Freezer Week

15 Incredible Upgrades for Frozen Pizza

updated Aug 17, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

There’s always a frozen pizza in our house in case of emergencies (you know, when we don’t feel like cooking but can’t bring ourselves to get in the car to grab takeout) but throwing one in the oven was always kind of a drag. Recently though, I had the brilliant idea to top my pizza with sliced cherry tomatoes before heating it up. They sunk into the cheese and added a juicy burst of acidity to each bite. Since that epiphany, preparing frozen pizzas has become a lot more fun and, eating them is, dare I say, enjoyable.

With a little touch of glam from ingredients in your fridge and pantry, a frozen pizza doesn’t have to be just a frozen pizza. Incorporate bold flavors and various textures that pop against the pizza’s mild canvas. If you can’t bear to heat up a frozen pizza in your kitchen during the warmer months, try applying these tips to the grill

Here are 15 ways to take your frozen pizza to the next level.

1. Start with a high-quality frozen cheese pizza.

Frozen pizza has come a long way since its inception in the 1950s, but there are still some that taste like cardboard. Suffice to say, even the finest ingredients won’t save a bland pizza. Whole Foods 365 brand is affordable at around $4, but, the one I keep going back to is Screamin’ Sicilian which costs around $8, but is loaded with tons of mozzarella cheese rounds — a worthy splurge. 

Even though there are pizzas with a variety of toppings in the freezer aisle, nothing beats the fresh toppings you have at home. So forego the loaded veggie or the protein lovers’ pizzas and stick to cheese so you have a clean slate to work with. 

2. Use cured meats, besides pepperoni. 

This is a great time to dig into that stash of cured meats for something other than a charcuterie board. Prosciutto and salami (I especially like soppressata) add a nice layer of richness to your frozen pizza, as does the bacon or sausage already in your fridge.

3. A simple drizzle of good olive oil goes a long way.

Sometimes dressing up your pizza is as simple as giving it a hearty drizzle of olive oil when it comes out of the oven. This is a good time to use the good stuff that you have stashed away for special occasions (and should be using more often, anyway). Go ahead and pour a little bit into a small bowl, too, for crust-dipping purposes. 

4. Have leftover chicken? Throw it on the pizza.

If the thought of eating leftover chicken a third day in a row makes you want to scream, try putting it on your pizza. This technique works especially well if the chicken was prepared simply so you can dress it up however you want with seasonings and sauces. One of my favorite things to do is shred leftover chicken and toss it in tangy barbecue sauce or a hot sauce for a pizza with buffalo wings flair. If you go the wing sauce route, go ahead and sprinkle some blue cheese on the pizza, too. Other leftover proteins (i.e., pork, steak) work too, just make sure to thinly slice them.

5. Veg out with fresh or cooked veggies and legumes.

Almost any vegetable in your fridge or counter can be added to your pizza. Thinly slice vegetables like fresh mushrooms, zucchini, and bell peppers, and toss them in olive oil and seasonings before putting them on the pizza while it’s still frozen. If you have leftover cooked vegetables those work, too. Leafy greens like spinach and kale should be quickly sautéed with oil and garlic first. If you want a plant-based protein boost, add white beans or chickpeas.

6. Spice it up with chiles and garlic.

If you really want a pizza that makes you scream “Bam!”, kick it up a notch by adding your own spices. Calabrian chili peppers are especially fiery (slice them into rings first), but thinly sliced garlic also works. If you’re up for putting in a little extra effort, sauté the garlic in some olive oil first. This will bring out those sweeter notes in the garlic. 

Finally, a heavy sprinkle of cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper add a nice boost. You can also combine these spices with the Calabrian chili peppers or garlic if you’re a real spice fiend. 

7. Don’t forget to add seasoning.

Whatever toppings you add to your frozen pizza, don’t forget to use some seasoning! It’s simple, but a step that’s easily forgotten in our haste to get the pizza in the oven. Salt and pepper go a long way, but so do dry herbs or spice blends. Even Trader Joe’s elote seasoning is a tasty pizza topper.

8. Make it brunch and put an egg on it.

Remember brunch? Channel those vibes into your mid-morning pizza by throwing an egg or two on it. Bake the pizza according to the box’s instructions. Then, using the back of a spoon, make an indentation in the crust and carefully slide the egg on to it. Put back in the oven for another 3-5 minutes depending on how runny you want the yolk. A pinch of everything bagel seasoning and a mimosa on the side and you’ll be winning the brunch game (and you get to skip the hours-long wait).

9. Use fresh tomato and basil.

You can find Margherita pizzas in your grocery store’s freezer, but nothing beats fresh tomatoes and herbs. Slice up a tomato (cherry tomatoes work for this, too), and toss the slices in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange on the pizza and bake according to the box’s instructions and garnish with fresh basil. 

10. Top it off with burrata. 

I believe that putting burrata on anything makes it instantly taste more luxurious and this is especially true with frozen pizza. Since burrata is so creamy you don’t need to put it on the pizza until the end. About five minutes before the pizza is ready, pull it from the oven and scatter torn burrata on top and season with salt, pepper, and other seasonings as desired.

11. Go for a sweet and savory combo with fresh fruit.

If pineapple on pizza is abhorrent to you, this tip may not be for you. If, however, you like a sweet and savory combination then listen up. Fruit like peaches, figs, apples, and pears make excellent white pizza toppers. Slice up your fruit of choice, toss in a little bit of olive oil and spread the slices on the pizza before popping it on the oven. After baking the pizza you can add some dollops of Trader Joe’s chili onion crunch for a little spice and texture, or punch up the flavor with a balsamic glaze.

Credit: Carrie Crow

12. Take it to the next level with hot honey.

Hot honey is the ultimate combination of sweet, savory, and spicy and it works beautifully on pizza (especially a pizza topped with a cured meat). You can buy it, or, if you’re feeling lazy, combine a couple of tablespoons of honey and hot sauce of your choice and warm the mixture up in the microwave. 

13. Save a slice or two for leftover French toast pizza.

Depending on how many people your pizza is feeding, you may not end up with leftovers. But, if you do, consider saving a slice or two solely so you can make pizza French toast the next morning (or evening if breakfast for dinner is your thing). French toast-ing your pizza makes it pillowy soft and delightfully spongy. There are a few recipes floating around out there but YouTube creator Shaquille makes my favorite method. Although, what’s great about this preparation is that it doesn’t have to be so exact. And yes, feel free to douse it in maple syrup.

14. Cook it hot, hot, hot.

Most box instructions call for the pizza to be baked somewhere around 400-425 degrees. If you want your crust to be crispier, though, try turning your oven as high as it will go and reducing the baking time.

15. Finish it with the broiler.

If you don’t want your crust to get too crispy, but do want your savory toppings to get extra toasty and your cheese to get extra melty, finish the pizza under the broiler. Bake it according to the instructions, but turn on the broiler for one to two minutes when it’s done baking. Keep an eye on it, if possible, to make sure it doesn’t get too toasted.

What’s your favorite way to upgrade frozen pizza?