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!
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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. 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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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