Who doesn’t love a good pizza? That crispy crust, gooey cheese, and mouthwatering toppings. You’re thinking about it right now aren’t you? I know I am. Don’t let a camping trip get in the way of your next fix of pizza pie. While some parks are close enough to a town to practically order in, you can easily make a pizza in your own campsite and have it sooner than any delivery. I love the fact that everyone can make their own pizza which means that everyone is a happy camper (get it?). That’s a win in my books.
If you’ve never had a wood-fired pizza, you are missing out on one of life’s pleasures. The best part of this recipe is that you do not need any special tools to prepare a pizza over a camp fire. Most parks that I have stayed in have a grate that goes over the fire pit or fire box. If you do not want to cook on that grate, you can move it aside and use a portable or collapsible grill that you can find in many sporting good stores or at a well-stocked big box store. You can even bring a grate from your barbecue if need be.
In the following post, I’ll show you how I prepared a margarita pizza on the small table next to my grill just to prove how easy it is and how little space you need.
The Best Campfire Pizza Recipe
- Vegetable oil or some other oil with a high smoke point like canola or peanut
- Pizza dough, divided into individual portions. I like a ball of dough about the size of my fist (either store-bought or make your own)
- For a margarita pizza: mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, tomatoes (I like smaller tomatoes like cherry, plum, or roma)
- Salt and pepper
1. Heat your grill or grate to a medium high heat. You should be able to hold your hand about an inch from the grill for at least three seconds. Make sure your coals are spread out evenly so you avoid hot spots.
2. While the fire is warming up, prep all your ingredients. Once the dough hits the grill, this is going to happen very quickly. Toss the tomatoes with oil, salt, and pepper. Thinly slice or shred the cheese. The basil leaves can be left whole or you can cut them however you like.
3. Give the grill a good scrub with a grill brush, wooden scraper, or a piece of crumpled tin foil held with tongs or even a stick.
4. Place the tomatoes on the grill. As the tomatoes cook, the skin will blacken and tear. Turn the tomatoes to evenly char the skin. Once they get soft and nicely charred, squish the tomatoes to release some of the juice and either place in a bowl or push off to the edge of the grill where there’s less heat.
5. Lightly oil the grill. Working with one ball of dough at a time, flatten the ball then begin to pinch it into a flat disc. I like to work the dough along the top edge and let the rest hang down, working it into a circle. This helps to keep the dough from getting overworked and helps to keep it somewhat round. If you have a clean surface like a large cutting board or parchment paper, you can roll it out as well or push it into the size and thickness that you want. It won’t be perfect but that’s the point.
6. Once the dough is ready, lay it out on the grill. Depending on how hot the fire is, you may not have long to wait until the bottom gets the crispiness that you like.
7. As soon as the bottom is done to your liking, flip the crust so the uncooked side is down. Immediately add the cooked tomatoes, spreading them in a an even layer and top with the basil leaves and mozzarella. Begin lifting to check the underside until you like how it looks.
8. Once the crust is done, either use a spatula to lift it onto a cutting board or a pair of tongs to slide it to a cutting board. Wait a few minutes to let the cheese set, slice, and devour.9. If you find that the cheese isn’t melting, you can either cut or tear it into smaller pieces. Another option is to create a bit of an oven: heat a large cast iron skillet in the fire before you start preparing your pizza. Once the skillet gets hot, prepare your pizza as above and once you've put on the toppings, flip the skillet to cover the pizza. As long as you keep the crust smaller than the skillet, the heat from the cast iron will melt the cheese without overcooking the crust.
What pizza dough to use?
There are so many possibilities available to you. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can always make your own. Many bakeries and grocery stores sell bags of uncooked pizza dough so it is easy to buy some as you drive. The dough will last for a few days if it is kept in a cooler.
On a side note: yeast doughs are toxic to dogs so resist the begging eyes watching you.
Anything goes for pizza toppings. Since you won’t have the luxury of an oven, you want to make sure that any vegetables or meats are already cooked before adding them to the crust. The cheese will also melt better if it is shredded or thinly sliced. This is the best time to stop at a farmers market or roadside stand to get the freshest ingredients you can. Above all, keep it simple. Let the flavours of the ingredients shine.
A wide metal spatula made for barbecues is the easiest way to move your newly minted creation but you can use whatever you have. Tongs or two forks used as tongs will work as well. Whatever you use, make sure that you have a firm grip on the crust as you don’t want to lose that beautiful thing to the fire or dirt or tear the crust that you worked so hard to make.
What are your favourite pizza toppings? Have you ever made a campfire pizza before? Will you now? I'd love to know what you think about it in the comments below.