grilled pizzaUntil a few years ago, I always preferred the pizza from my native state of New York to anything I found in California. The pizza in North County San Diego, where I grew up, was inedible as far as my family was concerned, so we always made our pizza at home. My mother’s pizzas were unparalleled by anything we could get at a local pizzeria — thick crust with a tangy tomato sauce laced with anchovies and black olives. When I moved to San Francisco years ago, I loved that I could finally buy a decent pizza. Right now, Oliveto, Pizzaiolo, and Dopo are my East Bay neighborhood favorites, with Pizzeria Delifina taking the gold medal for my all-around favorite local pie. Yet although these restaurants and many others offer wonderful Roma and Neopolitan-style pizzas, I still often make my own pies at home, especially now that I’ve discovered grilled pizza.

Yes, I am now grilling my pizzas. This may sound odd, but using your grill actually makes more sense than baking your pizza in an oven. Although people will disagree about toppings — sauce or fresh tomatoes? Anchovies or plain cheese? — it is universally known that you need a very hot oven to make a great crust. A home oven only reaches a max of 500 or, if you’re lucky, 550 degrees, while most grills get up to 600 degrees or hotter (mine gets up to 650 degrees). You’ll never replicate the intense radiant heat from a professional pizzeria oven at home, but using a barbecue grill will get you pretty close. Used with a pizza stone, your backyard grill becomes the perfect home pizza oven.

I also have a new dough recipe which is worth mentioning. I used to make my pizza dough the old fashioned way, kneading it by hand and then letting it rise in a bowl. But I recently tried a recipe from the New York Times Sunday Magazine and loved it. This recipe lets the paddle on your mixer do all the kneading, so it’s quick to make and pretty mess free. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can still knead the dough, but if you do have one, this recipe is so easy there’s no reason to ever buy pre-made dough again. Best of all, the final result is a moist pizza dough that crusts beautifully.

My new homemade pizza of choice is one made with wilted arugula, prosciutto, and Brie cheese. I love how the earthy and slightly peppery arugula tastes with the salty pork and oozy puddles of buttery cheese. It’s truly a match made in pizza heaven.

Why make your own pizza?

1. Homemade pizza is much less expensive than restaurant pizza, especially for a family of four. When I buy two pies at a local restaurant, I often spend over $40, but making two larger pizzas at home usually runs under $20 (and if I use only cheese, basil and tomatoes, I spend less than $10).

2. Making pizza is a great way to get your kids involved in the cooking process. My kids love to make and stretch dough, and slather toppings on their own pizzas. They take great pride in their finished pies and usually lick the plate clean.

3. Pizza night is just way more fun when everyone gets sticky dough on their hands.

pizza on the grill

Tips for baking a pizza on a grill:
1. Preheat the grill with the door closed at the highest possible setting.

2. Place the pizza stone on the grill before you turn on the heat or the stone will crack.

3. If you don’t have a peel, buy one. Pizza peels are a necessary investment if you don’t want to burn yourself.

4. Make sure your pizza peel is nicely floured before laying down the dough as you want the pizza to easily slide off. If the dough sticks to the peel, your toppings will fall onto the stone while your pizza stays on the peel. Before you try to slide the pizza onto your hot stone, give the peel a jiggle. If the pizza moves, you’re in good shape. If it seems stuck, carefully lift the edges of the dough and flick some flour underneath until you get some movement.

5. If you accidentally slide the pizza halfway off the stone, you can let it cook for a couple minutes and then the dough will be hard enough for you to pull it all back onto the stone without any permanent damage.

6. Your pizza will bake in 5-7 minutes on the grill, so be careful not to leave it on too long.

7. Always keep the grill closed when baking your pies

8. When checking for doneness, lift the pizza off the stone a bit to see if the bottom is getting too crisp. On a grill, the hot air doesn’t circulate but instead radiates upward so you can easily burn your crust if you’re not careful.

9. If using a gas grill, you may need to turn the heat down after cooking more than a couple of pizzas to avoid burning the dough.

Arugula, Prosciutto, and Brie Cheese Pizza

Arugula, Prosciutto, and Brie Cheese Pizza

Makes: 1 pizza

1 pound pizza dough (half of the NY Times Magazine recipe) already risen and then refrigerated for at least a half hour
2 cups fresh arugula
2 cloves of garlic smashed and chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped prosciutto
6 oz Brie (about a half-wedge) cut into ½ slices

1. Heat your grill with your pizza stone inside. For gas grills, heat on high for about 10 minutes. For charcoal grills, heat coals until white hot

2. While grill is warming, heat a large pan on medium-high on your stove top. When pan is hot, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic and arugula and mix. Turn off heat and cover for 3-5 minutes, or until arugula is wilted.

3. Flour a solid surface, such as a stone or wooden counter top or large cutting board, and shape your pizza. You can stretch the dough or use a rolling pin to shape it into a 12 to 14-inch round.

4. Place dough on a floured pizza peel and drizzle the dough with remaining olive oil. Evenly sprinkle the arugula and prosciutto on top and then add the Brie slices. Dust the top with a dash of sea salt.

5. Jiggle the dough on the pizza peel to make sure it’s mobile and then place on top of the now hot pizza stone. Cover your grill and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is crisp and the top is lightly browned.

6. Slice and serve.

Grilled Pizza 30 April,2009Denise Santoro Lincoln

  • Greg McNeal

    Wow! I can barely wait to try this. I’ve often wondered if my pizza stones would survive the grill and I shrink at the cost of an outdoor pizza oven. These recipes and ideas look too wonderful for words. You’re so right about bought pizza; restaurant and grocery store pizza can’t hold a candle to homemade. Some of the things I have discovered that are especially good are crushed or ground chipotle from the cellophane packed spice racks at Hispanic markets instead of crushed pepper. I dedicated an old coffee grinder as a spice mill. By grinding and storing the chipotle seeds separately from the pepper itself. I end up with spice that has two distinctly different colors and capsicum heat levels, but both have that unique chipotle smokiness. Fontina, Greyere, and Reggiano are extraordinary for their browning and sumptuous flavors on white and cheese pizzas. Leftover baked potato that is sliced and sautéd briefly in rosemary with olive oil makes a remarkable pizza topping, especially with smoked poultry. Investment in a fresh herb mill allows you to experience herbs in a way that is unequaled. Garden fresh marjoram or fennel milled over the top of an out-of-the oven pizza has a herbal perfume that raises the sensory level to new heights. Contrary to the chemist’s view, salt is not salt! French grey sea salts from different sources and sel de fluers add new dimensions of texture and flavor on pizza or what ever you are creating.

    Take Care,


  • Hi Greg — Great comments and great ideas. I’m interested in the idea of grinding the chipotle. I have chipotle powder, but it tastes distinctively southwestern to me, although I’ve never used the seeds. I’ll have to try that.


  • Amelia

    This looks great, but could you re-check the recipe? Think there might be some olive/garlic confusion? I’d love to try it. Here’s the part I mean:

    2 olive cloves smashed and chopped

  • Thanks, Amelia. Yes, I definitely meant 2 “cloves of garlic”!

  • Sophia

    Local cookbook author and food writer Diane Jacob co-authored a grilled pizza cookbook last year which is a great source for recipes and tips. I too have turned to the grill for my pizzas. I picked up a couple of rectangular grill pans, marketed for vegetables. They have small holes which allow my bread-style dough to cook evenly. I usually keep the cover closed and cook the pizza at about 400 for 12 to 15 minutes.It comes out crisp on the bottom but pillowy closer to the toppings. I’ll never turn on the oven for pizza again.

  • JAB

    great post. I just made my own pizza the other day in the oven, I wish I had a grill I would definitely use it. I love New York pizza too and I live in LA now and have dedicated my blog to finding the perfect slice in LA. I think you might be interested – check it out.

  • thanks for posting this. haven’t ventured to the grill yet since it’s rainy and cool in the bay area this weekend, but did make pizza tonight using a version of the nytimes recipe. i’d been making very thin crust pizza for awhile and this was a little more, well, filling. enjoyed it quite a bit.

    i’m curious about using a pizza stone on the grill. we have a gas grill that gets quite hot, and wonder if putting the stone on top of the grill with all burners blazing could somehow damage the stone. we currently use the stone in an oven that gets to about 555º, but our grill can exceed 700º.

  • Denise Lincoln

    Hi bbebop — Our pizza stone wasn’t damaged during our multiple pizza grilling episodes. I think the key is heating the stone with the grill (i.e., put a cold stone into a cold grill and never putting a cold stone into a hot grill) and then let it cool down with the grill. That said, I once had a pizza stone (a supposedly high-quality one) crack in the oven for no apparent reason. I figure that, essentially, it’s just a rock and so should be okay.

    Also, glad to hear you liked the dough recipe 🙂

  • Charlie

    Very nice article on grilling pizza. Instead of baking stones (I broke one to many) I used unfinished clay tiles bought from home depot. 1$ a each. They would crack, but was able to get many cookings out of them. Home Depot stopped selling them, so I was on a mission to find an alternative. I found 6×6 tumbled slate (4 each) works very well. One thing to be aware of is to at first heat them slowly. There may be air pockets and one might “pop”. Just buy more and you will find good solid stones. I have pizza parties often. Friends and family love my pies 🙂

  • Hi Charlie — Your method for using tiles reminds me of how Julia Child used tiles in her oven to bake bread (although her tiles were made of asbestos!). What a great way to capture heat in stone without spending a lot of money. My pizza stone luckily has not cracked or broken (after many uses), but I think this is because I always heat it slowly in the BBQ or oven (as you suggest).

    Sounds like you’ve got a great method for grilling pizza. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  • Josh B.

    hey there. what sort of grill are you using? im undecided as to which grill i want to buy, and im doing all sorts of research. i would love to know. thanks!

  • Hi Josh — We’ve had a standard Weber gas grill for about 6 years now and it’s never failed us.


Denise Santoro Lincoln

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise’s Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.

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