Charcoal Grilled Pizza is Every Bit as Awesome as it Sounds

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If your first thought was pizza topped with charcoal, then your head’s in entirely the wrong place. Charcoal pizza is another name for grilled pizza, which is totally different from regular pizza. Well, mostly. And yes, people grill pizzas. That’s a thing now.

Morphology of the Charcoal Pizza

Charcoal pizzas typically have thin crusts; thick crusts would burn to a crisp on the outside while the dough cooked through. They are also lightly sauced to keep that thin crust from getting mushy and saggy. Finally, they’re minimally topped due to their fragility compared to their thicker-crusted kin. The best thing about grilled pizza, though, is its great charcoal flavor. It inevitably brings back fond memories of swimming pools and fireworks. Pizza and swimming pools and fireworks—could there be anything better? No. Of course not.

But Why Not Use the Oven?

Pizzerias prepare their eponymous pies in ovens that reach extremely high heats, much higher than your home oven can reach. Short of investing in a very large, wood-burning stove, using the grill is your best bet for creating delicious, fresh, high-quality pizza. In addition to producing higher cooking temperatures, charcoal grills provide consistent heat. This helps your pizza cook thoroughly and evenly. Open-top grills, unlike swing-open ovens, also provide you with better access to your food while its in the process of becoming delicious. This is important, because making a charcoal pizza is a hands-on cooking adventure that will probably someday eclipse BASE jumping as the pinnacle of white-knuckle extreme sports (if it hasn’t already).

The Zen of Grilling

Unlike fire-and-forget oven pizzas, grilling pizza is an exercise in precision and timing that nonetheless affords practitioners the flexibility to hone their own techniques and style. This notion will be familiar to anyone with a knowledge of kung fu, skateboarding, or eBay sniping. For everyone else, here’s what you need to know. The first step is cooking the dough on both sides with a little olive oil to help it quickly crisp up. It’s only going to need about a minute per side, so make sure you’re standing by and not rummaging around in the cooler for another beer. Because now you’re ready for cheese. Yes, cheese before sauce. This is mostly because cheese is the superior food, but also because the cheese needs time to get good and melty, and your pizza’s only going to be on the grill for another moment or two. (I told you, this is like a time trial with explosive ammunition—grilled pizza is not for the faint-hearted.) Now comes dollops of sauce, which will rapidly thin and spread out as they heat. Don’t think you’ve got time to sit around and enjoy the spectacle, though, because you’re on to toppings. Go on, throw those bad boys on there—there’s no time to waste. Choose your toppings wisely, though. Anything you use needs to par-cooked, pickled or preserved. (If you try to use any method that doesn’t begin with p, you are properly screwed.) Otherwise, it needs to be edible raw and warmed over. If you leave your pizza on the grill long enough to fully cook raw toppings, you’ve succeeded only in burning the rest of your pizza, which is a crime comparable to ripping the wings off a fairy. Lower the lid and take a break for a minute or two, then slide your masterpiece of the grill and onto the cutting board. Congratulations, you now have pizza in less time than it would have taken to order online. More importantly, you’ve succeeded in a far more impressive demonstration of mental agility and culinary skill. Summer is prime grilling season, and it’s also tomato season; clearly, the universe wants us to make charcoal pizzas. So, come July, when you have a craving for carbs and cheese, don’t turn to delivery and don’t turn on the oven. Do what nature intended and go grill a pizza.