16 Ways to Make a Frozen Pizza Better

When I’m just cooking for myself (i.e. if my special someone is out of town), I can certainly fend for myself nutritionally, but, I’m usually not going to get too culinarily ambitious. I find I either want to cook for lots of folks (hence my two dinner parties over the weekend), or I don’t feel like cooking at all. I mean, who I am gonna impress, myself? Plus, I’ve got to do all the cleanup myself.

While I don’t like to get take out every night, 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. Cooking a frozen pizza requires little effort and clean-up, and sort of feels like a treat. It may seem like an uninspiring choice, but it doesn’t have to be! With our suggestions, you can make a frozen pizza better. All it takes is some fresh ingredients and clever techniques.

Aspects to Consider when Cooking Frozen Pizza

There are four major components of 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. If you address each element individually, you’re well on your way for a passable, even respectable, meal.

uncooked frozen pizza topped with peppers, onions, and corn

These frozen pizza hacks will help you make the best pizza possible:

1. Choose a High-Quality Pizza to Start

While frozen better is already a cheap dinner option in and of itself, set yourself up for a delicious meal by choosing the “best of the worst.” If given the choice between a $4 frozen pizza or one that costs $12 or $15, chances are the more expensive one will be worth the money. It’s a lot easier to make something better if it’s doing some of the work for you.

2. Sit the Pizza Directly On the Oven Rack

Frozen pizza dough is totally different than fresh dough. Since it’s flash-frozen and was packaged long before you purchased it in the store, the frozen dough tends to turn out limp. The pizza essentially steams rather than bakes thanks to the ice crystals in the dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings.

It’s best to let it touch as few surfaces as possible, so you want it to rest directly on the oven rack. Forget your pizza stones, your baking sheets, your special pizza pans. 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.

frozen pizza directly on the oven rack

3. Poke Holes in the Dough Before Cooking

If your pizza comes wrapped in plastic (which they almost always do), we’ve got a trick for you to try. Before you unwrap it fully, 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. After you’ve docked the dough, you can remove the plastic completely and proceed to cook like you normally would.

4. Add A Little Oil to the Dough

When the pizza has about two minutes left to cook, brush the outer ring of crust with garlic butter, garlic oil, or a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper, and parmesan cheese to really add a hit of extra flavor. 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 once you take it out of the oven, garlic bread style, for a big flavor boost.

5. Drizzle on Other Sauces Before you Eat It

The sauce is the toughest thing to change on a frozen pizza since you 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 once it’s done cooking. A drizzle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil, spicy honey, or balsamic vinegar are all good sauces to up the flavor profile of your frozen pizza. 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 it brings plenty of flavor to the party.

6. You’ll Never Regret Adding More Cheese

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 get you that ooey-gooey cheesy texture that we know from, you know, good pizzas. These are never gonna be artisanal pies, so you might as well enjoy yourself and go cheese crazy.

person picking up cheesy slice of pizza

7. Use a Mix of High-Quality Cheeses

In addition, try adding more complex cheeses to off-set the overly sweet taste of most frozen pizza. You may be tempted to salt a frozen pizza; DON’T. The sodium content on a frozen pizza is already through the roof. If your pizza is bland, it’s not cause it isn’t salty. It’s because it’s very “one-note”…namely, packaged, low-quality pizza. The best way to make your frozen pizza better is to add some complexity by using different cheeses. A grating of good parmigiana 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 sauce. You could also try some soft feta or farmer’s cheese for contrast.

8. Add Your Own Toppings

Here’s where you can really improve these frostbitten beasts. Any fresh ingredients you can add here will be an improvement over the frozen little nuggets that came with it. Go classic by recreating your favorite typical pizza flavors, or use your imagination! Adding traditional flavors like tomato, fresh herbs, and higher quality meats will always be tasty. Fresh or lightly sauteed/grilled veggies are a must, and frozen veggies like peas and corn work quite well too. When raiding your fridge, look for olives or capers, and don’t be afraid to use up leftovers.

Some chopped onion also 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.

cheese pizza with feta cheese and pear slices

9. Go Nuts With the Protein

Or, well, add some. Toss on some toasted pine nuts, walnuts, slivered almonds, etc, for a big protein boost, plenty of roasted flavor, and a bit of texture. Rotisserie chicken or leftover lunchmeat will also bring some protein to your plain cheese or veggie pizza.

10. Find Flavor Inspiration from Countries Around the World

Sure, pizza is traditionally understood as having Italian-like flavors, but tomatoes and cheese are everybody’s 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!

11. Or, Be Inspired by Breakfast

Your mother may have told you that pizza is not a suitable breakfast food, but we’re telling you otherwise. A frozen pizza doesn’t only need to be eaten in the evening. Start off with a plain cheese pizza, then add your typical breakfast toppings like bacon or breakfast sausage, then add a few fried eggs to round out your breakfast pizza.

12. Top It Off with Some Fresh Greens

Fresh greens atop a pizza is a tasty thing, indeed, and a surefire way to make frozen pizza a complete meal. Toss some tender greens like arugula, spring or mesclun mix tossed in fresh lemon juice (or light vinegar), olive oil, coarse salt, and lots of black pepper. Add your greens to your slices just before you eat, and enjoy!

frozen pizza with fresh greens sprinkled on top

13. Use the Broiler for Best Results

If you want to find a way to keep your crust from getting too crispy, while also ensuring that all your added toppings are cooked to your liking, the broiler is the answer to your problems. Once you’ve baked your pizza to your preference, flip the broiler on for just a minute or two. This will ensure all the cheese melts and all your toppings get toasted, without burning your crust.

14. Always Let your Pizza Rest Before You Cut It

As hungry as you are after spending all this time creating a pizza masterpiece and then standing at the oven monitoring its cooking time, you don’t want to cut it when it’s fresh out of the oven. Give your pizza a few minutes to rest. It will make it easier for you to cut, and it allows for all the flavors to blend well. The way to know if your pizza is ready to cut? The melted cheese won’t stick to the knife or pizza cutter.

15. Take A Look Inside Your Spice Cupboard

A sprinkle of fresh herbs like basil or thyme are great options, but if you don’t have access to fresh herbs, you can use what’s inside your spice cupboard. Go for the more classic Italian seasonings by topping your frozen pizza with garlic powder or oregano. For some added spicy seasoning you can sprinkle on some chili flakes or cayenne powder too.

16. To Thaw or Not to Thaw?

The debate on whether or not to thaw a frozen pizza before cooking is an ongoing one. While the box will usually instruct you to cook it from frozen, once you buy that pizza you’re allowed to do whatever you want. There are no limitations when it comes to improving a frozen pizza. If you want to start with a fresh slate, take your pizza out of the freezer a few hours beforehand so it can thaw. Once it’s thawed, it’s much easier to switch out toppings that you don’t like or add spices, rather than trying to work with a frozen pizza that’s hard as a rock.

The Best Way to Cook Your Frozen Pizza

Now that you went to all the effort of perfecting your pizza toppings, you want to make sure you cook it properly.
While the instructions on the box may tell you that a certain temperature is best to cook your frozen pizza, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. When it comes to pizza, the hotter, the better. The higher you turn up the heat on your oven, the more it will mimic the traditional pizza oven style you’d get in a restaurant. If you’re a fan of a crispy crust for your pizza, turning up the heat is also a sure-fire way to get that. Just make sure you keep a watchful eye on that oven if you go rogue with the temperature! A higher temperature means it’ll cook faster than the box’s instructions tell you.

Chris
I write for manmadediy.