Editor's note: In honor of National Pizza Month (aka October), the Serious Eats editors, staff, and Slice writers will top off our regular content with their deepest thoughts on all things cheesy, saucy, and crusty.
What's the best frozen pizza?
SEE ABOVE, PEOPLE. ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ !!!!!
And you know what I don't want to see BELOW, in the Comments? Any other pizza that is not pictured above.
Totino's vs. Jeno's
Totino's and Jeno's are made by the same parent company, General Mills, and in the same plant in Wellston, Ohio [source]. They are essentially the same pizza but for the fact that "Jeno's by Totino's Crisp'n Tasty" pizzas are smaller and are billed as "Pizza For One" on the box. (The box pictured here must be an older version.)
Totino's Party Pizza is slightly bigger and as such would only feed a very sad party.
I wrote many versions of this post before I settled on this one. Basically my argument boils down to these three points:
1. All frozen pizza is a compromise. You've already failed as a pizza fan if you're eating frozen pizza. YES, even if you're eating American Flatbreads, Dr. Oetker's, Amy's or Trader Joe's or California Pizza Kitchen, all of which I've gathered over the years are favorites among Slice'rs. After all, the crust of a frozen pizza will never match what we love about the crust of a great fresh-baked pizza.
2. If you're sacrificing crust quality for convenience, why not go for broke? To me, all those "fancy" frozen pizzas are bland. They think they've taken real "pizza" and frozen it. They make what I call "Pizza That Is Frozen" and not "FROZEN PIZZA." Frozen Pizza revels in its crappiness. It amps up the flavor with an ingredients list of junk you probably don't want to look too closely at. It's "pizza" in the same way a Big Mac is a "hamburger" or Taco Bell is a "taco." If you suspend your disbelief, I believe you can thoroughly enjoy it for what it is.
Totino's-Jeno's is perfect stuff. The crust is airy, flaky, and crisp. It's a little bit greasy. Overall it's salty and sweet. There's a surprisingly copious amount of sauce on there. And it stays saucy instead of drying out into a flavorless paste. You can roll it up into a pizzarito.
Granted, most of my love for Totino's-Jeno's is probably due to a Proustian memory of eating Jeno's Crisp'n Tasty pizzas after school while watching cartoons. After all, it is billed as "Pizza For One" on the box. Delightful for a child. Sad for an adult—if you think about it too much. Which I don't.
If you accept points 1 and 2, my final argument is...
3. It shouldn't cost an arm and a leg to eat crappy-fantastic frozen pizza. Or really ANY frozen pizza. There's a certain price point you hit with frozen pizza where, for a few bucks more, you could just get the real thing. Totino's-Jeno's are some of the cheapest in the frozen aisle. Coupled with the fact that they're actually good, you'd have to be a fool to stock up on anything else. Except maybe Ellio's, which I know a lot of Northeasterners are into in much the same way I'm into Totino's.
Anyway, I had much more to say, but already this summation is longer than I had hoped. But now I have a post to link to the next time someone out there posts a Talk topic on this subject.