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Homebrew: Grilled Pizzas

This weekend, the gang and I got together to watch some UFC action (Anderson Silva? Still unbeaten in the UFC!), and decided it would be the perfect night to grill up some pizzas.

Grilling pizza is perfect for a party of people because (1) You can do a lot of the work in advance, meaning it's very easy, (2) Because of the cooking method and the fact you're doing it in a larger space outdoors, everyone can pitch in and help make their own, and (3) It adds a delicious, smoky flavor to the crust that you'd usually only find at coal-fired joints.

Read on for the how-tos and the money shots...

Little bundles of joy.

First thing you're going to want to do is secure the dough. You can purchase raw dough from most supermarkets or even a local restaurant (pizza places will sell you dough on the cheap). I make my own using a pretty standard recipe, and just set it outside to rise (it's hot enough out there, that's for sure - dough has a tough time rising in my well-air conditioned house). Fort Lauderdale-based writer and blogger Julie O'Hara did an excellent piece on homemade pizzas for NPR that has a great recipe for whole wheat dough.

Ghost pizza!

Next, heat your grill up to about 500. Roll out your dough, or toss it if you prefer, into individual size pizzas - say 12" x 12". Brush them with olive oil and grill two at a time over a medium to low flame. Note, I use a propane grill because it's easy and you can fit a couple pizzas at once on there, but a charcoal grill would work too. Just let the coals die lowish or you'll have some real blackened crust.

What you have at this point might look an awful lot like naan bread (change a few ingredients and coat this guy with ghee, and you would have something close to it - maybe I'll work on converting my grill to a tandoor next time!) You're basically par cooking the dough on one side - the other will cook after we put toppings on it. Which brings us to....

Once your crusts are all par-cooked, you're ready to play. Set up a topping station next to your grill with whatever fixings you and your guests want. We felt like a classic margherita with crushed tomatoes, tomato slices, fresh basil from the garden, a little garlic, and a coating of mozzarella; some of us added sauteed mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. But you can really do anything you like... pear and Gorgonzola, roasted red onions, prosciutto, and Camembert. Just make sure to flip your crusts so the done side is the one you're putting your toppings on. Let your guests make their own - they'll have fun just being a part of the cooking process.

Back on the grill... check out those marks!

Go on this side with the cover closed until the cheese is melted and the bottoms crisp up. PS - You're going to want to use a pizza peel to get your pies on and off the grill. You can pick one up at just about any kitchen supply store for $20. Once they dough is par cooked you barely have to use corn meal or flour to slide the pizzas on and off the peel.

This guy will burn many a mouth before the night is done...

The end result has a super crisp and thin crust, slightly charred on the underside, and bubbling hot on top. Seriously easy, fun, and delicious. Toss in a couple beers and what more could you want?

-- John Linn

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John Linn

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