It’s time for the 5th episode of Becoming a Backyard BBQ Master! Today I’m going to show you how to make my favorite food on the planet: wood fired pizza! We’ll be cooking the pizza on a kamado grill (the Primo XL400). You can follow the advice and guidance in this video for cooking pizzas on any kamado grills, including the Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Primo grill, and more.
I have to admit, getting pizza right is easily the hardest thing I’ve tried to cook on my Primo. Cooking meats low and slow or using the reverse sear technique removes a lot of the potential for error. Cooking pizzas in a really hot oven from scratch? Things can go wrong real easily.
Fortunately, I’ve made a few mistakes and will share those lessons learned so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes. Ultimately, wood fired pizza is going to be the best pizza, so it’s worth the challenge for me.
With that, here is the latest episode of Becoming a Backyard BBQ Master. Watch now or read on to find recipe links, extra lessons learned, and more!
Why Cook Pizza on a Kamado Style Grill?
First, you should know that I love pizza. Yes I am an adult, and yes my taste buds never graduated middle school. But I don’t care – I love pizza!
Wood fired pizza is easily the best way to make pizza, but not everyone has a wood fired oven. Although wood fired ovens like the ones from Forno Piombo are rising in popularity, and smaller portable ovens like the Ooni Pro are making pizza ovens more accessible, it’s going to be a long time before they catch the number of kamado style grills in America.
Kamado grills are known for their ceramic casing that can maintain high or low temperatures for long periods of time. They are great for smoking a pork butt for 14 hours, or you can use them to sear steaks at 700 degrees. Kamado style grills use charcoal or wood as a fuel source (or both together) to add great flavor and the perfect amount of heat.
More and more people are discovering they can cook pizza on kamado style grills. Their ability to maintain high temperatures and radiate heat from above and below make them a great option for people looking to experience wood fired pizza without a wood fired pizza oven.
I knew that cooking pizzas on my Primo XL400 would be a challenge, but I wanted to try and see what I could do. If you want to try cooking a pizza yourself, then make sure to read this post and watch the video so you can avoid the same mistakes I made!
Equipment for Cooking Pizza on Kamado Grills
If you’re ready to cook some pizzas on your kamado style grill, you’ll need a few extra pieces of equipment. Most kamado grill companies will have their own version of these items, but many generic versions will work too. Here are the key pieces of equipment you’ll need:
- Ceramic heat deflector plates: These are really important because they allow you to cook the pizza over indirect heat. If you cook over direct heat (fire straight up into your pizza stone) then you will be more likely to burn your pizza.
- Pizza stone: This is where you will cook the pizza. The stone gets placed on top of your grill grate and creates a consistently hot base for the pizza to cook on. It will also give your pizza that incredible crisp bottom that wood fired pizzas are known for.
- Pizza peel: You can find these all over the place, but a pizza is like a giant spatula made for pizzas. You will use it to slide the pizza on to the stone and then later to remove it from the stone.
- Pizza screens: These are not required, but I highly recommend them if you’re a beginner or planning to cook a lot of pizzas. Pizza screens are typically made of aluminum and have lots of space for air flow. They give you a surface to prepare your pizza on, and they make placing pizzas on your stone 10 times easier. When I tried to place my pizza on the stone directly, some of the dough got stuck on the pizza peel and it landed very squashed on the stone.
- Fuel source: You have a few options when choosing a fuel source. Most backyard chefs will use charcoal as their heat source and add some oak wood chunks for the wood fired flavor. You can certainly go this route, but for a truly wood fired experience you can also use oak wood chunks exclusively. Depending on the size of your kamado grill, you could also use our oak cooking splits or even our pizza cut firewood. You can also learn more about the qualities of the best wood for pizza ovens.
- Gloves: Heat resistant gloves are always important when you’re cooking at high temperatures.
That covers the equipment you’ll need, now let’s talk about how to set yourself up for success.
Preparation Steps for Cooking Pizza on Kamado Grills
- Clean your grill: Removing the ash will allow the oven to heat up and hold temperature better. Cleaning your ceramic heat deflector and grill grate will remove any juices from past cooks. An unclean grill will create a dark smoke like the picture below, and pizza crust is extremely absorbent and takes on flavor fast. You don’t want your cook from last week to add flavor to the pizza. Learn more about cleaning your kamado style grill.
- Preheat the oven for a long time: You will need to allow about 60 minutes to preheat your kamado grill for pizza. First, you need to get the oven to a pretty high temperature. Then, your pizza stone and the ceramic lid also need to absorb the heat from the fire. This process takes time, but it will also help clean out your grill even more. High temperatures in kamado grills allows them to self clean.
- Consider the temperature: Many backyard chefs will cook their pizza at 700 degrees, and professionals will even cook it at 900 degrees. That is crazy hot! When done right, cooking at higher temperatures will produce better results, but it is also easier to get the timing wrong. I cooked my pizzas around 500 degrees – still pretty hot but also less room for error.
Hopefully that provides some helpful advice for setting yourself up for success to cook pizza on kamado style grills. Now let’s talk about the ingredients.
Making Pizza from Scratch: Ingredients and Recipes
Did you know you can cook frozen pizza on kamado style grills? You sure can! But I didn’t want to settle, so I decided to make everything from scratch. Pizza is relatively simple to make from scratch, especially if you follow the following recipes.
Pizza Dough: I’ve tried two different pizza dough recipes, and one was easier while the other one was tastier. I recommend the tastier one because it was still pretty easy, but it did require more time.
The tastier one that takes more time comes from Emeril Legasse and it’s a pretty basic pizza dough recipe. I like that it’s simple, but they provide some nice ideas for adding unique flavors to the crust. The biggest downside with this recipe is that you need to plan ahead – it requires a couple hours to let the dough rise.
The easier pizza crust recipe only required two ingredients – greek yogurt and self-rising flour. It tasted good, but not great. That being said, the recipe has great reviews so maybe I messed it up (not sure how – it’s only got 2 ingredients!). The big advantage of this recipe is that it is quick – you can make this dough and be cooking within a few minutes.
Pizza Sauce: For homemade pizza sauce, using San Marzano tomatoes makes for some incredible flavor – I used this pizza sauce recipe. The recipe made enough pizza sauce for 4-5 pizzas, and since I only cooked 2 pizzas, I froze half and saved it for later. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I blended the tomatoes because I like my pizza sauce smooth. You, however can keep it chunky if you prefer – it’s your backyard, cook what you want!
Cheese and Toppings: I know that this is an old Papa John’s motto, but there is a lot of truth to the idea that better ingredients makes better pizza. Every ingredient matters – so don’t settle! I used some cheap mozzarella cheese and, despite having awesome sauce, the pizza was a little disappointing. Choose fresh vegetables, flavorful meats, and fresh cheese.
Cooking wood is another ingredient that often gets forgotten about. Wet or musty wood will add a wet, musty flavor to your meal and that is never good for pizza. As top chef Richard Blais says, “Firewood is an ingredient. Once you wrap your head around that, and understand that great cooking uses great ingredients, you’ll want to use Cutting Edge Firewood.”
Directions for Cooking Pizza on Kamado Grills
Once you have your Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Primo Grill, or whatever Kamado style grill you’re using preheated and ready to go, it’s time to cook the pizza!
If you’re using a pizza screen, make sure it has been well-oiled or seasoned. Otherwise the crust will stick to it (see more in lessons learned below!) Roll the crust out onto your pizza screen, cover it with pizza sauce, add the desired cheese and toppings, and then prepare to place it in the oven.
Get your gloves on, place the pizza peel under the screen, and then open up your grill. It should be around 500 degrees. Slide the screen and pizza onto your pizza stone and briefly enjoy the sizzle sound before closing the lid.
If you do not use a pizza screen, then make sure you put a ton of cornstarch on your pizza stone and on your pizza peel. Pizza dough is sticky, and if you don’t have a barrier then parts of it will get stuck in transition which will create some ugly pizzas.
For the Emeril pizza crust, I needed 7-8 minutes to cook the pizza. The 2-ingredient pizza dough was a bit smaller and only needed 6 minutes. Every oven and pizza crust is going to be a bit different, so keep an eye on things. Every time you open the oven, you do release heat, so be careful about doing this too much! Letting it go for at least 6 minutes is probably a good starting point for your first pizza, and if it looks like it needs another minute or two let it go.
Don’t forget to check the bottom either – depending on your pizza stone and kamado grill, it could be cooking a little faster than the top. You can also try raising up your entire pizza stone a bit higher to get the pizza closer to the top which is radiating heat down.
I know some people like to cook their pizza halfway on the pizza screen, then once the crust has started to cook, they slide the pizza off the screen and directly onto the stone. You can try that too!
Once the pizza is done, remove it from the kamado and let it cool. If you keep it on the pizza screen that will allow the crust to stay a bit crispier at the bottom as it allows water the chance to evaporate out instead of collecting under your pizza.
That’s it! You have just cooked pizza!
Lessons Learned from Cooking a Pizza on my Primo XL400
This was probably the hardest thing to cook I’ve tried, and therefore I have the longest list of lessons learned! A few of these have been mentioned in the directions above, but I’m going to emphasize them a bit more here.
- Start at a lower temperature – cooking your pizzas at 500 degrees is going to have more room for error than at 700 degrees. It’s a good starter temperature, and once you get some practice in maybe go for 700 degrees.
- Watch the bottom of the crust – I thought my first pizza looked beautiful, until I saw the bottom! I had overcooked it, and taking it off 1 minute earlier would have made a big difference. Cooking directly on the pizza stone might help prevent this, and raising your pizza stone up a bit could help too.
- More time to preheat the Kamado: Another way to help the top cook more evenly is to give the kamado grill plenty of time to preheat so the entire grill can radiate heat. You will also give your kamado a chance to burn off any old juices from previous cooks and produce a cleaner, more clear smoke.
- Clean your grill: The first couple pizzas we ate tasted a little like greasy smoke. It wasn’t from the wood chunks or charcoal, but rather from my dirty grill. Once you start cooking at high temperatures, the grill starts to burn off the juice and chunks of meat that have stuck to the ceramic grill plates. This creates a dark smoke that does not taste good. Cleaning your grill by removing the ash and safely wiping off the insides will produce better results every time!
- Start with a pizza screen: I’ve cooked pizzas 3 times now, and the first two used pizza screens. On my third attempt, I tried using the pizza peel to place the dough directly onto the pizza stone. It was a sticky mess. Adding lots of corn flour can help (I thought I was using a lot, but apparently you really need a lot!), but pizza screens are a nice and easy way to get started. The screens also make prep easier, and they’re cheap.
- Season your pizza screen: The only problem with pizza screens is your crust can get stuck to them. I lost about half my crust on one pizza because it became one with the screen! You either need to apply a lot of oil to the screen, or you can season your pizza screen like a cast iron skillet which will help prevent the crust sticking in the future.
- Use quality ingredients: Most of my ingredients were high quality – I used Cutting Edge Firewood chunks, nice charcoal, an excellent sauce and fresh toppings. But then I settled for store brand shredded mozzarella cheese. That one ingredient took the whole pizza down a notch and I won’t be using it again. Use great ingredients if you want great pizza!
I am, by no means, a master backyard pizza chef. But I also think I’m on the right track! Making pizzas in your kamado grill is a fun way to do something different and experience wood fired pizza.
If you decide to cook pizza on your Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or Primo grill then I hope this post is helpful for you! And if you do happen to be an expert, please feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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