11 Ways to Make a Frozen Pizza Less Sad

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Eating a frozen pizza for supper can feel a little like giving up, but you can’t deny the convenience factor, nor the nostalgic, juvenile appeal. It is, after all, still pizza.

I would never judge or belittle someone for enjoying their freezer pizza au naturel, but a little adornment can do wonders for them. Here are my favorite ways to gild the wilted lily of the freezer aisle, none of which are “dipping it ranch dressing” (which also isn’t a bad idea).

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Pickled, marinated, and oil-cured vegetables are packed with complex flavors, which is exactly what a lot of frozen pizzas lack. As I’ve explained previously, the oil the vegetables are packed in do double duty:

The flavored oil from the vegetable drips down onto the pizza, soaking into the crust and permeating the pie with taste. For best results, place marinated vegetables on your pizza once the cheese starts to melt, but before it browns, so they get all warm and juicy.

Pickled vegetables add a brighter, zingier flavor, and are best when added after cooking. Pickled onions and pickled corn are my favorites, particularly if they’re pickled in beer.

Photo: Claire Lower

Plunking an egg on something is one of the easiest ways to make it feel like a meal. Eggs add protein and vitamins, and the yolks act as a rich, golden sauce—the perfect foil for bland cheese and dry crusts. Don’t forget to salt the egg, and finish with lots of hot sauce. Yolk, hot sauce, and salt are a powerful flavorful trifecta.

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Draping thin slices of cured meat over a hot pizza doesn’t just add flavor, it protects the roof of your mouth from scorching cheese while taking the chill off the charcuterie. The fats in mortadella, prosciutto, or soppressata soften on top of the hot pizza, which makes them easier for your tongue to appreciate. You can use any charcuterie you like, but my favorite is mortadella—it doesn’t slide off the pizza when you bite into it (prosciutto, on the other hand, is quite a slippery character).

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I’ve already stated my case for the salad-on-a-pizza, but just to re-cap:

In my youth, I really enjoyed dining at a little place called “The California Pizza Kitchen.” One of my favorite “dishes” was a thin crust pizza that came with a tangy pile of greens on top. I felt slightly virtuous because I was eating salad, and the combination of acidic vinaigrette and salty cured pork was divine. At home, I like to keep the salad simple—mixed baby greens or arugula with a vinaigrette and maybe some parm—then dump it on the pizza fresh out of the oven (so the greens wilt just a bit).

I stand by it.

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Honey is an excellent finisher for salty and spicy foods, which makes it the perfect match for a frozen spicy pepperoni pizza with an aggressive sodium content. A healthy drizzle of the sticky sweet stuff helps temper any aggressive saltiness from commercially produced cured meats, and it makes a great dipper for that last bit of thin, crispy crust. Use fermented garlic honey for extra credit, or hot honey if your pizza is a little timid.

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Chili oil—or chili crunch—is another easy way to make a ho-hum pizza a little more exciting. You get tongue-tingling flavor and texture, both of which are often lacking in something like Digiorno. You can even mix it into ranch dressing for a zingy but savory crust dipper. (Learn how to make your own here.)

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Adding fresh herbs is one of the easiest ways to trick someone into thinking a dish is much fancier than it is, even if that person is yourself. This is particularly true with frozen pizza, which benefits from a smattering of fresh pizza herbs like torn basil, oregano leaves, or even fennel fronds, as they all bring the flavors you associate with handmade pizza, but which may be lacking on the frozen variety, or obscured by mass-produced ingredients. Add just before serving, and by the handful

Photo: Claire Lower

Grilling a frozen pizza results in a crispier crust. Plus, it’s easy and fun:

Grilled, frozen pizza has all the makings of an easy but oddly special-feeling weeknight supper. You can grill multiple pizzas, one at a time, and eat the first at a leisurely clip while the next one is cooking. Grilling a pizza from frozen to hot and crisp takes all of 20 minutes, and the pre-heat time is markedly shorter than your oven’s.

Want to use those coals to add a little flavor? Throw some wood chips on them to infuse your slice with a little smoke.

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There’s a reason “cacio a pepe” dominated the food discourse a few years ago; it’s a cheap and easy way to add Italian flavor to everything from biscuits to potato chips. Salty Pecorino Romano (or parm) and fresh, pungent pepper can make anything taste good, including the Red Barron that’s been sitting in your freezer for a year. It’s hard to overdo, so don’t be afraid to pile an absolute mountain of fluffy cheese shreds on top of your pile, and finish with more pepper than you think is decent.

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Many sins can be covered with garlic, whether roasted and smashed into the cheese, fermented in honey and drizzle, microplaned directly over the hot toppings, fried and scattered, or sautéed and drizzled over the pizza just before serving. The easiest way to add garlic flavor and crunchy texture? Use the store-bought fried garlic bits available at any Asian grocery store. (A big tub will last quite a while, and they make an excellent cheeseball coating.)

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Steam is the enemy of crisp crust, but you can vanquish it with a few cleverly placed holes:

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.

It may not be necessary for thin pizzas like Totino’s, which are already prone to being crackery, but it can really help out a doughy offering like Digiorno.