Posts Tagged ‘Frozen pizza comparisons’
(August 1, 2016) Most of the major frozen pizza manufacturers have been busy rolling out new variations of their products over the last couple years, apparently in an attempt to acquire more freezer frontage in the store, which hopefully translates into sales.
Tombstone, which started in Medford, WI, (map below) as a supplier of frozen pies to bars, grew into a substantial manufacturer before being sold off to Kraft, and then to Nestle.
One of their latest labels is the “Roadhouse” pizza, offering ‘double cheese,’ a crisp crust, and loads of toppings. I picked up the “Bring on the Meat” style, which is topped with Genoa salami, pepperoni, and sausage.
This might be OK as an addition to the value priced end of the frozen pizza spectrum, but unfortunately, it falls into the upper mid range, running about seven bucks at my WalMart.
The salami is a pure pork/beef product, but they’ve mucked up the pepperoni by adding chicken, who knows why. The sausage is more like a plain crumbled pork, with little to no seasoning.
The larger shreds of cheese (see unbaked pic below) are a welcome addition. While they are very few frozen pies that have slices of cheese instead of shreds, the larger the pieces the better the tactile experience, in my opinion. The crust is ok, not ultra thin, but crispy enough for my taste, but the sauce borders on horrid, like most frozen pies, you can easily imagine it coming out of a 55 gallon drum labeled industrial strength pizza sauce.
It also is flavorless, with no indication is was originally birthed by tomatoes.
I had a couple pieces and then my guests heard me say something no one has ever heard me say in my entire life: “I’m throwing the rest of this out, ok?” No one objected. If you’re a regular reader, you know I try and find something positive in every post. Unfortunately, this pizza is dreadful.
Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review
Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review
Culinary Circle is a house brand for SuperValu stores, which include a gaggle of brands: Jewel, Albertsons, Cub, Bristol Farms, Save A Lot and more. It’s based in Minneapolis and is the 3rd largest grocery company, after Kroger and Safeway. Super Valu’s total outlets number over 2500, and they are the primary supplier to over 2,000 other stores.
This pie was on sale today, 2 / $7, which is an attractive price. The “ultra thin’ crust was cracker like, which I enjoy, and toppings, including cheese, were adequate. The sauce leans towards the sweet side, but I thought the diced tomato bits had kind of peculiar taste to them.
This pizza was manufactured by Richelieu Foods of Beaver Dam, WI, a contract manufacturer, and I wrote a bit about them before because they also make the Aldi take and bake pies, which I really like and are a terrific value.
Culinary Circle Ultra Thin Crust Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza Review
Jack’s is one of those former little brands, started as the food equivalent of a garage band, in Little Chute, Wisconsin (outside of Appleton. Near Neenah. Kinda by Menasha. Before you get to Green Bay). Started in 1960. Grew around the state, then the region, bought by Kraft when they were rolling up frozen pizza brands, and then Kraft spun off their pizza division to Nestle. I can’t say why. (Jack’s, DiGiorno, California Pizza Kitchen, and Tombstone are all part of this group.)
Jack’s sits in the ‘value category’, you’re probably not going to pay more than $4, and often they are on sale at 3 or 4 for $10.
Jack’s doesn’t list the ingredients on their website, but there is a mess of them, including my least favorite “….mechanically separated….. bird of some kind.” The company says one of their points of pride is ‘real Wisconsin cheese.’ I would think the Swiss owners would have something to say about that, but I guess not. Nutritional info says a serving size is 1/4 of the pie, for 380 calories, 160 of them from fat, and 37 grams of carbs. Seems low, but it is an ultra-thin crust.
The brand is kind enough to have the warning “do not eat without cooking.”
Directions call for 11 – 13 minutes at 425, center shelf. The pie curled in the oven. Not sure why some frozen pizzas do that and others do not.
Crust: ultra thin, cracker like
Sauce: a little towards the sweet side, but ample
Cheese: a fair amount, good flavor, nice “pull”
Pepperoni: not bad
Sausage: very small bits, no flavor at all. I’d prefer larger pieces and a little fennel and/or garlic.
Verdict: To my unsophisticated palate, most of the brands in the ‘value pricing category’ taste about the same. With the exception of the “ultra-value” like Totino’s or Jeno’s,which you can sometimes find for 10 / $10 – and they are truly awful. Would I buy this one again? I’d probably keep a few around if I ran into another 3 or 4 for $10 deal. Product locator.
After a year of extensive study (there are a lot of frozen pizza reviews on the site), my favorites remain Chicago’s Vito and Nicks II, and the Screamin’ Sicilian Brand from Milwaukee manufacturer, Palermo.
We’ve talked about value and ultra value here; I think there needs to be an ultra premium category of frozen pizza. Probably in the $12 – $15 range.
Below is the publicity photo from Jack’s website, and my photo of the pie just out of the oven. Waddya think? Do they look the same?
Jacks Pizza Review
I’ve written often in the past about the plethora of frozen pizza brands manufactured in Minnesota and Wisconsin. There’s Totinos, Jenos, and Red Baron, Tony’s, Freschetta, Roma, Bellatoria, Brew Pub, Orv’s, Palermo’s, and many others that have reached national and super-regional distribution status. In addition to these, there are a host of smaller manufacturers which only distribute “close to home”. One such company is Kettle River Pizza, in tiny Askov, Minnesota, which puts out their pies to restaurants, bars, groceries and c-stores in parts of Minnesota.
Started in 1986, and purchased by new owners in 2002, who upgraded facilities and capacity, Kettle River make over a dozen different varieties of frozen pies, in 7″, 9″, and 12″ sizes.
I ran into one in a C store the other day, and it was the 4 Meat style (beef, sausage, c-bacon and pepperoni), at 22 ounces for $8.50. That’s a hefty price for frozen pizza, but I chalked it up to C-store pricing, it’s probably a couple bucks less in the grocery, which would make it market competitive in the premium frozen pizza segment.
Instructions call for 10-15 minutes at 375, and the label cautions best results are achieved with a 30 minute thaw prior to baking. Don’t think I have seen that instruction on a frozen pizza before, but I complied.
Minnesotans love their thin crusts, and Kettle River falls in the “not thick, not thin but in-between” category, is crispy around the edges and chewy as you work inward. It almost reminded me (in a good way) of matzoh dough, for the way it puffed up in places during baking. Kettle River has a cheese blend, of some whites, and some yellows. At least some of the topping meats were Hormel product, as their logo adorns the label.
The sauce is mild, and I am fond of the sausage, which is good-sized and flavorful. If you’re a frequent reader, you know I often take exception to frozen pies that have those tiny sausage crumbles, just a personal preference. Toppings on Kettle River are on the generous side.
But what really makes the pie is the quality and quantity of cheese, which melts and bubbles well, and covers the circle edge to edge well. It’s a good product, and the owners should be proud of their efforts.
In my off-line life, I have some knowledge of food industry mergers, and while I have never seen a smaller company gobbled up because of their recipe or quality, but rather for market share or distribution area, if the big guys ever started going out shopping for quality recipes and processes, Kettle River would surely be a target. If their products were distributed in my area, I’d be a frequent customer. Here’s a product locator, to help you find them near you.
Kettle River Pizza Review
I don’t get it. Frozen pizzas from Europe kick the ass out of the US made ones. With the exception of Vito and Nicks II, out of Chicago, I have seldom (OK, never) run into a frozen US pizza that compares in taste or texture to those made in Europe. Trader Joe’s has some excellent ones that I have previously written about, like their Wild Mushroom, Margherita, and the Olympiad brand ones.
Today I tested Mama Cozzi’s Stone Baked Caprese Pizza, which are made in Germany for the US discount grocery chain Aldi. Curiously, or not, Aldi and Trader Joe’s share a corporate parent.
This pie, boasts three cheeses, cherry tomatoes, and marinated semi-dried tomatoes. An even 16 ounces. Baked at 400 for 12 minutes or so. “Italian style crust” the box says, along with “100 % real cheese.”
I’m not usually one for ‘plain’ cheese pizzas, preferring those that are piled high with as many processed pork products one can fit on the pie.
This is good. Crispy crust, a little thicker than what most consider “thin crusts”, good tasting cheese with ‘pull’, flavorful herbs and sauce. Taste and texture very similar to a local pizzeria in Europe, and as these are sold at Aldi’s, they are ‘value priced’ as well.
So, US manufacturers – Tombstone, DiGiorno, CPK, Red Baron, Palermo, and all the rest? What’s the deal? Why can’t you make a pie that at LEAST equals this, if not the Trader Joe’s offerings? A number of brands are now owned by Swiss based Nestle, maybe they can transition a few to excellence. Hope so!
Aldi Frozen Pizza Review
Is the third time a charm? Perhaps. After 2 uneven results, I decided to make a third attempt at making 7-Eleven’s frozen Self-Rising Crust Pizza at home.
At $5.99 for 29 ounces, this is a solid value proposition, compared with other frozen pies. The Supreme comes topped with Italian sausage, pepperoni, peppers, onion, black olives, a cheese blend, garlic and oregano.
7-Eleven’s pies are made by Chicago’s “Great Kitchens, Inc.,” the largest manufacturer of take and bake pizzas in the country. In addition to 7-Eleven, they supply Wal-Mart, Costco, Trader Joe’s and others, according to various press releases found online today.
Out of the box, the pie resembles most any frozen offerings at similar price points. A nominal quantity of toppings is included. Following the instructions, I preheated at 425, and baked the pie directly on the center rack for 20 minutes.
The result is seen below. The instructions advise letting it sit for a moment or two before slicing, and that I did, and it worked out better, one supposes, than cutting it right out of the oven.
The pie has a little more ‘kick’ to it than the pepperoni and cheese ones I have sampled in the past. This is probably due to a slight variation in the sauce recipe, or residual effect from the peppers and onions, though it did not seem that localized to me.
Would I buy it again? Sure. It’s convenient, for me, as 7-Eleven is a short walk, and although both they, and a competing mart across the street carry “name brand” pies, at $5.99 7-Eleven’s is a full two bucks cheaper.
And that’s a good deal.