Grilled Pizza

My first job in a restaurant was on the grill station at Harvest, the 40+ year-old restaurant institution on Brattle Street in Harvard Square, Cambridge. Now, Harvest’s kitchen is open and pristine. In the summer of 1988, it was cramped and stifling hot. During a brutal heat wave, while working at the 2’ x 3’ open pit of fire, the meat thermometer in my pocket read 140 putting me at a tender medium rare. I braved the heat and learned much. I’ve loved to grill ever since.


When my family moved into our current home, my husband and I went to Home Depot to find the grill of my dreams. We picked the biggest, shiniest barbecue we could find. It was a stainless steel behemoth with four grill burners, a side burner for a pot, and a rotisserie attachment. The salesman assured us they would make the necessary conversion to attach to our natural gas line. It was not cheap.

From the get-go I was disappointed. The gas jets were fussy. The heat, unpredictable. I never once used either the side burner or the rotisserie attachment. I hated it, but was loathe to replace it. Over the next dozen years I wasted many hundreds of dollars hiring grill gurus to fix whatever they’d deemed the problem. Parts were replaced and I was reassured, but whatever improvement in function was short-lived. The igniters quit after a year or two. Without them, I had to remove the grates and pull out the “flavorizor bars,” (that’s what the marketing team called the heat plates) to access the gas jets. Eventually I tossed the heat plates to make it easier to light. Every time I threaded a long match through the grates, I stood back as far as possible expecting an explosion. Last year, I didn’t use it at all. This spring, my inspection showed its guts completely rusted and disintegrating to orange dust. 

I finally had my excuse to buy a new one! I chose my Blaze grill because of the quality and simplicity and bought it at my local fireplace shop because, if necessary, I want reliable service. It’s stainless steel inside and out, so will never rust. Three burners afford plenty of cooking space. It lights like a dream and will probably last longer than I will. I’m still learning its personality but I love where this relationship is going.

I’ve been grilling up a storm but far and away my, and my family’s favorite grilled meal, is pizza. Yes you can make pizza on a grill! No it won’t fall through the grates! High heat from below gives the crust a solid crunch and a chewy center. A bit of char adds smokey notes. 

Before the following instructions, a disclaimer. Having done time working grill and sauté stations in restaurants, I’m pretty brave around flames. Please don’t set yourself on fire. Use the right tools and be careful!

Make your own or buy prepared pizza dough. Use whatever toppings suit your taste, but prepare and combine them ahead of time. Having all the toppings mixed together allows you to get them on quickly and for the pizza to cook evenly.

  1. Pre-heat grill to high. Close cover.

  2. Pour about one tablespoon of oil on a plate. Form the dough into a neat ball and roll it around the oil. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes or until you can shape it with out it snapping back.

Spread foil, leaving a large overlap, and oil liberally. Form the rested dough into a pizza by gently stretching to make a 12-14” circle but no larger. If it’s too thin, the dough will burn through on the grill. Spread another tablespoon of oil on the top of the circle of dough.

3. Use a long brush to oil, or spray oil on the grill. Watch for flames.

4. Flip the dough onto the hot grill. Carefully remove foil, have a tool handy to nudge the dough if the foil sticks.

5. Close cover, reduce flames to medium. After 2 minutes, use a long spatula to check the bottom. You want enough of a crust so you’ll be able to flip it easily, but not so much that you have black burn lines. Cooking time will be 3-5 minutes depending on your grill.

6. Flip pizza crust. Spread tomato sauce (or pesto, or béchamel, etc.) and quickly sprinkle mixed toppings. Close cover. Check every minute or two to make sure the dough isn’t getting too dark. A few charred spots are to be expected. Adjust temperature if necessary. Cooking time will be 3-5 minutes depending on your grill.

7. Slide the spatula under the pizza to loosen any stuck spots. Use tongs to pull the pizza onto a large cutting board. Let cool for a few minutes before cutting.

Any pizza toppings will work. My favorite is pictured above. I spread pesto on the dough and sprinkled a mixture of cubed roast chicken, fresh chopped spinach, roasted red pepper, sliced black olives, and shaved parmesan and shredded mozzarella. Tastes great right off the grill and even better for lunch the next day!

A big thanks to my sous chefs! My daughter Eliza, and her friend, Julia!

Happy Grilling!!!

Deborah Norkin