This is it – my favorite thing to cook, always and forever:  grilled pizza. It’s true that just about anything tastes good cooked and eaten outdoors on a warm summer evening on Martha’s Vineyard, but surely nothing is as much fun to cook as grilled pizza. And by grilled, I really mean grilled, right on the grill grates. No special pizza oven required – I use my gas grill. If you’ve got a sheet pan and some tongs, you’re good to go.

I’m thinking summer 2020 is the perfect time to master grilled pizza. Why now? Because you can practice on your family – they won’t mind, I promise, especially when you let them customize their own pizzas. And then you’ll be ready to have that grilled pizza party when the whole party thing becomes a bit more compelling.

Also, there’s this: grilled pizzas and local ingredients are made for each other. Creating a grilled pizza is like making a small work of art. You want it to look beautiful and to feature exceptional ingredients (and not too much of anything). Vineyard cheeses, cured meats, shellfish, farm vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, mushrooms, sea salt, honey, seasoned oils – all the goodies that farmers and artisans create on this Island – would love to hang out on a grilled pizza.

Susie Middleton

So what exactly does it mean to grill a pizza? The essential difference between baking a pizza and grilling one is in how the dough is stretched and moved onto the cooking surface. For a baked pizza, you’d roll dough on a floured surface and move it (via a pizza peel) onto a hot stone in the oven. For a grilled pizza, you douse your dough with a bit of oil and stretch it out over the back of an oiled sheet pan. Then you pick up two corners of the stretched dough and flop it directly on to the grill grates. The minute the (fairly thin) dough hits the grates, it begins to crisp up and cook through. You then flip it over with tongs, top it, and finish browning the other side.

Of course the other big difference between baked and grilled pizza is the flavor and texture. Because a grilled pizza is cooked almost entirely with direct heat, the dough takes on a great deal of that magical toasted flavor and yields a crisp, but still slightly chewy, texture.

If you’re ready to give grilled pizza 
a try, gather your tools (below), read some topping suggestions (also below), and dive into the recipe, which details the technique. Cooking one pizza at a time works best.

Susie Middleton

Tool Kit for Grilled Pizza

  • Rimmed sheet pans (for stretching 
dough and carrying ingredients)
  • Long-handled kitchen tongs (not 
unwieldy BBQ tongs)
  • Damp dish towel or two for wiping 
  • Cutting board(s) for finished 
  • Long chef’s knife or pizza cutter 
  • Digital timer (a.k.a. your phone)
  • Pastry brush or small BBQ brush
  • Bottle of olive oil (preferably with 
speed-pour attached)
  • Bowl of kosher and/or sea salt

Topping Ideas and Tips

The dough recipe makes four or five pies, so 
you’ll want to have enough choices to make some different combinations. Just remember to keep a light hand: a thin crust can get weighed down with too many ingredients.

The olive oil: To keep grilled pizza from drying out on the hot grill, use a liberal amount of oil, brushing it on before topping and drizzling at the end. I like to make a quick garlic oil for more flavor, but you can buy a variety of seasoned oils from LeRoux. Or just use your best extra-virgin olive oil.

The red stuff: I’m not big on using a heavy red sauce on grilled pizza. Instead, I like to make a batch of Quick-Roasted Plum Tomatoes. I cut them in half and scatter them liberally on the pizza, or I purée them and use the concentrated sauce judiciously. I’ve also used Pam’s Tomato Pesto. Or no tomato at all – one of my favorite combos is sautéed MV Mycological shiitakes with slices of Grey Barn Prufrock. 

The cheeses: I put grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on nearly every pizza. And I usually have sliced fresh mozzarella on hand too. But for me, grilled pizza is such a great excuse to use Island cheeses that I always use one or two. Grey Barn’s Bluebird and Mermaid Farm’s Carding Mill both make a killer pizza with roasted tomatoes and bacon.

Veggies: Fresh corn cut off the cob (hello, 
Morning Glory!) is one of my favorite toppings for grilled pizza. But any veggie, sliced thinly or chopped – and cooked ahead if necessary – can 
be part of your offerings. Pick ingredients with a high umami factor, such as caramelized shallots, roasted garlic, sautéed eggplant, and bitter greens. (Ghost Island Farm has a great selection.) You 
can also top your finished pizza with fresh baby greens.

Meats and fishes: Again, go for local ingredients. Charcuterie or duck from The Larder, bacon and ground sausage from Morning Glory, chorizo from Grey Barn, ground lamb from Mermaid or Allen Farm. Freshly dug clams, sea scallops (sliced in half and sautéed), or bay scallops (with bacon of course!) will work.

The herbs: Head to your garden and pluck small whole leaves of whatever you love.