Pizza Lab #7: Grilled Summer Pizza
Pizza Lab is a fun theoretical column in which Meg A. and Erik S. explore their innermost passion for baking and eating pizzas. It exists purely for the sake of experimenting in the kitchen. It may not necessarily be cost-effective everytime, so don’t try this at home kids.
So plants are blooming, the sun is shining, and old people are complaining about the weather. Ah, Summer in New York. With our entry into the month of July, we start that march onward into the hot part of season. Personally I’m a fan of seasons, so even when it’s hot during the Summer, I don’t have too much of a problem, as long as I have air conditioning to retreat to. With the beautiful weather comes an array of awesome outdoorsy activities that can only be enjoyed at this time of year, such as going in the pool, playing tennis, barbecuing, and many others. So to usher in the Fourth of July, and the official, unofficial-official start of Summer, we wanted to be timely for once, and go barbecue a pizza outside. We did not want to stay inside and go quietly into the night. We’re going to survive. We’re going to live on. Today, we celebrate our Independence Day.
(Incidentally, Erik once delivered that speech verbatim to a crowd of drunken party guests as his whiskey toast to the end of the world.)
Grilled Summer Pizza
Meg A. So it seems like we just did a Pizza Lab…
Erik S. You say it like it’s a problem.
Meg A. Well, no, I’m not complaining about eating delicious pizza obviously, haha.
Erik S. Good. That would be just plain silly.
Meg A. Well we decided to try and do them a bit more frequently during the summer when I don’t have soul crushing school work taking up all my time.
Erik S. Yeah, it’s for the best. And this pizza fits that theme perfectly since it’s a Summer pizza.
Meg A. That’s true, we did set out this time to make an obligatory Summer-themed pizza. This was another pizza that involved some brainstorming, since we started with just the broad concept of “a grilled pizza.”
Erik S. Fortunately that discussion went a little shorter than the Pretzel Pizza.
Meg A. Yeah. Since it’s us we knew there’d probably be chicken on it. And I wanted to put watermelon on it since watermelon is one of the classic summer foods. Oh and grilled watermelon is also a thing.
Erik S. It is indeed a thing haha.
Meg A. A thing we will probably never try again. Haha.
Erik S. Yeahhh… but hey, Pizza Lab is all about learning and science, and at the end of the day we learned that grilled watermelon tastes a lot like grilled zucchini. Which was pretty fuckin’ weird…
While not incredibly common, you do once in a while hear stories of grilled pizzas in the various throws of, well, pizza lore. Grilling bread or dough is obviously nothing new, since panino-style sandwiches tend to be grilled. The high temperature involved in the cooking helps crisp the dough up in ways you never knew were possible, almost crystallizing the outside. This is why we all love panini so much (it’s also why the roof of your mouth feels like it was involved in a prison riot, afterwards too, but that’s besides the point). This is all similar to the much more prominent and pretentious practice of labeling your pizzeria with “coal fire” or “brick oven”. In my experience, most of these places throw that on for false advertising, since few actually have that crispness a fire-oven brings to the table. Hey for all I know, they could be using standard pizza ovens and just overcooking the crust to make it seem fancier. Well, we’re above that, naturally, so we set out to grill our pizza. On a barbecue. With grill marks and everything. It’s all part of the Summer theme. Grill marks are like tan lines. People get tan lines. Tan lines are… sexy? So therefore pizza with grilled tan lines is awesome.
But in all seriousness, our goal with this pizza was also to emulate the various cuisine involved in more Summery fare. Grilled chicken is of utmost priority since everyone and their mom (or dad, more appropriately) can throw boneless-skinless chicken breasts on a grill and call it a day. Obviously I’m exaggerating, since there is a finesse to not ruining your delicate tenderloins on an open fire, but you know what I mean. Plain and simple, summer = barbecues, and grilled chicken is plain awesome when done right. Cool? So I whipped up my generic dry rub that I used on all my grilled meats, to use on the chicken breasts. Know how Colonel Sanders brags about his eleven herbs and spices? Pfft. Novice. My dry rub has fourteen, fourteen herbs and spices. I regret to inform you good sir, but I kindly suggest that you rise yourself up onto my own level, Colonel.
Meg A. So… not that grilled zucchini is bad… but there’s something unappealing about biting into one thing and getting another taste.
Erik S. Exactly. Like giving your girlfriend a hickey and having it taste like french fries. Not bad, just awkward.
Meg A. Luckily it still worked well on the pizza.
Erik S. Yeah, it worked out how we expected it, in the end. A subtle sweetness that worked in the same way as tomatoes do on pies made by normal people.
Meg A. And it helped balance the spice of the chicken you made. Which was very tasty on its own as well!
Erik S. Flattery will get you nowhere, haha.
Yeah that’s watermelon on the grill. As previously mentioned, grilled watermelon is in fact a thing. Maybe not as mainstream as say grilled eggplant or roasted peppers or tomatoes, but hey what’s in isn’t always what’s best (I say in my least-hipstery voice). Though in this case, maybe what’s mainstream is best. Because roasted peppers and grilled tomatoes are pretty fucking scrumptious, and the grilled watermelon was a little odd. Like the blockquote says, the endproduct tastes very similar to grilled zuchinni. A lot of the sweet flavor of the melon gets cooked out in lieu of a more savory taste. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, but it wasn’t as good as I was anticipating either.
Still, the remainder of the pizza was pretty similar. Throw some onions on since onions are another perennial favorite amongst grilled vegetables, and then some cheese. Sounds simple, though there was one underlying problem which we were able to quickly solve, in that the dough would need to be parcooked to stiffness, before it could be placed on a 400 degree grill. Not that we were backing out of our experiment of grilling a pizza so soon, but rather just that certain preparations needed to be made. In the same way a flaccid dong needs to be fluffed a bit before it can be even remotely useful in sexual intercouse, a mushy pizza dough would need to be crisped up a bit in the oven, before moving to its real destination, the grill. To do this, the dough was prepared and molded on a pizza stone, baked for three or four minutes at fairly high oven temperature, and then removed to have its toppings added on.
Meg A. Not that it was as much work as Pretzel Pizza was, but the process itself was a little bit annoying.
Erik S. Mostly just because of the need for a pizza stone.
Meg A. Yeah. I suppose in theory we could have just started it off on the grill, but I had horrible mental images of it cooking through the grates.
Erik S. Indeed. So we needed to get the bottom solid first.
Meg A. We have yet top have any truly failed experiments in Pizza Lab. Not looking to start anytime soon.
Erik S. Even still we almost had a failed experiment since the bottom almost burned. Luckily our noses let us know shit was going down in the barbeque.
Meg A. Yep! Among some of the other more “useful” perks of your sense of smell, alerting you to almost-burnt food is definitely one of them.
Erik S. And what other perks would those be?
Meg A. Oh… you know… haha.
Incidentally, the cheese was the only real downer in this experiment. Rather than play it safe and go with mainstays like mozzarella or cheddar, we ended up deciding on Monterey Jack for the cheese of choice. A favorite on sandwiches, its mild flavor seemed like it would be a winning combination with the spicy chicken. Unfortunately, it ended up just sort of melding together with all the other flavors, which isn’t necessarily… surprising? Just that it was somewhat of a minor disappointment, all things considered.
Meg A. I was a little disappointed in the cheese. We finally branched out from Mozzarella with using Cheddar Jack, but it really didn’t add much flavor.
Erik S. Yeah I guess the problem here is that if you want the cheese to taste THAT different, you’re gonna have to branch out to something really exotic.
Meg A. Maybe we should invest in some of that that super gross mushy Italian cheese that’s aged so long it starts decomposing…
Erik S. Oh yeahhh, Casu Marzu? Let’s do it!
Meg A. Hmm… maybe. Though maybe we should just save the money for our dream of a hot tub full of pudding.
Erik S. Or a hot tub full of cheese.
Meg A. That would be good too. As long as it’s not Casu Marzu I think it could work.
As far as results go, the pizza did taste like a down-home, Summer meal. The chicken had that grilled-flavor edge to it, but the spiciness of the dry rub was neutralized somewhat by the grilled watermelon’s slightly sweet flavor. That plus the fact it’s reddish pink meant it was basically just tomatoes. Really. Look at that pic and tell me you wouldn’t think those are just chunks of tomato. As said, the cheese’s flavor was sorta absorbed into the chicken, so it didn’t offer too much excitement. That plus the onions adding a little zing, made sure everything worked in tandem. The crust was crisp and crusty like a panino, and honestly it tasted just like one. While the crust did overcook a little bit, we were able to catch it just in time before it burned. The one real downside? Probably at fault of the watermelon and unyielding crust, everything was a bit slick, meaning every bite was at risk for toppings flying off. In the grand scheme of things, I’ll take that, since pizza never was the cleanest food on the planet. No one goes into a pizza slice expecting to come out cleaner than when they first picked it up. That aside, the Grilled Summer Pizza was delicious and captured the awesomeness of this badass time of year, exactly the way we were hoping.
Meg A. Like you said, the pizza came out pretty good. The dough getting grilled made it similar to a panino, in texture. The only real negative was the overcooked crust, and that it was pretty sloppy to get in your mouth.
Erik S. It was messier than I was expecting.
Meg A. Though I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. Out of all our pizzas I think only 2 haven’t been that messy.
Erik S. Haha, yeah. I think it’s more of an added bonus at this point, if a pizza ends up neat.
Meg A. This was definitely good at encapsulating summer – it was even accompanied by mosquito bites!
Erik S. Ugh, don’t remind me, haha.
Meg A. It definitely was very Summery. Everything had that nice grill flavor to it.
Erik S. Yup, it did.
Meg A. Next time, let’s just make sure to grill it earlier in the day and avoid the bug hoard. Oh and the need for a flashlight to transport it in the house without tripping.