The answer to “Should we have pizza for dinner?” is always YES for my family. Though homemade isn’t hard per se, frozen pizza is a steadfast dinner option when I can’t summon the energy to make anything from scratch. It’s the lazy meal hero I keep in the freezer for emergencies.
Frozen pizza is easy, which makes it extremely lovable for this busy mom. But let’s be honest, it’s never as tasty as a slice from our favorite pizza joint or homemade. Except for when I use this one trick to upgrade frozen pizza without any extra work: cook it at a higher temperature.
Why Bake Frozen Pizza at a Higher Temperature
One frustrating thing about frozen pizza is that the instructions don’t do the pie justice. The dough is par-baked and the sauce and cheese are added raw, to be cooked in the oven. Most brands ask you to preheat the oven to 400°F or 425°F and bake the pizza for 10 to 15 minutes.
This yields a limp pie with a soggy crust because the heat isn’t high enough to create a crunchy crust with a chewy interior while also heating the toppings before they seep liquid. Frozen pizza needs to be baked at a much higher temperature.
Restaurants and home cooks with ambitions for restaurant-caliber pizza use professional ovens that get up to 900°F. Baking pizza at a higher temperature for a brief amount of time leads to a crisper, lighter, and chewier pizza crust without burning the toppings or giving them time to steam and get soggy. The same cooking technique applies to frozen pizza.
How To Upgrade Frozen Pizza In the Oven
With the rack set in the lower third of the oven, turn the dial to the max temperature—typically 500°F (260°F) or 550°F (288°C). Place a pizza stone (if you have one) or a baking sheet on the oven rack. While the oven preheats, make a salad or play a round of Uno with the kids.
Then unwrap and carefully place the frozen pizza on the stone or baking sheet. Don’t futz around with the oven door open—you’ll let all the hot air out and that defeats the purpose.
How long it takes to bake really depends on the brand and type of pizza. We’re a Trader Joe’s pepperoni pizza family. The instructions on the box say to bake it for about 10 minutes in a 425°F oven. At 550°F, it takes four minutes to get a handsomely charred crust and melty, not burnt, cheese.
Don’t start a new game of Uno—stay near the oven and check the pizza every minute or two. It won’t take long.
Baked at a higher temperature to mimic a proper pizza oven, the frozen pizza becomes something else entirely—a lot more impressive than any frozen pie ought to be.
This Trick Does Not Work for Every Type of Frozen Pizza
I generally bake frozen pizza at 550°F, with two exceptions: frozen deep-dish pizza and frozen plant-based pizza.
Deep-dish pizza bakes at a lower temperature for longer since the heat has to travel through a thick layer of fillings. If you blast it with high heat, the outside will burn and the inside will remain frozen.
There are amazing meatless and dairy-free frozen pizza options in the market today. From cauliflower crust to nut-based cheese, the ingredients cook differently than flour-based crust and dairy cheese. For those reasons, stick to the instructions provided on the pizza box.