Eat delicious pizza tonight! Here’s how to cook frozen pizza to perfection, and whether to use the broiler or oven setting.
Frozen pizza is one of the great convenience of the 21st century for the American family. Simply pull it out of the freezer, remove it from the box and plastic wrap, then slide it in the hot oven. In 15 to 20 minutes, it’ll be ready… Or will it?
For something as simple as a pie that’s already shaped and topped for you, frozen pizza can be notoriously difficult to prepare to deliciousness—especially if you don’t use the right cooking method.
Let’s solve this conundrum once and for all by talking about the correct technique for preparing pizza in your oven.
Generally speaking, it’s better to bake pizza than to broil it. When baking, the heat comes from the top and bottom heating elements. When broiling, the heat comes only from the top, which can cause the bottom of the pie to come out soggy.
Put the empty bakeware on the middle rack of your cold oven. Then, for the reasons we’re about to discuss in a moment, you want to turn the heat up, with the convection fan on, and preheat your oven for a good amount of time with the bakeware inside.
Even though the instructions on the packaging of some frozen pizzas say otherwise, it’s always good to set the heat on your oven as high as possible. Nine times out of ten, that’s a temperature in the range of 500 to 550°F (260 to 290°C).
There are two simple reasons for why you want to crank up the heat:
- First, even the highest-end ovens don’t really get as hot as it says on the dial. If you’re up for experimentation, you can easily verify this with two or three oven thermometers.
- Second, frozen pizza is moist. Higher heat means quicker evaporation. The sooner you get rid of the excess moisture, the better browning and crispier crust you will get on your pizza. (A pie that stays moist for a long time is one that doesn’t come out well cooked and golden brown.)
Exactly how long to preheat your oven depends on the type of bakeware at hand. A thin tray, crisper, or oven-safe skillet will need less time to get up to heat than a thick pizza stone or baking steel. Fret not; we have specific recommendations for you below.
When you’re done preheating the oven, pull out the pizza from the freezer, remove it from the box and plastic wrap, pop it in the oven, and let it bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Despite lore to the contrary, thawing the pie can be counterproductive.
For extra crispness, apply a tiny amount of cooking oil to the toppings and the edges of the with a basting brush (use your fingers if you don’t have one). The oil helps to transfer heat from your oven to your pie and cook it more efficiently.
Keep in mind that the actual cooking time for your frozen pizza can vary with the variety of pizza and the make and model of your oven. When the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, the pizza is done.
How Long to Preheat the Oven
The long and the short of it is to preheat your oven for 30 minutes if you’re baking it on a tray, and for 1 to 1½ hours if you’re baking it on a pizza stone or steel.
Pizza bakes best when the pie, frozen or room-temperature, comes into sudden contact with the hot air and preheated bakeware in your oven. The two work in tandem: The air dries out the dough and makes it puff up. Meanwhile, the bakeware browns the bottom and makes it crispy.
If you’re planning to bake the pizza in a tray, crisper, or oven-safe skillet, put the bakeware in the cold oven, turn the heat to 500°F (260°C), and preheat for 20 to 30 minutes. When you slide the pizza in, you want the air hot, and the walls and bakeware radiating heat (and thus transferring it to the pie).
If you’re using a pizza stone or baking steel, put it in the oven, crank up the heat as high as your oven goes, and let it preheat for 1 to 1½ hours. That sounds like a long time, I know, but stones and steels need time to collect heat. The longer the preheating time, the more delicious the pizza.
Our colleagues at The New York Times’ Wirecutter, in what I would call an exhaustive test, came to 1½ hours as the optimum preheating time for a pizza stone or steel. My personal experience has led me to the same amount of time as a general rule of thumb.
Do You Need Bakeware At All?
Very often, the instructions on the packaging tell you to place the pizza directly on the center oven rack. Does this mean you don’t need to use any bakeware at all?
Basically, yes. You can bake frozen pizza directly on the center rack, without placing it on a baking sheet, a pizza crisper, or an oven-safe skillet. Because the convection currents in your oven cause hot air to rise to the top and cold air to sink to the bottom, the pie will cook evenly and come out well browned.
However, there are merits to baking the pizza on preheated bakeware. The bakeware retains heat and compensates for the temperature fluctuations in your oven caused by the thermostat turning the heating elements on and off to maintain temperature.
Also, heat is transferred directly by contact between the bakeware and the bottom of the pie rather than indirectly through heated air. As any frozen pizza lover knows, the bottom tends to become soggy and bland if it is not baked through. Baking the frozen pizza on a hot surface helps to prevent that.
Does Broiling Have No Place at All?
All the above said doesn’t mean you should forego the broiler altogether. The high, direct heat of your broiler can do wonders to a frozen pizza when it is used properly.
If you want to give your pizza a dark browning and a slight charring—that leopard spotting you get on pies in Italian pizzerias—adjust the rack to the top position and switch from oven to broiler. Broil the pie for 1-2 minutes until it has reached the desired doneness.