The first time we had margherita pizza on a grill was over 10 years ago before we even knew grilling pizza was a thing. It was a fun experiment on a summer afternoon as we stood there literally grilling our homemade pizza.
I’m happy to share our grilled margherita pizza recipe and some helpful advice so you can enjoy it like we do!
The first time we tried making this, we expected it to be a failed experiment. But we discovered that grilling our pizza was perfect for creating a pseudo margherita pizza from a brick oven.
If you haven’t tried it, it is definitely worth a try.
Margherita Pizza on a Grill
Typically, a margherita pizza recipe calls for baking the pizza in a brick pizza oven – up to 900F. However, not everyone has a brick oven, so the next best thing is to cook the margherita pizza on a grill.
No, it won’t taste like a pizza coming straight out of a brick oven, but it can come fairly close given the right ingredients and style.
Over the years, we’ve tried different methods for making a classic margherita pizza. We tried using steal oven racks for our oven to produce the classic charred crust and big air pockets. But we used it about twice and haven’t since. It’s too heavy for me to move around and it required way too much time-consuming maintenance and prep.
However, by using a grill outside, we eliminate the indoor smell and smoke we’d get from an oven. It’s easier to maintain, clean and it keeps the strong smells outside. With a grill we get about as close as we can to producing the bubbly crust that we all love with our margherita pizzas.
Using a Brick Oven Vs. a Grill
A brick oven and a grill are two different cooking tools that can both be used to cook pizza. While both can produce a delicious pizza, they function differently and have varying degrees of heat.
A brick oven is a traditional oven made of bricks that are heated with a wood fire. The bricks in the oven absorb the heat and then radiate it evenly throughout the cooking chamber.
This creates a high and even heat that can reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The high heat creates a crispy crust and cooks the toppings perfectly, giving the pizza a smoky and slightly charred flavor.
On the other hand, a grill uses gas or charcoal to heat metal grates on which the pizza is cooked. Grills typically have a lower temperature range compared to brick ovens, usually between 350 and 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
A grill may not be able to produce the same high heat as a brick oven, but it can still produce an amazing margherita pizza.
What Type of Grill
You don’t have to be restricted to a specific grill. There’s been a surge in popularity with flat top grills lately.
You can still cook your pizza on these or on regular grills that have the actual grill grates with the coals or gas flames. I think either would be fine and I wouldn’t let that hinder you.
Making a margherita pizza is simple and the ingredients are no different than if you were cooking the pizza in a brick oven, home oven, or in our case, on a grill.
Fresh pizza dough
An authentic margherita uses a special type of pizza dough, Neapolitan. But to keep things easy we’re using an Italian pizza dough recipe for our grilled margherita pizza. You can also purchase frozen raw pizza dough at stores like Walmart, in the freezer section.
Unlike our regular homemade pizza sauce recipe, we are using fresh tomatoes that are good for slicing. Avoid cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes. These might be fine for a cherry tomato caprese salad where it won’t matter much, but not for this type of recipe.. San Marzano tomatoes are the best for grilling a margherita pizza because they are meaty, and have less water content. Romas can be used if you don’t have San Marzanos.
You want the best fresh mozzarella you can find – the kind you get that is packed in water is best, and second best is the vacuum sealed fresh small balls of mozzarella – but make sure they are not the marinated ones; you want fresh plain mozzarella. Slice it approximately the same size and thickness as the tomatoes. Don’t use marinated mozzarella, shredded mozzarella or grated cheese.
Fresh basil leaves
As tempting as it may be to grab your dried herbs and add them to the pizza, this is a no-no. Instead use fresh basil leaves. If you’re not growing basil in your garden, you should!
It won’t take long to cook on the grill, so make sure to keep a watchful eye on it. Here are some tips for when you make a grilled margherita pizza.
- Be careful when using the grill on high heat, as it may overcook the pizza.
- If the bottom of the crust is getting too dark, turn off the flame and keep the lid closed for a while otherwise only the bottom will cook.
- Add basil at the end so it only wilts, not cooks and dries.
- You’ll need some good tongs.
- Follow the instructions below.
I’ve had some true blunders and I’ve had some great results… and the rule of thumb I find is that the higher my impatience, the more likely I’ll end up having to start all over again. Follow my rules and you’ll be set up for success.
How to Make a Grilled Margherita Pizza
Making a margherita pizza with the use of a grill is quite easy. Expect to get some weird looks from anyone who has never tried this, but I know it will be a big hit for everyone. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way.
- First, preheat the grill so it is at high heat, around 450 to 500F.
- Meanwhile, roll out your pizza dough into a circle. The dough will rise when on the grill so make it fairly thin.
- Make sure to brush both sides with olive oil because we’ll be flipping the pizza half way through.
- When the grill is ready, place the pizza on the grill grates for about 2 minutes with the lid up. It will start to bubble and brown.
- Then flip the dough again for another minute or two to also brown.
- Remove the pizza from the grill. This prevents the pizza from burning. Add the tomato and mozzarella slices and return to the grill. Cook until the cheese is melted. Should only take about a minute or two.
- Add the basil leaves right before serving. If you add them too soon they’ll cook off their oils and become crispy losing their fresh flavor.
Grilling Store-bought Margherita Pizza
Okay, so I’ve done this too – where I’ve just purchased a store-bought pizza and threw it on the grill. It works out okay, but it’s definitely not the same. I’d just resort to that when the power is out and I can’t use the oven. 😊
You can use store bought pizza and one brand I recommend with great enthusiasm is Marifano. I might be late to the party, but this is the first time I’ve seen this brand in any store. I found it at Walmart, so hopefully you can get your hands on some nearby.
What caught my eye about this brand was the big “Made in Italy” graphic on the box. The crust is made with basic ingredients, including soft wheat flour, water, durum wheat flour, olive oil, salt, and yeast. I prefer grilling the pizza because it doesn’t get soggy, and the slightly burnt edges give it a nice flavor and aroma.
But…. Let’s get back to talking about grilling our margherita pizzas!
I hope you enjoy your grilled margherita pizza as much as we do. It’s a fun experience.
Remember to use fresh ingredients and good pizza dough, watch the heat when grilling, and enjoy your pizza! Let me know how it goes for you and any tips you’ve discovered.
Grilled Margherita Pizza
- pizza dough (use my Italian pizza dough recipe – link in notes)
- 4-5 Roma or San Marzano tomatoes sliced into 1/8" slices a good meaty tomato will do
- 1 16oz ball of fresh mozzarella or small balls – just make sure it's fresh mozzarella (not shredded)
- handful fresh basil leaves
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Roll out your pizza dough into the appropriate size and rub with olive oil. Try to make the dough thin as it will thicken on the grill.
- Heat the grill to high heat.
- Place the pizza dough on the grill and let it cook for about 1-2 minutes or until the bottom is a nice crust.
- Turn the pizza over to cook for another 1 or 2 minutes, making sure not to burn it.
- At this point, remove from the heat and place the tomato slices on the pizza spacing them out. It does not have to be a solid layer like sauce. Add the mozzarella slices.
- Return pizza to the grill and cook until the cheese is melted. You can lower the lid to help melt the cheese faster. This should only take a minute.
- Right when the pizza is done, add the fresh basil and serve.
- Here is my Italian pizza dough recipe. You can also buy the dough in the grocery store in the frozen section; just make sure to let it thaw according to the instructions.
- Check the pizza every minute because depending on the level of heat, the dough may cook faster or take longer.
- Slice the mozzarella the same width or thinner than the tomatoes.
- The reason we remove the pizza from the grill to place the toppings on it is because if it’s on the grill while you do it, it can overcook because it’s so hot. So I remove it, add the toppings and then put it back on the grill to melt the cheese.
- Adding the basil on at the last minute will keep the basil fresh and from drying out.