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updated: 5/16/2012 2:55 PM

Fired up: Grilling adds flavor to pizza

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  • Try grilling the BLT pizza for a flavor you just can't find from a regular oven.

      Try grilling the BLT pizza for a flavor you just can't find from a regular oven.
    Courtesy of Tauton Press

  • Grilled Tomato Pizza with Basil and Prosciutto. See recipes for Grilled Pizza with Sausage and Broccoli Raab and a Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough to use on the grill or in the oven at dailyherald.com/entlife/food.

      Grilled Tomato Pizza with Basil and Prosciutto. See recipes for Grilled Pizza with Sausage and Broccoli Raab and a Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough to use on the grill or in the oven at dailyherald.com/entlife/food.
    Courtesy of Kathy Kingsley

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    Courtesy of The Pampered Chef

 
 

If you've watched any home improvement shows lately -- the ones where a crew swoops onto someone's property and transforms a humdrum backyard into a luxe oasis -- you might think that everyone is including a pizza oven as part of their outdoor kitchen.

What you might not realize is that you already have an outdoor pizza oven on your deck or patio.

I'm talking about your grill. Be it gas or charcoal, your grill can produce incredibly flavorful pizzas.

"In Italy, they cook pizza in wood-fired ovens. The Americanization of that concept is pizza on the grill," says Kathy Kingsley, American food expert for About.com.

Kingsley credits a Rhode Island restaurant, Al Forno, for putting grilled pizza on our country's culinary map some 15 years ago. As the trend has moved from coast to coast, chefs and home cooks have embraced the idea because, well, who doesn't like pizza? And who doesn't like grilling?

"Grilling pizza is a very forgiving method," Kingsley says, explaining that the dough can be rustic and free-form, and cooks can stoke the fire with hardwood chips to add extra flavor.

Yet grilling pizza is not without its challenges.

Let's start with the dough. Kingsley, as well as grilling gurus Elizabeth Karmel and Bob Blumer (authors of Fine Cooking's "Pizza on Grill" recipe magazine), recommend fresh dough. That can be dough that you make at home, or dough that you purchase from your favorite pie palace or pick up from the refrigerated case at the grocery story. In a rush, you can use prepared pizza dough (the type that comes in a tube), but don't tell them I told you so.

Anyway, working the crust can be a bit tricky.

Don't roll the dough any more than 10 inches (give or take) in diameter; any larger and it will be difficult to move about the grill. You want the crust thin enough to crisp, but not so thin that it sags between the grates.

My solution to a sagging crust is a grill pan. The Pampered Chef makes a round pan with holes (see photo above) specifically for grilling pizza; those holes allow the flames to kiss the dough. The pan is light enough to easily move around the grill's surface and sturdy enough not to buckle in the heat. I suppose you could also use a perforated tray made for grilling vegetables.

These experts all suggest firing the dough on at least one side before adding any of the toppings.

"Within about a minute the dough will start to puff," Kingsley explains. Use long-handled tongs and a spatula to rotate the dough so it doesn't char too much in any one spot.

If you're entertaining, Kingsley suggests cooking one side of several crusts. Let guests pick their own toppings and then finish the pizzas on the grill.

Once the toppings are on, close the lid to allow the heat to melt the cheese and the smoke to warm and infuse the ingredients. If you can, do this over indirect heat; or remember to open the lid to rotate the pizza occasionally.

Clean and well-oiled grates are crucial to success. You don't want to tear the tender dough. I brushed the pizza dough with garlic-infused olive oil before it hit the grill, adding yet another dose of flavor to the finished product.

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