, the cheese melts, and the sauce warms. It’s as simple as that.

It really was that simple. Once I got the grill over 700 degrees, it took about 8 or 9 minutes of hood-down cooking to make the pizza work.

There was a little more char than I would like, but it happened towards the center where the dough was thinnest. Otherwise, it was a nice change from my oven.

IMG_3334Grilled pizza napoletana
Inspired by Serious Eats

  • 1 lb. fresh pizza dough ball (make your own or find a good quality version from an Italian bakery)
  • flour
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 22 to 24 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, well drained and chopped in the can with a knife
  • 16 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin rounds and then halved
  • 1/4 cup grated romano cheese
  • handful of torn basil leaves

On a large floured surface or circular pizza pan, work the dough so it is in a rectangular or circular shape (which ever you prefer…I am terrible at shaping dough, so I got something that looked like my Congressional district). Use a generous amount of flour on either side to keep it from sticking to the grill.

IMG_3338Clean your grill thoroughly and brush the grates using a paper towel dipped in canola oil. Ignite your grill and bring the internal temperature of the cooking chamber to 600 or 700 degrees.

Arrange your grill for indirect heat. Gently lay the dough on the “cool side” and close the hood. Cook 2 minutes, or until the bottom has an even brownness. Brush with a thin layer of oil and flip. Immediately top with the cheese then the tomatoes. Close the lid again and cook 90 seconds.

IMG_3340Sprinkle the top of the pizza with romano cheese and basil leaves. Check the bottom of the pizza to make sure it does not char, using a spatula to rotate the dough or increasing/decreasing the grill burner heat if necessary.

Remove from the grill immediately and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes before slicing.

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