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Grilled Pizza Is Great for a Party

Prepare the dough and toppings ahead, light up the grill, and let guests grill their own pizzas

Fine Cooking Issue 66
Photos: Scott Phillips
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One of the things I like best about being a chef is sharing my passion for cooking with friends. So when I entertain, I like to get everyone involved. Throwing a “make your own pizza” party is a perfect way to do this. And in summer, a grilled pizza party is even better. Everyone loves pizza, but most people have never taken a turn at grilling it. Once they do, they flip over it.  

Lots of make-ahead components mean more time to spend with your guests. The great thing about a party like this is that you can prepare the dough and toppings far in advance. The dough is flexible; it’s quick to work together and only needs about an hour to rise, so you can make it on short notice. But even better, you can make it a day ahead and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator. The dough also freezes well. A few hours before guests arrive, I bring the dough to room temperature, roll it into disks, stack them on a baking sheet, and store them in the refrigerator so they’re ready to grill when the party starts.  

The pizza toppings can be as simple or as luxurious as you like. I like to make a few interesting toppings ahead, so that my guests can have fun experimenting with different ingredient combinations. My favorites are roasted Vidalia onions, roasted red pepper purée, roasted garlic, and black olive tapenade. You can make them all up to three days before your party. If you’re pressed for time, you could skip making the toppings and head for a good Italian deli for some fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced cured meats, and even high-quality canned tomatoes. Either way, add a nice selection of fresh herbs, grated cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil, and you’re all set. 

To accompany the pizzas, serve your favorite green salad. A fruit dessert is a nice ending, but to make things easy on yourself, why not serve a selection of ice cream?

Grilled pizza made easy

A successful—and relaxed—pizza grilling party depends on being organized. Since your guests will actually be making their own pizzas, you want to make everything as easy for them as possible. Fortunately, you can prepare all your ingredients in advance (just follow the do-ahead plan below). Then, on the day of the party, gather your tools and ingredients (following the checklist below), and you’ll be ready to grill.

Do-ahead plan
Up to three days ahead
Make the Roasted Red Pepper Purée.
Make the Roasted Vidalia Onions.
Make the Olive Tapenade.
Make the Roasted Garlic.

Up to two days ahead
Buy cheeses, extra-virgin olive oil, and any additional deli pizza toppings.

That morning
Make the pizza dough (or make it several days in advance and freeze it).

Up to four hours ahead
Roll out the pizza doughs, layer them between sheets of parchment, cover, and refrigerate.
Prepare a green salad.
Grate or slice the cheeses and cut any vegetables for the pizzas.

Half an hour before grilling
Assemble the items on the checklist below.
Start the fire on the gas or charcoal grill.

Pizza ingredients
Several make-ahead toppings or easy, no-cook toppings
Pizza dough rounds
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh herbs for sprinkling on at the end of cooking (optional)

Pizza grilling equipment
Trays or baking sheets for organizing tools and ingredients
Small bowls for salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs
Large cutting board
Chef’s knife or pizza cutter
Pastry brush for oiling the pizzas

Water, soda, beer, or wine
Green salad
Ice cream or a simple fruit dessert


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