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Best frozen pizzas for your buck

March 20, 2013 at 2:11 PM ET

By Kara Reinhardt, Cheapism.com

Pizzaioli will tell you that a perfect pie with exquisitely crisp crust comes from a brick oven heated to upward of 800 degrees.

If you don’t often have the luxury of eating out (much less a kitchen with a brick oven), pizza is more likely to come from a freezer set to 0 degrees. Frozen pizza may be no match for a Neapolitan pie, but it has its own appeal for cash-strapped parents with picky kids and time-strapped professionals with otherwise dormant kitchens. Cheapism.com set out to find the best cheap alternatives to restaurant, delivery, and pricey cook-at-home pies by conducting a blind taste test of 10 frozen cheese and pepperoni pizzas. All the sample pies cost less than 30 cents per ounce.

Here are the ones that received the highest scores from the nine-person panel:

  • Freschetta Signature Pepperoni (purchase price: $5.99 for 27.35 ounces, or 22 cents an ounce) stood out from typically anemic frozen pizzas for its flavorful, plentiful sauce. Panelists also appreciated the spice they detected in this pepperoni pizza. All but one considered it tasty enough to buy and eat again. (Where to buy)
  • Freschetta 4-Cheese Medley ($5.99 for 26.11 ounces, or 23 cents an ounce) took the top spot among cheese pizzas with its well-balanced ingredients, including piquant sauce, flecks of herb, and a mix of cheeses. Even the crust, often a weakness of frozen pizza, came close to inspiring a positive consensus among the panelists. (Where to buy)
  • Trader Giotto’s Pizza 4 Formaggi ($3.99 for 13.4 ounces, or 30 cents an ounce) is a private-label product that takes its Italianized name from the specialty grocer Trader Joe’s. It may not have been the prettiest pizza in the group, but tasters found it one of the most flavorful -- particularly for plain cheese. This is a smaller pie with a higher price per ounce, but those who preferred it were fervent admirers. (Where to buy)
  • DiGiorno Half & Half ($5 for 30 ounces, or 17 cents an ounce) makes an attractive choice for anyone with a household divided between cheese and pepperoni loyalists. However, the pepperoni people will be happiest with this pizza, according to the panel. Testers liked the spicy pepperoni and tangy sauce but not the stiff cheese. (Where to buy)

Panelists rated each pizza on a scale of 1 to 5 based on appearance, aroma, texture, and, above all, taste. While these are undeniably subjective measures, testers tried to assess the pizzas as objectively as possible. Nowhere was this more apparent than in their evaluation of Totino’s Party Pizzas, the cheapest on offer at just $1 per pie, or about 10 cents an ounce. Two panelists gave the brand poor scores and acknowledged the pizza’s low quality even as they called it a personal favorite and went back for seconds. One explained that it brought back memories of college and the other admitted that she loved the fake, processed taste. Some online reviewers likewise seem to embrace the product for what it is, rather than seek out a closer yet still subpar imitation of a proper pizza.

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