(Updated from May 22, 2014)
Baking your bread on the grill can provide a nice respite from the midday heat, and you don’t have to add the extra heat into your kitchen while it’s baking. Enjoy the fresh air and fresh-baked bread at the cabin, on the patio, or the next family reunion as your neighbors turn their noses upwind to get a swift of the aroma of fresh-baked bread wafting over the fence. Believe it or not, you can bake your bread on the grill, and we’ll tell you just how to do it. Don’t worry, with just a little practice, it will be really easy.
Can You Really Bake Bread on the Grill?
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. We prefer gas because it is easier to control and does not impart a smoked taste to the bread. Since it is hottest near the flames, elevate the bread even if you have to improvise. In our grill, there is a secondary shelf for baking potatoes and such. (See picture.)
Because the heat is so concentrated at the bottom and there is no fan to circulate the heat, the bottom of your bread will bake faster than it should. We solved that problem by putting one baking sheet on top of another. The space between the sheets helped insulate the bread from the bottom heat.
How to Bake Bread on the Grill
To bake bread on the grill, use your favorite recipe, or to save time, a mix. Mix the dough according to package or recipe directions. After it had risen, you can form oval country loaves, hamburger buns, or dinner rolls.
The trick to grilling bread perfectly is controlling temperature and time. If your grill comes equipped with a thermometer, you’ve got it made (though ambient temperatures and winds may impact how well your grill retains heat). If you have a thermometer, just heat to the temperature designated on the package or in the recipe. If not, you can guess. After a few loaves you’ll have it perfect and we bet that the first batch of bread off the grill will be just fine.
Rolls and buns will probably bake in 15 to 20 minutes and loaves will take 20 to 30 minutes depending on size and temperature. The tendency is to over-bake so an occasional peek to see how your bread is doing as it nears completion is okay.
For this article, we made hamburger buns, loaves, and dinner rolls.
Baking Burger Buns on the Grill
We made twelve giant-sized hamburger buns, just the ticket for a quarter-pounder. When you make your own buns, form them as you would dinner rolls then press them flat several times until they look like those in the picture to the left. We used a white bread mix and weighed the dough pieces on the kitchen scale 4 ounces each. (The dusting that you can see on the pan is cornmeal.) Cover the buns and let them rise.
Just before baking, we washed the buns with an egg white wash (one egg white plus one tablespoon of water). We then sprinkled them with sesame seeds. On our grill, we baked them with the heat turned about two-thirds open for about 18 minutes.
Read this article for more information on how to make homemade burger buns.
Baking Dinner Rolls on the Grill
For the dinner rolls, we used an 8 1/2 x 15-inch pan and made 20 rolls scaled at 2.5 ounces each.
We prepared them and baked them on the grill the same way we did for the hamburger buns, except we did not flatten them out with our hands because we like them to be round and fluffy.
Baking Bread Loaves on the Grill
We made two country-style loaves from one mix. We forgot to slash the tops to release the steam and consequently ended up with a split on the side of the loaf. Don’t do as we did—score two or three-quarter-inch deep slashes on the top of the loaf just as you begin baking on the grill to release the steam as the bread bakes.
While we baked free-standing loaves, you can use your bread pans if you like. Set the pans on the baking sheet to help protect them from the bottom heat.
A Few Helpful Hints for Baking on the Grill
- Bake the bread before the burgers. The bread can cool while you cook the rest of the food. Burning grease at the bottom of the grill makes the temperature harder to control, and the soot from burning grease can stain the bread.
- Beware the outdoor elements when letting your bread rise. If you are letting your bread rise outside where the temperature may be less than indoors or where breezes may swirl around the bread, consider using a large food-grade plastic bag as a greenhouse. Simply slip the bread dough–pan and all–inside the bag, inflate it slightly, and close it. If the sun is cool, set the bag and the bread in a sunny warm place to capture a little solar energy.
- Don’t forget that second pan to insulate the bottom of the bread and keep it from burning. If you would like more insulation, place a wire rack between the pans to create more air space.
- Turn the pan halfway through. If your bread is baking faster on one side than the other, turn the pan 180 degrees part-way through the baking cycle.
- The tendency is to burn the bottom of the bread. Place the bread as far away from the flames as you can even if it means elevating the bread.