Pizza cooked and consumed out-of-doors is one of life's great pleasures. To bite into a perfectly cooked pie, with a crackling bottom crust and fragrant tomato sauce still bubbling on top, is to experience as close to a perfect food as you can make anywhere. When you consider that making the pizza yourself costs less, tastes far better, and is ready much faster than going out or having it delivered, the comparison comes down solidly in favor of the home-made variety.
There is a common misconception that making pizza at home has to be messy and difficult - let's dispel that myth today, shall we? We will begin with the idea that baking outdoor pizza is more of a 'technique' than a recipe in the traditional (list-of-ingredients) sense. This is because pizza itself contains multiple recipes for sauces, doughs, and toppings. How each should be prepared is itself the subject of passionate arguments, and all pizza lovers have their favorites.
Our purpose is to show what is possible in terms of cooking pizza on a stainless steel Little Griddle brand outdoor griddle - what goes on it is up to you. With that in mind, cooking directly on the grill is a tried-and-true method for cooking pizza outside, but there are some challenges.
Pizza dough is floppy and soft, and those properties are magnified by stretching it out and placing wet toppings on it. Placing a large, floppy item on a searing hot grill grate is not for the timid, but this is where the griddle becomes the best possible piece of cookware in making great outdoor pizza.
The reason that Little Griddle outdoor griddles make such perfect pizza is that you can prepare the pizza directly on the griddle, and then take the griddle to the grill, eliminating the need to slide the pizza directly onto the grates. No mess, no spill - just perfect outdoor pizza, every time.
To begin, you need to select ingredients, starting with fresh pizza dough. Making your own dough is not all that difficult, but in this case we let a local supermarket do the work for us. One pound of dough feeds about four people. For sauce, we went with about eight ounces of pre-cooked tomato sauce from our grocer's refrigerator case, and for cheese we used six ounces of a pre-mixed "four-cheese" blend of Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Provolone.
When we top, we keep it pretty simple, and in this instance we used four ounces of American prosciutto-style dry cured ham and a few leaves of fresh arugula. We also added a drizzle of good quality extra-virgin olive oil for moisture and flavor. This is what it looks like when it is ready to grill:
Here is how to make this pizza:
1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat - about 375 degrees. The key to this recipe is getting the grill hot enough to cook the top of the pizza, but not so hot that the bottom burns before the top is finished.
2. While your grill is heating, prepare your griddle by making sure it is clean. Coat the griddle cooking surface generously with extra virgin olive oil.
3. With oiled hands, take your ball of fresh dough and place it on the center of your oiled griddle. Use your fingers to press the dough out to to a uniform thinness and into a round or rectangular pizza shape. You wan the dough to be between 1/8" and 1/4" thick.
4. With your dough prepared, apply sauce in dollops on the dough surface and spread to coat dough with a thin, even layer of tomato sauce.
5. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over the pie, and then add the prosciutto and arugula. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of toppings.
6. Take the griddle to the pre-heated grill. Lift the hood, place the griddle in the middle of the grill surface, and close the lid. Allow the pizza to cook undisturbed at 350-400 for ten minutes, and then check the pizza every two minutes. The pizza should be ready in approximately 15 minutes, when the cheese is melted, the sauce bubbles, and the bottom is an even brown color.
7. To remove your pizza, use a wide-bladed metal grill spatula to lift the pizza from the griddle and carefully slide it to a waiting wooden cutting board. Allow the pizza to cool slightly before eating. If the pizza sticks to the griddle surface, don't panic! Gently work the spatula into an edge between the bottom crust and the griddle surface, and slide it around under the pizza to remove any stuck spots before removing the pizza.
This recipe is the exception to our usual recommendation to always preheat our griddle prior to cooking, and it works because starting with a cold griddle allows the top of the pizza to get a head start in cooking over the bottom. In our opinion, the even conductive heat of a stainless steel griddle works even better than a pizza stone to create a crispy bottom crust with a delicious, chewy top crust. Why? The hot air inside the grill melts the cheese and bakes the top while the griddle gradually heats up over the grill, developing a delicious crispy bottom crust, while the relatively low heat keeps the top slightly browned with a fantastic "chew." Essentially, the griddle becomes the worlds best "pizza steel." How good is this crust? You can be the judge:
As you can see, the bottom is well-browned and crispy, the middle has risen beautifully, and the top is melted and delicious. The best part is that start-to-finish this gourmet pizza took 1/2 hour to make, at a cost of about $10. It was superb, and now we are hungry again, so we are off to make another one.
We recommend that you buy a griddle and make one too! With a backyard barbecue grill and a Little Griddle griddle, anyone can wow their friends and family every night of the week.