Pizza - fresh from the grill

Dinner maestro takes a unique approach to cooking

Dinner maestro takes a unique approach to cooking

November 04, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Enough with the burgers and the 'dogs. Why not grill a pizza?

Grilled pizza is a backyard barbecue delight at the Mason household, all year 'round.

Dough-slinging dinner maestro Mike Mason, 47, of Hagerstown - who's in charge of all the Mason family meals - likes to grill pizzas for family gatherings, and his wife Amy, 43, and daughter Rebecca, 8, don't mind munching.

With the exception of the dough, which he bums off local pizza places willing to sell extra, all the ingredients are easily found at the grocer.

The dough is briefly toasted on both sides on the grill and then removed. Once the toppings are added, the pizza is grilled for about five minutes.


Mason says he'll use any topping, as long as it's not a banal, commercial-style ingredient like pepperoni. He also does not use red sauce.

"Why go through all that trouble to make a pizza when there are so many other places out there that do a pretty good job at making pepperoni pizzas?" Mason said.

Keep in mind that this is coming from a guy who grinds up his own hamburger meat. He's serious about what he puts on his plate. As for his opposition to red sauce, that might be a manifestation of his childhood aversion to another red product, tomato soup.

Mason, the middle-child of five siblings, grew up in Annapolis. He ate so much tomato soup as a kid, according to his mother, Cecilia Mason, he launched a kitchen coup and began to head up the cooking duties.

"He did it because of survival," said Cecilia Mason, who was at her son's house on a recent pizza night. "I was cooking a lot of tomato soup and he did not like tomato soup."

Now, everybody's eating pretty well.

"Everybody loves Michael's cooking," his mother said.

During a recent pizza night, Mike Mason made pizzas with chicken, artichoke and feta cheese. He also made one with pancetta (Italian bacon), Parmesan cheese, tomatoes and basil. Another, nicknamed the "dude" pizza, was heavy with grilled steak.

Between pizzas, Mason chatted with The Herald-Mail about pizza and why cooking brings him so much joy.

Q: So how did you come across these recipes for grilled pizzas?

Mike: I saw somebody do grilled pizza on TV, but they grilled the crust and put it in the oven. I came up with a way to do the entire pizza on the grill. The rest is my own creation. ... There's a special piece of equipment that you'll need.

Q: What would that be?

Mike: I'll have to show it to you. I use a pizza pan. It's really a pizza pan that was designed for the oven. I was thinking about this today, you could actually use a broiling pan. You need something that will give it some distance off of the grill with some air so the bottom of the pizza doesn't burn while the top of the pizza melts.

Q: Did you learn this by default or did you kind of know going in that you needed this special piece of equipment?

Mike: I saw Bobby Flay on TV, and the reason he puts it back in the oven after grilling the dough is so that the dough doesn't burn, so the crust doesn't burn. I thought this thing that I have would be the perfect piece of equipment to keep that from happening.

Q: So are you going to try to brand it?

Mike: No. (Laughing) I've actually seen something very similar since I started doing this. About six months ago, I saw something at one of the big hardware stores in town that was very similar to the contraption I use.

(We leave the backyard deck and go back in the kitchen. He shows what he uses.)

Mike: It's a pizza pan that you make pan pizza on, and I just put that on top of the grill and then that keeps the bottom of the pizza from getting burnt.

Q: Do you have some of the ingredients in here?

Mike: Yeah, but I'd have to get them out. Can you just give me a second?

(He turns away; his wife, Amy Mason, fields questions.)

Q: I'm just wondering, what is it you like about his pizza so much?

Amy: It's his uniqueness. The ingredients. The combinations he comes up with - you just don't get (them) at Rocky's or Tony's. And the flavors - he puts a lot of time and effort into it. Did he tell you he travels?

(Mike Mason returns.)

Q: What is it that you do and how is it that you get to travel so much?

Mike: I work for an insurance company, and I handle very large construction claims involving large projects, so I actually have to go and see the project.

Q: Where's the coolest place you've been for work?

Mike: The coolest place I've been for work? Puerto Rico.

Q: Really? What's the food like in Puerto Rico?

Mike: It's good. Some of it's hot, some of it's sweet, but it's really, really good.

Q: Is there a certain regional dish there that you really liked?

Mike: It's a pork dish that's marinated, then it's grilled.

Q: Have you ever tried it here?

Mike: Yeah, they have it down at one of the Mexican restaurants in town. It's decent, but it's not as good as in Puerto Rico.

Q: Have you ever tried to make it yourself?

Mike: No, I've never tried to make that.

Q: You mentioned ... that you grind up your own hamburger meat. That's kind of hard-core.

Mike: (Laughing) I'm a nut. I do everything from scratch.

Q: How did you get into doing that?

Mike: Well, all you have to do is buy a meat grinder, then you can grind up your own hamburger meat. I just do it because I can get different flavors, instead of regular, straight ground beef.

The Herald-Mail Articles