Men in Kitchens Recipe: Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

The game is on in a few hours, and you’re craving the ultimate in savory game day treats: a journey with Italy’s finest invention—no, not the Ferrari—the pizza.

Do you reach for the phone and dial up your local fast food pizza delivery joint? Hell no. That sorry, soggy slush of oil, cheese, and (hopefully) veggies has no place at your table.

Americans love pizza. One in eight of us will eat some slices today. And if you break it down by gender, that’s one in six American males. Be honest. You’re eating pizza right now, aren’t you?

So why are we content to stuff our faces with subpar slices at a rate of $37 billion per year?

We can do better. Let’s get started—the game is on soon.

The Perfect Crust

Traditional pizza dough is made with white flour or white bread flour. Not mine. Choosing a whole grain flour, particularly one that’s freshly milled, provides the body with far more nutrients than a refined white flour.

While both whole grain flour and whole grain bread flour produce an excellent crust, the bran and germ bits found in straight out milled whole grain flour can slice and dice your gluten, resulting in a crust without much volume (i.e., trapped gas from the yeast). Whole grain bread flour overcomes this by way of a higher protein content, resulting in more gluten and bigger volume, and—in my opinion—a tastier crust. Though I’ve had some excellent gluten-free pizza crust, it’s typically thinner and less awesome than the stuff we’re about to make.

You’ll get even more of a protein punch by picking up the kind of whole grain bread flour that’s made specifically for bread machines—it has the most wheat protein. As it’s mostly a matter of taste and texture preference, I’ve included two recipes below. Try them both if you’d like.

You’ll also notice that no sugar is called for in either recipe. Why, you ask? It has to do with the Maillard reaction. This is the chemical reaction that transforms bread into toast, gives cheese that awesome crust, and lends chicken skin an amazingly golden, crispy exterior. Basically, by way of the Maillard reaction, amino acids combine with sugars (carbohydrates in the grain) to create wonderful new tastes and textures. (It’s worth noting that the Maillard reaction is not the same thing as caramelization, which is basically just burning sugar.)

Your grill operates at super high temperatures, meaning that the Maillard reaction will happen faster across a larger surface area than a traditional oven, and more sugar means a faster reaction. Wood fired pizza ovens work the same way—many bake at 750°F.

Sugar is typically added to pizza dough for two reasons: to help speed up browning when it bakes and because sugar-treated dough will keep better in cold storage as it gives the yeast a little extra food.

If you plan on grilling your dough right away, there’s zero need for added sugar. If you’re gonna store the dough for a bit, or if you need to cook it at a lower temperature but still want that golden crust, you can add a small amount of healthy sweetener (1 teaspoon of honey is enough).

Traditional Crust

Ingredients
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup olive oil
1¼ cups room temperature water
2½ cups whole wheat bread flour (made for a bread machine)
1½ teaspoons instant yeast

Whole Grain Crust

Ingredients
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup olive oil
1¼ cups room temperature water
2¼ cups whole wheat flour or whole spelt flour
1½ teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon vital gluten (optional, for added elasticity)

Special equipment: standing mixer (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine salt, olive oil, and water in a bowl. Add in half the flour. Distribute yeast on top, then add remaining flour.
  2. Use your mixer’s paddle attachment to combine the ingredients. Once you have something resembling dough, switch to a bread hook attachment to knead and fold the dough on medium for 15 minutes. If you do the mixing by hand, double the time required.
  3. How do you know it’s done? Pull about an inch of the dough off and form a mini pizza crust. If it tears before you can make a nice surface thin enough to see light through, you have more kneading to do.
  4. When your dough is done, roll it into a ball. Make a clean, smooth surface all the way around, then tuck and roll the dough under itself again (like you’re going to turn it inside out). This will stretch the smooth surface across the whole ball of dough. Roll it tight and it’ll create a sort of balloon to capture all the yeast’s hard work. Coat this dough ball with a little bit of olive oil. Cover with a tea towel.
  5. Here’s the tricky bit. The longer your dough takes to rise, the more flavorful the dough will be. The quick method is to set out the dough for about an hour to let it rise. But if you have some time before the game, food-geek hero Alton Brown recommends refrigerating the dough for 18–24 hours. Sure, the yeast will go to work a bit slower, but the result will be delectable.
  6. Cut the dough ball into 3 equal parts, flatten, then re-roll into a tight-surfaced ball. Let these rest for 45 minutes.

Prepare Your Toppings

Meanwhile, it’s time to get prepping your other ingredients. You’ll have enough dough to make 3 large pizzas, and I’ve suggested a few ingredients below. The catch to grilled pizza is that you don’t top the pizza crust until after it’s been on the grill and flipped once. It requires patience, timing, and a good nose. (More on that later.) For now, pick your favorite toppings below and get to work:

Fresh Broccolini Cheese Pizza

These toppings call to mind broccoli cheese soup…but much less sloppy. To save yourself some time, pre-steam two cups of broccolini. It’s a bit more versatile than broccoli. And if you prefer, you can actually eat it raw on this pizza. Just make sure to chop it thoroughly.

Topping ingredients:
2 cups chopped fresh broccolini, steamed or raw, chopped
1 large onion, grilled and diced, half reserved
½ lb. turkey breast, grilled and diced
1¼ cups cheddar cheese, freshly grated
4–6 cloves garlic, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  1. Slice the onion into several rings and grill, keeping the ring segments together. Meanwhile, grill the turkey breast alongside the onion. Dice both when ready. Set aside half of the diced onion for the next recipe.
  2. Combine broccoli, remaining onion, and turkey.
  3. Mix garlic and olive oil. Set all ingredients aside until you’re ready to top the pizza.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

You might recognize the following recipe for awesome homemade barbecue sauce from my Men in Kitchens Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwich. (If you don’t, shame on you—pick up a copy for $5 right now!) Turns out, it makes a great pizza sauce, too.

Topping ingredients:
¼ cup muscovado sugar
¼ cup unsulphured molasses
½ cup honey
½ cup tomato paste
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup apple cider or rice vinegar
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1–2 tablespoons hot sauce (optional)
2 medium-sized organic, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
½ cup onions, grilled and diced (reserved from previous recipe)
1⅓ cup cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, freshly grated (mix to your taste preference)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine muscovado sugar, molasses, honey, tomato paste, Worcestershire, vinegar, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, and, if using, hot sauce. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Pour a small amount of barbecue sauce onto a small dish. Brush it on the chicken breasts. Place chicken directly on the grill. (Don’t get sloppy with this—the cleaner your grill is, the easier your pizza will be to flip.) When the chicken is cooked through, remove from grill and slice.
  3. Set aside remaining sauce, sliced chicken breasts, onions, and cheese until you’re ready to top the pizza.

Strawberry Fields Pizza

Strawberries balance out the salty flavor of mozzarella, making them a wonderful treat on a pizza.

Topping ingredients:
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup orange bell pepper, sliced
2 medium avocados, sliced
1 cup baby spinach
1⅓ cup mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  1. Combine the sliced strawberries, pepper, and avocados with spinach.
  2. Set aside along with all remaining ingredients until you’re ready to top the pizza.

Strawberry Fields Nutty Alternate Pizza

As you might surmise, you’ll be using the almond butter as the sauce on this nutty variant of the Strawberry Fields Pizza.

Topping ingredients:
1 cup strawberries, sliced
⅓ cup sliced almonds or pecans
½ cup unsalted almond butter
1 cup baby spinach
1⅓ cup mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
½ tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  1. Set aside all ingredients until you’re ready to top the pizza.

Fire Up the Grill and Roll Out the Dough

Got all your ingredients set aside? Grand. Now follow these instructions for rolling out and grilling each ball of dough:

  1. Heat up the grill to at least 500°F.
  2. While the grill heats, flatten and stretch the dough, rotating constantly, until you have a decent-sized pizza crust (about 14–16 inches). It won’t be perfectly round, and that’s OK.
  3. Brush grill with a small amount of olive oil, then place the pizza crust down on the grill.
  4. Close the lid and turn the gas down to medium. Here’s where your nose comes into play—if you smell a little char, but not tons, it’s probably ready. At this point, it takes about 2 minutes for the crust to turn golden brown.
  5. Brush the raw side of the dough with a tablespoon of olive oil. Flip the dough.

Now we’re ready to top this side of the pizza (see specific instructions for each pizza below). You’ll have to act quickly. The more organized you stay, the better your experience will be. I’d even recommend starting out with just one of the recipes and giving the crust a go to see how it behaves on your grill before you attempt all three.

For the amount of toppings on the following pizzas, 2–3 minutes is probably all it takes. Use your nose to smell for char as it cooks. You’ll know it’s ready when the cheese is melted and bubbly on top.

Grilling the Fresh Broccolini Cheese Pizza

Brush the olive oil and diced garlic mixture onto the pizza—this will serve as a makeshift sauce. Place the chicken, broccolini, and onion mixture on top, liberally spacing the ingredients around the crust. Coat the whole thing with cheese. Close the lid and cook 2–3 minutes.

Grilling the BBQ Chicken Pizza

Brush the barbecue sauce onto the pizza, but don’t go crazy. The more sauce you use, the longer it’ll take the cheese to melt, and the more burned the bottom of your pizza will get. Place the chicken and onion mixture on top, liberally spacing the ingredients around the crust. Coat the whole thing with cheese. Close the lid and cook 2–3 minutes.

Grilling the Strawberry Fields Pizza

Brush the olive oil onto the pizza. Place the veggies and fruit on top of the crust, spreading liberally. Coat the whole thing with cheese. Close the lid and cook 2–3 minutes.

Grilling the Strawberry Fields Nutty Alternate Pizza

Spread the almond butter onto the pizza. It may melt as you go. This is OK, just work quickly and don’t panic. Place the spinach, nuts, and fruit on top of the sauce, spreading liberally. Coat the whole thing with cheese. Close the lid and cook 2-3 minutes.

Let each pizza rest for a time before slicing and serving. As the cheese cools, it’ll settle into the nooks and crannies and You. Are. Not. An. Animal. Behave, give the cheese time to do its work, and then dive in.

How’d you do?

Got any other great summer toppings you’d recommend? Yellow squash and peaches? Zucchini, cranberries, butternut squash, and almonds? Brussels sprouts, artichoke, and turkey? Let me know in the comments!

Photo from iStock/thaddeus_griffin

Nick Armstrong

Nick Armstrong is owner of WTF Marketing and co-author of Men in Kitchens: A Good Day to Dine Hard.

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