Old school is in

On a recent grocery shopping trip, I overheard a woman having a conversation on her cell phone with her daughter. I am guessing the daughter had asked her to “bring ingredients needed to make a pizza.” The woman’s response was: “ Pizza! In this heat! I’m not turning on the oven.”

A barbecued pizza crust comes about as close as most homemade pizza can get to true pizzeria quality. Close the grill cover and cook pizza until the crust has turned a golden brown and the cheese is hot and bubbling. This should only take about five minutes on a hot grill.

On a recent grocery shopping trip, I overheard a woman having a conversation on her cell phone with her daughter. I am guessing the daughter had asked her to “bring ingredients needed to make a pizza.” The woman’s response was: “ Pizza! In this heat! I’m not turning on the oven.”

Since anything about food excites me, I wanted to turn around and tell her, “You can make pizza on the barbecue.” Instead of interfering with her conversation and offering her unsolicited advice, I decided to share the information with all my readers.

You don’t have to stop making homemade pizza in the summer if you cook the pizza on the barbecue. This concept isn’t new if you consider that before pizza as you and I know it was even created, the Greeks and Romans used wood fired ovens to cook flatbreads.

Eventually these flatbreads gained toppings, meat, vegetables, tomatoes, and evolved into what we know as pizza.

Besides the fact that you don’t have to turn on the oven on an already hot day, there are other advantages to taking your pizza outdoors.

First it is the amazing crust. A barbecued pizza crust comes about as close as most homemade pizza can get to true pizzeria quality. The intense heat of an open fire replicates the power of a commercial-grade oven, producing a beautifully crisp, lightly smoky crust.

Then there is the time required to cook. When cooking in the oven, the average time is 20-25 minutes, while the grill only takes 8-10 minutes.

Finally the whole experience is a novelty. People get excited when they see you’re going to cook pizza on the grill. It’s unusual and that’s part of the fun

All good pizzas start with the good dough. When grilling a pizza, you want dough that will hold up to being transported and turned on the grill. Rollout your dough about 1/4 inch thick and try to keep it pretty even. Brush the surface of the dough evenly with oil and transfer to wax paper. Place another oiled wax paper on top to prevent the dough from drying. For best result it is best if you let it rise for minimum of 1 hour, but if you don’t have the time, you can skip this.

When it comes to the grill, keep the surface clean and lightly greased. Preheat the grill on high for 10 minutes. Then, turn down the heat to medium.

You should be able to hold your hand just over the grill for about 3-5 seconds before having to pull away.

Take the top wax paper off of the dough and flip the crust on to the grill. Peel the other wax paper off once the dough is on the grill. Grill one side until brown and grill marks appear. You can use tongs or a spatula. Then flip and add toppings to the cooked side. You can top while the crust sits on the grill or remove from grill and add topping and then return back to the uncooked side. I prefer latter because then the crust doesn’t continue to cook.

Once the topping is on, turn down the heat to low. If you are using charcoal barbecue, keep one side hotter than the other so you can put the topped pizzas on the cooler side. With the lid down you can bake the toppings to get your pizza just right. The goal here is to get the toppings heated and cheese melted without burning the crust.

The topping possibilities are practically endless but there are a few things to consider. Since pizza on a grill cooks quickly, you’ll want to go with lighter toppings, and toppings that don’t need to be cooked .

The grill’s convection heat is not as uniform as that of an oven, so add only that which can warm through. If you are using heavy toppings, like meats or thick cut vegetables you might want to grill them up a little first before topping the pizza.

Because there is no top heat, the cheese will not brown but will nicely melt. You also want to refrain from overloading your pizza for this could make the crust soggy. Think light and delicate: thin strips of cheese; cooked meats and vegetables, preferably grilled.

Now that you have the basics down you can enjoy the best part of pizza, the versatility.

When it comes to pizza, there’s no such thing as a bad topping. Another tip is to make small pizzas for gatherings and let your guest choose what they want on their pizza. The grill is a fast way to prepare pizzas so you can cook a lot of them in a short time.

So next time you have a barbecue why not try making a pizza … you’ll love it.

Pizza dough

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon quick rise yeast

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 cup warm water

Combine flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in oil and warm water. Mix using an electric mixer equipped with dough hook. Roll out and place between greased wax papers. Let rise minimum for 1 hour.

Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at madhubadoni@gmail.com

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