Image via Flickr by frankieleon

While frozen pizza is fast and inexpensive, it often leaves something to be desired as a meal option. With only four major components: the crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings, upgrading this lazy weeknight meal staple is also just as quick and easy. Addressing each of these four elements individually, increasing the temperature, and adding a side can help you learn how to cook frozen pizza to perfection.

Treat the Crust

It’s tough to replace the taste of a fresh pizza’s crust. However, there are several ways you can bring your frozen pizza’s crust up a few levels, including:

  • Before taking the plastic wrap off your frozen pizza, turn it upside down and poke small holes into the bottom. Once done, remove plastic wrap and place in oven. This allows steam to escape and the crust to be less limp.
  • Many frozen pizza connoisseurs swear by pizza stones to get a crunchy crust. The thought is that the stone replicates a wood-fired pizza oven surface, letting you get a crispy crust and more evenly cooked pizza toppings.
  • Others suggest skipping the pizza pan or stone and placing the frozen pizza directly on the oven rack sitting in the second-from-the-bottom shelf of your oven.
  • About two minutes before your frozen pizza is finished baking, brush the crust’s outer ring with garlic oil, garlic butter, or a mixture of olive oil, black pepper, and parmesan cheese. Rubbing a clove of raw garlic over the crust can also add a flavor boost.

Enhance the Sauce

Being nestled between the crust and the cheese makes enhancing the sauce of your frozen pizza a bit more complicated, but thankfully not impossible. Adding sauce-like ingredients to the frozen pizza once it’s done baking is an easy way to do this. Drizzling high-quality extra virgin olive oil, sprinkling fresh herbs like oregano and basil, or placing fresh tomatoes on top are all great ways to achieve the goal of adding an extra punch to your red or white frozen pizza sauce.

Pile on the Cheese

Perhaps the step most people already take is adding more cheese to any frozen pizza. An important note, though: Rather than adding just any cheese, add better cheese. A high-quality Italian cheese blend, fresh mozzarella, soft feta, or farmer’s cheese will help you achieve that ooey, gooey deliciousness that comes from fresh pizza.

It can be tempting to add salt for added flavor or to balance the relatively overly sweet taste of frozen pizzas, but consider putting the salt shaker down. The sodium content of frozen pizza is already high, so if the flavor is bland, it’s probably due to the quality of the pizza and not the amount of salt already present.

Add complexity and bring out the saltiness you’re seeking by grating Romano or Parmigiano. In addition to bringing out the saltiness you want, you’ll also enjoy a bit of nuttiness that can help balance the corn-syrupy, overly sweet sauce flavor.

Get Creative with Toppings

Instead of simply accepting the chopped sprinkles of frozen toppings, think of your frozen pizza as a blank canvas ready for your creative touch. Any fresh ingredient is going to improve this basic frozen meal, so let your imagination run wild with toppings like:

  • Classic favorites such as pepperoni, black olives, mushrooms, pineapple, or peppers.
  • Raid the leftover drawer for leftover lunch meat or rotisserie chicken for added protein and some diced onion pieces for an added punch.
  • Squirt some jarred — or even better, homemade — pesto on a basic white or red frozen pizza for extra flavor.
  • Toss on some slivered almonds, walnuts, or toasted pine nuts for a protein boost and enjoy some texture and lots of roast-y flavors.
  • Get the family to eat their veggies by adding things like cauliflower, broccoli florets, zucchini, and spinach.

While pizza is generally thought of as an Italian dish, cheese and tomatoes travel well, so don’t be afraid to go international with some of these flavoring combinations:

  • Create a French flair with figs, thyme, and goat cheese.
  • Oregano, feta, olives, and a little bit of lemon will have you feeling like you’re in Greece.
  • For those ready for a Latin punch, add corn, black beans, cilantro, a little bit of queso fresco, and some Mexican-style hot sauce.

Turn up the Temperature Dial

Most pizza experts agree that hotter is better when cooking frozen pizza. Brick ovens used to bake pizzeria pies to perfection can reach up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, much hotter than any oven you will find in your kitchen. The best you can do is to ditch the directions accompanying your frozen pizza and instead crank your oven up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as it will go before hitting the broiling point.

Not that you want to ignore that broiler feature entirely, though. Create golden brown spots on the cheese by putting it under the broiler for just 30 seconds just before you’re ready to take it out.

Add the Right Beverage

A glass of your favorite wine or beer is a great way to elevate your frozen pizza experience and have you feeling like you’re enjoying a fresh pizza at your favorite pizzeria.

Wine is an excellent complement to frozen pizza with the right pairing enhancing the flavors of the cheese and sauce of the dish. Some favorite wine pairings include:

  • Cheese pizza: Pinot Noir.
  • Pepperoni pizza: Medium-bodied Shiraz, Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, an Italian Chianti, California Zinfandel.
  • Meat lover’s pizza: Merlot, Zinfandel, Sauvignon, Cabernet, or Shiraz.
  • Veggie pizza: Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Rose.
  • White pizza: Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Champagne.
  • Hawaiian pizza: Riesling.

Pizza and beer go hand in hand and are often a favorite pairing for meals. Let these beer pairings help you achieve nirvana next time you pick a piece of pizza:

  • Cheese pizza: American pale ale.
  • Pepperoni pizza: American brown ale.
  • Meat lover’s pizza: Dark smoked beer.
  • Veggie pizza: Summer Koslch.
  • White pizza: Flemish Brune.
  • Hawaiian pizza: Golden ale.

Frozen pizza will never truly replace the taste and experience of a fresh pizzeria pie, but these tips and tricks on how to cook frozen pizza and take it to the next level can certainly help. Did we miss any? We’d love to hear your favorites!