For flavor and texture, the best pizzas are made in wood-fired ovens. As we all know, the average home kitchen does not come equipped with a wood-fired oven. Is that to say that the singular flavor, texture, and pleasure of eating a pizza that has been baked in a wood-fired oven is solely a restaurant experience? We weren't ready to make that concession--not with a favorite like pizza.
We set out to develop a method for getting the taste of flame-cooked pizza at home using a grill, whether the fuel is charcoal, briquettes, wood, or even gas. Since the dough is the heart and soul of a good pizza, we particularly were seeking a dough that is not only easy to make and handle, but is also crunchy, and, like a focaccia, has built-in flavor.
We found adding a small amount of cornmeal to standard bread dough added crunch to the dough as well as a bit of sweetness. The addition of olive oil not only created a richer-tasting crust, but also makes the dough more resilient during handling and grilling. Without oil, we found, the crust was too dry, had a tendency to scorch more quickly, and became brittle during cooking. Also, the oil became an effective medium for introducing other aromatics into the dough, such as garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Although hardwood charcoal proved the best fuel, because it is reliably hot and adds good flavor, briquettes and gas grills worked well too. A medium-hot fire proved key in order to toast the crust quickly, giving you a crisp but still-chewy pizza.