It’s really easier than you might think. An oven is just a contraption that traps heat to bake food. In a good oven, heat flows readily around the food, not just the bottom.
Your grill, if it has a lid, does pretty much what the oven does, just more basic. It’s harder to control the heat on a grill and the circulation isn’t as good. You can live with that and there are some adjustments you can make.
Basic Rules for Baking on the Grill
- Capture the heat. To bake on the grill, you need heat above and below, so close the cover. If your grill doesn’t have a cover, they say you can put a big bucket over your food and get the same effect. I’ve used that technique out camping and it works but I’ve never tried it on the grill.
- Get the right heat. Grills tend to be hotter on the bottom, sometimes by a lot. Deflect the heat with a baking sheet, as shown in the picture and described below.
Look at the two loaves of bread baked on the grill. (If I remember correctly, those were free-standing cheddar loaves and very good.) My old beater grill is not very sophisticated. The lower rack is very close to the flames and super-hot. But it has a raised, secondary shelf—perfect for baking.
If your grill doesn’t have a secondary shelf, you might consider tin cans or other spacers to move the food further from the heat.
Baking on a baking sheet helps also. The heat will rise and the sheet forces the heat around it and redirects it onto the loaves from above.
As the hot air rises and then cools away from the flame and falls, it creates a constant churning motion. This circular motion of hot air helps reduce hot spots.
What You’ll Need
If you are going to get serious about baking on your grill, consider an oven thermometer that you can hang in your grill. Then you can check the temperature each time you open the grill and fine-tune your heat. That’s especially important if you are going to bake breads, burger buns, and cobblers on the grill.
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For pizzas, I’ve tried twirling and tossing pizza dough. It doesn’t work for me. The easy way is to use a pizza roller and roll the crust right in the pan. I think a pizza roller is essential for a thin-crust pizza.
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Being basically lazy, I grab a pizza dough mix when I make pizzas, and let the stand-type mixer with a dough hook do the work. Let it mix for about five minutes or until the gluten is formed.
Take advantage of our deal and make pizza crusts for as little as a buck, depending on how thin and how large you make your pizzas. You can’t buy the ingredients for that.
If you want to make your crusts from scratch, use a dough relaxer. A dough relaxer eliminates the “springback” so that you can roll thin, uniform crusts.
Learn more about and purchase the dough relaxer here.
Consider a pizza flour blend that contains a dough relaxer for pizzas only.
How to Bake a Perfect Pizza on Your Grill
Pizzas are baked hot and fast. On our grill, we turn the heat up all the way and have pizzas baked in eight to ten minutes. We probably should turn the heat down a bit and bake it a little longer, but hey—we have this system down.
The key to pizzas on the grill is to not burn the bottom of the crust. Elevate your pizza to get it as far from the flames as possible or put something underneath to insulate the bottom of the pan. Lately, we’ve simply slid a cookie sheet under the pizza pan. The extra pan and space between the pans is enough to slow the heat down.
We always make thin crust pizzas. We like the crispness of thin crusts. And they’re quicker. You don’t have to let the dough rise and you can load the toppings right on the unbaked dough.
Here’s how to bake your pizza:
- If you are using a baking stone, start the grill and place the baking stone on the top shelf of your grill. You will want the stone very hot so let it heat for 20 minutes or so before you add the pizza.
- Mix the dough according to package or recipe directions just as if baking for the oven.
- Shape the dough into a thin crust pizza, either on the counter if you are using a stone and peel, or in a pizza pan.
- Spread a thin layer of marinara or white sauce on the dough. For a white sauce, consider dips, ranch dressing, or sour cream.
- Spread the toppings over the sauce. Don’t pile the goodies on the pizza too deep; they tend to insulate the crust from the essential top heat.
- Place the pizza in the grill as explained above, either on a stone or in a pan. Set the timer—we set it for eight minutes—and then check for doneness by lifting the edge of the crust. If your grill doesn’t bake evenly, and most don’t, turn the stone or pan 180 degrees about half way through baking.
Once done, immediately remove the pizza from the grill, and if you are using a stone, from the stone. (If you don’t remove the pizza the stone, it will continue to bake.)
Dennis Weaver has burned food from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Miami, Florida. He is the founder of The Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho and the author of How to Bake: The Art and Science of Baking available as an E-book or as a Kindle book on Amazon.
Dennis lives in Rigby, Idaho, with his wife, Merri Ann. They have five wonderful children and five beautiful granddaughters.