A Slice of Summer

Equipped with a baking stone and the perfect crust recipe, you can prepare pizza on the backyard grill all summer long.

For years I’ve kept a baking stone in the bottom of my oven, and I’ve found that baking over it seems to provide an even, radiant heat that lends a crisp finish to breads, pizzas, rolls and focaccia. Now my seasoned stone has an unexpected new summer home out on the gas grill. It covers about half the surface of the grilling surface and converts it into a sort of outdoor bread oven, perfect for the summertime when you want the kitchen to stay cool.

There are a few tricks to baking in your gas grill. First of all, you have to put the stone on the grill before you turn on the heat. A sudden change in temperature can stress the stone to the cracking point. Second, I’ve found that it’s best to turn the burner directly under the stone to low and the other burners to high. That way, the bottom of the bread doesn’t burn before the top is browned. Although a midway half-turn is a good idea for even cooking, you have to leave the top down for the rest of the time. Constant peeking will delay the baking process.

I use a thin cutting board to transfer the pizza to the stone. A fine layer of cornmeal on the board ensures that the dough will slip right off, and it even adds some pleasant crunch to the bottom of the crust.

Since my barbecue grill is out in the back garden, I like to dream up topping combinations that take advantage of fresh herbs. You can’t go wrong with sliced just-picked tomatoes, chunks of fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. Another favorite is caramelized onions with crumbles of goat cheese and a healthy sprinkling of fresh oregano.

Pizza Dough  


1 teaspoon yeast
1-1/8 cup warm water (110 to 120 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt

Mix the yeast with the water. Add the sugar and olive oil and let sit until the mixture is foamy. Put the flour and salt into the bowl of the food processor with the dough-kneading blade.

Start the machine and slowly pour in the liquid. When the dough has cleaned the sides of the bowl, keep processing for another 20 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl and work on a lightly floured surface until it forms a smooth ball. Put into a bowl with a little olive oil and turn to coat the dough. Cover and let sit for an hour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and knead each into a ball. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. This is a good time to start the grill and get it good and hot.

Press the dough out on a lightly floured board and stretch by hand or use a rolling pin to make a thin pizza crust. Sprinkle cornmeal onto a cutting board and place the dough on top. Shake to make sure it is not sticking. Garnish the dough with your favorite toppings and then slide onto the baking stone in the grill. Close the cover and let cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Open the grill and turn the pizza 180 degrees. Close the grill and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Caramelized Onions  


2 large Vidalia or yellow onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 pinch sugar

Caramelized onions are a great ingredient to have around for a variety of uses. Slow cooking in a small amount of oil brings out the natural sugars in the onions and intensifies their flavors. But this is not a job to rush.

Start with 2 or 3 large onions. Cut off the ends and slice them in half lengthwise. Put the cut sides down and slice them into thin half moons.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add the onions and stir while cooking until the onions soften. Add just a pinch of salt to draw out the moisture, a pinch of black pepper for flavor and a pinch of sugar to help the caramelizing.

Once the onions have reduced, turn the heat to low and cook for at least an hour, stirring every 5 minutes or so. You want them to get a dark-brown color but not scorched.

Just like cooking the best ribs, low and slow is the way to go for these onions. Use them as a topping for pizza, on any grilled meats, in casseroles or even stirred into a batch of mashed potatoes.

Categories: Eat + Drink Features