Pizza on the Grill

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Story by Dave Eckert

Now that the short spring seems to be in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to turn out attentions to all things summer. For me, that means as many nights spent on the deck grilling as possible. This year, I plan on mastering a grilled item that has intrigued me for years – pizza.

I love pizza: deep dish, thin crust, New York-style, even St. Louis’ versions with their stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth provel cheese and cardboard-like crusts. I make my own dough, doctor it up with fresh ingredients, and cook it on a high heat pizza stone I bought last year. But what I haven’t done is take the pizza making process out to the grill. That will change this year. And with the help of a bunch of my closest pizza grilling buddies, I will succeed. My hope for this article is that you will too!

The first pal to weigh in on the grilled pizza process is chef Jasper Mirabile of Jasper’s Restaurant. Jasper knows a thing or two about Italian cuisine, so I figured pizza, even grilled pizza, was right up his alley. I was right. “For me, firing up the grill for a pizza just spells summertime,” Mirabile shared. Mirabile says he loves a classic Margarita pizza with sauce, mozzarella, and basil, but he said he enjoys getting creative too. “I mean, how can you resist a BBQ pizza with some smoked chicken, a homemade Kansas City-style barbecue sauce, and some shredded mozzarella,” Mirabile asked. You got me, chef? What time’s dinner?

Talk about creative. Listen to what chef Carlos Falcon of Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos in Kansas City, Kansas and Jarocho South in Kansas City, Missouri wants to try on the grill. “I’ve always wanted to do a pizza with blue crab meat, sea urchin, Oxaca cheese, and Epazote dust. It works like a dream in my head,” Falcon told me. I don’t know about you, but I’m not attempting that one at home, though I’d be a very happy guinea pig at either of the two Jarochos should Falcon give his dream life!

Theresia Ota of the Monarch Cocktail Bar and Lounge and Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar fame also favors a seafood pizza on the grill. “My favorite is clams with pancetta and garlic finished with plenty of olive oil, Italian parsley and chili flakes,” Ota said. Ota also supplied a bit of advice for grilling your pizza. “Most pizza doughs aren’t strong enough to go from dough right to pizza, and no one likes a flaccid crust where the ingredients just fall off,” Ota stated. “Pre-cooking the crust then rolling it out is a great way to get around that problem. Plus, it saves time while entertaining and gives you the consistency you want.”

One last bit of pizza on the grill advice comes from the Grill Mayor himself, Craig Jones. Jones is both a pizza dough fanatic and grill expert, so who better to wrap things up and make sure all of our pizzas on the grill are perfect? “There are two ways of cooking pizza on the grill. The first is to cook the crust directly over the flames until its brown. You then remove it, flip it over, top it, and return the crust to the grill for just a minute or two,” Jones advised. Jones says that’s more of a flatbread style of pizza. “Second, you can cook the pizza on a stone over indirect heat of 350 to 450 degrees. Heat the stone for at least 15 minutes and cook the pizza for 10 to 14 minutes with the lid closed,” Jones suggested.

As far as the dough is concerned, you can find all sorts of recipes for making your own with a quick Google search. I’ve also found fresh dough at both Trader Joe’s and Sprouts. I also just discovered that a number of local pizza places will sell you their fresh dough. I got some at Spin not too long ago, and it worked beautifully.

So, there you have it-some practical tips for making the perfect pizza on the grill and some creative ideas for what to top it with.

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