If you have an outdoor barbecue grill with a cover that closes over the top of the grill, you can turn it into an outdoor oven. Why would you want to do that? To preclude the need to heat up your kitchen this summer to bake pizza, cookies, cakes, bread, and casseroles. And to expand your camping-out cooking repertoire.
You can bake nearly anything with a covered grill. If your grill doesn’t have a cover, improvise with a large inverted pot. The heat rises and circulates in the covered area just as it does in your oven. The heat source can be charcoal, gas, or even wood, however, gas is preferable because it is easier to control and does not transfer a smoked taste to the baked items.
This is the challenge. The hardest part of using a gas grill as an oven is temperature control. A built-in accessory thermometer can be useful but these can easily be off by more than 50°F, which can really interfere whether you’re baking a great meatloaf, a whole chicken, or homemade bread.
If your grill has a temperature gauge installed, you’re in luck. If not, you’ll need to get a small oven thermometer so you can more accurately regulate the inside temperature of your grill when it is closed.
Always fire up the grill for a few minutes to set the temperature before baking.
When baking, never set the baking pan directly on the grill. Instead, set a brick or two as necessary on the grill, then the banking pan on top of the brick(s).
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As far as possible, do not lift that cover once you’ve closed it on your baking. You’ll need to watch the time carefully at first until you’ve experimented sufficiently to know how long things take to bake in your new outdoor “oven.” Just remember that opening that cover is like allowing an arctic storm to blow through.
Pizza on the grill
You really can make pizza on your grill, provided you follow these instructions:
- Roll out the pizza dough to your desired thickness.
- Transfer the rolled crust to a pizza peel on which you have sprinkled cornmeal to act as a release agent. (Think of cornmeal as tiny ball bearings that roll the pizza of and onto the grill. Or you can use a cookie sheet that has no lip on at least one side. This will allow you to easily transfer the dough to your hot grill by allowing it to simply slide off the sheet or peel, if you have one.)
- Heat the grill.
- Moisten a paper towel with oil and rub the grates.
- Slide the dough onto the grill. Watch it carefully and when the bottom browns, turn the dough to grill the other side.
- Now you can add your sauce of choice, toppings, and cheese.
- Close the cover to allow the toppings to cook and melt.
Yes, you really can learn to bread in your grill. Think about it: All you need to bake bread is an enclosed space that is heated. A grill works perfectly to do that. Flatbread is a super easy, but so are breads that require rising times to turn out well. Just keep in mind that grills can get much hotter than a kitchen oven, so temperature control is not as precise.
Start with grill-baked flatbread. Once you’ve perfected that, you’ll be ready to take on more delicate breads. A few tips will help guide you toward grill-baked bread perfection.
- While any bread recipe can be baked on the grill, it takes trial and error. Consider starting with pre-made frozen rolls or dough from the supermarket, to get the hang of the heat. Try placing frozen loaves or rolls directly on a preheated grill, at 475-500F. Watch them to make sure they don’t burn and remove them from the grill when they are a nice golden brown.
- A good next step is to test baking no-knead Artisan Bread on the grill. You’ll improve your success rate when you “bake” the dough in a covered Dutch oven and setting the pot directly on the grill.
- Consider grilling with indirect heat since direct heat can cause the bottom of the bread to burn. If your gas grill has multiple burners, light those on the sides, leaving the center burner(s)unlit. Allow the grill to come to 475-500F. Now set the covered Dutch oven in the middle and close the grill lid. Now you have replicated a baking oven.
If you have a pizza stone (unglazed terra cotta tile works well and is a lot cheaper than a commercial pizza stone), you can lay this directly on the grill. Allow it to heat on Low heat to avoid cracking the stone. Once it is good and hot, slide the crust right onto the stone. Once browned, turn the crust over and proceed as above.
The folks at Weber not only make great outdoor grills—they have compiled A Recipe for Every Type of Griller at its website. Check it out—especially this flatbread pizza! You’ll build confidence quickly and baking outdoors in no time!
Here’s a slick way to create a kind of self-cleaning feature on any barbecue grill. Place a few sheets of aluminum foil over the grill so you have several thicknesses. Crank up the heat to the hottest possible settings, close the cover and allow to heat for 30 minutes. Like the self-cleaning setting on your traditional over, this turns everything on the grill to ash.
Caution: Before attempting this, check your barbecue warranty to make sure this will not do anything to void a warranty that is still in effect.
Photo credit: BlackBirdCD