Grilled Pizza for Summer Saturdays

Minnesota weather is warming up our lakes for the Governor’s fishing opener in town this weekend. But we aren’t eating walleye. Saturday night is pizza night at our house.

Warm weather moves our tradition of home-baked pizza from our Tulikivi bakeoven to the grill. Yes, we grill our pizza. My husband and I (it takes two to make it right) taught ourselves to do it after discovering this trend almost 10 years ago. Wikipedia dates its origins to 1980 and says “it was inspired by a misunderstanding that confused a wood-fired brick-oven with a grill.”

We love to make our own pizza, so we use both—the wood-fired bakeoven and the grill. In summer we make Grilled Pizza. Here’s how:

First: Make a basic yeast dough for the pizza crust. My favorite recipe is the calzone dough from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.

1 cup wrist-temperature water
1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbs. honey or sugar
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 ½ – 3 cups flour
olive oil

Place the water in a bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, and stir in sugar until it dissolves. Stir in the flour and knead in a Kitchen-Aid mixer or by hand. Brush with olive oil and let rise in a warm place untili double in bulk (about 1 hour).

After it rises, I roll the dough out while the toppings are grilling, into a rectangle in a size that fits my grill. I transfer the dough to a large, rectangular baking sheet that is oiled with plenty of olive oil. You can also make smaller individual pizzas.

Second: Grill your toppings. Our favorite combination is grilled steak and onion with a variety of grilled vegetables. For the pizza in the picture I used sirloin tip steak, about ¾ inches thick, and grilled it on a hot grill for 5 minutes per side. I set it aside for a few minutes and then thin-sliced it.

I sliced one Vidalia onion into thick slices and laid them on the grill next to the meat for about 8 minutes total, turning once in between. I cut a medium zucchini in half lengthwise and laid it cut-side down on the grill for 10 minutes total, turning over when I flipped the meat.

I removed everything from the grill. Then, I cut the onion slices in smaller pieces, although sometimes I leave it in half onion rings. I bias-sliced the zucchini.

Third: Prepare herbed olive oil and mozzarella cheese. I pour about 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil into a custard cup and add a variety of herbs (usually thyme and basil), a little salt and possibly some minced garlic. I set this aside with a basting brush. Then I shred mozzarella cheese or open a package of pre-shredded mozzarella, less than two cups per pizza.

Fourth: Grill the dough. With all these ingredients prepared and close at hand, it is grill time. Wipe the grill rack with oil first. We carefully lift the pizza crust from the baking sheet directly onto grill rack. Don’t worry, it won’t fall through. After you lift the pizza on, you can turn the grill down to medium or medium high. Let it cook for 3-5 minutes. It will start to bubble up. If you have hot spots on your grill, you can rotate it around so the front is in the back and the back in the front.

Fifth: Time for topping it. Take the dough off the grill and transfer it, raw side down back to your baking sheet. Brush the cooked side with the herbed olive oil. Sprinkle with a light covering of mozzarella. Lay sliced meat, onions and other vegetables on top of the cheese.

Sixth: Back to the grill. Lift the pizza back onto the grill. You can turn the grill down to medium and shut the grill cover so that the cheese will melt. Continue to check it every two minutes or so, so that the bottom doesn’t burn. It usually cooks in about 3-5 minutes. If you want, you can turn it down lower and cook it longer to make sure the cheese melts.

SERVE with FRESH salsa and sour cream on top. For our salsa, we like a mixture of chopped fresh tomatoes, sliced green onions, mined cilantro, seeded and chopped jalapeno peppers, lime juice, and some salt.

This is creative cooking that is fun for entertaining. Here’s some other tips:

  • Practice; it’s worth the effort to get it right.
  • Two people working at the grill is preferable to reduce burnt fingers.
  • Guests like to stand around and watch, but get it right on your own first.
  • Fresh toppings work best.
  • Think beyond tomato-based sauces and pepperoni, unless it is a BBQ sauce with grilled chicken.


  1. Rebecca
    May 10, 2008

    Oh my brother grilled pizza once. That was the best pizza ever!

  2. Alison
    May 10, 2008

    Wow, you’re hard core. Our recipe: put tomato sauce on a flour tortilla, put shredded cheese on 1/2, fold in half, put on George Forman grill. Does that count as grilled pizza?

  3. TB
    May 10, 2008

    This is by far my FAVORITE thing in the world to eat! I’ll have to try adding the zucc. We have shocked many of friends as we put the dough on the grill. We’ve had some wonder why all the effort, and then they took a bite. We were even told to open up a restaurant with this as the only item on the menu! Thanks for teaching us, and yes, this is the one meal when both of us cook together, it’s fabulous!

  4. Rachel Corbett
    May 11, 2008

    Teresa has taught this one to me too! I first attempted it last summer and will continue this year. I always did small individual sized ones (because I was too nervous for a full-size), maybe this year I’ll brave the big one! I like it with herbed olive oil, mozz cheese, artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes and capers. mmmmm!

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