If you’re interested in authentic homemade pizza, you don’t need to splash out thousands of dollars to get a wood fire pizza oven for your backyard. Instead, a pizza oven grill conversion gives you most of the advantages of a true pizza oven but at a fraction of the cost. In fact, the end results are so good that you’ll wonder why anybody bothers with wood fire ovens. (Well, OK, they do make awesome pizza)
What’s even better is that there are multiple different options. So, you’re likely to find something that works for you, regardless of the type of grill you have. The various approaches are also a lot of fun to set up and to use.
But, before we get started, let me make one thing clear. Turning your grill into a pizza oven will never be exactly the same as an actual wood fire pizza oven. But, the pizzas that you make will still look and taste delicious. Some options get really close, even getting those wood-fired flavors that make Neapolitan style pizza so tasty.
For most people, good enough is more than enough. If nothing else, the idea is a good way to figure out whether you want to invest in a wood fire oven, which can be a large and expensive, but rewarding project.
Using Your Own Tools And Resources
The simplest way to turn your grill into a pizza oven is to do without any extra tools. While this may not be the most elegant solution, it is the easiest to achieve and you probably already have what you need.
At the most basic level, you can simply choose to cook your pizza on the grill directly. The end result isn’t nearly as good as what you get from other approaches but this does have the advantage of being simple and easy.
The main trick to doing so is making sure your dough is thick enough that it will actually stay on the grill without falling through. This typically means you only want thick crust pizzas. Trying to make a thin crust recipe would end up being ineffective and messy.
To actually cook, you just put the dough directly on the grill and flip it at least once during the process. You do have to grill on both sides, as the pizza simply won’t cook through any other way.
Because of this, you have to cook both sides of the dough and then add the toppings. Ideally, those should be cooked, otherwise you may burn your base before the toppings are ready. This does result in some limitations about the types of pizza that you can make.
Overall, cooking directly on the grill can work. But, the temperature will be fairly low, around 500°F. That’s not hot enough to get amazing pizza. The approach can still be good for some situations, like a party. But, if you can, it’s worth taking some extra steps.
If nothing else, simply adding a pizza stone onto your grill can dramatically improve results and there are many different pizza stones to choose from. You’re still not reaching the ideal temperatures but the quality of your pizza is better. Plus, you can use this technique with any type of pizza base. Adding a pan or something else onto the grill can also help.
You can also make covers that can help increase the temperature of cooking, which improves the finished product.
The simplest way to do so is just with a tinfoil cover. Getting the structure and size exactly right takes time and you’ll probably have some failed attempts first. You may also find that you have to tweak the cover as you go to make sure it works like you want it to. Still, it’s an attractive idea if you want to use your own tools.
While the approach works, you do end up with a fairly flimsy cover. This makes it tricky to turn the pizza when you need to and using a pizza peel would be tough indeed. To make matters worse, you need the cover to be small enough to trap heat but large enough to be actually usable. It’s easy to see how getting that perfect would take time.
A more advanced variation is making an oven out of bricks – on top of your grill. I haven’t played around with this too much and the variation that I tried didn’t reach the ideal temperature. Still, if you found the right structure, this idea could be effective and reducing the height may help in that area.
Still, the approach would be frustrating, especially as you would need to dismantle your oven each time you wanted to use the grill regularly. Personally, I’m not sold on the idea but I’d love to know if anybody has been successful with it.
Product-Based Grill Conversions
I’m passionate about the idea of converting your grill into a pizza oven. But, doing it on your own doesn’t really yield amazing results. The various techniques are also fairly frustrating and would make it harder to get good pizza every time.
Instead, it really is worth investing in a decent product that actually turns your grill into a pizza oven. With my own experimenting, I’ve found multiple good options, some for the gas grill and others for a charcoal grill. I’m not going to talk about every single alternative here – but I do want to highlight the most powerful ones.
One thing to mention is that the gas grill options are designed for 3-burner grills, which need to be around 24 inches wide and 17 inches deep. Thankfully, most home grills will meet these criteria already.
KettlePizza Gas Pro
The KettlePizza Gas Pro is an incredibly simple product, and that’s why I love it. It is easy to use, clean, and store, which makes it a great accessory to just have around for when the hunger for pizza strikes.
For that matter, the design here is a more refined version of making a tinfoil shield, which means that you do use a pizza stone as well. The product here is much more resilient and it is in the exact shape you need to get sustained, high heat.
As a result, you can easily use a pizza peel and get the complete authentic cooking experience. The product results in temperatures of more than 700°F, which further adds to the authenticity, cooking the pizza fast and hot.
The downside to using gas is that you don’t get the smoky flavor of a wood fired oven, but honestly, a lot of people won’t care that much. If you do, you can always get a pellet tube smoker.
You can check out my full review of the KettlePizza Gas Pro for more information.
KettlePizza Weber Grill Insert
If you have a typical Weber kettle grill (22 or 18 inch), then this grill insert is another option. The product comes from the same brand as the previous example but it is designed for a charcoal grill rather than a gas one.
Now, this particular product isn’t as generic as the Gas Pro and it is just designed for use with a Weber charcoal grill. Theoretically, you might be able to use the insert with another grill, especially if it is a similar size and shape.
If you do have the right grill, then this insert is incredible because it gives you a very authentic flavor to your pizza.
The idea here is that the insert goes inside your grill, turning it into something very much like a real wood fired pizza oven. To get the desired temperature, you need to cook with a combination of wood and charcoal. Doing so also gives you the smoky flavor associated with wood fire cooking – something you don’t get from a gas grill.
I really like the insert and it has certainly been fun to use. You can check out my full review of it for more information. However, it takes time to learn how to use the insert correctly and a considerable amount of fuel to maintain temperature if you plan to do more than a few pizzas for a party. As a result, it isn’t the most efficient approach out there – even though it may work well for you.
BakerStone Pizza Oven Box
This box is another way to convert a gas grill into a pizza oven. In this case, you’ve got a fully enclosed box that simply sits on your grill. It is made out of the same material as a pizza stone, which means you don’t have to put a pizza stone in it yourself.
The style works well and it’s great if you want a single unit that meets your needs. As with the KettlePizza Gas Pro, this product does also get hot enough to cook your pizza authentically every time.
The main reason that I prefer the KettlePizza option over this one is timing. While this pizza box is good, it can take as long as 30 minutes to heat up, especially if it is cool outside. In theory, you can close the grill to speed the process up (I do) but the company’s instructions say that you shouldn’t do this.
Interestingly, this is the least expensive of the two options, so some people may end up choosing it for that reason. And, why not? It does create amazing pizzas. Plus, if the heating time isn’t an issue for you, this could be the perfect choice.
You can check out my full-length review for more information about the product and my experiences when using it.
Gas Versus Charcoal
As you can see, there is a range of products and approaches for converting your grill into a pizza oven. You also don’t need any special skill set to be able to make this conversion. This gives you a great way to get the benefits of a pizza oven, without the typical price tag.
But, should you go with gas or charcoal? After all, each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. In many ways, the answer depends on what precisely you’re looking for.
Gas Grill Conversions
One of the biggest advantages of using a gas grill conversion is simplicity. The various approaches basically involve setting something on top of your barbecue, which is extremely easy to do. You can also easily take the product on and off. Doing so is perfect if you want to use the grill itself as well.
The simplicity also means that you aren’t restricted by the make of your grill. Instead, the various products will work on almost any 3-burner grill. This means that you can use this approach, regardless of what type of grill you have. That flexibility isn’t present for a charcoal conversion.
However, there are downsides too. The biggest one is that you aren’t actually using wood in any way. Because of this, you’re not getting the smoky flavor that often comes with wood fire cooking. Likewise, the whole experience can feel a little less authentic.
From my own experience, I can tell you that the problem isn’t as significant as it seems. Instead, most of the desired pizza cooking outcomes are associated with temperature, not with the wood itself. You can truly get amazing pizzas from a gas grill conversion, despite the lack of fire. The pizzas below are all examples of this, as they were cooked in the KettlePizza Gas Pro.
The one other thing to note is mobility. Gas conversions work well but most gas grills aren’t especially portable. This won’t be a problem if you’re planning to cook in your backyard. But, if you want something to take camping, a gas grill conversion isn’t the best approach.
Charcoal Grill Conversions
On the whole, charcoal grill conversions tend to be trickier to set up and to use. There is simply more to consider, especially as you have to pay attention to what you are burning, where it is situated and how the burning is progressing.
At the same time, the conversion progress is a more integral component of your grill. You can still take it out but doing so requires extra time and energy than with a gas grill conversion. This aspect also means that most charcoal grill conversions only work for specific types of grills. That’s frustrating if you have a charcoal grill that isn’t suitable.
Of course, the benefits are that you have a more portable pizza oven and that you are actually burning some wood. In many ways, this makes for a more authentic experience and can be a lot of fun.
Which Do You Choose?
At the end of the day, charcoal and gas grill conversions are both effective ways to make a pizza oven from your barbecue grill. Despite their differences, the two options end up producing similar pizzas and both can be a positive experience overall.
When it comes to simplicity and making great pizza, I tend to prefer gas grill conversions, particularly because the KettlePizza Gas Pro is exceptionally fast and easy to use. But, for anybody wanting something portable, a charcoal conversion is probably the best choice.
Both styles are fun though and there is no shortage of pizza recipes that you can make using them.