How to Grill a Pizza on an Open Fire

by Peter Mitchell

Grilling pizza over an open fire, such as a charcoal pit, gives it a delicious smokey charred flavor. However, unlike gas stoves or ovens, you can't easily adjust the flame and temperature. That means flame-grilled pizza runs the risk of burning or overcooking. A fire with large flames licking up over the grill will scorch the pizza base, leaving the toppings and the inside of the dough underdone. Because the heat comes only from below, you must flip a plain pizza base before adding to toppings to ensure that both sides get cooked.

Spread the coals or wood in your fire pit in an even layer. Light the coals and leave them burning until flames spread evenly throughout the pit. Let the flames die down a little.

Use a metal prong to move the coals so that one side has a single layer of coals and the other has burning coals three layers deep. You need a flame pit with one hot area and one slightly cooler area, Dwayne Ridgaway writes in "Pizza: 50 Traditional and Alternative Recipes for the Oven and Grill."

Hold your hand 3 inches above grill level to test the heat of each half of the pit. On the hot half, you should be able to keep your hand in place to a count of three before it gets too hot. On the cooler half, aim for a count of five.

Arrange your toppings on a table near the open fire. Grate cheese into a bowl and use a tomato paste to cover the basic toppings. Use any other desired ingredients — pepperoni or onion, for example. Aim for a light layer of toppings. Don't overload you pizza, or it makes grilling more difficult.

Rub olive oil onto both sides of a plain, fresh pizza dough base.

Slide the pizza base over the hot half of the oven using a pair of tongs. Cook for around a minute, depending on your open fire temperature. Move the pizza to the cooler side as soon as the dough chars a little, and cook for a further two minutes.

Flip the pizza. Use a large spoon to add the tomato paste and sprinkle on some of the cheese. Add toppings as required. Grill for three minutes, or until the base turns golden brown and the cheese melts. Slide the pizza back off the grill with the tongs and serve.


  • Freshly made pizza dough works better than the hard circular bases available from typical grocery stores.

    Use a cover on top of the fire at the end to help cook the toppings.

    Look for a firm, crisp pizza base when cooked. If it's still floppy, it's not ready.

Photo Credits

  • aruba200/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.