I Don’t Own A Pizza Oven, but I Do Have a Grill
Don’t tell the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, but you don’t actually need a pizza oven to make great pizza. All you need are peak summer ingredients and a grill. Grills get ripping hot, their grates in particular, which help crust get crunchy and charred. OK, technically, pizza ovens get a bit hotter than the average backyard grill. Roman pizza ovens hang out a little over 600ºF, and Neopolitan ovens clock in at over 700ºF; gas grills on the other hand max out around 500ºF, and while some charcoal can technically reach upwards of 700ºF, most home manipulations will heat to roughly the same temperature as gas. Still, those grates are mighty hot—way hotter than your oven—and while you may not get perfect leoparding (the little spots of char that pop up on pizza crust), I know you’ll be pleased with the end result.
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Start with ingredients: You can make your own pizza dough, but I typically leave that up to the professionals at my local Italian market. Stretch 8-ounce balls of dough into oblong circles and place on oiled sheet pans. For sauce, I like to use a can of crushed tomatoes (if you have access to in-season tomatoes, you can chop or grate those) infused with a couple cloves of grated garlic and plenty of salt. Grab your favorite toppings (pickled onions or peppers, pesto, cooked crumbled sausage, thinly sliced cured meat, fresh vegetables and herbs, they’re all fair game) and tear up some fresh mozzarella. Have everything prepped in bowls set on sheet pans near the grill, because the next part goes quickly.
Now you’re ready to grill. Prepare a charcoal grill for direct and indirect heat; for gas, heat half the grill to 450º and leave the burners off on the other side of the grill. Preheat the grill for 15 minutes, then brush the grates very clean. Oil the grates well. Working one pizza at a time, carefully plop one dough circle on the hot side of the grill and cook until it releases from the grates, 30 seconds-1 minute. Gently flip the pizza with heat-safe tongs or a spatula and cook the other side for another 30 seconds-1 minute. Scootch the dough over to the cooler side and top with sauce, cheese, and toppings (save fresh herbs for after cooking). Cover the grill and cook until cheese is melted and crust is cooked through, allowing the residual heat from the hot side to cook the pizza without burning the crust, about 8 minutes.
No grill you say? If you can find a grill pan or even a large cast iron skillet you’re totally fine. Preheat the pan over medium on the stove for 10 minutes, and preheat the oven to 500ºF. Grease the pan with a tablespoon of oil, then drop in the crust. Layer on sauce, cheese, and toppings, and cook for 3-5 minutes. Slide the entire pan into the hot oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes. This pizza might end up slightly lacking in that classic charred flavor the real grill imparts, but you’ll be too busy snacking to notice.