I’m all about planning ahead for busy weeknights so we aren’t in the kitchen after work with no idea what to have for dinner or with an idea but the wrong ingredients. But when I make my weekly menu plans, I usually only plan for Sunday through Thursday or Monday through Friday.
The weekends are for prep work, lazy meals and dinners out. I may meet up with a friend for drinks after Pilates, and it quickly morphs into a full dinner. Someone may invite us over for dinner and board games. Daytime outings with friends extend into the evening, and we end up having dinner out. We decide we need a date night out, or a lazy day in with no cooking.
And that’s where frozen meals come in handy, those “I don’t really feel like cooking” weekend nights. When I make a particularly large batch of soup or beans or pulled pork during the week, I freeze a few servings for easy dinners down the line. It also comes in handy when a recipe I’m testing fails completely– break out the frozen chili!
Lately, I’ve been craving pizza on Friday nights. I don’t want to cook, and we know that ordering in every week isn’t the healthiest option. So last week, I experimented with the best way to make frozen pizza at home.
What I Did:
I made eight test pizzas:
- For pizzas 1-3, I pressed out the dough into a pizza shape and topped it raw.
- For pizzas 4-6, I pressed the dough out, poked it with a fork a few times to keep it from puffing up too much and prebaked it at 500F for 4 minutes. I let the dough cool completely before topping it.
- For pizzas 7-8, I again put the sauce and toppings on the raw dough, but froze it without the cheese. I added shredded cheese just before the frozen pizza went in the oven.
I baked one of each kind of pizza at 400F for 20-23 minutes, a raw and pre baked pizza at 450F for 18-20 minutes each, and one of each kind of pizza at 500F for 18-21 minutes.
400F was way too low of a temperature. The crust looked pale, and no matter how many minutes I added to the baking time, it still tasted raw and doughy. Blech.
450F was better, but there was still a doughy quality to the crust under the heavier toppings, and neither the crust nor the cheese got as browned as I’d like.
500F was by far the best baking temperature. None of the crust tasted raw, even under the weightier sausage and onions. Plus, this was the only baking temperature at which the cheese got deliciously browned.
At all temperatures, the crust that had been prebaked ended up crispier and darker in color than the ones frozen raw.
For six of the eight pizzas, I added the cheese before freezing the pizza. On all of these pizzas, the cheese seemed to separate when baked, leaving a weapy puddle on the pizza and pan. This was less noticeable when the pizzas were baked at higher temperatures, but it was still a little runny even at 500F.
When cheese was added just before sliding the pizza in the oven, however, it had none of that wateriness. At 500F, it also got browned and a little crispy much more readily than the frozen cheese did.
The next time you’re making homemade pizza, make a double batch of all your dough and toppings, minus the cheese, and freeze one for later. To do so:
1. Press the dough out as you usually would. Poke it a few times with a fork to prevent air bubbles, and bake at 500F for 4 minutes.
2. Allow the dough to cool completely. Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap, leaving a long piece hanging off the end, and place the dough on top.
3. Top the crust with sauce and your toppings of choice. If you really want a stellar frozen pizza, leave the cheese off for now. But if you don’t think you’ll have appropriate pizza cheese on hand later or really want to speed things up some Friday night, go ahead and add the cheese now. Just know it won’t be as browned and may separate a little when you bake it.
4. Slide the cookie sheet into the freezer and chill until the pizza is mostly solid. Wrap the plastic wrap the rest of the way around the pizza. If the pizza isn’t completely covered, add another layer of plastic wrap.
5. Wrap aluminum foil around the plastic-wrapped pizza. Label with the date and type of pizza.
6. When you are craving a quick homemade pizza (within 2-3 months of freezing your pizza), preheat your oven to 500F. Remove the pizza from all its wrappings and place on a greased cookie sheet or pizza pan. If it was frozen without cheese, top it with some shredded cheese now. Bake at 500F for 18 minutes minutes for cheese pizza, or 21 minutes for pizzas with additional toppings.
7. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.