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Real Fast Food: Pizza on the Grill

You’ve undoubtedly heard of cooking pizza on the grill. But the question is: have you tried it yet?

Honestly, your barbecue is the best place to cook a pizza-the high direct heat is ideal for creating a crisp-bottomed crust, and closing the lid creates an oven environment, allowing your cheese to melt.

The biggest fear factor that keeps people from slapping a round of fresh pizza dough onto a hot grill is the belief that it will fuse fast. Trust me, it won’t. (I thought so too.)

The key is to preheat your barbecue – on high. Then merely place your rolled out round (or oval – the odder the shape, the more rustic it looks) of raw dough straight onto the grill, the intense heat will keep it from sticking. In a few minutes the bottom will be nicely char-marked and crisp; at this point you can flip it (use tongs), scatter your toppings on the grilled side, turn the heat down a bit and close the lid for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt (because of course there’s cheese, right?) – and voilÝ  – by the time the cheese has melted the other side of the crust will be cooked to perfection. (Cooking a pizza is also a clear test of where your hot and cool spots are.)

If you start with a prebaked crust, or are cooking a frozen pizza, keep your grill on medium, and just throw it straight on the grill. Close the lid and give it a little less time than it specifies on the box. (Although some fancy new grills will indicate the internal temperature on the dial.)

And be adventurous. Wander beyond the usual tomato sauce and pepperoni. Try laying slices of fresh mango, torn basil leaves and sliced buffalo mozzarella atop your pizza. Bliss.

Serve straight from the chopping board.

Just Do It.

Basic Pizza Dough

Pizza dough is a wonderfully versatile thing. Once the dough has risen it can be twisted into bread sticks or pretzels, patted into focaccia, or topped with whatever you like and baked into a pizza or flatbread.

1 cup lukewarm water
1 pkg. (or 2 tsp.) active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar or honey
2 1/2 3 cups flour all purpose, whole wheat, or any combination of the two (I usually use about 2 3/4 cups)
1 tsp. salt
a drizzle (1 tsp. 1 Tbsp.) olive oil

In a large bowl, stir together the water, yeast and sugar; set aside for 5 minutes, until it’s foamy. (If it doesn’t get foamy, either your water was too hot and killed the yeast or it was inactive to begin with toss it and buy fresh yeast or try again!)

Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, salt and oil and stir until the dough comes together. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 8 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic, adding a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat all over. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in bulk. If you want you can let it rise more slowly in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours.

Punch the dough down, cover again and let it rest for 5 minutes. Divide it in half and shape each into a circle (or make individual mini pizzas) and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with flour or cornmeal.

To bake in the oven: spread the pizza dough with tomato sauce, sprinkle with desired toppings and bake at 450 F for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and golden. To cook on the grill: see above.

Makes enough dough for 2 9″ pizzas, or one big rectangular one (I do these on a large rimmed baking sheet).

Per slice (based on 12 slices): 111 calories, 0.7 g total fat (0.1 g saturated fat, 0.3 g monounsaturated fat, 0.2 g polyunsaturated fat), 3.2 g protein, 22.5 g carbohydrate, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.1 g fiber. 6% calories from fat.

To make flavored pizza dough: add a generous pinch of chopped fresh or dried basil, rosemary or oregano, a clove of minced garlic, a few finely chopped olives or sun dried tomatoes (if they come packed in oil, use it in place of the olive oil) or 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper along with the flour. Flavored pizza dough makes great breadsticks roll the risen dough into sticks as thin or fat as you like, sprinkle with coarse salt or grated Parmesan cheese and bake until golden.

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