How to Make Pizza on an Outdoor Grill this Summer

Location shot of a cutaway of a Weber barbeque cooking a pepperoni pizza

It’s summertime—the weather is warm and you want to cook outside, whether it’s at the park or in your own backyard. Did you know that making pizza on a charcoal or gas grill is possible? We love grilling, which is why we decided to perfect this technique for Modernist Pizza. As it turns out, a grill is a fun (and an impressive) alternative for making homemade pizza.

In this post, we detail everything you need to know when it comes to making pizza in the great outdoors: the tools you’ll need, the pizza styles that work best on a grill, and step-by-step instructions so that you can master the technique. If you have a portable outdoor pizza oven, we’ve got you covered. We include our favorite tips and tricks for seamlessly using these ovens as well.

Grilling Pizza

There are some limits when it comes to grilling pizza, and not all recipes are up to the task. We tested a number of doughs while working on Modernist Pizza to see which cook best on a grill. Thin-crust, Neapolitan, New York, and artisan recipes grill well, but we recommend using a gas grill for these options. You can find our Thin-Crust recipe here.

Our favorite grilling recipe is the Brazilian Thin-Crust pizza dough, which you can find on page 114 of the book. This pizza can be grilled on both a charcoal and gas stove, can be rolled out very thin, is easy to handle, and gets nicely crisp after grilling. If you do make this pizza, we recommend replacing the flour in the recipe with high-gluten flour. We also recommend following the master recipe just until it’s time to divide it. At that point, divide the dough into 150 g pieces and shape them into balls before proofing for the recommended time.

Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Beforehand, keep your sauce, cheese, and other toppings at room temperature so that they get hot/melt faster.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pizza with toppings.
  • Don’t grill pizza side by side with meat or anything that might cause flare-ups.
  • If you’re traveling beyond your backyard, keep your portioned dough in a cooler in a lightly oiled plastic container. Even though we don’t recommend oiling all the pizza dough when you are working in a kitchen, we do in this case because it makes it much easier to transport and use. Take the dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings out of the cooler 2 hours before you want to eat (if it’s hot out, the dough might need less time to proof).
  • Bring a cutting board 30–33 cm / 12–13 in with you, for both assembling the pizza and cutting it after it is baked. (You can assemble the pizza on the peel, but you must be quick so it doesn’t stick.)

Grilling Pizza on a Charcoal Grill

Our recommendation: Try the Brazilian Thin-Crust Pizza.

The final photo of the charcoal grilled pizza.

The Tools You’ll Need:

  • A charcoal grill and coals
  • Rolling pin
  • Olive oil spray
  • Pre-portioned dough in a cooler in a lightly oiled plastic container
  • Sauce, cheese, and toppings
  • Peel
  • Cutting board

How to Grill Pizza on a Charcoal Grill:

1. Prepare a charcoal grill. Once the coals are ready, move them so they’re on only half the grill. You’re aiming for temperatures above 480°C / 900°F on the charcoal side and about 205°C / 400°F on the non-charcoal side.

A charcoal grill with coals moved to one side.

2. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to an oval/rectangular shape. It should be 30–35 cm long by 10–15 cm wide by 6 mm thick.

3. Dock the dough (3:12), and spray the surface with olive oil.

The image shows docking the dough.

4. Place the dough on the non-charcoal side of the grill. Close the lid and cook for 45 sec–1 min.

5. Remove the dough from the grill.

6. Flip the dough over so that the back side is facing up and apply the sauce, cheese, and toppings.

Flipping over the cooked the dough before applying the sauce, cheese, and toppings.

7. Place the topped pizza back on the grill, off-center toward the charcoal side.

The pizza is being placed back onto the charcoal grill.

8. Keeping the lid up, cook for 1 min, then rotate the pizza 180° and cook for 1 min more. If the toppings still need additional time, move the pizza to the cooler side and close the grill lid for no more than 30 sec at a time.

The pizza is now fully cooked and has now been removed from the grill. Someone is placing additional toppings on top of the pizza.

9. Remove the pizza from the grill using a peel.

Grilling Pizza on a Gas Grill

Our recommendation: Try our Brazilian thin-crust, thin-crust, Neapolitan, New York, and artisan dough recipes. We use thin-crust pizza in these instructions.

Grilled thin-crust pizza with thin-crust tomato sauce, pizza cheese, Italian sausage, gorgonzola, and toasted pine nuts.

The Tools You’ll Need:

  • A gas grill and gas-grill supplies
  • Olive oil spray
  • Preportioned dough in a cooler in a lightly oiled plastic container
  • Sauce, cheese, and toppings
  • Peel
  • Cutting board

How to Grill Pizza on a Gas Grill:

1. Prepare a gas grill by turning all heat settings to high.

2. Once the grill has reached 370–425°C / 700–800°F, turn off one side of the grill and keep the other side on high heat.

Spraying the surface of docked dough with olive oil.

3. Shape the dough according to its master recipe. Dock the dough, and spray the surface with olive oil.

4. Place the dough oiled side down on the high-heat side of the grill and cook for 1 min. While the pizza is cooking, spray the top surface with olive oil.

The dough is placed on the grill and sprayed with olive oil.

5. Flip the dough over and cook for 1 min.

6. Remove the dough from the grill and apply the sauce, cheese, and toppings.

The cooked dough is being removed from the grill.

7. Place the topped pizza on the nonheated side of the grill. Close the lid. Cook for 6 min, checking the pizza every 2 min.

The crust has now been topped with cheese, sauce, and sausage and placed back on the grill.

8. If the pizza still feels a little flabby after 6 min, move to the high-heat side for an additional 30–90 sec, keeping the grill lid up to crisp the pizza.

9. Remove the pizza from the grill using a peel.

Baking Pizza on a Portable Ovens

A pizza is cooking inside of a portable pizza oven.

If you want to step up your car-camping game or simply love making pizza al fresco, there is a class of portable ovens that will allow you to do just that. While some of these pizza ovens offer the option of heating with wood chips, we prefer to use propane because it gets hotter and maintains a more consistent temperature.

Our tips for grilling pizza apply to outdoor pizza ovens as well: keep your portioned dough in a cooler in an oiled container if you’re traveling beyond your backyard, temp all of the components 2 hours before baking, and have a cutting board on hand for assembling your pizza.

When you are done baking pizzas, be sure that the oven is completely cool before putting it away. The propane tank should be shut off and disconnected. If you used wood chips, they need to be completely extinguished and disposed of responsibly.

The Tools You’ll Need:

  • A portable oven
  • Pre-portioned dough in a cooler in a lightly oiled plastic container
  • Sauce, cheese, and toppings
  • Peel
  • Cutting board
  • Optional pizza screen

How to Use a Portable Oven:

1. Quickly assemble the pizza on the peel so that it doesn’t stick. Reshape the pizza, if necessary, before loading it into the oven. (You can also use a pizza screen to make loading the pizza into the oven easier. Be sure to coat the screen with a spray oil before using. Keep the pizza on the screen the entire time that it bakes, and rotate it. You can also use parchment paper instead of the screen, but not if you are using wood chips to heat the oven, because it will burn.)

A pizza is assembled on the peel.

2. Load the pizza into the oven.

Putting raw pizza inside of the portable oven.

3. Once the rim starts to blister and brown, rotate the pizza.

Pulling a fully cooked pizza out of the portable oven.

4. Spin the pizza as needed to ensure that it bakes evenly.

Our team would love to see your outdoor adventures, so please tag us in your social media posts if you end up taking your cooking outside this summer.

Are you interested in learning more Modernist Cuisine tips and tricks? Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media for more techniques, recipes, and announcements.

Bake Fresh Flatbread On Your Grill This Summer

It’s no secret that our team loves to fire up the grill—so much so that we even found ways to bake fresh bread with one while working on Modernist Bread. Gas and charcoal grills (and infrared grills, which aren’t common but can also be used for this purpose) aren’t the first option that comes to mind for baking bread. It turns out, however, that you can successfully bake breads and flatbreads on grills. Summer is the perfect time to expand your grilling repertoire by giving it a try. Read on to learn how to bake fresh naan on your grill in a few easy steps.

Naan is flatbread with a long history and a lot of fans. The soft flatbread is traditionally eaten in South Asia and often accompanies a meal. There are many varieties of naan—some are stuffed with meat or vegetables, others are filled with fruit or nuits, and some are topped with ingredients in much the way pizzas are. Naan is baked in a tandoor oven, which requires you to build up as much intense, concentrated heat as possible inside the oven’s cavity. The oven is well insulated and made of dense materials that absorb and retain heat for extended periods of time. This type of oven has been around for centuries and is meant to cook food quickly—slight charring is even expected because the oven is so hot.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to mimic a tandoor with a grill. All you need is a basic home grill, a baking stone or steel, and some really hot embers. You can cook more than one piece of dough at a time if you can fit it on the baking stone or baking steel. The dough cooks so quickly that you can cook it as needed and eat the bread warm.

How to Bake Flatbreads on your Grill

Step 1: Light the charcoal. Allow it to heat until it is burning as hot embers.

Step 2: Place a tava directly on the grill, and heat it, with the grill lid closed, to a least 290 °C / 550 °F, about 30 minutes. A tava baking dome is made expressly for baking flatbreads. Alternatively, you can use a baking stone, baking steel, or wok (make sure that it has a metal handle). The wok or tava can be placed on the grill facing up or down. Use an infrared surface thermometer directly on the baking surface to determine the temperature. If you don’t have this type of thermometer, make sure to preheat for the recommended time. While you can use the thermometer built into most grill lids, those only measure the temperature of the air directly in contact with the thermometer probe.

Step 3: Once the baking surface has reached the target temperature, carefully place the dough on the tava, wok, baking steel, or baking stone. You do not need to cover the grill again. Bake the naan until it has brown pockmarks and the dough itself has turned a creamy white.

Step 4: Flip the naan over. Once it has browned on the bottom side, remove it from the grill.

Step 5: Repeat the process with as many pieces of dough as you have.