June 24, 2017

The fight for first in the frozen pizza feud

You know the struggle—you’re at the grocery store with friends stocking up on food because you had nothing at home. You’re not shopping to win a Food Network competition, you’re there to find something cheap, something everyone will like and something that takes minimal skill to cook. There are only a couple of things that fall into this category and somebody already brought the chips and dip. So here we are, in the frozen pizza section.

There may not be a more beautiful section in the store. Everything is $10 or less, the variety is nearly endless, and it’s one of the rare foods that covers practically the entire food pyramid so you don’t feel too guilty grabbing an extra slice. But what makes the aisle so great is the catalyst for debates that can ruin friendships and tear families apart—which frozen pizza reigns supreme (or pepperoni, in this case)?

Let me preface my following rankings: Frozen pizza preference is subjective. Because of that, you’ll probably disagree. To be as objective as possible, I’ve chosen the five most popular brands of pizza at my local Hy-Vee and bought their pepperoni pizza for consistency. I cooked each of them, following the exact directions on each pizza. They will be judged by price, size and taste. Each category will receive a score out of 10. Because each pizza is not judged on taste alone, it should be noted that the pizza with the highest score should be crowned “Best Value” and not necessarily the “Best Pizza”. Now, fight me in the comments.

LET’S BEGIN:

Jack’s

Price: $2 (the iconic 5 for $10 deal) — 9/10

Size: 15.4 oz — 6/10

Taste: Jack’s is a traditional frozen pizza and has that classic, cheap taste that takes you back to your childhood. The cooking instructions seemed accurate and the crust was crispy, but a bit dry on the outsides. For thin crust, I’ll let it slide. The cheese is surprisingly not as fake as I remember it, although coverage could have been better (easy solution would be to add more shredded cheese, but not for this purpose). The sauce is more tangy than I prefer, but it’s mild and not overpowering. The pepperoni is… well, kinda pepperoni? I love meat on pizza and I can confidently say that the pepperoni on this pizza did little to add to the flavor.

Overall, it’s a solid frozen pizza. The ratio of crust-sauce-cheese-toppings is almost perfect, but I have to admit that I couldn’t finish the pizza without topping it with Sriracha to add some flavor to what looked like pepperoni, but tasted like pepperoni-shaped nothingness. — 6/10

Final analysis: For the price, it’s a no-brainer to buy five at a time for those days you just don’t want to cook. I’ve had them grilled before and there is no doubt it transforms the pizza into a new food altogether, but despite its loyal followers, it’s not a huge pizza and I’m not sure it’s the best you can buy. — 21/30

Tombstone

Price: $3.97 (but can usually get on sale) — 7.5/10

Size: 20.6 oz — 8/10

Taste: Right off the bat, Tombstone hits you with a heftier pizza. I’ll be transparent, I grew up on this stuff so I already know how good this is going to be, but I’ll walk you through it. The crust is already superior to Jack’s—it’s firm and crispy on the edges, but soft throughout the heart of the pizza. The sauce is mild, but OH MY GOD HOW DID I FORGET THAT TOMBSTONE PUT TINY LITTLE PEPPERONI BITES IN THE SAUCE? Unlike the Jack’s pizza, the pepperoni has some nice flavor to it and yeah, it’s everywhere. The cheese has some gaps in coverage, but nothing the rest of the pizza can’t make up. — 7/10

Final analysis: $4 for one frozen pizza is completely reasonable, but certainly not the cheapest. However, it’s a bigger pizza with great flavor and as far as value goes, it’s going to be tough to beat. — 22.5/30

Digiorno

Price: $5.48  — 5/10

Size: 27.5 oz — 9/10

Taste: Fresh out of the oven, we’ve got by far the most beautiful pizza of the bunch so far. The crust looks like a halo holding together a magical, faux-Italian recipe of delight.

Well, nope.

First thing’s first, welcome to crust town. The instructions alone make you question your decisions, choosing between 18-21 minutes and 23-26 minutes depending on if you want harder or softer crust. They might as well change their slogan to, “It’s not delivery, but it will take just as long.” Anyway, I chose softer crust. And you know what I got? A nice layer of cardboard on the bottom and LOTS of bread. That halo I talked about? Yeah, just give me more pizza and less bread.

The cheese is actually really good. The stringy-factor is the highest of any and coverage was solid. The pepperoni was pretty thick and flavorful, but the sauce is a little overpowering. It’s not BAD sauce, but it’s more prominent than I prefer. — 5/10

Final analysis: If you want to spend a little extra dough for too much dough, buy Digiorno. The 27.5 ounces is mainly bread and although it may fill you up, there isn’t a ton of satisfaction with finishing a Digiorno pizza. — 19/30

Totino’s

Price: $1.39  — 10/10

Size: 10.2 oz — 4/10

Taste: Something fascinates me about these little Totino’s party pizzas. Everything about them is untraditional, but maybe that’s why they are going to score so well in this taste category. The square crust is soft and flaky unlike any other frozen pizza—and it’s fantastic. The sauce is very subtle but sweet—and it’s fantastic. The cheese is light and doesn’t slide right off the pizza—and it’s fantastic. And the pepperoni is like those amazing little pepperonis in the Tombstone sauce—which is fantastic. The taste profile is actually pretty impressive for something so cheap, but it is completely its own. The pizza doesn’t necessarily taste like pizza, it tastes like Totino’s and that’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your preference. — 10/10

Final analysis: I’m an unabashed Totino’s pizza fan, no doubt. But no matter how hard you try to convince yourself in the mirror every morning, size does matter—at least a little bit. You can go to the mall and buy a Sbarro slice that is bigger than an entire Totino’s pizza, and I can’t lie that I was surprised to see the price raised from $0.99 to $1.39. Regardless, this is the ultimate snack pizza in my mind, even if it’s not huge. — 24/30

Red Baron

Price: $3.50 (2 for $7 deal) — 8/10

Size: 20.6 oz — 8/10

Taste: I have the least amount of experience with Red Baron, but there are immediately some similarities to other pizzas that bring me back to my childhood. Basically if Jack’s and Tombstone made love, Red Baron would come out. Unfortunately, it’s not like it picked the best qualities of either pizza to take. The crust is thicker than Jack’s, but not as good as Tombstone’s. The sauce is about as processed as they come, but like the others it didn’t overpower. The pepperoni was much like Jack’s in that you only knew it was pepperoni because you could see them. I can’t say it’s much worse than either Jack’s or Tombstone, but it certainly isn’t better. — 5.5/10

Final analysis: Maybe it was pizza overload for the week, maybe it was higher expectations going into unfamiliar territory, but I couldn’t definitively put Red Baron ahead of anyone but Digiorno. In frozen pizza land, it’s a solid choice if you’re looking to fill up quick. — 21.5/30

***

The verdict:

  1. Totino’s (24/30)
  2. Tombstone (22.5/30)
  3. Red Baron (21.5/30)
  4. Jack’s (21/30)
  5. Digiorno (19/30)

Again, you can disagree because it’s subjective. Just know that you’re wrong. In the end, a frozen pizza is a frozen pizza and you should know what you’re getting yourself into when you buy one (or five). Now you know which to buy.

Alex Gookin 5 Articles
Staff Writer

Gookin is an Iowa State student majoring in journalism, but made the realization that wouldn’t be the career he wanted to pursue until far too late. Instead, he took an unpaid position to write content for this blog, which seems counter-intuitive, but he enjoys it, nonetheless. Gookin was voted male with the “Most School Spirit,” and 2nd most flirtatious in his senior class. He enjoys statistics no one else has the patience to look up and enjoys Iowa State athletics more than he’s willing to admit. A closet Hawkeye fan (false), you can find Alex being harassed by at least one bad Twitter troll and winning nearly all of his online fights (less false, but false).

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