One silver lining of quarantining is that my cooking game is getting more diverse and adventurous. More Indian food, more vegetarian options, and now, … grilling pizza. I know: grilling a pizza isn’t exactly adventurous, people have been doing it forever! But in this house, homemade pizza was always slipped gently into the oven. When you spent time and effort making something as lovely as a pizza, why risk it on the variability of a charcoal grill?
Flavor of course. Flavor is the reason you grill anything on a charcoal grill. Not a propane grill – that’s just an outdoor extension of the stove. Charcoal grilling on a ceramic grill that heats up beyond oven temperatures when closed and the coals are bright orange and alive. That’s ancient cooking right there – none of this propane-fueled regulated blandness, thank you. And that’s what I brought my homemade pizzas out to. That’s right: pizzas. Plural. If you’re going to use charcoal, make the most of the resource.
The first attempt was a traditional cheese pizza with dough spread thinly across a large, perforated pan that I’ve had since college. This baby has seen everything in it’s time… everything but a charcoal grill anyway. Simple and classic cheese pizza recipe, thin crust, thin layer of sauce, generous layer of cheese, done. My concern with this first pizza was the grill temperature. I waited until it dropped below 500 degrees Fahrenheit before putting the pizza on the grill, and watched it carefully to make sure it didn’t just erupt into flames. Using a grill spatula, I’d gently lift up an edge, inspect and spin it and try again. Can’t be too careful with that first pizza. And it turned out to be an excellent first attempt. Congrats! We won’t be ordering pizza to replace a burnt offering!
The second pizza was slightly more daring: A thicker crust on a stone instead of a perforated pan. This one had thinly sliced green peppers and chicken sausage spread on top. And generally the results were pretty good. Thicker crust on a stone meant risking an uneven, doughy crust in some places. That proved to be the case in one particularly thick spot. If it were a restaurant I might have sent it back, but in my backyard it was close enough. Two large pizzas and leftovers for lunch. And no sacrificial lambs. Not a bad first effort!
2020, for all the suffering and frustration, has offered opportunities to see the world in a different way. Maybe grilling a pizza isn’t exactly tackling social justice, but it’s a step away from the norm. And now I’m thinking about what else I can grill. So grilling pizza became one very small measure of audacity that worked out. I might not ever have tried it in a normal year when getting dinner done after a long day away from home was a task. But 2020 replaced what is fast and easy? with what is going to be really interesting to try? And that’s not such a bad thing at all. A moment of fun experimentation with relatively low stakes. We can all use more fun this year.