Home Cooking: Pizza Tips and Tricks

Pizza. We know it. We love it. In fact, Americans eat 100 acres of it every day. Yet cooking frozen pizza at home usually results in food that is probably best described as mediocre.I’m here to help you with that. By the time you’re done reading this you’ll be able prepare a great tasting pizza at a fraction of the cost of having it delivered. Home cooking to the rescue!

Now, I consider myself a pizza connoisseur- in fact, the food that is produced by most of the large pizza chains is disgusting to me. I worked for several years cooking high quality pizza at a very popular family owned italian restaurant, and my tastes are very discriminating. I have also spent several years cooking frozen pizza at home, perfecting the techniques that I’m about to share with you.

The most important step is choosing the right frozen pizza to use as your base. Rising crust pizzas are recommended because they tend to require longer cooking times. This means that there will be plenty of time for your fresh veggies to become fully cooked.

I personally prefer Safeway’s Verdi pizza, in either the Chicken Parmesan or Pepperoni variety. Try to avoid frozen pizzas that already have vegetables on them because they just don’t taste right.

Now that you’ve got your pizza, you’re probably going to want to add some veggies to it. The fastest, easiest and most cost effective combination of toppings are garlic and onions, so I’m going to concentrate on these two.

A good rule of thumb when adding garlic is to start on the outside- putting clumps of garlic about 1/2 inch in from the edge, or where the cheese meets the crust of the pizza, then work your way to the inside in a circular motion. Also, it’s easier to use chopped garlic that comes in a jar than to dice your own. Dig a spoonful of garlic out of the jar and use your fingers to distribute the garlic evenly around the pizza. Repeat as necessary. Diced garlic tends to stay in small clumps, which is acceptable.

I’ve found that simply adding an onion will add a significant amount of flavor to your pizza. Slicing the onion as thinly as possible is important- this results in a fully cooked onion that won’t bite you back. You’re probably only going to use about 1/4 of the onion. You can save the rest by wrapping it in aluminum foil or dropping it in a sandwich bag. If you’re going to be adding any other vegetables, make sure to put the onions on last.

Before throwing your frozen pizza in the oven, I recommend topping it with a dash of oregano, basil and parmesan. It may not seem like much, but finishing touches like these can really do wonders for your pizza !

At this point, your pizza should be ready to throw in the oven. I use a cooking stone, but this is not necessary. I also follow the softer crust cooking directions, because the longer cooking time allows the veggies to cook more thoroughly. If you’re using a cooking stone, expect the pizza to take about 4 minutes longer than the instructions have suggested.

You may want to put a square of aluminum foil under your pizza to make cleanup easy. If your pizza came with a round piece of cardboard, you should save that to transfer the pizza onto after it’s cooked.

Always refer to the instructions included with your frozen pizza regarding oven temperatures and cooking times.

Once the minimum cooking time has been reached, take a peek at your pie. The crust should be golden brown, and the cheese in the middle should look melted. If your pizza is not fully cooked at this point, you should check on it every 4 minutes until it is done.

If you’re not sure whether or not your pizza is done, carefully lift a corner of the pizza a bit to see how the bottom looks. You might want to use some sort of utensil for this, and don’t lift it too high or you’ll lose your cheese! The bottom probably won’t be as dark as the crust on top is. If it is white, then you probably need to give the pizza more time. If it is tan or a light shade of gold, it may be done.

Remember to keep checking the pizza every four minutes until you’re sure it is done.

With a little practice, you’ll have a good idea of how a well cooked pizza should look. This is likely to be the most difficult skill to master when it comes to cooking a pizza.

Once your pizza is fully cooked, you should give it a few minutes to cool before you cut it. If you’re using a cooking stone, then you’ll want to immediately transfer the pizza onto a cool, flat surface to cut it on. I use the cardboard circle that sometimes comes with frozen pizzas for this very purpose.

If everything went according to plan, you should now be looking at a very tasty pizza! Cut it into 4 or 8 pieces and enjoy!

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