Grilled Pizza

May 4th, 2007

George Foreman Grill
Chances are you’ve not recently juxtaposed the words “George Foreman grill” and “fine dining.” Well, now you can: it turns out that the George Foreman outdoor pedestal grill is great for making an impromptu pizza and it may even be considered healthier, but what about other types, is margherita pizza healthy?

It is indeed reasonable to ask what a couple of unabashed foodies are doing with a George Foreman grill (henceforth, GFG). We’ve all seen the same infomercials featuring a couple of bad-guy burgers oozing fat into the “convenient drip-pan.” The voice-over says something like “And that used to go into our bodies?”

The grill was Fatima’s find. Passing a yard sale late in the day, she spied the grill—nearly-new and priced to move, as in “move it and it’s yours.” So, the price was right, and we thought we could have some fun.

For starters, we’d tried it with some chicken wings, and found the GFG lacking in the intense heat generated by hardwood charcoal in a Weber grill. We hadn’t quite dismissed GFG as a toy, but we hadn’t given it further thought when we had a rib eye or New York strip in mind for dinner.

But here in Sarasota, we think outside the box, outside the kitchen, and indeed, simply outside—like, on the patio. The keys to grilling pizza are having all the toppings ready, and moving fast when the dough hits the grill. For the latter task, the more deliberate, even heat of the GFG seemed ideal. It also didn’t hurt that the grilling surface is twenty inches in diameter; large enough to accommodate a less-than-dead-center placement of the dough at cooking time.

Al Forno, in Providence, RI, put grilled pizzas on the American culinary map about twenty-five years ago, but they’ve been on the Italian culinary map a while longer. It turns out that my brethren in northwestern Tuscany have been making a grilled flatbread called piadina since around 1200 A.D. Carry on the tradition: If you have a flat rooftop, balcony, or merely a driveway, join the confederation of those able to cook outdoors. Celebrate this fraternity with grilled pizza, the ideal spur-of-the moment meal.

For this spur-of-the moment meal, the fridge offered some sour cream, a few ounces of Ducktrap River Farm smoked salmon, and a bunch of watercress. Fatima had made some sourdough the day before. Having been punched down a couple of times, the dough was ready to become crust. (I could have easily walked two blocks to the supermarket for ready-made pizza dough, but Fatima’s was perfuming the sun-room, crying out to be used.)

It seemed ironic to be cooking a pizza as refined as this on a grill as pedestrian as the George Foreman. In a way, it was like wearing orange high-top sneakers with an Armani suit. But we already suspected that this would be a great utensil to achieve a celestial pie.

As I noted, GFG won’t get as hot as hardwood charcoal, but the heat is even across the entire cooking surface. Thus, we could take our time crisping the bottom crust while we hovered over the grill, popping bubbles in the dough as they appeared.

When we had flipped the dough, we brushed on a little olive oil, added the salmon, dollops of sour cream and wilted watercress (microwaved for about 90 seconds). It was an easy task, then, to keep a close eye on the cooking and to position the pie without burning our fingers.
Grilled Pizza
With crust crisp on both sides, yet chewy in the center, the pizza was wonderful. The salmon was slightly warm, the sour cream just starting to run. Would we do this again? Absolutely.

Could we give a second wind to the GFG? Would the manufacturer give us the Electroculinary equivalent of the Legion d’Honneur? Or at least put us on a retainer?

Alas, it seems clear that Mr. Foreman has done quite well without our endorsement. So even if cardiologists would rather laud the GFG for sparing arteries excess burger fat, we shall sing its praises for pizza.

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