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Sara Hansen

10 Pro Tips on How to Cook Pizza on a Grill Perfectly

One true thing—almost everyone loves pizza. With so many varieties and combinations of toppings, sauces, and crusts that you can do, a delicious pizza can be made to satisfy anyone’s tastes. What you may not know is that pizza is not relegated to just being cooked in the oven. Yes, you can cook pizza on a grill! 

Grilled pizza is absolutely fantastic and gives the crust and toppings a whole new level of flavor that you won’t get from cooking it in the oven, thanks to that great wood-fire smoke. Plus, it’s super easy to do! But, to get the best results, there are a couple of things to know.

In this article, we’ve put together all the pro tips you need to know on how to cook pizza on a grill to perfection every time:


Make Sure the Dough is Ready First

Whether you make your pizza dough from scratch or you use a pre-made dough, you need to make sure it’s ready before you start prepping it for the grill. This means that if it’s a homemade dough, you want to make it the day before you want to grill it to ensure it has enough time to properly rise. 

Also, no matter if you use homemade dough or store-bought premade dough, you always want to let it come to room temperature for an hour before you start stretching it out and forming it.

Bonus Tip: If you are going to use premade dough, the higher quality doughs are your best bet for cooking pizza on a grill. These doughs will have less chance of burning too quickly on the high heat of the grill.


Set the Grill Up for High Heat Cooking

Unlike when barbecuing and smoking anything, where you rely on low indirect heat and longer cooking times, with grilled pizza you will be cooking quickly using high heat.

For the best results for grilled pizza, you want to set up your grill for two-zone cooking. This will help you get a nice crispy crust while also preventing it from burning before the cheese has melted. The direct heat side will be used first to grill the crust and get the charred grill marks. Then you’ll top the pizza and put it on the indirect heat side and let it finish cooking there. 


hot grill for grilled pizza | how to cook pizza on a grill | pizza on grill
Source: CDN


You want to get your grill to a consistent temperature between 400 and 500℉. You could go slightly higher but anything over 550℉ could overly char and burn the crust.

Bonus Tip: If there is not a built-in temperature gauge on your grill (or it’s not working accurately), you can carefully use your hand to gauge when it hits the correct temperature to start cooking the pizza. The grill is ready when you can hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grates for one second before it becomes uncomfortable. Of course, exercise caution and use your best judgment with this!


Practice Mise En Place

“Mise en place” is the French term for having all of your ingredients ready to go before you start cooking. Cooking a pizza on a grill is one of those situations where this technique is very important to use. 

Because grilled pizza cooks so quickly, you’ll need to be ready to add ingredients right when you need them. You’ll be topping the pizza directly on the grill so you need to have the sauce, cheese, and other toppings all prepped and ready to go. So, chop everything up and place your toppings in small bowls ahead of time.


Make Sure You’ve Got the Oil Ready

Olive oil is crucial in helping ensure that the pizza crust doesn’t overly char or stick to the grill grates, so make sure you have it handy before you start your grilled pizza. First, use long-handled tongs to hold a paper towel dipped in a little bit of oil and lightly coat the grill grates as well.

Then, brush a little bit of olive oil on the one side of the crust that will be placed on the grill first. Then brush oil on the other side facing up while the crust is on the grill (before you get to any toppings).


Grill the Crust First

Before adding any toppings to your pizza dough/crust, you want to grill one side of it first. This will prevent your pizza from getting soggy, ensure that both sides of your crust have a nice char, and ensure that the crust will be fully cooked through. So, as mentioned above, brush one side of the crust with olive oil and place it on the grill. Cook it until it is lightly browned and has char marks. 

Then, use tongs to flip the crust and start building your pizza. The side with the grill marks is the side that your toppings should go on.


grilled pizza crust | how to cook pizza on a grill | pizza on grill
Source: Food Network


Go Light on the Sauce & Easy on the Toppings

The key to remember when building your grilled pizza–you can’t overdo it. The last thing you want is a soggy pizza or toppings so heavy that the slice can’t hold them. So, cover the crust with only 1 ladle of sauce and go light on the toppings. You don’t need a ton to still get delicious flavors. 

Grilled pizza is not going to have a thick layer of bubbling cheese like oven-cooked pizza. So use a soft cheese (like mozzarella) that can be sliced and spread lightly and evenly on your pizza to be grilled.


Precook Certain Toppings

Already tender or ready-to-eat toppings work best since the pizza won’t be on the grill nearly as long as it would be in an oven. Because the pizza cooks so quickly, it won’t be enough time to properly cook things like raw sausage or to fully caramelize onions. So pre-cook any raw ingredients that you want and make sure to thinly slice any toppings that you will eat fairly raw on the pizza.


Make Sure to Keep an Eye on the Pizza

As we’ve mentioned a couple of times above, the pizza will cook fast on the grill. So, unless you want to chance burning it, you need to keep a close eye on it while it’s cooking. This will also enable you to be prepared to move it more towards the indirect heat side if the cheese is melting faster than the crust is cooking.


The Cheese is Your Indicator of When It Is Done

The pizza will cook pretty quickly. Unlike when cooking meat, you are not cooking pizza to a desired internal temperature and relying on a meat thermometer to determine if it’s done. So, keep an eye on the cheese. When the cheese is melted your pizza is done and ready to be pulled off the grill. 

This is when you would add any final fresh toppings like arugula, basil, chopped herbs, etc. Balsamic glaze or other infused oils are another great topping option to finish your pizza off with.


grilled pizza | how to cook pizza on a grill | pizza on grill
Source: The New York Times


Let It Rest before Cutting It 

It’s understandable to be anxious to dive right into the pizza after it comes off the grill. But let it rest for just a couple of minutes before you start cutting it. This will make it easier to cut and easier to handle (you don’t want to burn your fingers on hot cheese!).


Try a Pizza on the Grill Today!

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to make hot and crispy pizza on a grill. If you follow the tips we covered above, you’ll end up with a delicious grilled pizza every time. Don’t be afraid to get creative with types of dough, different sauces, and toppings combinations to find your new favorites.

Make sure to take a look at our other blog articles for plenty more ideas for unusual grilled foods you can try, grilled breakfast options, ideas for your vegetarian family and friends, and even desserts you can grill!

Have you cooked pizza on a grill recently? Do you have a favorite combination of toppings for your grilled pizza? Tell us about it in the comment box below. We want to hear all about it!


If you want to kick your backyard cooking skills up to a whole new level, get started with our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. In these step-by-step classes taught by Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters, you’ll learn exactly how to cook 20 delicious grilled or smoked recipes!

And if you’re ready to really dive into competition-caliber smoking and grilling, grab your All-Access pass today! These tell-all online BBQ classes with the Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will show you how to master cooking several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill, give you all the in-depth insider cooking secrets, and more.

Make sure to also check out the BBQ Champs YouTube channel and hit Subscribe to stay on top of all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from the barbecue pros!

Sara Hansen

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