Hugh Garvey

Khachapuri is having a moment—and the good news is, you can make this insanely crave-able dish on your backyard grill

Hugh Garvey  – May 16, 2019 | Updated June 6, 2019

Most dishes that end up trending on social media make for a good photo but an impractical home-cooked meal: pricey Wagyu katsu sandos, psychedelic rainbow bagels, charcoal-black soft-serve ice cream, crispy whole fish as if plucked from the Fryolator mid-swim. In other words: #donttrythisathome.

However, the above caveat does not apply when it comes to khachapuri, the poke boat-shaped Georgian-style pizza you might’ve grown up eating or seen in your feeds. If you don’t already know, it’s basically a deep-dish, white-sauce pizza, meets a bread bowl, meets fondue. With butter and an egg on top. You look at it. You fantasize about inhaling it. You think: I want to make that.

Long a favorite throughout Georgia, Armenia, and much of the rest of the former Soviet Union, khachapuri has been enjoying an extended boom of sorts stateside. Restaurants devoted to the dish have been proliferating in New York and L.A. in recent years. Joints like Tony Khachapuri in L.A. are playing with the form, topping it with chorizo and fresno chiles and making an everything bagel-like version. Trad or rad, khachapuri is worth seeking out, and, I recently discovered, surprisingly easy to make at home.

Seduced by Instagram, I wanted that wood-fired blistered edge that only industrial pizza ovens seem to be able to achieve. So I fashioned a coal-fired oven of sorts out of my grill. I don’t have a pizza stone, so I stacked fire bricks high enough in my grill until there was just enough room between the bricks and the top of the lid for the khachapuri to fit. I wanted the heat radiating off the lid to cook the top, while the ember-heated bricks would cook the bottom. My hope was that the super dry heat and smoke from the coals would yield a toasty, blistered crust. I lit up two charcoal chimneys’ worth of coals, dumped them into the grill, closed the lid, opened the vents, and let them heat up the bricks for 30 minutes.  

Not one to make things too hard for myself on a school night (cut me some slack: I was already hacking a pizza oven out of my grill), I bought some premade pizza dough at the supermarket, mixed up some low-moisture mozzarella and feta into a pseudo-sulguni (the salty Georgian cow and buffalo milk cheese traditionally used), repurposed a flipped cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal as a pizza peel, and slid that gondola-shaped sucker onto the fire bricks.

Hugh Garvey

My hacked pizza oven in action.

Within ten minutes one side was already getting that brick oven-like char and the cheese was bubbling. I rotated the pizza 180 degrees, cooked it ten minutes more, and the resulting khachapuri was nearly Instagram-ready. I topped it with an egg, baked it for a few more minutes, but risked burning the whole thing so I took it out before the egg set. (Full disclosure: I forgot to separate the yolk from the white, which slowed down the cooking time; my bad!) Luckily the cheese was hot enough for the final, customary stir in which molten cheese, fresh egg, and a couple of pats of butter create a cheesy, bechamel-like hot dip. Whoa.

Family was assembled. The khachapuri was placed amongst them. They dug in, pulled off hunks of the blistered crust, and dipped it into the buttery molten egg and cheese. In five minutes, the khachapuri was completely devoured.

I suspect you could arrive at the same result by more conventional means, like buying a pizza stone, cooking it in a cast-iron skillet,  or just using your oven. But where would the fun be in that?

Get the Recipe: Grill-Baked Khachapuri