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How to Turn Your Barbecue Grill into a Baking Oven

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? I can think of a few reasons!

pizza on an outdoor grill

  • To have another baking oven on holidays or other occasions when you really use it.
  • To have an alternative on days you don’t want to heat up the kitchen
  • To expand your camping-out cooking repertoire
  • To have a way to cook and bake during power outages.
  • To have an alternative appliance should electric rates spike.

General

Experiment

You can bake nearly anything with a covered grill. There are no hard and fast rules. I’ve discovered a few things that work better on my particular grill, but your grill may be completely different with equally different outcomes. Being willing to experiment is the key to making an outdoor grill a second oven and cooking appiance.

Location

I use my outdoor grill year round—and yes winter here in Northern Colorado. The grill sits on our deck, right outsidse the kitchen entrance. That makes it super convenient. If it were located in a place where I would have to climb stairs or trudge to another area in the backyard, I doubt the grill would get much use during the colder months. All that to say, location is super important. Figure out a way to make your grill as convenient as possible, and you’ll be more likely to see it as a viable option.

Cover

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 wood. However, gas is preferable because it is easier to control and does not transfer a smoked taste to the baked items.

Temperature

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.

Pre-heat

Always fire up the grill for a few minutes to set the temperature before baking.

Use a buffer

When baking on an outdoor grill, never set the baking pan directly on the grill. You need something heatproof to act as a buffer so that you baking pan it’s not sitting directly on your grill rack. I’ve used an inverted cast iron pan or even a couple of bricks to keep the baking pan well above the heat source so air can freely circulate.

Peek infrequently

It’s okay do a little peeking, but try to limit it. Every time you open the grill you’re allowing the equivalent of an arctic storm to blow through. As you gain experience, your need to peek will lessen. If it looks like your baked items are browning too fast or too slow, adjust the heat. It’s difficult for me to give you instruction  on specific grill temperature settings because every grill is going to be different.

Pizza on the grill

Unlike baking cookies, casseroles, etc., on a pan that is elevated from the grill itself, you really can make pizza on your grill, provided you follow these instructions:

  1. Roll out the pizza dough to your desired thickness.
  2. Transfer the rolled crust to a pizza peel on which you have sprinkled cornmeal to act as a release agent.  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.  Cornmeal acts as tiny ball bearings to help that dough slide off and your baking surface.
  3.  Heat the grill.
  4. Moisten a paper towel with oil and rub the grates.
  5. Slide the dough onto the grill. Watch it carefully and when the bottom browns, turn the dough to grill the other side.
  6. Now you can add your sauce of choice, toppings, and cheese.
  7. Close the cover to allow the toppings to cook and melt.

Bake bread

Yes, you really can learn to bake bread in your grill turned outdoor oven. 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 mandatory, albeit, 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.

  1. While any bread recipe can be baked on the grill, it will likely require a season trials and errors. 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 to make sure they don’t burn and remove them from the grill when they are a nice golden brown.
  2. 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 set the pot on a couple of bricks sitting directly on the grill.
  3. 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.

Get help

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!

Cleaning tip

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


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5 replies
  1. Joanna says:

    Thanks for these suggestions! I also use my grill year-round.
    For easy cleaning, I have a grill brush and a spray bottle of plain water. After pre-heating the grill, I spray the racks with water and scrub any stuck-on crud with the brush. This literally steam-cleans the racks. Works like a charm!

    Reply
  2. Cath says:

    Regarding baking stones, Julia Childs once recommended going to the hardware store to get tiles. She was chagrined when someone pointed out that those tiles are not food safe as they might well contain heavy metals and other contaminants. I’d stick with baking stones that are sold specifically for food just to be safe. Otherwise, it sounds like a fun challenge to break the tedium of lockdown.

    Reply
  3. Lisa C says:

    I’ve been using our gas grill as an oven for over 30 years. Started one HOT summer and I had a whole turkey to cook. Certainly did not want the oven on all day inside! Prepared it in a roasting pan as if it were going in the oven with foil over it, too. It turned out so well, that’s the only way we do it now, especially for Thanksgiving (no matter how cold & snowy it is; just shovel a path). And then as an added bonus, I have a full oven available for everything else, no waiting. Then one year our oven quit. Back to the grill, for meatballs, breads, stews, you name it. . . Very handy indeed. However, I do use thicker pots and pans like cast iron or broiler pans. And indirect heat at times. Great article, as always, Mary! Thanks!

    Reply
  4. crabbyoldlady says:

    We use our grill a great deal of the year too, even in Minnesota! If we are lucky, the gas canister lasts the year. However, if I am taking the time to bake something, I want it done right! Also, gas is expensive to use. Seems to me that this is an expensive option for baking, and fiddly.

    Reply
  5. Cay Lowery says:

    This was a super fantastic tip! Thank you. We use our grill during snow times too! We use the grill as an oven as well. I guess we just didn’t “think” about it for use during the summer, except for the meats and veggies.
    Mary, you are a treasure indeed!

    Reply

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