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.

Great grilling with 3 tricks to tender, tasty beef

Associated Press

You don’t have to go to some high-end steakhouse or shell out $200 a pound for ultramarbled Wagyu beef from Japan to get flavorful, tender beef for your next barbecue. Just keep three crucial factors in mind: the grade, the grain and the aging. A well-informed purchase and a couple of easy prep steps can make the difference between a so-so steak and one that sends your eyeballs skyward.

Step No. 1: buy the best meat that fits your budget. To do that, you need to know a bit about how beef is graded in the U.S. The system is based mostly on the age of the animal and the amount of marbling in the meat.

“USDA prime” is the highest grade. Only about 3 percent of cattle meet the criteria, so most prime-grade meat is snatched up by fancy restaurants and specialty butchers before it makes it to supermarkets. Below that is “choice,” followed by “select.” Anything below these is best avoided for steaks, ribs and roasts. In Canada, the equivalent grades are called “Canada prime,” “AAA,” and “AA.”

Though the visible fat content of red meat is easy to measure, researchers have found that it accounts for only about 5 percent of the variation in meat tenderness. The Australian government uses a much more reliable grading system that takes into account other important factors, including what the animal ate, how it was treated, and the pH of its muscles, which reflects how humanely it was slaughtered.

If cattle are exhausted, shivering, injured or highly stressed at the time they are killed, their muscles deplete their natural fuel store of glycogen, and the pH of the meat is abnormal as a result. Beef that is unusually dark, firm and dry often is a product of poor slaughterhouse practices.

A grade stamped on the package is one useful piece of information about the quality of the meat, but it isn’t the end of the story. Some of the best beef is not graded at all; it is sold by small producers who can’t afford to pay the high costs of having a USDA grader on site. In other cases, official-sounding labels — such as Certified Angus Beef — are not grades, but rather brand names used by loose associations of ranchers to make their meat appear distinctive.

Step No. 2: Whether you spring for a prime tenderloin or a select flat-iron steak, you can get the most tenderness out of the cut if you pay attention to the grain. Just like wood, meat is a collection of long, skinny fibers. If you cut the meat along the fibers, it’s like sawing boards out of a tree trunk: the resulting pieces are very strong and hard to chew. Instead, slice across the fibers; the tougher the cut, the thinner the slices should be. Each bite will then fall apart more easily and release more of its juices and flavor.

Step No. 3: For a real steakhouse experience, try aging your meat before you cook it. The best steakhouses use special humidity-controlled rooms to dry-age beef for a month or more. The drying process concentrates sugars, protein fragments, and other flavorful molecules to yield unparalleled taste. But because the steaks shrink as they dry and much of the exterior has to be trimmed off before cooking, this is typically an expensive step.

Here’s a shortcut: brush Asian fish sauce onto the steak (use about 3 grams of sauce for every 100 grams of meat). Put the coated steak in a zip-closure bag, then remove the air by submerging the bag in water while holding the open end just above the surface (the water forces the air out of the bag). Seal the bag, then lift it out of the water. Refrigerate the sealed meat for three days before you cook it. You may be surprised by how much tenderer the steak becomes and by the depth of its meaty, umami flavor.


Photo credit: Nathan Myhrvold / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Making your grill (or broiler) shine this summer

Associated Press

Compared to other basic cooking techniques, grilling is hard: the temperatures are high, timing is crucial and slight differences in the thickness or wetness of the food can dramatically affect how quickly it cooks.

Bad design choices by equipment makers—kettle-shaped grills with black interiors, for example—make it harder still. But if you’re willing to do some simple arithmetic or break out a roll of foil, you can reduce the guesswork and get better performance from your grill. Similar tricks work for broiling; after all, a broiler is basically just an inverted grill.

Every grill has a sweet spot where the heat is even. You know you’re cooking in the sweet spot when all of the food browns at about the same pace. In most situations, the bigger the sweet spot, the better. One notable exception is when you need to reserve part of the grill for cooking some ingredients more slowly or keeping previously cooked food warm.

If you find yourself continually swapping food from the center of your grill with pieces at the periphery, that’s a sure sign that your sweet spot is too small.

You can get an intuitive feel for where the edge of the sweet spot lies by looking at the heat from the food’s point of view. I mean that literally: imagine you are a hotdog lying facedown on the grill. If the coals or the gas flames don’t fill your entire field of view, then you aren’t receiving as much radiant heat as your fellow wiener who is dead-center over the heat source. If the falloff in the intensity of the heat is greater than about 10 percent, you’re outside the sweet spot.

You can use the table below to estimate the size of the sweet spot on your own grill. The 26-inch-wide gas grill on my deck has four burners with heat-dispersing caps that span about 23 inches. The food sits only three inches above the burner caps, so when all four burners are going, the sweet spot includes the middle 16 inches of the grill. But if I use only the two central burners, which are 10 inches from edge to edge, the sweet spot shrinks to a measly 5.4 inches, too small to cook two chicken breasts side by side. I can use this to my advantage, however, if I have a big piece of food that is thick in the middle and thinner at the ends, such as a long salmon fillet. By laying the fish crosswise over the two burners, I can cook the fat belly until it is done without terribly overcooking the slimmer head and tail of the fillet.

Sweet spots are narrowest on small grills, such as little braziers, kettles, hibachis, and the fixed grilling boxes at a public parks. If the sweet spot on your grill is too confining for all the food you have to cook, you can enlarge it in several ways.

If the grill height is adjustable, lower it. Bringing the food a couple inches closer to the heat can easily expand the sweet spot by 2 to 3 inches. The effect on the intensity of the heat is less than you might expect: typically no more than about a 15 percent increase.

If your grill is boxy in shape, line the sides with foil, shiny side out. Your goal is to create a hall of mirrors in which the heat rays bounce off the foil until they hit the food. A hotdog at the edge of the grill then sees not only those coals that are in its line of sight, but also reflections of the coals in the foil-lined side of the grill.

The foil trick unfortunately doesn’t work well on kettle grills because their rounded shape tends to bounce the radiant heat back toward the center instead of out to the edges. But if you can find a piece of shiny sheet metal about 4 inches wide and 56 inches long, you can bend the metal into a reflective circular ring and build the coal bed inside of it. All food within the circumference of the ring should then cook pretty evenly.

Jury-rigging a grill in this way wouldn’t be necessary if grills came shiny on the inside and we could keep them that way. But, presumably because nobody likes to clean the guts of a grill, the interiors of most grills are painted black, the worst possible color for a large sweet spot. A black metal surface doesn’t reflect many infrared heat rays; instead it soaks them up, gets really hot, then re-emits the heat in random directions.

Someday, some clever inventor will come up with a self-cleaning grill that has a mirror finish inside, and the sweet-spot problem will simply vanish.



For grills, measure the width of the coals or gas burners (including any burner caps that disperse the heat). Then measure the distance from the top of the coals or burners to the upper surface of the grill grate. Find the appropriate row in the table to estimate the size of the sweet spot, centered over the heat source. This table assumes a nonreflective grill.

To calculate the sweet spot of an electric broiler — which is the ideal vertical distance between the top of the food and the broiler element — measure the distance between the rods of the heating element. Multiply that measurement by 0.44, then add 0.2 inches to the product. For example, if the rods are 2.4 inches apart, the sweet spot is 1.25 inches from the element to the top of the food.

Width of heat source (inches) Height of the food above the heat source (inches) Width of grill sweet spot (inches)
14 3 8.1
14 4 7.7
14 5 7
16 3 9.9
16 4 9
16 5 8.3
20 3 13.2
20 4 12
20 5 11.20
23 3 16.1
23 4 15
23 5 13.3
29 3 21.8
29 4 19.7
29 5 18.9


Photo credit: Ryan Matthew Smith / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Why food goes from almost done to overdone so quickly on the grill

Associated Press

Ever tried toasting hamburger buns on a grill? It takes uncanny timing to achieve an even medium brown across the buns. Typically, they remain white for what seems like far too long. Then it’s as if time accelerates, and they blow past toasted to burnt in the time it takes to flip the burgers.

Barbeque_Hamburger Cutaway_VQ6B8473 With LAYERS

The same phenomenon is at work when you toast a marshmallow over a campfire: wait and turn, wait and turn… then brown, black and — poof! — it’s aflame. The problem is perhaps most acute when cooking shiny-skinned fish on a grill or under a broiler. Once the skin turns from silver to brown, the heat pours into the fillet, and the window of opportunity for perfect doneness slams shut with amazing speed.

Anytime you cook light-colored food with high heat, inattention is a recipe for disaster. But the physics here is pretty simple, and once you understand it you can use several methods to improve your odds of making that perfectly toasted bun, golden half-melted marshmallow, or juicy grilled fillet.

At high temperatures — about 400 F (200 C) and up — a substantial part of the heat that reaches the food arrives in the form of infrared light waves rather than via hot air or steam. The higher the temperature, the bigger the part that radiant heat plays in cooking. But this form of heat interacts with color in a profound way.

The bottom of a hamburger bun looks white because it reflects most of the visible light that hits it, and the same is true for infrared heat rays. There is a reason that white cars are popular in Phoenix — they stay cooler in the sunshine, which is full of infrared radiation.

A silvery, mirror-like fish skin is even more reflective than a white car. About 90 percent of the radiant heat striking it simply bounces away. Because only around 10 percent of the energy sinks in and warms the fish, cooking initially creeps along slowly but steadily.

That changes rapidly, however, as soon as the food gets hot enough to brown. It’s like changing from a white shirt to a black shirt on a sunny summer day. As the food darkens, that 10 percent of energy absorbed rises by leaps and bounds, and the temperature at the surface of the food soars.

So browning accelerates, which increases heat absorption, which boosts the temperature; it’s a vicious circle. By the time you can get a spatula under the fillet to flip it over, it may be almost black, reflecting just 10 percent of the heat and sucking in 90 percent.

There are at least three ways around this problem. The simplest is to stare, hawk-like, at the food and lower or remove the heat as soon as browning starts. That works fine for marshmallows but is not always practical in the kitchen or backyard barbecue.

In some cases, you can darken the color of the food at the start, for example by slathering it with a dark sauce or searing it in a very hot skillet before putting it on the grill. This is a way to make a fish steak cook more like a beef steak, which is fairly dark even when raw and so doesn’t experience such a dramatic shift in heat absorption. This method generally shortens the cooking time.

Finally, try piling other ingredients, such as sliced onions or zucchini, between the food and the coals or the broiler element to moderate the intensity of the radiant heat. Cooking times will lengthen — and you may end up having to toss out the sacrificial buffer ingredients if they get charred — but that window of opportunity will stay open longer.


Photo credit: Ryan Matthew Smith / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

For a Great Summer Feast, Cook Ahead, and Bring Extra Fat

Holding time is the key to pasteurization and safe eating.

Summer feasting can be great fun, but it poses a number of challenges for the cook. You may find yourself in an unfamiliar kitchen or even cooking at a park, on the beach, at a campsite in the woods, or in a friend’s backyard. The grill at hand may lack some of the features of your own, and you may have to share it with other cooks. Cookouts often involve making lots of portions and feeding impatient children.

The best way to ensure fast, delicious results despite all these hurdles is to prep and precook your food at home so that all you have to do at your destination is to warm it up and put on the final touches.

Cook chicken, steak, and other proteins sous vide before you leave the house. Allow the bags of food to cool while still sealed, and then pack them into your cooler with ice. To reheat the food, simply unbag it onto a hot grill and sear it quickly. (Our new book, Modernist Cuisine at Home, also reveals some tricks for improvising sous vide setups while tailgating or picnicking.)

Precooking the food sous vide is convenient, and it shortens the wait for those kiddies. More important, the precision of temperature that sous vide cooking offers allows you to safely cook every portion safely and to exactly the degree of doneness you want. Never again will you have to serve rubbery chicken or tough steak just to be certain it is safe to eat.

Eating Safely in the Great Outdoors

The key to safety is knowing how long to cook at a given temperature to achieve full pasteurization. If you are cooking chicken breasts, for example, you can heat them to a core temperature of as little as 55 °C / 131 °F. Once the center of the thickest part hits that target temperature, hold the chicken at that temperature for 40 minutes to pasteurize the meat. That temperature is not as high as many people are used to, and some prefer their chicken closer to medium-well than medium-rare. That’s easy to accommodate: just choose a higher cooking temperature. The greater the core temperature, the shorter the pasteurization time; see the table for some suggested holding times for chicken breasts and thighs.

Whenever you cook food sous vide in advance, it is crucial to chill it soon after cooking and to keep it chilled until you reheat and serve it. The food should never spend more than four hours total in the “danger zone” of 4 °C to 60 °C / 40 °F to 140 °F. So bring plenty of ice if you are going on a long car ride, or if you won’t be grilling for a while. And don’t forget to bring a bottle of hand sanitizer along; even pasteurized food can become unsafe if you touch it with dirty hands.

Capture That Grilled Goodness

Generations of grillers have been trained to fear flare-ups, but that is misplaced. Certainly you don’t want flames charring your food, but most of the flavor from grilling actually comes from fat drippings, which ignite into flames and then travel back to the food as smoke. If you are quickly reheating precooked food, slow-cooking over coals in tin foil packets, or grilling veggies or other low-fat foods, it’s hard to capture much of this characteristic grilled flavor. An easy work-around is to season your meat and veggies with pressure-rendered fat. You can find a recipe at the bottom of the page.

Pressure-rendered chicken fat adds flavor as it drips into your heat source and rises back up as smoke.

You can use pressure-rendered fat when cooking on gas or charcoal grills, grill pans, or even in tinfoil packets. Just remove the food from the sous vide bag and brush it generously with the fat. Grill meats first, typically for about one minute per side. Then add vegetables and fruit as desired. Leave fruits, such as peaches or pineapple, on the heat long enough that the sugars in them caramelize. Remember, don’t panick when you see small flames flare-up and lick at the food: you want the smoke they generate to carry its flavor onto the food. But do keep a spray bottle on hand in case the flames get too high.

Leave Only Your Footprints…

Remember to never leave a grill, fire, or coals unattended. Spread the coals out and cover them with sand if necessary before leaving. Gather up all the plastic bags and other waste from your meal, and take it with you.