Throw a “Grilling” Pizza Party
Just because summer is over does not mean the grill needs to be retired for the season. In fact, fall is the perfect time to have friends and family over for a Grilled Pizza Party. Kids of all ages love pizza, especially when they get to make it their own using a variety of toppings. Add a mixed green salad and this becomes a fun, casual and delicious way to get everyone off the couch and involved in sharing meal.
1. Set up the Grill.
I use a 22.5-inch charcoal grill, which fits about 4 individual size pizzas at one time. I start the coals using a charcoal chimney starter. Simply stuff the bottom compartment with 2 pieces of newspaper and fill the top compartment to the rim with charcoal briquettes. Light the newspaper with a match and wait about 20-30 minutes. You will know the coals are ready when the ones on top have developed a white ash. Dump the hot coals into the grill basin, spreading them in an even layer across the entire surface of the basin. Place a clean, well-oiled grill on top and close the lid of the barbecue, allowing the grill to heat. If you are using a gas grill, heat a clean, well-oiled grill to medium low heat.
2. Prepare the pizza dough.
I make my own pizza dough using a food processor and fresh rosemary from my garden. However, frozen or refrigerated pizza dough works just as well. One 8-ounce package of pizza dough makes 4 individual size pizzas. If you buy frozen dough, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Either way, it needs to be at room temperature to roll your pizzas. On a well-floured surface, stretch or roll your dough into individual size pizzas, about 8 inches in diameter. Place them on a rimless baking sheet and refrigerate them until you are ready to grill.
3. Prepare the toppings.
This is the fun part! Use your imagination. It is nice to offer a variety of vegetarian and meat toppings. To start, you will want to provide a tomato sauce. I also like offering pesto and olive oil as options to either compliment or replace the tomato sauce. When it comes to cheese, I always provide shredded mozzarella cheese. Other delicious options include grated Parmesan cheese, goat cheese, or feta cheese. Chopped roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts and olives all make good pizza toppings. If I want to offer onions or mushrooms, I cook them first. I simply slice and sauté the onions and mushrooms and set them aside. There really is not enough time for them to cook while on the grill, so cooking them in advance helps. That applies to meat as well. If you want to offer chicken or sausage as toppings, make sure it is cooked. You can also offer sliced salami, pepperoni, or Canadian bacon, all of which are traditional favorites and require no additional cooking. Finally, fresh herbs such as basil and parsley are nice additions to pizza. Where I live, in the fall, our local fresh figs are delightful on pizza, especially with goat cheese and fresh arugula.
4. Set the bar.
Once you have chosen your toppings, place them in bowls and spread them across a counter with plates at one end. This way, your guests can take their pre-grilled pizza crust and move it down the line, choosing toppings as they go and customizing their dinner. Fun!
5. Time for Pizza on the Grill!
This is surprisingly easy and it goes really fast. That’s why it’s important to have everything else set up and ready to go before any pizza dough hits the grill. You will want to have a big spatula for lifting the pizzas on to and off of the grill. Place the crusts directly on the grill until the top of the dough puffs and the underside gets crisps, about 3 minutes. Turn the crusts over and grill for just 1 minute. Remove the crusts from the grill. Place all of your toppings onto the crisp side of the pizza crust. Return the pizza to the grill for about 3 to 5 minutes. Close the cover to finish cooking the pizza dough, heat the toppings and melt the cheese.
You can repeat this process for grilling as many pizzas as you like. It is a fun and casual way to cook and eat together. Guests end up making and eating their pizzas in shifts, which frees them up to help with the grilling or to simply enjoy the experience. If you throw a grilled pizza party, let me know how it goes! – Kristen Desmond
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