If you have an outdoor barbecue grill with a cover, you can turn it into an outdoor oven. Why would you want to do that? To preclude the need to heat up your kitchen to bake pizza, cookies, cakes, bread and casseroles. And to expand your camping-out cooking repertoire.
You can bake nearly anything with a covered grill. If your grill doesn’t have a cover, improvise with a large inverted pot. The heat rises and circulates in the covered area, just as it does in your oven. The heat source can be charcoal, gas or even wood, but gas is preferable because it is easier to control and does not transfer a smoked taste to the baked items.
This is the challenge. The hardest part of using a gas grill as an oven is temperature control. A built-in accessory thermometer can be useful, but these can easily be off by more than 50 degrees F, which can really interfere when you’re baking a meatloaf, a whole chicken or homemade bread.
If your grill has a temperature gauge installed, you’re in luck. If not, you’ll need a small oven thermometer so you can more accurately regulate the temperature of your grill when it is closed.
Always fire up the grill for a few minutes to set the temperature before baking.
When baking, never set the baking pan directly on the grill. Instead, set a brick or two on the grill, and put the baking pan on top of the brick(s).
PIZZA ON THE GRILL
You really can make pizza on your grill, provided you follow these instructions:
Roll out the pizza dough to your desired thickness.
Transfer the rolled crust to a pizza peel, on which you have sprinkled cornmeal to act as a release agent. (Think of cornmeal as tiny ball bearings that roll the pizza onto and off the grill. Or you can use a cookie sheet that has no lip on at least one side. This will allow you to easily transfer the dough to your hot grill by allowing it to simply slide off the sheet or peel.)
Heat the grill.
Moisten a paper towel with oil, and rub the grates.
Slide the dough onto the grill. Watch it carefully, and when the bottom browns, turn the dough to grill the other side.
Now you can add your choice of sauce, toppings and cheese.
Yes, you really can bake bread in your grill. Think about it: All you need to bake bread is an enclosed space that is heated. Flatbread is a super easy, but so are breads that require rising times to turn out well. Just keep in mind that grills can get much hotter than a kitchen oven, so temperature control is not as precise.
The folks at Weber not only make great outdoor grills, but they have also compiled “A Recipe for Every Type of Griller” on their website. Check it out. You’ll build confidence quickly and find yourself baking outdoors in no time!
Here’s a slick way to create a kind of self-cleaning feature on any barbecue grill. Place a few sheets of aluminum foil over the grill. Crank up the heat to the hottest possible settings, and close the cover. Allow to heat for 30 minutes. Like the self-cleaning setting on your traditional oven, this turns everything on the grill to ash.
Caution: Before attempting this, check your barbecue warranty to make sure this will not do anything to void a warranty that is still in effect.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”