THE SLICE OF LIFE
We all love pizza. We love it so much that we won't be stopped even if we can't get it fresh, and nowhere is that more evident than the shelves of the frozen section of any grocery store. So many different brands and styles line the walls, but which actually has the best bang for your buck? We went straight to the source (the grocery store), and taste-tested a ton of 'em to find the best frozen pizza.
The pizzas we tried:
- DiGiorno Original Rising Crust Pepperoni
- DiGiorno Thin & Crispy Tomato Mozzarella with Pesto
- Signature Select Rising Crust Five Cheese Pizza
- Signature Select Ultra Thin Crust Margherita Pizza
- Trader Joe's Pizza 4 Formaggi
- Freschetta Canadian Style Bacon & Pineapple
- Freschetta Four Cheese
- Screamin' Sicilian Holy Pepperoni
- Red Baron Classic Crust Pepperoni
- Tombstone Original Pepperoni
- Totino's Pizza Party
- Amy's Cheese Pizza
- California Pizza Kitchen Crispy Thin Crust BBQ Chicken Pizza
I also rarely buy or make frozen pizza and, as a result, I had absolutely no brand loyalty and went in with an open mind. Here's what we found.
BEST FROZEN PEPPERONI - SCREAMIN' SICILIAN HOLY PEPPERONI
This was the kind of thing where you could tell right from the box that it was going to be a good pizza. Screamin' Sicilian seems to be the mom-and-pop beacon of light in an otherwise dark and confusing corporate-chain world. The meat quality is top notch, and it's unlikely we would have ever guessed it was frozen. The pepperoni is somewhat spicy and really meaty -- it tastes like you got it at an actual pizza shop. One of our tasters called it "the best frozen pepperoni I've ever had." Whatever the fine people at Screamin' Sicilian are doing, keep it up.
BEST ACTUAL CHEESE - SIGNATURE SELECT FIVE CHEESE
Melty. Ooey. Gooey. This cheese was far and away the most like a real pizza. With a blend like mozzarella, provolone, fontina, smoked gouda, and parmesan, it was destined for greatness. Unlike the Freschetta Four Cheese (which initially seemed like the best cheese of all), it all melted together into a beautiful monstrosity of cheesiness. Freschetta looked like this at first, but it quickly hardened into a cheese scab unfit for human consumption.
BEST CRUST - DIGIORNO ORIGINAL RISING CRUST
Full disclosure, we didn't want DiGiorno to be the winner here. It's such a household name that it just seems like such an obvious choice. However, we are scientists, and this is science. Personal preference can't get in the way, and thus we give this DiGiorno pie the title of Best Crust. Signature Select's Five Cheese was a close second, but DiGiorno undeniably had the most doughy and authentic crust. Well done.
BEST SAUCE - SCREAMIN' SICILIAN HOLY PEPPERONI
A true winner we have here. It's zesty and garlicky and oniony -- Screamin' Sicilian is not afraid of big and bold flavors, and their product shines because of it. One drawback, though, is that the cheese melts in such a way that it creates a little microwave for the sauce, and the temperature soars to that of scalding magma. Do unto this pizza what you do unto soup dumplings, and let some of the steam out first so you don't melt your tongue.
BEST NON-TOMATO SAUCE - CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA
It's just barbecue sauce. But what, you don't like barbecue sauce? Course you do. The tangy barbecue sauce compliments the rest of the pizza, too. The onions are well cooked. The chicken tastes, well, not frozen. The crust has pros and cons: on one hand, it's light and crispy so you can easily eat the whole thing without feeling gross. On the other hand, it hardens so quickly that it's basically like eating pizza off a piece of matzoh.
BEST TO EAT IN ONE SITTING (AND NOT FEEL LIKE DEATH) - DIGIORNO THIN & CRISPY TOMATO MOZZARELLA WITH PESTO
This guy was fresh, light, tasty, and crispy. It tasted not unlike a pizzetti you'd get at an Italian restaurant. The tomatoes were, believe it or not, fresh. Even the pesto tasted like it hadn't just been frozen. The thin crust isn't exactly like the rising crust, but at least it's apparent that that's on purpose. I finished this pizza myself and didn't feel too full or uncomfortable. I'd even buy this again.
BEST TO HEAT UP THE NEXT DAY - FRESCHETTA
Regardless of your opinions on cold pizza, one unavoidable issue when it comes to the frozen stuff is that you simply can't eat it cold. It's just not the same. So, if you happen to be writing something for the internet about taste-testing frozen pizzas and you have a ton of leftovers, it's good to know if anything can face the microwave the next day. Freschetta nailed it, with doughy crust that you might not even realize was once frozen. We can't speak so much for the toppings, but the dough was on point.
BEST POST-PARTY 3 A.M. PIZZA - TOTINO'S PIZZA PARTY
Totino's is just junk food. We all know this. It's easier to make, easier to eat, and almost gives you that elementary school pizza taste you've been missing all these years. It's square in shape which would usually bother us, but here it seems right on target. The easier to eat, the better. On top of all that, you can make it in the toaster. Totino's knows exactly what it is, and we respect that. And at under $3, it's the cheapest pizza we found.
MOST PLEASANT UNBOXING EXPERIENCE - SIGNATURE SELECT
The Signature Select series did a nice job of being easy to open and easy to put in the oven. The cheese and toppings are frozen to the top, so nothing is spilling everywhere while you handle it. Screamin' Sicilian was the opposite, causing an avalanche of cheese and meat as soon as you open the box. Totino's doesn't even come in a box, just a tiny little sleeve full of little broken bits, not unlike an instant ramen package.
BEST VEGAN PIZZA... THAT'S MADE OUT OF RICE FOR SOME REASON? - AMY'S
Look, nothing substitutes for the real thing. BUT, if you have to eat a vegan and gluten-free pizza, Amy's is the way to go. The cheese resembles cheese. The sauce tastes like sauce. The crust tastes like it's made out of rice. One of our tasters called it "something to eat," and that's about the highest praise we can give to Amy's.
WORST PIZZA - RED BARON CLASSIC CRUST PEPPERONI
If literally everything in the grocery store is sold out, this "pizza" is for life-and-death emergencies only.
BIGGEST LET DOWN - TRADER JOE'S PIZZA 4 FORMAGGI
Trader Joe's -- err, excuse us, Trader Giotto's -- Pizza 4 Formaggi has "burn" marks on the side of the pizza before you even put it in the oven. We assume this is to trick you into thinking that the pizza is fresh out of some wood burning oven. The cheese (edam, asiago, pecorino, Grana Padano) is disappointing. The box says its "wood fired" and has "imported ingredients." For a company that usually nails its freezer section ... look, we're not mad. Just disappointed.
BEST FOR THE PRICE - TRADER JOE'S
Okay, we sounded mean before. But here's the thing -- this pizza cost $3.99, just about half of every single other pizza we tried. It tastes enough like pizza, isn't disgusting, and you can easily get two meals out of it. At such a great price, we can't scorn it entirely.
BEST OVERALL PIZZA - SIGNATURE SELECT FIVE CHEESE PIZZA
We gotta tell you -- we didn't see this coming. Not even for a second. After one bite of the Screamin' Sicilian, we were convinced nothing could top it. But the next day we popped in the Signature Select Five Cheese, and holy moly, it was tasty. This one is by far the most like a real pizza. The way the cheese and sauce feel when you bite into truly feels like an authentic pizza experience. Round of applause for the fine people at Signature Select.