Serious Entertaining: A Grilled Pizza Party
We've written enough about grilled pizza in the past that I don't really need to go into detail here, but here are the basics:
Why should I grill pizza? Because it's the easiest way to get crisp, charred, crackly, poofy, smoky, crunchy, perfect pizza at home without resorting to hacking your oven or grill or building your own pizza oven. Pies are ready in minutes, making it the ideal way to feed hungry friends in the backyard.
How do I do it? Good question. Luckily, we have a step-by-step guide for you. Basic process: make dough. Let dough rise. Roll dough. Brush with oil. Place on hot grill. Cook first side. Flip. Add cheese (cheese on the bottom so it melts). Dot with sauce (if using). Add toppings. Cook second side. Slice. Serve. Wait for compliments to roll in.
And what should I top it with? Another fine one! Really the sky's the limit. The only rules to remember are that you can only use pre-cooked toppings and to keep it simple. Unlike an oven-baked pizza, grilled pizzas don't see much heat on their top surface after topping, so toppings that are raw will stay raw. You must cook them through in advance. Luckily, you've got a grill right there, making par-cooking vegetables tasty and delicious.
Here are a few recipes to get you through an entire grilled pizza dinner, soup to nuts.
While the Dough Rises
Your dough takes some time to rise and to come to good rolling temperature, so you'll want to keep your guests well fed while you wait.
Regular hummus is great, but in the spring, I prefer to make this green pea version; Sweet and perfectly dippable—almost as dippable as this Spicy Carrot Dip (hint: it can double as a pizza topping...).
There are a lot of poor deviled eggs in the world. These are not them. Vinegary, packed with olive oil, and sharp with mustard and chives, they are my go-to recipe, an adaptation of the incredible ones from The Spotted Pig in New York. You'd better make an extra big batch, because they WILL go fast.
Can't decide whether you want pizza or burgers? Why don't you start your party off with this ooey, gooey, ready-in-a-few-minutes cheeseburger dip?
Finally, when the grill is finally fired up, why not go for a round of grilled figs stuffed with goat cheese? After turning their noses at the cheeseburger dip, all of your snooty friends can turn around and admire how fancy you can be. (That is, until they look down and notice you're not wearing pants.)
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The Main Course
Once your dough is done risen, light up your coals, get your fire hot, spread'em out, and start assembling pies. I find it easiest to go one at a time, as juggling two crusts on the grill at the same time is a bit difficult. They cook fast enough that by the time the first pie's disappeared, a second one shouldn't be far behind. Even though each pizza's pretty large, I find that guests like to try and taste every topping combination, so I cut my pies party-cut style into little squares so that you can just grab a bite or two before waiting for the next one to emerge.
Grilled pizzas have lightly crisp, thin crusts, so like a good Neapolitan pie, they shouldn't be over-topped. Just one or two carefully selected ingredients make for the best balanced pies. You can find some of my topping suggestions here.
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On the Side
It's always nice to use the grill to its maximum potential once you've got it fired up, so I usually try and make my side dishes directly over the hot coals as well. Once of my favorites is a nice Grilled Romaine Salad. Romaine is hearty enough that it retains crunch even after it's charred, giving you an awesome hot-cold, deep-but-light contrast. Ranch dressing doesn't hurt either.
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You've already got the grill fired up and the dough is ready to roll, so why not go the whole nine yards and eat grilled pizza for dessert as well?
The easiest way: Grill your dough, flip it over, and slather it with Nutella while the second side cooks. It's like a grilled version of the Nutella pizza from Luzzo that we love.
Other great combinations: dollops of ricotta, toasted almonds, and a drizzle of honey, a crazy delicious combo we first tasted at Don Antonio. My friend Josh recently made me a strawberry, basil, and gouda pizza that was out of this world good. Visit the farmer's market, see what looks tasty, then let your imagination run wild.
What are your favorite sweet or savory grilled pizza toppings?
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.