Rustic. Wood-fired pizza. Grilled to crisp, yet tender perfection. A rather appetizing thought, whether it be date night for two, a pie shared amongst a hungry crowd over the tailgate, or deep in the backwoods camping fireside with copious amounts of craft brew and tall tales to tell under the midnight moon.
That said, no matter your loyalties to Chicago, New York or that pub-style pie from your local pizza joint, the best pizzas in the world remain prepared today as they were hundreds of years ago — in hand-crafted brick ovens. These ovens emit intense degrees of enveloping radiant heat from an infrared wood source which crusts the exterior of the soft, tender dough while melding and caramelizing one topping into another. Queue salivating.
On the other hand, for those of us not living within a reasonable commute to Windy City or Big Apple, our kitchen ovens tend to the be appliance most often leveraged when attempting to recreate our favorite pies at home. But because an ovens will never emit the degree of necessary infrared heat, the consistency in texture and taste will never match up to that of the wood-fueled brick oven.
This is exactly the reason I turn to a high quality, stainless steal, fire-breathing outdoor infrared grill. One of my favorite pizza recipes is a new, smoky twist on an Old World Italian classic — Grilled Pizza Margherita. This pizza is not only incredibly elementary in preparation & picturesque in presentation, but by using a combination of fresh herbs, natural cheeses and dough with a hint of smoky hardwood essence and intense indirect infrared heat – bite after bite takes you back to the pies you devoured on the cobblestone streets of Sicily, Modena & Tuscany.
Follow the instructions below. Crack a beverage. Have fun. Be creative. Grill on. And stay hungry!
- 1 ball pizza dough, about 16 ounces, store bought or homemade
- Olive Oil
- Marinara sauce, store bought or homemade
- Heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Fresh mozzarella cheese, torn
- Prosciutto, finely sliced and pulled into strands
- Fresh leaves of thyme, oregano and basil
- Parmesan cheese, shaved, to garnish
- Salt and freshly ground peppercorn, to taste
- Preheat grill using the 2-zone cooking method 20 minutes prior to grilling, see notes section below. Then toss a large handful of hardwood chips directly over the grates or apply 1 perforated tin foil packet of wood chip over the direct heat grill grates to integrate rustic smoky flavors into the dough.
- Meanwhile, roll out the room-temperature dough on a floured surface to ¼-inch thickness. Also, prepare toppings and organize for quick access during grilling. Set aside.
- Brush dough with oil and dust with cornmeal. Lay dough directly over grates, searing the first side with lid open over direct heat, for 3-5 minutes or until dough rises and edges begin to brown. Flip dough over onto the cooler indirect zone grill grates and immediately and dress with sauce, tomatoes, cheese and prosciutto. Close the grill lid and allow the pizza to bake until cheese bubbles and dough is cooked through.
- Remove pizza from grill and place on cooling rack to rest for 3-5 minutes.
- Splash with olive oil. season with salt and fresh ground peppercorn, to taste. Garnish with fresh leaves of basil, thyme and oregano. Finish with a dusting of shaved Parmesan. Slice and serve.
1-burner grill – Turn the grill to high, then leverage the warming shelf, lined with tin foil, removing the meat from direct contact with the grill grates.
2-burner grill – Turn right side of the grill to high & leave the left side off.
3-burner grill – Turn far right side of the grill to high, the middle to low-medium and the left side off.
4-burner grill – Turn far right side of grill to high, middle right to medium, middle left to low, & leave the far left zone off.
2-Zone Grilling Surface on Charcoal:
Ignite the charcoal in a chimney starter. When coals are glowing red, dump coals onto the grill floor. Rake coals, pushing ⅔ to one side of the grill, slanting the remaining coals to the opposite side of the grill, establishing high-piled 1 hot zone & 1 cooler zone. For every hour of cooking, add a half-stack of coals.
Hardwood Smoker Packs: Tear off 3-4 8″ sheets of tin foil. Pour a handful of your favorite hardwood chips onto the foil in a mound. Wrap the tin foil around the chips creating a package-of-sorts. With a knife or fork, perforate the top of the packet allowing smoke to billow from the package when the chips are heated. *Note: Never soak your woodchips – 0 value-add to process.