Photo: Shutterstock / ADfoto
Frozen pizza. It’s a blessing for every cash-strapped college student and a curse for every harried mom trying to put together a quick dinner. Frankly, it’s a curse because frozen pizza isn’t particularly known to be, well, good pizza. The crust is sometimes indistinguishable from the cardboard it’s packaged with—and the fact is, three sad little pieces of pepperoni do not make for robust toppings. But there’s hope: this yummy selection of frozen pizza upgrades.
1. Invest in a pizza stone
The simplest way to maintain great crust consistency is to get—and use—a pizza stone. There are untold numbers of stones sitting in pantries just collecting dust, so break yours out for a preheated turn in the oven. The idea behind a pizza stone: It replicates the surface of a wood-fired pizza oven, allowing you to get crispier crusts and more evenly cooked toppings. Alternatively, you could…
2. Ditch the directions.
Defrost the frozen ‘za and set the oven to a high temperature—like 550 degrees—to replicate the blast-furnace feel of a real pizza oven. Then use a cast-iron skillet or griddle and bake the pizza for five to eight minutes. You’ll get a differently textured crust, more akin to what you’d expect from the corner pizzeria. No skillet? Place the pizza directly on the oven rack.
3. Get crispy with a quick fix.
Don’t have time to defrost a frozen pizza? Poke a few holes in the bottom to let air escape as the pizza bakes. It’ll make for a crispier crust—and your family won’t complain about soggy slices.
4. Eggs make everything better.
Pull the pizza out of the oven when it’s at the halfway baking mark and crack an egg over it. Then return it to the oven. At time’s end, you’ll get a nice fried egg on top—and yolky goodness on every slice. Love it? These dishes taste even more delicious with an egg on top.
5. Go Hawaiian.
Before popping the pizza into the oven, place canned pineapple slices and shredded ham on top. Voilà! You’ve got Hawaiian pizza in almost no extra time. But if you’re feeling industrious, try our homemade version.
6. Get fresh.
Nothing brightens up a drab frozen pizza like a sprinkling of fresh basil and olive oil on top. Better yet, loosely shred the basil leaves for a more intense flavor.
7. Upgrade the cheese.
It’s universally known that frozen pizza skimps on the cheese. So, augment that reality with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan, or whole slices of fresh mozzarella and a few small dollops of ricotta. Maybe go bold and layer some slices of pepper jack on a standard frozen cheese pizza, or go exotic and try Edam or Gruyere. And some people swear Gouda makes a pizza extra gouda…er, good.
Or you can follow the scientific route. Researchers at the University of Auckland looked at different cheeses and gauged their elasticity, oil content, moisture levels and texture, as well as something called “transition temperature,” to determine the perfect taste as well as best bubbly visual appeal. The result: Mozzarella and cheddar struck the perfect balance. So get thee to a cheese shoppe and load up on some “betta chedda.”
8. Go west.
Kick up the flavor of a frozen pizza by adding cooked chorizo and jalapeno slices for a decidedly western flair. If you want something a bit bolder, sprinkle on a tiny—and we do mean tiny—dash of Ghost Pepper Sea Salt.
9. Veg out.
Amp up the health quotient by adding zucchini, broccoli florets and sliced cauliflower to the proceedings. Want it crunchy? Add the veggies raw as the pizza goes into the oven. Otherwise, saute the vegetables first. Other flavorful options: spinach, green peppers, mushrooms and olives. Best yet, veggie pizza is a sneaky way for kids to eat their veggies.
10. See food, eat it.
Add cooked lobster, shrimp or crabmeat in the last three or four minutes of the pizza’s baking time for seafood that’ll be warm but not overcooked.
Of course, you can always make pizzas from scratch—with a little help from premade pizza dough. Try quick and easy offerings like Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza, Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza or Asparagus, Bacon and Herbed Cheese Pizza. Each takes just 30 minutes or less to make, start to finish.