Your can look at your outdoor gas grill as a pleasant summer diversion, as a way to cook without heating up the kitchen. But as I stand in my back yard on a hot summer evening, I see only one thing: a pizza oven. Yes, to me baking rustic breads on the grill is not a substitute for oven withdrawal--it's better.

And the perfect, most efficient pan for these outdoor pizzas is a cast-iron skillet. If you want to grill pizzas outdoors you can also use a baking sheet or pizza stones or tiles, but I find that cast iron gives a fine finish to pizzas. I make several pizzas in several sizes of skillets (10-, 9- and 8-inch). Lodge and Wagnerware are the two foundries still making these quintessential examples of American cookware at its finest hour. (Lodge also makes a cast-iron griddles if you want more room to move pizzas around.)

When you put a cast-iron skillet on the hot grill, the pizzas emerge crisp and rustic. You can lift the handle of the skillet right off the grill (but always use a heatproof glove, of course!) and serve the pizzas on trivets at the table for a splashy presentation. Cast iron, billed as the "original nonstick," generally has a great surface for pizza, and dough rarely sticks to the bottom if you oil the pan liberally. The skillets ensure perfectly round pizzas.

So with your favorite basic pizza dough, some essential toppings and a dynamite pizza sauce, you can make conversation-stopping pizzas that work as a main event at a garden party or weekend barbecue, as an appetizer (just make them smaller) or a light lunch.

The Skillet

To prepare a cast-iron skillet (assuming it has already been seasoned), smear the bottom with olive oil; then you can dust it with seasoned bread crumbs. Remember that cast-iron skillets get very hot, hotter and hottest. Always use a heatproof glove when working with them and remember that even after you've put the pan in the sink and filled it with water to clean it, the handles of these skillets retain the heat for a long time. Cover the handle with a tea towel or glove to remind yourself.

The Grill

The consistent heat and performance of gas grills produce a crisp crust (although charcoal grills do just fine too). To get similar results inside, you would have to crank up your oven to 450 degrees--and by then, your air conditioning would probably have balked big time.

Gas grills have to be sufficiently preheated on high (about 450 degrees) before being used as pizza ovens. Either make your pizzas and put them directly into cast-iron pans or make several pizza dough rounds in advance, then place them in the iron pans and put them on the grill. Just before putting the pans on the grill, lower the temperature to medium (about 350 to 400 degrees), or if you have multiple burners, turn off the middle burner completely as you lower the front and back to medium.

Toppings and Sauce

Prepare toppings for your pizzas in advance. The usual grated cheeses--mozzarella, Parmesan or fontina--are reliable. So are typical toppings such as mushrooms, peppers and onions, along with pepperoni, ground beef and sausage. In addition, while you have the barbie fired up, try using grilled chicken or shrimp, zucchini, eggplant, portobello mushrooms or red onions. In the mood for a salad? Pile it on a grilled pizza crust. Especially appropriate for summer is a BLT pizza--toss chopped romaine lettuce with diced plum tomatoes, bacon and some mayo that has been thinned with milk. Or forgo the sauce altogether and make a white pizza with just cheese, garlic and a drizzling of olive oil; sprinkle on some herbs and/or pine nuts or pistachios.

Note that you brown the bottom of the pizza first, then flip it over and add the sauce and toppings before you finish cooking it.

The Crust

Pizza dough is easier to make than you think. You can use a bread machine, a standing mixer, a food processor or your own two hands. If you're using a bread machine, always check the manual for specific directions in preparing your dough. Whatever method you choose, make several batches then reserve them in the refrigerator for as long as two days, neatly packed in lightly oiled, resealable bags.

For thick, bready pizza, increase the yeast amount by 1/2 teaspoon and allow the dough to rise in the pan for 35 minutes. For crisper, thin pizzas, decrease the amount of yeast by 1/2 teaspoon and let the pizza rise only about 15 minutes before grilling. If you want pizza dough to be ready when you are--but you are at work or out all day--you can reduce the amount of yeast in your favorite recipe and allow the dough to rise in a bowl on the kitchen counter slowly (6 to 8 hours).

Classic Pizzeria Dough

(Makes four 9-inch pizzas)

I make 2 or 3 batches of this dough, roll it into rounds and keep it in lightly oiled resealable bags in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups warm water

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for the pan

1 tablespoon semolina (or cornmeal)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups bread flour

Bread crumbs for the pan (optional)

In a large bowl or the bowl of a standing electric mixer, combine the yeast, water and sugar and let stand until the yeast has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the salt, oil, semolina and most of the all-purpose and bread flours to the yeast mixture and mix by hand or on low speed to blend. Knead by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is soft and sticky, adding flour if necessary. Cover the dough with a towel and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Oil the bottom of one or more 9-inch cast-iron pans and sprinkle with bread crumbs, if desired.

With floured hands, punch the dough down and divide it into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a flat disk. (If making 1 crust at a time, place the other disks in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 2 days.) Place 1 disk into each of the prepared cast-iron pans, easing the dough over the bottom of the pan. Set aside so the dough can rise in the pans for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the grill to high (about 450 degrees). Just before putting the pizza on the grill, reduce the heat to medium (350 to 400 degrees). Grill temperatures vary so it pays to be attentive when you first try out these recipes.

With a heatproof glove, place the pan on the middle of the gas grill and cover. Bake the pizza until the bottom is brown, about 7 minutes. (Do not start checking the crust until it has set, 4 to 5 minutes. Then use a large flat spatula to see if the bottom is brown. You must work quickly; pizza crusts bake in just a few minutes at such high temperatures.)

When the bottom is brown, use a heatproof glove to carefully remove the pan from the heat. With the spatula, flip the crust in the pan. Add your favorite sauce and toppings to the browned crust of the pizza. With a heatproof glove, return the pan to the grill and close the cover. Grill, checking often, until the toppings are heated and the cheese has melted, about 6 minutes.

Per serving (dough only; based on 24 servings): 74 calories, 2 gm protein, 13 gm carbohydrates, 1 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 122 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

White Whole-Wheat and Honey Rustic Pizza Dough

(Makes three 9-inch thin-crust pizzas)

Honey helps with browning and flavor in this lean dough. Light and sweet white whole-wheat flour adds a boost of flavor and fiber. This recipe results in a lovely golden-colored crust and is a good choice for vegetarian pizza fans. For an all-white pizza dough, use white bread flour

For the starter:

1 cup warm water

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the dough:

1/2 cup warm water

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for the bowl and pan

1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour*

1 cup bread flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

Bread crumbs for the pan

For the starter: In a medium bowl, stir together the water and yeast. Set aside until the yeast has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a thick, pudding-like mixture. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

For the dough: Lightly grease a large bowl with oil.

Punch down the starter to deflate it. Add the water, honey, salt, oil, white whole-wheat flour and most of the bread flour and all-purpose flour and mix by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is soft, elastic and slightly sticky, 5 to 7 minutes, adding additional flour as needed. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl and place the bowl in a large plastic bag. Let rise until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.

Oil the bottom of the cast-iron pan and sprinkle with bread crumbs, if desired. With floured hands, punch the dough down and divide it into 3 equal portions. Gently pat each dough portion into a disk and place each disk in 1 of the prepared pans, easing the edges of the dough up the sides of pan. Set aside to allow the dough to rise in the pan for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the grill on high (about 450 degrees). Just before putting the pizza on the grill, reduce heat to medium (about 350 to 400 degrees). Grill temperatures vary, so it pays to be attentive when you first try out these recipes.

With a heatproof glove, place the pan on the middle of the gas grill and cover. Bake the pizza until the bottom is brown, about 7 minutes. (Do not start checking the crust until it has set, 4 to 5 minutes. Then use a large flat spatula to see if the bottom is brown. You must work fast; pizza crusts bake in just a few minutes at such high temperatures.)

When the bottom is brown use a heatproof glove to carefully remove the pan from the heat. Use the spatula to flip the crust in the pan. Add your favorite sauce and toppings to the browned crust of the pizza. With a heatproof glove, return the pan to the grill and close the cover. Grill, checking often, just until the toppings are heated and the cheese has melted, about 6 minutes.

* Note: White whole-wheat flour is an unbleached flour made from a variety of wheat that is less bitter in taste than regular whole-wheat flour. It is available at Fresh Fields stores or by mail order from the Baker's Catalogue; call 1-800-827-6836 or visit www.kingarthur flour.com.

Per serving (dough only; based on 18): 118 calories, 3 gm protein, 22 gm carbohydrates, 2 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 195 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Bottle-and-Sell It Pizza Sauce

(Makes about 3 1/2 cups; enough sauce for three pizzas)

I featured this sauce at my Web site, www.betterbaking.com, and e-mail praise never seems to cease. This sauce is zesty and bold and works well with either of the 2 pizza doughs above. Using sun-dried tomatoes in addition to canned tomatoes adds dimension and tomato intensity.

4 sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)

About 1/3 cup boiling water

12-ounce jar roasted red peppers

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

4 medium cloves garlic, crushed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/8 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano and savory (or 2 teaspoons dried)

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes, then drain. Drain the red peppers; discard the liquid.

Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor or blender with the red peppers and canned tomatoes and process until smooth, about 2 minutes.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, heat the garlic in the oil until it just begins to turn golden. Remove and discard the garlic. Stir in the tomato mixture and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, hot pepper flakes, onion powder, salt, sugar, black pepper, mixed herbs and parsley and cook for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove from the heat and cool.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 13 calories, trace protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 1 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 49 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Wood-Fired Deep-Dish Stuffed Pizza

(Makes 2 pizzas; 12 servings total)

This recipe is somewhat complicated, but it's worth it. Essentially, it's pizza dough, with a filling of sauce, cheese, spinach and sausage or pepperoni, topped with more pizza dough, sauce and cheese. Terrific hot or cold, as a picnic or brunch dish, this is a hands-down winner in my pizza test kitchen, and it's even better when baked on the grill. Make the dough and sauce a day ahead and assemble for baking the next day. I prefer unbleached bread flour for this and all pizza doughs. And remember: this pizza cooks over medium-low heat for a longer time than the thinner pizzas above.

For the dough:

2 cups warm water

5 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup olive oil, plus additional for the bowl

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons semolina or cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 to 5 cups bread flour

For the sauce:

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

28-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 small onion, minced

1 small green bell pepper, diced

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano

1 teaspoon fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine

For the filling:

3 packages chopped frozen spinach, cooked, drained and squeezed dry

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for the pans

Seasoned bread crumbs for the pan

2 cups (about 8 ounces) thinly sliced mushrooms

1 1/2 cups Italian sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained, or 1 cup thinly sliced pepperoni (optional)

For the dough: In a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the water, yeast and sugar and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the olive oil, salt, semolina or cornmeal and most of the all-purpose and bread flours and mix by hand or on low speed with the dough hook until the dough is soft, adding more flour as required. Transfer the dough to a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil, cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 3 hours.

Place the dough in an oiled resealable bag and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days.

For the sauce: In a large pan over medium heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, oregano, basil, fennel, salt, pepper, lemon juice and red wine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the filling: In a large bowl, toss together the spinach, 3 cups of the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, garlic and oil.

To assemble: Preheat the grill on medium-low (about 250 to 300 degrees). Grease two 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillets with oil and sprinkle with the seasoned bread crumbs.

Punch the dough down to deflate. Set aside to rest for a few minutes.

Divide the dough into thirds; set 1 portion aside and roll 2 of the balls of dough into circles about 3 inches larger than the pan size. Fit the dough circles into the skillets so that they cover the pan bottoms, come up the sides of the pan and hang slightly over the top edges of the pans. Cover each crust with a thin layer of sauce. Spread 1/2 of the filling mixture over each crust. Top the filling with the mushrooms and sausage and/or pepperoni, if desired. Roll the remaining dough into 2 circles (about 10 inches each). Place 1 circle on top of each of the filled pizzas and crimp the edges of the 2 crusts together. Top with the remaining sauce, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheeses.

With a heatproof glove, place the pans on the middle of the gas grill and cover. Bake the pizzas until the cheese is melted and golden brown, 20 to 28 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.

Per serving (based on 12): 483 calories, 20 gm protein, 63 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 17 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 979 mg sodium, 6 gm dietary fiber

When Marcy Goldman is not throwing dough onto every alternative heat source she can find, she is at work on her second cookbook, "The Coffee Bistro Baking Book" (from Doubleday). She can be reached at www.betterbaking.com.