The homemade pizza hasn’t always been something to ... look forward to exactly.
Unless you had a giant brick oven in your backyard and – most importantly – knew how to use it, you could always tell the difference between a homemade pie and one from a pizzeria.
Perhaps the crust wasn't crispy enough – especially the bottom – or it was too doughy. Maybe the toppings were undercooked.
But in recent years, that's been changing. Now, it's entirely possible to make a pizzeria-quality pie in the comfort of your own home. And it doesn't require constructing a giant outdoor brick oven.
Thanks to advances in cooking technology, small-scale pizza ovens are widely available, opening the doors to preparing Neapolitan-style & wood fire pizzas to the masses.
Backyard pizzerias are more common than ever and cooking the perfect pizza is a skill more people are mastering.
The newest member of the Smokin' Ugly family, the TG Series Grill, does exactly this, but with its own unique take, serving as a charcoal pizza grill (and yes, you read that correctly).
Pizza: A Short History of the Pie
Pizza is a popular dish that originated in Italy, and its history can be traced back to ancient times. The word "pizza" itself comes from the Latin word "pinsa," meaning "flatbread."
Pizza is believed to have its origins in Italy. Though it's hard to pin down an exact location, date, or even recipe, early recorded history indicates pizza-type dishes being made during the first few post-BC centuries. The primitive "pizzas" were simple – typically a flatbread with cooked vegetables, meats, and herbs topping them. Tomatoes, and by extension, tomato sauce, wouldn't enter the equation until the 16th century when the fruit was brought to Europe from the New World.
The first "pizzas" that most closely resemble what we eat today were likely made in Naples in the 18th century. These early iterations of the modern pizza remained simple, consisting of flatbread topped with tomato sauce, garlic, and olive oil. Cheese was not originally used, but when it was added, mozzarella was the cheese of choice.
It wouldn't be until the late 19th century when pizza began to gain a foothold in America, with Italian immigrant communities bringing the dish with them to a new life in the United States. In the early 1900s, the first pizzerias opened in New York City, and pizza quickly became a popular food in America.
With regional takes, the pie continued to evolve – from thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizza to thick-crust Chicago-style pizza, and yes, even pies with pineapple. There's a pizza for everyone.
Making Your Charcoal Pizza Grill
As we like to say, the TG is a triple threat. In addition to being a grill first, the TG is easily converted to a griddle and pizza oven.
How easy is it to go from grill mode to pizza oven?
Simply install the wood/charcoal shelf in the grill; and swap out the TG's grill grate for the griddle. With those adjustments, you're ready to start making wood-fired charcoal grill pizza that your favorite pizzeria would be envious of.
The TG as a pizza oven isn't unlike a drum smoker outfitted with our Smokin' Ugly Pizza Oven Kit. Shape, size, and portability aside, both cooking implements offer the same qualities that lend themselves to creating the perfect pizza:
- Even Heating – With intense temperatures that are contained by the TG's lid, heat envelops the pizza.
- A Fast Bake – Because of its high temperatures and even heating, you can have a pizza cooked in under 10 minutes.
- Wood-fire Flavor – Just like a brick oven, you get that delicious wood-fired flavor.
- A Crispy Crust – Like a pizza stone, the TG's griddle draws moisture from the pizza dough, resulting in a crust that's the appropriate consistency top-side, yet crunchy on the bottom.
Cooking the Perfect Pizza With Your TG
Before we get into the “how to use a portable charcoal grill as a pizza oven,” there is one pro tip we'd like to pass along.
The #1 thing to remember: cooking a Neapolitan-style or flatbread pizza on a TG does take a bit of practice. Figuring out the balance between temperature, cook time, pie rotation intervals, and topping sensitivity to heat, is a fine art. Suffice it to say, if you undercook, overcook, or even burn a few pizzas at first, don't sweat it – that happens to everyone.
That said ...
In many respects, cooking pizza on the TG is no different than doing so with an ugly drum smoker or brick oven.
Once your TG portable pizza oven grill is set up to cook pizza, get your charcoal going. It's best to start it in a charcoal chimney and transfer it to the TG's charcoal shelf when the coals are nice and hot (this should take about 15 minutes). After the coals are on the shelf, add wood chunks atop the heat source.
You'll want the temperature at around 900℉.
|Hardwoods, such as oak, hickory, and cherry, are best as they produce a smokey flavor that compliments pizza well. In addition, hardwood chunks have denser grains that provide a longer burning time with higher temperatures than softwoods or hardwood pellets.|
While the TG is coming up to temperatures, you can use that time to assemble your pizza(s).
Another pro tip: Come to the table prepared to make your pizza. Have your ingredients cut up and immediately available. The last thing you want is to fumble around to make a pizza. Once you get going cooking on your TG, things move quickly and the pizza in the oven requires your constant attention.
Now, we'll break things down by key consideration for the two pizza types best suited for a charcoal pizza grill: Neapolitan style and flatbread
- Crust Preparation: Be mindful to use a little less oil and water than you would if you were cooking it in a conventional oven because of how quickly the pie cooks.
- Size: The TG can accommodate a 14" pie – perfect for individualized pizzas
Cooking: A Neapolitan-style pizza cooks in about 10 minutes. Using a pizza peel, rotate the pie every two minutes or so for even cooking and to prevent burning. If your crust cooks faster than the toppings, use the peel to lift the pizza off the griddle and broil the rest of the pie.
- Crust preparation: Being that a flatbread is precooked, there's nothing to be done except to assemble your pizza.
- Size: The TG can accommodate flatbreads no bigger than 13”x12”
Cooking: Flatbread pizzas cook much faster than Neapolitan pizzas – you can have one done in just under 5 minutes. Using the pizza peel, rotate the pizza about every 90 seconds.
Curious to see pizza cooking in action on a drum smoker?
Check out our video:
A Few More TG Pro Tips:
- Be sure to position your TG so any breeze is at its back. This allows the wind to move the smoke across the pizza and keep your coals burning hot.
- Pizza placement matters inside the TG. The farther back the pizza, the closer it is to the heat source.
- Suggested equipment:
- Pizza peel
- Gloves/oven mitts
- Heat gun (optional, for starting charcoal quickly)
- Non-contact thermometer
- Don't be afraid to have fun and experiment!
Carrying on the Rich Tradition of Pizza Making
Even in its earliest form, creating a pie that made you wish for seconds took a level of skill and careful attention to all components of the pizza-making process. And while the process, implements, and ingredients evolved, the tradition of pizza making very much remains an art.
With a TG Series Grill as a charcoal pizza oven, you're adding to that history, making the time-honored traditions of pizza-making your own.
What Else Does the TG Bring to the Table?