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Taste Testing the Best Frozen Pizza
Frozen pizza may be the hallmark food of our chaotic modern culture. It feeds struggling students, kitchen-phobic singles, and busy families.
We shopped for top frozen pizzas costing no more than 30 cents per ounce and served up a feast of six cheese and six pepperoni pies to a panel of nine willing participants, who dished on which were the best frozen pizzas and which were the worst. In the cheese pizza category, panelists in our blind taste test preferred Freschetta 4-Cheese Medley ($5.99 for 26.11 ounces, or 23 cents an ounce), gravitating toward its "nice tomato flavor" and crust with "decent firmness." In second place: Trader Giotto's Pizza 4 Formaggi ($3.99 for 13.4 ounces, or 30 cents an ounce) from the specialty supermarket Trader Joe's. It achieves a "decent balance between sauce, cheese, and dough," according to the tasters. They did not appreciate Totino's Pizza ($1 for 9.8 ounces, or 10 cents an ounce), saying it tasted "very odd," somewhat like "cardboard."
The tasting panel named Freschetta Signature Pepperoni ($5.99 for 27.35 ounces, or 22 cents an ounce) the top frozen pizza in the pepperoni bracket and gave it the highest score overall for its "flavorful sauce," "good crust," and "spicy pepperoni." DiGiorno Half & Half ($5 for 30 ounces, or 17 cents an ounce) didn't impress the panel with its cheese half but made our list on the strength of its pepperoni and "tangy sauce." Last on the scorecard again, Totino's Party Pizza ($1 for 9.8 ounces, or 10 cents an ounce) drew criticism in the pepperoni category for "stale spices" and an overall "fake" taste.
The pizzas were purchased from suburban supermarkets outside a large metro area; prices may vary elsewhere. We've included the price per ounce because some of the test products were individual pizzas and others were big enough to feed a family. Regardless they all cost less than $6, compared with closer to $10 for a full-size pizza from a specialty brand such as Amy's and more for a premium take-and-bake pie.
Each pizza was baked in a standard, non-convection oven according to the instructions on the box. The directions called for the pizzas to be placed directly on the top oven rack, rather than on a baking sheet or pizza stone. Samples were set out on plain paper plates, marked only by a reference number or letter. This was designed to ensure that tasters didn't know which brands they were eating and could form unbiased conclusions about the best frozen pizzas, although some panelists managed to identify go-to brands simply by look or smell.
Panelists graded the pizzas based on appearance, aroma, taste, and texture. Taste, of course, was the biggest determinant of how each product fared. Smell and texture can also make or break a food's appeal, while appearance seemed worth noting but didn't turn out to have much effect on the outcome.
Allowing that these are largely subjective measures, our tasters tried to be as objective as possible. Some even gave personal favorites low scores, recognizing that their preferences were based mainly on nostalgia. They rated the pizza samples on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. They were also asked if they would buy and eat each pie again. Some panelists gave the frozen pizzas low scores across the board, expressing a general dislike for cook-at-home pies. Although none of the test brands scored higher than an average of 3.7 out of 5, the top frozen pizzas and the duds were indisputable.
|Brand||Price||Ounces||Price Per Oz.|
|Freschetta 4-Cheese Medley||$5.99||26.11||$0.23|
|Red Baron Classic Crust 4 Cheese||$5.99||21.06||$0.28|
|Totino's Party Pizza (Cheese)||$1.00||9.8||$0.10|
|Trader Giotto's Pizza 4 Formaggi||$3.99||13.4||$0.30|
|Freschetta Signature Pepperoni||$5.99||27.35||$0.22|
|Tony's Crispy Crust (Pepperoni)||$1.19||7.12||$0.17|
|Totino's Party Pizza (Pepperoni)||$1.00||10.2||$0.10|
|Trader Joe's Deep Dish Pepperoni||$3.99||16.5||$0.24|
|DiGiorno Half & Half||$5.00||30||$0.17|
|Safeway Select Half Pepperoni & Half Cheese||$4.99||28.7||$0.17|
Best Frozen Pizza
Freschetta 4-Cheese Medley
Best Frozen Cheese Pizza. The Freschetta 4-Cheese Medley impressed our testers with its "tangy sauce," "herb flecks," and "complex" flavor profile with a taste of "more than one cheese." Some thought it smacked of "dry bread flavor" and still "tasted like frozen food." Nonetheless, most said they would eat it again and it received the highest score in the cheese pizza category.Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Freschetta Signature Pepperoni
Best Frozen Pepperoni Pizza. This Freschetta pizza won over our panel in the pepperoni category and earned the highest score overall. Tasters called it "well-balanced," with lots of sauce that managed to taste both sweet and spicy. Although reviewers were divided over the "doughy" texture of the crust, all but one panelist said they would eat this pizza again.Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Good Frozen Pizza
Trader Giotto's Pizza 4 Formaggi
Good Frozen Cheese Pizza. A thin, crisp crust and "sharp cheese flavor" distinguished this Trader Joe's-brand pie from other contenders. Panelists agreed that the "flavor was better than the appearance." The pizza's "mild" taste and "savory sauce" put it solidly in second place in the cheese division.Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
DiGiorno Half & Half
Good Frozen Pepperoni Pizza. DiGiorno's half-cheese, half-pepperoni pie did double duty in our blind taste test, but only the pepperoni side passed muster with tasters. It earned the second-highest score in the category largely on the backs of its big pieces of pepperoni -- called "a little spicy" by panelists -- and its "salty, saucy, savory" flavor profile.Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Deemed "unappetizing" by one taster and "the worst pizza ever" by another, Totino's Party Pizza was the lowest-priced but also far and away the lowest-ranked cheese pizza we put in front of our panel. From a "slimy, stiff crust" to a taste called "very artificial," the pie was panned across the board. Interestingly, two tasters said it was their personal favorite, despite giving it poor marks. By way of explanation, one commented that the pizza undoubtedly is "not great, but it brings back college."Read more »
Totino's Party Pizza
As with its cheese counterpart, tasters unleashed on this "thin and fake" "college garbage pizza" and most said they would pass on eating the super-cheap yet "terrible" pie again. And yet there remained two panel members with a soft spot for this product's familiar taste, although they rated it poorly.Read more »
Safeway Select Half Pepperoni & Half Cheese Review
Tony's Crispy Crust Review
Trader Joe's Deep Dish Pepperoni Review
Totino's Pizza Review
Totino's Party Pizza Review
Trader Giotto's Pizza 4 Formaggi Review
DiGiorno Half & Half Review
Freschetta 4-Cheese Medley Review
Freschetta Signature Pepperoni Review
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