While some may look down on frozen pizza, there’s no denying that the store-bought frozen variety can make a superb option for a quick and easy yet exceptionally tasty meal without all the fuss and the mess.
A pizza stone’s physical properties encourage high heat transfer in an oven or on a grill. When freshly prepared or frozen pizza is placed on the stone, the crust begins to cook immediately, imitating the cooking style of a traditional brick oven – the pizza cooks faster and with a better crust.
Pizza stones are the ultimate pizza baking accessory. The higher heat creates perfect pizza crusts and cuts baking times, meaning you can push out pizzas like a professional pizzaiolo.
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Home Pizza Baking Methods
Most frozen pizza box instructions come with a simple recommendation which includes the option to pop the frozen pizza into a preheated oven, set at an exceptionally high temperature, and bake for a period of 15 to 20 minutes.
This is basically what you have to do, but as we will see below, using a pizza stone is the best option that we have.
Domestic Pizza Oven
There are many commercially available home pizza ovens on the market today.
The most important consideration when purchasing such a pizza oven is the heat that the oven can generate.
Although many electric pizza ovens can attain the prescribed baking temperature of between 450 and 500 degrees F (250 to 260 degrees C), the optimum wood-fired pizza oven can reach between 800 and 900 degrees F, which is ideal.
Good quality igloo-shaped pizza ovens, whether purchased or DIY built, are not cheap.
Sticking a pizza in the microwave sounds like an absolute no-no and assumes that you don’t mind eating a doughy, soggy mess with no crispy crust.
However, there are microwaveable options, such as Pillsbury’s, which produces a pizza with a reasonably crisp crust.
It requires an additional gadget called a “microwave susceptor,” an absorbent packaging material that insulates and radiates the heat generated by the food in the microwave while absorbing fat and moisture.
This process helps to increase the crispiness of the food and makes it more appetizing, although it still won’t be close to the real deal – not even home-baked frozen pizza.
Introducing the Pizza Stone
The most commonly used methods of cooking a store-bought frozen pizza are undoubtedly the standard preheated home oven pan or an electric/wood-fired purpose-made pizza oven and baked on a steel rack or plate.
These methods are acceptable for a pizza that could be considered as standard-fare. Yet, there is no denying that additional investment in a pizza stone for your pizza baking needs is sure to take the experience to a whole new level.
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The ingredients such as the cheese and dough used are critical. In addition to this, the entire taste experience is in the crust, the foundation of a great pizza.
According to most pizza lovers, the crust is the foundation of pizza and is the most crucial element. How it is made affects how it turns out, whether thin-based or thick pan-based crust.
When placed on a pizza stone, the pizza starts to bake immediately due to the high heat transfer.
Compared to a baking sheet made of metal, a pizza stone’s ceramic or stone material retains heat more evenly.
Its porous surface draws water out of particularly moist areas of the dough as it bakes. The pizza will cook faster using a stone, making the result crunchier and tastier.
Pizza stones are available from most department stores and cookware retailers. They are typically made from heavy ceramic or stone material. Thus they are quite brittle and susceptible to chipping or breaking if mishandled or bumped.
They should always be handled and stored with care.
The Pizza Stone Cooking Process
- Slide your pizza stone into a cold oven: This is advisable if cooking directly from frozen. It is not advisable to place a frozen pizza on a cold stone, as this could cause the stone to crack or buckle.
- Get that stone hot: Allow the stone to preheat to the same temperature as the oven.
- Prep the pizza: remove frozen pizza from packaging. Dab the edges of the pizza with olive oil to enhance the crunchy flavor. Add your toppings, e.g., Ham, mushrooms, salami, olives, peppers, etc.
- Slide the pizza in: Using a pizza shovel, slide the prepped pizza onto the hot stone.
- Cook for prescribed time: Usually 5 to 8 minutes or as soon as the cheese starts to bubble and brown. The edges of the pizza base should start browning on the high points. Slide the pizza around once during the cooking process to get an even cooking process.
- Remove the finished product: slide the pizza spatula under the pizza with a quick thrusting motion, taking care not to send the pizza flying into the corner of the oven. Gently remove the pizza, place it on a plate, and cool for a few minutes before slicing and eating.
- Switch the oven off. Do not remove the pizza stone until it has completely cooled down.
Do’s and Don’ts of using a Pizza Stone
- Pizza stones are made from dense yet brittle stone or ceramic. Handle with extreme care. Be careful not to expose them to harsh temperature changes (such as dipping a hot stone into cold water), as this could cause the stone to shatter.
- Remove pizza from the stone before cutting. Pizza wheels or knives will damage or dull your cutting blades and the stone. Transfer to plate or cutting board first.
- If your pizza tends to stick to the pizza stone, sprinkle the stone lightly with a bit of flour or cornmeal before placing the pizza on top of it. Don’t use wax parchment paper as it usually will not withstand the high heat and burn, ruining the pizza.
- You can thaw the frozen pizza before baking if preferred. If thawed, it’s best to preheat the oven to 500F or as high as the range can go. Center the pizza stone in the middle of the oven.
- To clean the pizza stone brush or wipe it with a damp cloth. Never immerse fully in water or detergent. The stone is very porous and absorbent and will retain any moisture or soapy residue which will affect the next pizza you make. Properly maintained and stored, a pizza stone can last several years.
The Evolution of the Frozen Pizza
Store-bought frozen pizza has a long and illustrious history in the lives of western, particularly American consumers.
It is widely estimated that two out of three U.S. households indulge in frozen pizza regularly, forking out a whopping $4.4 billion every year. I sure am contributing to that amount… and most likely you too. No shame!
According to a post on CNBC, the origins of the take and make at home can be traced back to around 1950.
The idea conceived by Leo Giuffre consisted of a refrigerated pre-prepared pizza base topped only with the essential basics, a tomato puree base with olive oil, herbs such as thyme and oregano, and of course, the staple Mozzarella cheese.
Related: Can you freeze baked potatoes?
At just short of a half dollar, it came with a basic instruction set on adding additional toppings for a personalized pizza according to individual tastes.
The immediate popularity of this concept quickly evolved into the need for it to be incorporated into a shopper’s weekly convenience store trips. The idea of freezing the pizza bases for later consumption promptly took off.
Companies around the country started producing and stocking frozen pizzas, and a price war was sure to follow. Kelsey’s in Massachusetts, for example, started advertising their frozen pizzas for only $33.
Other pizzaiolos such as Totino’s Pizza from Minneapolis saw such a rapid uptake of frozen pizza sales that they opened one of the first frozen pizza plants in 1962 to cater to retailer demands.
It spawned a frozen pizza craze that endures until today. Today, you’re likely to see old favorites in the frozen foods section of most grocery stores such as Totinos, Red Baron Pizzas, and DiGiorno.
Therefore, if the time and effort required to make the dough and cut up the ingredients is not an option, then there is no cause for concern that the frozen variety is too much of a quality and taste compromise.
The question has to be, is a pizza stone worth it? Without meaning to sound too cheesy (pun intended!), the short answer has to be – yes!
Whether you make your pizza from fresh ingredients or buy it pre-packed, frozen from your local supermarket, investing in a pizza stone will enhance your pizza experience by leaps and bounds.