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The Insanity of Frozen Pizza

June 6, 2017

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. Not all pizza mind you, but good pizza.

Here’s the thing: pizza comes in all kinds of styles, and I try to keep an open mind. I remember the very first time I had Pepe’s coal fired pizza in New Haven. Despite all the hype, it just didn’t wow me. But after the third visit, I definitely became a fan.

I’ve cultivated an appreciation for the oily and rectangular tavern pies of the Capital Region. I have long been a fan of the gravitas found only in Chicago Deep Dish. The cracker crisp crust of Trenton Tomato Pie is a far cry from my favorite NY Style slice shops, but it’s excellent all the same. Those grandma slices, which should never be confused for Sicilian, are absolutely delightful. I even found some pizza in Old Forge, Pennsylvania that I’d eat again.

None of this is to brag about the depth and breadth of my pizza experience. Rather, it’s so that when I tell you that I just can’t wrap my head around frozen pizza, you don’t think it’s because of any kind of close-mindedness to the form.

Because much like frozen burritos, frozen pizza is nucking futs.

What on earth could be appealing about frozen pizza? My hunch is that it has something to do with cost and convenience. It must. But frozen pizzas aren’t particularly cheap. Yes, they are less expensive than whole, freshly made pies. But you can get two well made cheese slices for about $5 from one of my favorite local slice shops.

And you know what? For me that’s a meal. It is. And I love every. Single. Bite.

Is it as much food for the buck as frozen pizza? No. No it’s not. Well, I guess that depends. Because there are the thin crust frozen pizzas and the thick crust ones. Those thick doughy things are calorie monsters. A cheese pie can be upwards of 1800 calories.

For those calorically dense disks, the recommended serving size is a sixth of a pie. I’m willing to bet that never happens. Not that it matters. We’re talking pizza here. This isn’t health food.

However, if you’re going to be eating something that’s bad for you, it should taste wonderful.

Who ever took a bit into a frozen pizza and said, “oh my god, this is so good”? Who ever approached the task of heating up a frozen pizza with joy and anticipation?

It’s not like heating up a frozen pizza is quick or easy either. First you have to preheat the oven, which always takes more time than you imagine. Then comes the watchful eye once the pizza is in the oven, because heaven forbid you overcook the thing. And technically, before you serve it, the thing should cool slightly so the cheese doesn’t all slide off when you cut it.

Well, if you can call what has sorta “melted” on the top of your toasted bread round “cheese”. I’m not making fun of the ingredients that were used to make the shredded cheese in the first place. Rather, I’m noting the unfortunate side result of freezing shredded cheese in the first place. If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this. You should never freeze cheese.

And it’s not as if there aren’t better, faster, more convenient alternatives.

Refrigerated pizza dough is sold in markets all over the place. Grab some, sauce it, cheese it, pop it in the oven. Don’t have pizza dough, what about toast? Crush a canned tomato on toast, throw some cheese on top and put it under the broiler. Don’t have mozzarella? Who needs it, make a hot tomato pie with just a sprinkling of parm on top.

No matter what kind of substitutions you have to make, it’s always going to taste better than that prefabricated conglomeration of fat and sodium that came out of the food factory and made its way to your freezer.

Or just go out.

Depending on where you live, I’m willing to bet you can get in the car, eat a couple slices of pizza, and get back before a frozen pizza is done cooking. Here in the 518? Easy peasy. And if you like having quick pizza, get take out and order more than you need.

Real pizza reheats beautifully. You know, provided you don’t freeze it.

There’s gotta be something I’m missing here. Maybe people are just so used to eating crap pizza they’ve forgotten how good pizza can be? Or maybe frozen pizza is for the homebound. As far as I can tell, the only good excuse might be that the taste reminds you of childhood.

In which case, you’re off the hook. But I’m going to need to have a word with your parents.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. llcwine permalink
    June 6, 2017 9:56 am

    Daniel,
    While I agree with you that fresh beats frozen hands down…I do have some very fond memories of my mother taking out a frozen Tree Top brand pizza and then doctoring it up prior to putting it in the oven…was it anywhere near as good as fresh? NO…did they have fresh pizza dough available back 40 years ago? no…so…if I had it today…I would think meh…except for the memories of sharing it on a rainy or snowy Sunday watching tv with my parents…the memories outshine the taste.

  2. Jack C. permalink
    June 6, 2017 10:07 am

    This seems like a missed opportunity to include a brief reference to the best neighborhood slice shops in and around the capital region. The various tour pages are accessible, sure, but those are for whole pies. Who does slices the best?

    • -R. permalink
      June 6, 2017 10:33 am

      I think there is a great deal of merit to the question of , “Who does slices the best”? After all, a slice pie is a rather different beast than a whole pie for dining in or to go. They tend to be larger for one, and they also tend to sit around for a while (depending on the time of day, and the topping choice). Hence, they need to hold up well for reheating. Slice pies also cool gradually to room temperature, as opposed to being consumed fresh from the oven, and I would speculate that this changes the flavor structure of a slice pie significantly. Certainly food for further thought. Tour de Slice??? Mind boggling…

  3. June 6, 2017 10:12 am

    As a one time Bay Arean, you may have experienced a frozen pizza called Lucca. It was very cheap, available cheese only or with pepperoni, and had a sweet sauce. (Probably created not by long slow cooking of the tomatoes but by doing sugar.) Loved that stuff. It’s gone now.

    Otherwise, I agree with you that frozen pizza takes too much work for the results. Our household has been known to buy one of those rectangular pies from Price Chopper however, which cook up nice and crisp because of the high fat content in the dough.

  4. June 6, 2017 10:26 am

    A = {pizza}
    B = {frozen pizza}

    A ≠ B

    B is not a subset of A, B is not a superset of A

    A and B should be considered separate and distinct entities and evaluated thusly. Same for burritos.

  5. Jenny permalink
    June 6, 2017 11:28 am

    I totally agree with you in theory, but sometimes my reality is different. Do I make a kick-ass homemade pizza? Yes, I do. I make great homemade dough (with an overnight rise in the fridge), and I have refined my hot oven pizza baking technique over many years. I am also famous for my pizza on the grill.

    But more often than not, there are 6 neighborhood boys in my house and they are hungry and there is no slow-risen pizza dough — in fact I haven’t been to the grocery store and there is practically no fresh food whatsovever. All I have is peanut butter and bread and 2 boys are allergic to peanuts. Yes, I could go to the store and buy some dough and cheese and pepperoni and throw together a pretty good pie, and pretty quickly. But the truth is that I have been working in the yard and I am tired and I don’t feel like going to the store. I can call Paesan’s (because in my house my boys allow for no other) and have them deliver enough pizza to feed those 6 boys, and often I do just that. But that’s 2 large, and will cost me $40. Or, I can go to the basement for the two frozen pizzas that I keep stashed in the deep freeze ($5.99 each, on sale), and soon everyone is fed and happy, and I still have some cash left for groceries when I finally make it to the store. Trust me when I tell you that toast, covered in crushed tomatoes and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, would not pass muster with this crowd. Are there other things that I could keep in my freezer that would feed these boys that is gastronomically and nutritionally superior to frozen pizza? Probably. But none as universally popular, or as inexpensive.

    So, I hear you. Frozen pizza is not great. But sometimes, I serve it anyway. Nucking futs or not.

    • June 6, 2017 11:37 am

      What about a giant pot of pasta? Either with butter and cheese, oil and garlic, or a quick tomato sauce? I suspect that it would even be cheaper than the frozen pizza, and given how long an oven takes to warm up, it wouldn’t take any longer from start to finish.

  6. Edward M. Sossner permalink
    June 6, 2017 6:36 pm

    2 slices of cheese pizza and a free coke for lunch today

    Pizza Mare

  7. enough already! permalink
    June 6, 2017 6:42 pm

    Daniel…I must disagree with your notion of not freezing pizza. I routinely freeze any leftover slices, and reheat frozen in a 400 degree oven for around 8 minutes, until the top is to your liking. Delicious, and I am fussy also.

  8. hokiemom permalink
    June 7, 2017 2:53 pm

    I’ve seen the amazing increase in shelf space at our local markets and keep wondering who is buying it all, and is it really good? you don’t get shelf space unless it’s selling – I just don’t see it. Another market that has increased in shelf space is frozen waffles…. don’t get that either. Thanks for confirming my thoughts on frozen pizza like food.

  9. June 8, 2017 10:58 pm

    Sorry gang but, frozen pizza….is pizza.
    Many folks may not like it, but it’s still pizza.
    It may not fit into your view of “perfection”, or “proper form” but it’s still pizza.
    This is actually worse than the argument against Chicago Deep dish.

    There are obviously many people who love that frozen pie.
    Are these pies healthy? Probably not.
    Are they as convenient as you may like to believe? Maybe not.
    But people still love ’em.
    Frozen pizza is a multi-billion dollar industry. Granted, it comes no where near the “fresh-made” pizza industry, but look in that freezer section.
    It’s REAL!

    I’ll even dare to say there are probably some frozen pies out there that are pretty tasty.
    Unfortunately you may need to “kiss allot of frogs” before you find the one you like.
    So if you like kissing frogs – have at it..
    That just leaves more “real” pizza for me, and the other food snobs.

    • June 9, 2017 2:48 am

      We have to get rid of this “many people” trope. Thank you Mr. President for bringing it into the vernacular and diminishing discourse everywhere.

      The world is a big place. Undoubtedly there are some people who love frozen pizza. I might not want to be friends with them, since I imagine most are under 20 years old. But they certainly exist. It’s salty, fatty, and full of carbs. It’s engineered to be enjoyable.

      But I would expect the plurality of people who buy frozen pizza do not actually love it. Rather, it seems, they have accepted it as a compromise. It’s an emergency dinner. It’s something to make for the kids. It’s something to have on hand if you’re in a pinch.

      It’s half as good as freshly made pizza, but it’s only a quarter of the price. That’s value.

      I actually appreciate Dave’s logical analysis of the pizza market. And your comment does make me think, when does a thing stop being that thing. A long time ago we had a discussion about Chinese food, and the difference between taking Chinese food home from a Chinese restaurant and “Chinese take-out”.

      So now, I’m conflicted.

  10. Benjamin permalink
    August 24, 2017 3:05 pm

    I eat a lot of frozen pizza, but I also make it a lot from scratch so I think that they even out. Excluding deep dish or French-bread style pizza, I find frozen pizza falls into three categories (from worst to best):

    (1) thin, cracker-like crust that always stays soft; barely any sauce; crunchy cheese bits; and little cubes of pepperoni. It is extremely cheap ($1-2 bucks) and never tastes very good.

    (2) hard, dense crust that really crunches when you cook it, lots of salty, acidic sauce, a good amount of cheese usually spread right to the edge of the crust, and full size pepperoni. Frequently found for $3-4 at the store. Okay but very salty.

    (3) rising crust that bakes up soft; a fair amount of sauce; plenty of cheese that is isn’t spread to the edge so that you can actually hold a slice, and a good amount of toppings. Not bad, and usually worth the $5-6 bucks.

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