Our Tips for the Crispiest, Crunchiest, Charred-est Pizza Ever

No brick oven here! Learn how to make your best-ever grilled pizza.

July 16, 2021
Photo by Ty Mecham

We love ordering pizza from our favorite local slice joint or Neapolitan-style spot, but the taste of homemade pizza—especially our favorite grilled pizza recipes—is something truly special. A lightly charred crust drizzled with olive oil, a sprinkle of basil leaves, a swirl of marinara sauce, and a generous amount of ooey-gooey mozzarella cheese is as simple and delicious as can be. Of course you can go all out with truffle-flavored ingredients or meat-lover toppings galore. If you’re looking for an upgrade to your summer dinner (after all, who doesn’t want a new and improved menu for entertaining family or friends?), make homemade pizza on the grill. Ahead, we’ll tell you how to do just that like a pro.

How to Grill Pizza

Any great pizza—whether wood-fried, brick-oven baked, or grilled—starts with the perfect pizza dough. You can make your own with your favorite recipe or buy store-bought from a local pizzeria. Even if you love a deep-dish or Sicilian-style pizza, now’s not the time to make an extra-large pie. Instead, Paula Disbrowe, author of Food52’s Any Night Grilling: 60 Ways to Fire Up Dinner (and More), recommends stretching the pizza dough out to ½ inch thick or less. “Place the stretched crust on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour, then add your toppings right before you slide the pizza onto the hot grates,” says Disbrowe. For an extra-crispy crust, grill one side of the pizza dough first, add toppings like pizza sauce, pepperoni, meatballs, clams, or an assortment of different cheeses to the charred pizza crust, and then slide the pie (uncooked side down) back onto the grill for an additional few minutes.

Disbrowe recommends using a high heat and waiting for the grill to reach 600°F before placing the pie down on the grates. Try to avoid repeatedly opening the grill, as this will lower the temperature, just as it would with a regular oven, causing the pizza to take longer to cook. Generally pizzas will be done in as little as 2 to 3 minutes and no more than 5 minutes or so. But use your eyes, not the timer, to decide, says Disbrowe.

Fear not—Disbrowe says that she’s never experienced a pizza crust falling between the grates of the grill. “The hot grates will begin to cook the crust the second you place the dough on the grill. As the crust cooks, it will dry and "release" from the grates, making it easy to remove a topped pizza,” she explains. As an added precaution, oil the grates generously before placing the uncooked dough over the fire. If you experience flare-ups on the grill, Disbrowe recommends that you close the lid quickly and/or adjust the vents on your grill to snuff out the oxygen that's fueling the fire.

If you’re wondering how to tell if your pizza is fully cooked, look for a pizza crust that is an even golden-brown color all over with a few darker spots and shows off those picture-perfect grill marks. Another telltale sign that your homemade pizza is ready to serve is when the cheese is melted completely.

The Best Tools for Grilling Pizza

The only tools you need for grilling a pizza are, first, a hot grill (duh). A charcoal or gas grill will work fine, but just choose one that is large enough to accommodate a 12- to 14-inch pizza. A wooden pizza peel will help you to easily transfer the dough on and off the grill, just as you would use if you were baking the pizza in an oven. Long-handled tongs (ones that you would use for any other grilling project), like this pair from the Food52 shop, will also assist, as you lift the edge of the crust to check the doneness of your pizza (one of Disbrowe’s pro tips).

Have you ever tried grilling pizza before? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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Any Night Grilling is your guide to becoming a charcoal champion (or getting in your grill-pan groove), any night of the week. With over 60 ways to fire up dinner—no long marinades or low-and-slow cook times in sight—this book is your go-to for freshly grilled meals in a flash.

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Former Food52 Staff Editor