By Gina K. Briles, Cheapism.com
By decree of the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association, March is Frozen Food Month. Participating brands have released a slew of cost-cutting coupons and grocery stores are offering further discounts. All the sales make this a good time to stock up on frozen dinners for busy nights and convenient snacks for growing kids. But which products are worth a spot in an already overstuffed freezer? Cheapism.com recently conducted a blind taste test of a popular staple: frozen pizza. The test included 10 pies -- four cheese, four pepperoni, and two half-and-half -- all of which cost less than 30 cents per ounce. A nine-person panel rated the products based on appearance, aroma, texture, and, most important, taste.See which pizza ranks on top.
Related: Our full frozen pizza taste test
Here are the frozen pizzas that earned the warmest reception and the ones that left the panel cold.
Freschetta Signature Pepperoni (purchase price: $5.99 for 27.35 ounces, or 22 cents an ounce) took top billing in the pepperoni category and earned the highest score overall. Panelists praised this pizza for being "well-balanced" and pinpointed "spicy pepperoni" and "flavorful sauce" as part of the pie's appeal. Every taster but one considered it good enough to buy and eat again.
Freschetta 4-Cheese Medley ($5.99 for 26.11 ounces, or 23 cents an ounce) rode a winning combination of "good crust," "complex" cheese flavor, and "tangy sauce" to the highest ranking among the cheese pizzas. While a couple of reviewers declared that the crust suffered from an "overpowering starch flavor," most feedback was positive, citing the "evenness" of the pizza's texture and the "nice balance of sauce and cheese."
Trader Giotto's Pizza 4 Formaggi ($3.99 for 13.4 ounces, or 30 cents an ounce) is a Trader Joe's-brand pizza described by tasters as "different from the others." Some likened the "very cheesy" taste to beer cheese bread. They agreed that the pizza "looked uninteresting," but the "flavor was better than the appearance." Overall this "mild, not too salty" pie was the second-highest-rated cheese pizza.
DiGiorno Half & Half ($5 for 30 ounces, or 17 cents an ounce) features two kinds of pizza for the price of one, with plain cheese on one side and pepperoni on the other. The cheese half failed to stand out, but the pepperoni side grabbed the attention of tasters with "spicy pepperoni" and a "salty, saucy, savory" flavor profile. Granted, some called the sauce too sweet, the cheese too stiff, or the crust too chewy. But when the results were tallied, most panelists said they would eat this pizza again.The Rest:
Red Baron Classic Crust 4 Cheese ($5.99 for 21.06 ounces, or 28 cents an ounce) was one of the priciest pizzas in the test, and in general the panel found that cost roughly correlated with taste. Not in this case, however. The rich, "golden" appearance of this cheesy pie gave way to decidedly lackluster flavor and middle-of-the-road scores.A cheap frozen pizza is a delicious alternative to take-out.
Safeway Select Half Pepperoni & Half Cheese ($4.99 for 28.7 ounces, or 17 cents an ounce) made a good first impression, with its combination of two different kinds of pizza and a "fresh" appearance. But panelists didn't like the "wine-flavored sauce" and found that the "overly doughy" crust overpowered the toppings -- including the thick pepperoni, which could have used more spice.
Tony's Crispy Crust ($1.19 for 7.12 ounces, or 17 cents an ounce) perceptibly skimped on cheese and the portion of pepperoni could hardly be called generous. One panelist could taste nothing but "bread and salt." Where a couple of tasters embraced the "artificial" flavor of other cheap pies, this one somehow lacked the same inexplicable charm.
Trader Joe's Deep Dish Pepperoni ($3.99 for 16.5 ounces, or 24 cents an ounce) counted as a miss from a private label known for reasonably priced hits. Panelists found the messy pile of ingredients unappetizing and the sauce overly spiced. One of the few positives was a "great crust," which tasters described as "nice and crisp."
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Totino's Party Pizza ($1 for about 10 ounces, or 10 cents an ounce) comes in cheese and pepperoni varieties, both of which left a bad taste in the mouths of most of the panelists. They described these bargain pizzas as "unappetizing," "cheap-tasting," and "artificial." With "slimy, stiff crust," a "strange tomato flavor," and "thin, grainy cheese," it's no wonder that the prevailing opinion was "yuck." Oddly, a few die-hard fans gave the pizza poor reviews but said they personally loved it all the same. When asked to explain the appeal, one admirer acknowledged that the quality is "not great," but the pizzas "remind me of college."
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