ho-made grilled pizza volume I: margherita

The fear of being boring is universal, and staving it off becomes an (ironic) cycle of miniature routines. Don't cook the same things more than once a month; always wear mascara before leaving the house. Never re-watch television shows. Don't own sweatpants.

But in ONLY this case, repetition represents a fine-tuned mastery rather than a destiny of sadness. Yesterday the weather finally decided to half-cooperate with a balmy 80° F temperature to accompany the 50mph winds, so friends showed up to bear witness to an inauguration of what will surely be a highly successful second year of homemade pizza on the grill: something I do all the time despite that I don't do anything all the time, and has always proven to be worth the second and third and fourth attempt. 

And then, 18 Trader Joe's off-brand beers later, we all watched 4 hours of Archer in silence. Later, at 3am, we walked a mile to eat burritos. A successful Saturday.



Effortful time: 10 minutes 
Total time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2


  • 1 ball Trader Joe's traditional pizza dough, from the refrigerator section (the herb one is not as good; the whole wheat is actually pretty good but not with tomato sauce)
  • Pizza sauce of your choosing; use as desired
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced very thin (see below)
  • 8 huge leaves basil, chiffonaded into thin ribbons
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Flour
  • Olive oil spray


  1. Let the dough come up from its cold temperature for about 30-40 minutes. When it's cold, it's thin and stringy and impossible to work with. After it's plumped up, this will be simple.
  2. Near the end of that waiting period, heat the grill to 450°. It has to be hazardously hot. I have a gas grill and don't know what the equivalent is for charcoal.
  3. Dump some flour onto a huge board. Plop the dough ball onto it and roll around to coat in flour. Split it into two smaller dough balls. You have two options now: you can use a rolling pin (because I don't bake I only just bought one for pizzas; a French taper kind that made me feel very gourmet-sophisticate until I realized it couldn't go through the dishwasher) or you can stretch it by hand. The former will still net you a very rustic-looking, uneven and unrecognizable shape. I aim for oval but it rarely gets there. Circles don't fit on my grill.
  4. Lightly spray on olive oil to both sides of your newly-formed crust. Sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside.
  5. Put the mozzarella ball on a smaller board. Take a string of the dental floss and hold it very taut. Slice down into the mozzarella to make very thin, clean-cut slabs. I cannot do this with a knife. If you can, great. But most people who have said they can, can't.
  6. It's time. Flop the crust quickly on the grill, on one side only. This is not easy, and takes practice to get the motion down. Just stay out there with it — it only takes 4 minutes anyway — because it's unsalvagable once burned. There should, however, be a good char on it when you take it off. Remove, crunchy side up, leaving the other side uncooked.
  7. While that's cooling off for a moment, stack the basil leaves and roll into a tight little tube. Make a bunch of thin horizontal slices. Unfurl and you have ribbons.
  8. Spread a thin layer of sauce onto the COOKED SIDE of the crust. Add an evenly spaced layer of mozzarella (the closer you place them, the cheesier your pizza will seem), cracked pepper, and the basil ribbons. The latter will turn black and crispier when cooked. If you prefer true fresh basil, wait until the end to add them.
  9. Put this back on the grill (it's much easier once it's half cooked), uncooked side down for 3 minutes. The grill is hotter now, so be careful on the timing. Once things hit a melting point, the crust is automatically done.
  10. Remove with a giant spatula. Let rest for a few minutes, then slice in with a roller.
  11. Proceed to then divide up giant slabs rather than going for slices and maul all of it with a fork before it's had a chance to cool. Lament the burning of your soft tissue.