Baking

Should I thaw frozen pizza before baking?

It seems natural to want another step between unpacking the frozen brick and putting it in the oven

Because my wife tends to leave frozen pizza on the counter while the oven preheats, I took on the responsibility of cooking frozen pizza at home. Not that it’s a huge task, but I’ve been doing frozen pizza straight from the freezer for a long time. However, I never confronted my wife about her neglect of frozen pizza, which may speak to my fear that my strict adherence to cooking frozen pizza might one day be revealed as a mistake.

But today I took a leap of faith and asked a few former pizza makers whether or not to thaw frozen pizza before baking.

According to Stefano Velia, pizza maker and owner of Pala Pizza, the reason makers freeze pizza in the first place — and ask customers to cook it straight from the freezer — has nothing to do with how it’s prepared. “Generally they do this because it reduces the risk of food contamination/bacterial growth during the thawing phase,” he explains. “One less thing for the company to worry about: sick customers.”

With that in mind, as long as it’s thawed properly, Veila says thawing your frozen pizza before baking could improve its taste. “Don’t leave frozen pizza on the counter too long, and the risk of contamination or bacterial growth is very low,” he tells me. “I don’t cook frozen pizza often these days, but if I had to, I would absolutely thaw it in the fridge the night before or the morning of because leaving it in the fridge eliminates any risk of bacteria buildup.”

This is where Brian Chau, a California food scientist, makes the counterpoint. “The frozen pizza user experience is all about convenience, and defrosting is inconvenient,” he says. From a food safety perspective, Chau agrees that it’s best to thaw frozen pizza overnight in the refrigerator. But even if you manage to thaw a frozen pizza without microbial growth, a thawed pizza drastically changes the calculation for frozen pizza.

In other words, trust that the multi-million dollar frozen pizza industry knows what it’s doing. “There was a significant amount of testing involved in the cooking cycles to get the pizza done, so the instructions on the back of the box are warranted,” Chau says. “As ice crystals in food melt, they break down cells and create softening, so thawing includes the texture and overall integrity of frozen pizza.”

But, he continues, “if texture and time aren’t a big deal, then thawing is a matter of preference.” And if you prefer or want to try thawed frozen pizza, Velia has you covered. “Place it on a piece of parchment paper while thawing in the fridge overnight, so it can be easily slipped onto a peel or baked directly on the pan,” he explains. “Then I would preheat my oven as hot as I could get and toss it on my pizza stone.” For those who don’t have a pizza stone – or don’t know how to use one – “preheat a pan and carefully place the pizza on it and cook until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown”, usually 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your pizza dough.

Aside from the fact that you technically started prepping 24 hours ago, cooking a thawed frozen pizza actually cuts your total cooking time by a few minutes. But at this point you’ve blatantly ignored the instructions on the back of the box, and that’s just something I can’t figure out.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have a soggy, lukewarm pizza to put back in the freezer.