When it comes to backyard cookouts, there’s no way you can possibly go wrong when choosing to throw an outdoor pizza party. Before you even think about delivery, consider making homemade pizza in your backyard kitchen. Whether it’s on a pizza stone over a grill at 500° or in a pizza oven, homemade pizza is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The only hard part? Deciding what kind of pie will pop. From sea to shining sea, pizza has become a staple of American cuisine, developing a myriad of popular styles that serve the same old favorite with unique regional flair. Take a road trip across the United States of Flavor and pick up some helpful tips from America’s many different styles.
California Here We Come
California’s experimental approach to pizza rose to prominence in the early 1980s when famed Bay Area chefs Alice Waters and Ed LaDou topped conventional pizza crust off with the unconventional tastes of goat cheese, smoked salmon, tart fig, truffle, and balsamic glaze. There’s a fancy quality to serving California style pizza, surprising your guests with pairings that they wouldn’t otherwise expect on pies.
- Thai Chicken Pizza With a peanut sauce base, traditional mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken thighs marinated in garlic, ginger, lemongrass and cilantro, and roasted garlic, you can turn crispy pizza into an Asian inspired delicacy.
- Barbecue Chicken Pizza Glaze the dough with your favorite BBQ sauce, being sure to top with plenty of mozzarella cheese, yummy caramelized red onions, and roasted fork-tender, pulled chicken. Pro-tip: Like all California pizzas, the best practice for a crispy crust is to pre bake dough before adding your toppings.
- White Pies are for the cheese lovers in your life. An herb and garlic infused olive oil base meets the trio of ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan for a delicious, irresistible flavor combination. You want decadence? Replace your oil base with an alfredo sauce. Serve this delight alongside some candlelight in your outdoor dining room, and don’t forget the table covers!
New York Minute
New York-style pizza was birthed by the arrival of Italian immigrants in the 1900s, who adapted traditional Neapolitan-style pizza for American taste palates. With its thin, crisp crust and endless topping options, your pizza possibilities are endless.
- Don’t over saturate your pie in sauce. You should have a hearty amount of robust tomato flavor without overwhelming the rest of the flavors.
- Use fresh toppings. Pre-packaged cheeses are often full of preservatives that extend their shelf life at the expense of flavor. The same goes for other toppings like vegetables, meats, and herbs.
- You don’t have to serve up 18” pies. You can always opt for smaller personal pizzas if guests have dietary restrictions, picky palates, or topping preferences. 8” rounds make a perfect serving size when paired with salad and hors d'oeuvres. You can even get party guests in on the action by having them prepare their own pizza with rolling, saucing, and topping stations.
- Crust is the crucial part of the New York-style pizza. If you aren’t confident in your kneading skills, you can always pick some up from a local pizzeria. Most shops have no problem selling out a few rounds of dough.
Don’t Be Chi
Don’t fear the deep dish offerings of Chicago-style pizza. Conventional Chicago deep-dish is a bulky pizza baked in a pan layered with dough, cheese, fillings like veggies or meat, followed by sauce, all in that order. For our outdoor pizza party purposes, deep dish can be adapted into a downsized skillet-ready party pleaser. You’re going to have similar principles present that you would find in thicker, hearty deep-dish, and your guests will be delighted to dine on this deep dish delicacy in the privacy of your backyard thanks to your fence privacy screen.
- Find the perfect skillet - think cast iron - ready for the job of baking at an impossibly high temperature.
- Season your skillet with a plentiful amount of oil or, if you like a more pastry flavor use butter, which guarantees that the crust comes out perfect.
- Brush your dough with an equally copious amount of oil, ensuring your sauce and toppings adhere to the pizza. Line the skillet with the dough and press flat.
- Top your pizza as you would and as you like before placing into the grill or pizza oven.
- When baking, the crust bulks up around one to two inches tall before getting lightly fried from oil in the pan. This will indicate that your pizza is done.
My Big Fat Greek Pizza
New England Greek-style pizza has its roots in the kitchens of Grecian immigrants in Boston in the late 1960s. It is known for its dense, moist dough, greasy mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and thick tomato sauce with a strong taste and smell of fresh oregano.
- Prepare your pizza bases in advance - sauce and cheese - making sure to let them set in the refrigerator in the hours prior to your pizza party.
- Remove your pizzas from the fridge, allowing them to rest at a mild room temperature.
- Top your pizzas with fresh vegetables or even grilled veggies before cooking.
Meet Me in St. Louis
Likened to that of a “big, pizza-flavored nacho”, St. Louis-style pizza is characterized by its almost cracker-like crust, making it perfect for game day pizza parades. The secret to the perfect St. Louis-style pizza comes from omitting yeast when preparing your pizza’s crust. This unleavened dough gives the pizza its crunchy crisp. Want something a little healthier with all the same crunch? Try cauliflower crust.
- Serve your pizza in square cuts, allowing for easy-to-bite sized pieces.
- Use a combination of provolone, swiss, and white cheddar cheese on your St. Louis pie.
- Ratio your sauce to toppings as best you can. This makes for an even, savory treat.