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If You Want to Get Out of the Kitchen . . . Learn How to Bake on Patio
It’s hot. Maybe you just want to get outside and enjoy the weather. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen—especially when your friends or family are on the patio.
So, learn to bake on the patio. They’ll think you’re a genius.
They make fancy grills designed for baking. You don’t have to have one. A grill that has a lid, one that pulls down and captures the heat is handy. (It’s possible to bake without one but you’ll have to use a bucket or tub to capture the heat so that heat both above and below whatever your trying to bake.)
The Key is Regulating the Heat.
There are two problems to baking on the grill: A closed grill tends to get too hot and the heat tends to be on the bottom, not distributed both above and below. You can solve these problems.
You’re Going to Need Two Thermometers.
You can’t regulate the heat if you don’t know how hot it is. So, first you need an oven thermometer. There are some grills that have a built-in thermometer. That’s a start. But it only tells you how hot it is in one spot. And the hot air in grills tends not to circulate as well as it does in the oven. You can place an oven thermometer wherever you want until you get to know your grill. When you’re through, you can move the thermometer back into the kitchen.
If you don’t have one, get an oven thermometer.
The other thermometer you need is a plain old kitchen thermometer. That’s so you can tell when your food is done. In the vagaries of a grill, it may look done when it’s not. Stick a thermometer in it and know for sure. A loaf of bread—yes, you can bake bread on the grill—is done when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.
Now, you’ve served one of the problems. Once you know how hot it is, you can regulate the heat.
How do You Distribute the Heat?
Here’s where you have to be clever; outsmart your grill.
All the fire, all the heat, tends to be in the bottom. Two things to do: Lift the food up, away from the heat and divert the heat away from the bottom of the food and get it up above. There are tricks you can use.
You are going to need some baking sheets and/or racks. The baking sheets can be placed below the food divert hot air up and around the food and protect the bottom. Racks can be used to be lift the food away from the fire.
I use empty tin cans as stanchions to get the racks where I want them. I want some air circulating below the food but I don’t want the food close to the flame.
I’m fortunate at home: I have an upper rack designed to keep some of the food hot while the rest cooks. And I have a lid that closes. I put a baking sheet down low to divert heat up and around. I put food on the rack above to bake. If I don’t want to bake on the rack/shelf above, I prop a rack on four tin cans at the height that I want, hang an oven thermometer on the rack, and try to regulate my heat to 350 degrees.
Then I’m ready to bake. It’s that straightforward.
What Can You Bake on the Grill?
Nearly anything from roast chicken bread, burger buns, and pizza. Cookies are tough: they bake to quickly, too delicate, and you need to be precise with your baking time.
I’ve baked cakes outdoors—but mostly I was showing off.
Pizzas are okay; the food tends to protect the crust from being overbaked. Just don’t get too much heat below.
Here’s more about baking pizzas on the grill.
Here’s more about baking bread on the grill.
Here’s more about baking hamburger buns on the grill.
Final Notes and Recommendations
Baking on the grill is a skill and your grill has its own temperament. Your first try may not be perfect. Experiment with your family before you bring all your friends from work over.
For pizzas, experiment with some of the cheapie refrigerated versions from the grocery store. Our pizza dough mixes are not expensive and if you are making thin crusts, you can make two or three pizzas from a mix. After a couple successes, you can build your masterpiece.
Get some cheap bread mixes from us to learn with.
After a couple bread mixes, try making burger buns. Burgers on homemade buns are so much better. If you really want to knock-their-socks-off, try making buns with Sour Cream Onion Bread Mixes or Diego’s Jalapeno Cheddar Bread. But our standby, Sour Cream Potato Rolls, makes fantastic burgers also.