Man Made DIY


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Jul 11, 2011

10 Ways to Dress Up and Improve a Frozen Pizza

created at: 07/11/2011

My special someone is out of the country for the next eleven days. I can certainly fend for myself nutritionally, but, I'm probably not going to get too culinarily ambitious. I find I either want to cook for lots and lots of folks (hence my two dinner parties over the weekend), or not really mess with it. I mean, who I am gonna impress and treat? Myself? Nah. Plus, I gotta do all the cleanup myself.

So, while I promised myself I won't get take out every night, I'm prolly not gonna make a big mess in the kitchen with fancy fixings. And, probably at least once, when spending an evening huddled away in the basement working on a project, I'll resort to that single-guy staple: the frozen pizza.

Not that I like frozen pizza, of course. But, it does do in a pinch, requires little effort and clean-up, and sorta feels like a treat. But that bland blagh from a box doesn't have to be all bad. Especially if you take it up a notch with some fresh ingredients and clever techniques.   

There are four major components on any pizza: the crust, the sauce, the cheese, and the toppings. Unfortunately, in most frozen pizzas, each of these components is usually lacking, resulting in a substandard pie. So, address each element individually, and you're well on your way for a passable, even respectable, meal.

The crust:

1. Frozen pizza dough is totally different than fresh dough. Since it's flash frozen and has been hanging out in the freezer for whoknowshowlong, frozen dough tends to turn out limp, no matter how hot your oven, since there are so many ice crystals in the dough, sauce, even the cheese and toppings. The pizza essential steams, rather than bakes.

So, in this case, it's best to let it touch as little of a surface as is possible, and that means the oven rack. Forget your pizza stones, your baking sheets, your special pizza pans. Just slide the frozen pie directly onto the rack, positioned in the "second from the bottom" position. Going from the dry cold of your freezer to the dry heat of the oven is your best bet for any hope of a crispy crust.

2. If your pizza comes wrapped in plastic (which they almost always do), try this trick: Before you unwrap it, flip it over onto the box or other flat surface, and take the plastic off just the back. Use a fork or paring knife to punch little holes, or "dock" the dough in the center, where the toppings are. This will allow the steam to escape, and result in a much less-limp crust.

3. Up the flavor of your outer crust just before finishing cooking. When there's about two minutes left, brush the outer ring of crust with garlic butter, garlic oil, or a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper, and parmesean cheese. Allow it to brown in the oven, which should also help the crispiness factor. Lastly, rub a clove of raw garlic over the browned crust, garlic bread style, for a big flavor boost.

The sauce: 

4. Unfortunately, this is the toughest one, since you simply can't get at that lake of frozen sauce stuck between the crust and the cheese. So, the trick is: add sauce-like things to the pizza when done. A drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of fresh herbs like basil and oregano, some dried chile flakes, or fresh tomatoes all work wonders. Yeah, sure, they're technically toppings, but they bring an extra punch of sauce-y flavor, whether red or white.

The cheese:

5. This is the most obvious one: add more cheese. Or rather, add better cheese. Throwing in some fresh mozzarella (beware the water content), or at least a higher quality Italian cheese blend (what you'd use on a homemade pizza) will getcha that ooey, gooeyness that we know from, you know, good pizzas. These are never gonna be artisinal pies that let the simplicity shine, so you might as well enjoy yourself and go cheese crazy.

6. In addition, try adding more complex cheeses to the relatively overly sweet taste of most frozen pizza. You may be tempted to salt a frozen pizza. DON'T. The sodium content on these guys are already out of the roof. If your pizza is bland, it's not cause it isn't salty. It's because it's very, uh, "one-note"...namely, packaged, low-quality pizza. So add some complexity with different cheeses. A grating of good parmigiano or romano will bring that saltiness you're looking for, but also a bit of nuttiness and even some sour notes that will cut through that overly sweetened, corn-syrupy sauce. Or, try some soft feta or farmer's cheese for a contrast with the melty.

The toppings: 

7. More is more. Here's where you can really improve these frostbitten beasts. Basically, any fresh ingredients you can add here will be an improvement over the frozen little nuggets that came with it. Go classic, or use your imagination. Adding traditional flavors like tomato, fresh herbs, higher quality meats and salumi will always be tasty. Fresh or lightly sauteed/grilled veggies are a must, and frozen veggies like peas and corn work quite well.

Try raiding your fridge: look for olives or capers, and use up those leftovers. Rostiserrie chicken or leftover lunch meat will bring some protein, and some chopped onion always adds a nice crunch. If you can't stand the strength of raw onion, try rinsing it in a sieve or colander under cold water for about twenty seconds. It'll take away the sting, and leave you with a good balance of flavor and texture.

One of my favorite tricks is to squirt a basic red and white pizza with some homemade or jarred pesto. It's a great way to use up pesto before it oxidizes, and brings plenty of flavor to the party.    

8. Go nuts. Or, well, add some. Toss on some toasted pinenuts, walnuts, slivered almonds, etc, for a big protein boost, plenty of roasty flavor, and a bit of texture.

9. Get jet set! Sure, pizza is traditionally understood as having Italian-like flavors, but tomatoes and cheese are everybodys friends. Add some goat cheese, thyme, and figs for a French flair, or plenty of olives, feta, oregano, and a squirt of lemon for a taste of Greece. I often add fresh cilantro, black beans, corn, Mexican-style hot sauce and a bit of queso fresco for a Latin punch. It works. Really!

10. Add a salad. Fresh greens atop a pizza is a tasy thing, indeed, and a surefire way to make frozen pizza a complete meal. Toss some tender greens like argula, spring or mesclun mix in fresh lemon juice (or light vinegar), olive oil, course salt, and lots of black pepper. Then, just plant it atop your slices, and enjoy!

Do you have any favorite tricks for amping up frozen pizza? Post 'em in the comments below.

Images by:  taste book, all things nice, active life cooking

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You can put ranch dressing on. It sounds wierd, but it brings alot of DELICOUS flavor!

I put ocvirki (pork cracklings) on mine. That may sound weird, but you can get pork cracklings really easily where I live and I add them to just about anything. My favorite thing to do is take a Spar store brand spinach pizza, add the cracklings and parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, and bake on the bare oven rack. Also, you can crisp up the crust up by putting the pizza in a hot skillet for a minute or two.

Just add fresh basil.

Awesome!!!!

Step 1. Wait until Monday (or Tuesday).

Step 2. Get in car and drive to Papa Murphy's.

Step 3. Order a pepperoni pizza for $5.

Step 4. Drive home and put it in the oven.

I like to add sundried tomatoes and feta cheese topped off with some green peppers and spinach for a greek pizza. If the pizza crust is soft and not pre-baked I sometimes flatten the outer crust , add a thin piece of mozzarella cheese and roll the crust up again for a stuffed crust.

Top with spicy kimchi right out of the fridge.

I had my first pizza when I was ten and it was a cheese pizza with Oregano. At the time it was a new falvor for me and I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  Pizza was so unknown in the L.A. area then that my New York born friends had to drive what seemed like a long way at the time to take me to probably the only pizza place around.  The years went by before we would get the boxed, shelf pizzas.  Somehow they never tasted right.  Then came full blown pizza parlors that had pizzas that were loaded with all kinds of toppings.  Still they didn't taste quite right. (Like I was supposed to know what "right" tasted like). Soon I became accustomed to the pizzas that weren't quite right and adjusted my taste somewhat.  Then it occurred to me more recently that it was the Oregano that was missing.  Still, it rather sits on top of a frozen pizza and kind of gets the flavor browned out of it.  So I like your suggestions.  I also like my son's version with sliced tomatoes.  But I still don't know what to do about the Pepperoni.  Sausage is sausage, but I haven't had good Pepperoni on a pizza for a very long time, even from take-out.  It's thin and tasteless.  So I would welcome suggestions as to brands, especially if it comes in small packages as it isn't something I normally eat. I ordered a take-out recently and they diced the tomatoes which was horrible.  They are much better thinly sliced.  Also, as for the onions being pungent, I would use sweet onions when they are available.  Types like the Texas 1015's, Vidalia and Walla Walla onions, and Mayan.  I've tried others that are supposed to be sweet but they just don't compare to these that can almost be eaten like an apple. 

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Our favourite add-on to almost any pizza, but especially the veggie & cheese options: add a small can of anchovies.  We get a kick out of that every time!

I always have Bridgford sliced pepperoni in my house since it is shelf-stable and lasts a while (usually add it to casseroles, mini sandwhiches, and pizzas)....every time we have a frozen pizza we pull off the existing pepperoni and replace it with the Bridgford kind and add olives, more cheese, and whatnot to give it actual flavor :)

  1. If frozen and its cheese only ,add a  little garlic and ognion , tomatoes ,only olive oil after its cooked, ,add  some mustard,a little bacon...optionnel, or add bacon bits, if none fresh in the house ,...but just a little  bit because its  salty enought in the pizza...;0) .optionnel add more cheese or sauce on the side...enjoye.

Rosemary is a very Italian flavour

Broccoli flowerets is good too.

When making a pizza, you have to sometimes think outside of the box! Try new things, because you might just find out that you like something you tried!

@regfman "docking" in culinary terms means to poke holes in the dough which allow steam to escape during the cooking process.

Anyone who calls TJ's snobby has obviously never shopped in one...It's not like it's Whole Foods. Having made many pizzas from scratch (both with home-made dough and store-bought actual DOUGH, not that boboli stuff), it does taste better than most frozen pizzas but it really is much more effort and a lot messier. I really have no major problem with a $3 target pizza or a $4 tj's pizza or a $5 ralph's pizza if you just throw some parmesan and oregano on top, especially when you get the rizing-crust ones.

You shop at Trader Joe's and you call other people snobs? :/

Y'all are snobs.  You can get a decent frozen pie from Trader Joe's for $4.  Maybe it could use a little basil or something but it's definitely not $9 and it's definitely not as bad as some of the bullshit pies my hippie roommates (who "know how to use the internet") try to make.

What does  " "dock" the dough in the center" mean?  In sailing it means to land and attach to a berth at a pier.  On a Mac it means to place an app in the tray at the periphery of the screen.  I don't know what dock means regarding the placement of pizza dough?

It's mentioned below several times, but +1 for me as well:

The best way to use frozen pizza - 

Throw it away.

Use a good, pre-made crust as the base.

Apply tips #1 - #10 from above blog entry.

Enjoy.

That should be even less effort starting from scratch than salvaging el cheapo ingredients with better ones, probably ruining the taste of the better ingredients while trying to do so.

Step 1. The Crust. That method is not 100% accurate. I've always placed my pizzas directly on the rack and the crust was always limp in the middle.  Got myself a pizza stone and now my crust is firm and crispy throughout.  You got to preheat that stone for min of 30 mins but it works great.

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