Rating Consumer Reports Top Ranked Frozen Pizzas

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Frozen pizza can be delicious and photogenic: Amy's Cornmeal Crust 3 Cheese Pizza with mozzarella, Parmesan, and goat cheese.
Recently, Consumer Reports asked the question, "Can a frozen pizza truly satisfy anyone other than discriminating kids? In other words, you?" The answer: Yes. Among the findings, published in the January 2011 issue, "...most pies in our ratings were very good--as good or better than the Domino's hand-tossed cheese pizzas we taste tested in May 2010."

But what makes a good pizza? Whether it's fresh or frozen, critics agree that the secret is in the crust.

When made fresh, pizza dough is left to sit, or "proof," allowing the yeast to digest the sugars in the flour. The byproducts of this fermentation (ethanol and carbon dioxide) become trapped by gluten in the dough. Once heated, the gas expands, causing the dough to rise, resulting in the outwardly crisp, chewy-centered bread most often used as the foundation for pizza. Replicating this process for widespread home consumption has been the holy grail of the frozen food industry. The problem: water, more specifically, ice. Freezing caused ice crystals to form, breaking down the gluten structure in the dough and the cell structure of toppings, resulting in the crumbly, soggy mess often associated with early frozen pies. And "a good frozen pizza" became something of an oxymoron.

One solution would come from flash-freezing. The technology was developed in the 1920s by Clarence Birdseye (yes, of that Birdseye), but first used on pizza by Rose and Jim Totino (yes, of that Totino's) in the 1960s. The next big break came in 1989, when General Foods developed a patented yeast-leavened dough that could better withstand freezing and thawing by way of additives such as gums, protein film formers, and surfactants. Around the same time, manufacturers were figuring out that vacuum-sealed packaging could better preserve the flavor of crust and toppings. Kraft introduced the DiGiorno line of pizzas in 1995, followed quickly by frozen foods industry giant Shwans' Freschetta brand - pioneers in the rising crust pizza market that dominates the industry today.

In this month's issue Consumer Reports tested one hundred different frozen pizzas, all cheese (every experiment must have a control) and ranked them according to taste, value, and nutrition. In all, testers consumed more than 800 slices of frozen pizza. Ranked highest for taste were Amy's Cornmeal Crust 3 Cheese Pizza, DiGiorno Rising Crust Four Cheese Pizza, and the Chicago-style Home Run Inn Classic Cheese (is this available in Houston?).

Noticeably absent from Consumer Reports top picks was my personal favorite, California Pizza Kitchen (also from Kraft). Therefore I set out to taste the pizzas rated highest to see if I was missing out on a better frozen pie.

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sweetbaysupermarket.com
Amy's Cornmeal Crust 3 Cheese Pizza, $8.99
Consumer Reports Ranked: Best Taste, Most Nutritious

A pizza that's delicious AND nutritious? Is such a feat actually possible? Well, yes and no.
Delicious, yes. The cornmeal crust had a unique and interesting texture that was both crunchy and chewy. And what's not to love about generous dollops of goat cheese? Light sauce did not detract from the flavor, heavy with basil and green onions. This pizza is interesting enough to be cut into small bite-size portions and served as appetizers at a party, but still left me wanting for that traditional pizza taste.

Nutritious? Well, it was the most nutritious selection in the survey, making it the least of one hundred evils. Still, 15g fat and 340 calories per serving (1/3 of the pizza, roughly two slices) ain't all that bad.

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digiornopizzacoupons.com
DiGiorno Rising Crust Four Cheese Pizza, $6.49
Consumer Reports Ranked: Best Taste, Best Value

While I've had plenty of DiGiorno pies before, I had never tried this particular variety (and according to Consumer Reports, this pizza outranked other DiGiorno selections), and I can honestly say the thick, gooey cheese is the closest to delivery I have experienced. The crust, while crispy on the outside, with a chewy center, was still a far cry from fresh-baked consistency. As for nutrition, 11g fat and 310 calories per serving, which is listed as 1/6 of the pizza--basically one slice. And lords knows I had two. Or three. Really, who's keeping count?

In the end, I found both impressive but neither topped my current favorite (and Consumer Reports big winner of 2002), California Pizza Kitchen's Chicken BBQ Pizza. And as the saying goes, the best one is always the one you like best.


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16 comments
Celestbea
Celestbea

wish someone would do a pizza making segment with a chef who knows the stuff in and out, and knows how to do different styles...that would be fascinating!

autumn
autumn

Freschetta Brick Oven Spinach and Mushroom pizza for the win. This pizza is delicious. Try it if you haven't, I don't think you'll be disappointed. http://www.freschetta.com/thic...

I like frozen pizza because it's not greasy. Grease is my main problem with most pizza.

Guest
Guest

As far as frozen, nothing beats Lou Malnati's. (Available online.)

Franklin
Franklin

Home Run Inn pizza can be found at the WFM on Kirby. They currently have the plain cheese and meat lovers pizzas on sale for $6.99 and quite frankly, they are worth it. The pizzas are par-baked and the cheese is already melted. The instructions recommend cooking it directly on the rack. Since the pie is par-baked, everything is pretty much in-place and you don't have to worry about cheese running off the side and into your oven. Just don't cook it for the recommended 20 minutes. I slightly overcooked mine, try the lower end of the 15-20 minute cooking time.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I have yet to eat any frozen meal from Amy's that wasn't good. Trusty brand.

Mike N.
Mike N.

Totino's is the only frozen pizza worth eating, because it makes no pretense of being a real pizza. Plus it only costs a dollar and is great late at night when you're drunk.

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can't believe no one mentions "Mystic" that's the good stuff

autumn
autumn

Oh yeah, and the Central Market Goat Cheese and Spinach frozen pizza is really great as well.

Kevin3452
Kevin3452

Yea sure, I'm going to order a pizza online. Walking to the store is so impractical.

Rgwalt
Rgwalt

Have you ordered Gino's East online? Beats Lou's hands down. I've had both, and while the Lou's is good, Gino's gets the Chicago deep dish experience as correct as is possible for a frozen pizza.

Kyle
Kyle

Yeah, Amy's burritos defy all notions of how good a frozen burrito can be.

Bruce R
Bruce R

nguyenhm16, if there's any justice in this world then you just earned the post of the day with that one.

Marie
Marie

Oh yes...the thin crispy crust is something no one else does. Too bad Totino's is loaded with trans fats though.

HP Reader
HP Reader

Amen to that. I actually really like Totinos.

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