I’m in the process of moving stuff over from the old mattbites site to here. I apologize for the redundancy and thank you for those who left comments back in the day. If I knew how to move them over here I would, but clearly I ain’t got no game in the programming HTML department and this will have to suffice.
Did any of you read the Serious Eats feature on broiled pizzas, using an inverted skillet and broiler to create a crispy crust? It’s a method that supposedly yields that ever elusive crust – crunchy and crisp without being burned. The secret is the high temperature that is achieved with a preheated skilled. I haven’t tried it, but I’m not sure I have a pan that would fit into our broiler. However, I have figured out a way to get that perfect crust, and in order for this to work you gotta take it outside.
Pizza. It’s such a subjective food. In this country I’ve seen the discussion of thin crust versus deep crust turn violent. I’ve seen people terminate friendships over toppings. And I’ve seen intelligence whittle down to one-syllable expletives over the origin of pizza. It’s a battle that I quietly and politely escape, watching from the sidelines, offering nothing more than silence.
I’ll keep my mouth shut, thank you very much.
Of course if you ask me I’ll happily tell you, in detail, that my favorite type of pizza involves the thinnest of crusts, no more than 3 toppings usually, baked quickly in the highest of temperatures. To me, pizza doesn’t have to be a 40-minute affair that’s baked in a pan big enough for paella, deep-dished to high heaven with 13 pounds of sausage and peppers and enough gooey cheese to clog the arteries of a small army. Don’t get me wrong, I lived in Chicago for many years and can eat my weight in deep dish. But at home it’s a different story.
It wasn’t until my first few visits to Europe that I realized how spontaneous, how simple and pleasurable a small, quick pizza can be. However, recreating the perfect crust and combination of unique ingredients proved to be a bit challenging. I was willing to give up the experience of eating with friends while staring into the Mediterranean ocean and drinking wine (somehow my backyard doesn’t quite compare), but damnit, I wasn’t going to give up the flavor. I was on a mission.
Three ovens, 4 pizza stones and two BBQ grills later I do believe I’ve come close.
It’s all about the grill.
As it turns out, pizzas baked in high temperatures and dry heat taste the best. There’s a reason why pizzas are baked in big brick and stone ovens, and until I win the lottery and have one installed in my home, I’m sticking with my BBQ grill. BBQ Grills reach a much higher temperature than home ovens, and it’s this temperature that makes all the difference in a thin, crunchy delicious crust or a sad, chewy one. And in case your wondering, no, it doesn’t make your pizza taste like a big giant BBQ’d slab of ribs, but come to think of it, that wouldn’t be all that bad!
Pizza protocol for outdoor grilling is a slight bit different. You can’t simply load up toppings on your crust and call it a day. No, it doesn’t work that way. A grilled pizza crust must be brushed with olive oil, grilled quickly until nice large bubbles appear, carefully flipped and repeated. You’ll have to really keep an eye on it too, as it only takes a few minutes over medium heat. Once you’ve done this you can place your toppings on the crust, but I’m not that daring. I remove the crust from the grill and add my ingredients off of the flame. Ouch.
If you’re using sauce, it pays to heat it up a little bit before it hits the crust. Add your ingredients, and remember that less is definitely more. Once dressed, place back on grill, close the cover and cook for 3-5 minutes. Check underneath the pizza after a few minutes for desired doneness. The crust should be a nice, brown color. And if you’re using herbs, they can be placed on top right before serving so that they don’t become back and burned. (Although I’ve noticed that due to the high heat of the grill and the very short cooking time it’s ok to add herbs before grilling. They’ll be just fine.)
I’m not an exact type of cook and that is why these are all basic guidelines without a recipe. Besides, everyone has their favorite dough recipe and preference for pizza toppings. After all, it’s fun to experiment, isn’t it? If you make a mistake (as I have thousands of times), well, just eat it. You’ll be too busy to argue about the history of the pizza with your mouth full.