Frozen pizza has become an American staple. Thanks to some innovations, frozen pizza is now a popular option for those who are in need of a quick and easy meal. However, frozen pizza wasn’t always so easy to make. In the past, frozen pizza had problems like ice crystals and interrupted chemical processes that ruined the flavor.
Frozen pizza has come a long way from its humble beginnings. With an average of 350 slices eaten by Americans every second, this savory treat has become a staple in our food landscape. Until the 1960s, frozen pizza was a niche product. It wasn’t until a Minnesota woman named Rose Totino brought the dish to national attention that frozen pizza became a go-to for busy families across the country. The key to making a good crust is leavening, the process by which yeast digests sugars in flour. This produces by-products like ethanol and carbon dioxide, which bubble up in the dough. And in the early days of frozen pizza, these by-products caused ice crystals to form and break down the gluten structure of the dough. This left a stale, dry, and flavorless crust. This problem was later solved by Birdseye, a company that developed a flash-freezing technique to prevent ice crystals from forming and destroying the toppings. Their process also prevented unwanted moisture from seeping into the pizza dough, allowing it to cook as it should.
A Boston pizzeria owner named Leo Giuffre introduced ready-to-cook refrigerated pizzas to the East Coast, and soon after, he began expanding his business throughout the country. This early innovation helped kick-start the frozen pizza industry, which has since been worth over $1 billion annually. However, even though these pies were incredibly popular, they weren’t without their problems. When quick-frozen and then thawed out, moisture can penetrate the doughy mass and render it soggy, unpalatable, and less appealing to consumers. That’s why one Joseph Bucci filed a patent application in 1950 to solve these issues. Using an edible sealing agent, he was able to freeze pizzas without allowing the sauce to seep into the dough. This invention ultimately led to the first ever frozen pizza patent, which was granted in 1954.
Frozen Pizza Today
In order to produce a pizza that can be frozen and reheated successfully, food-technology ingenuity has gone into developing products that prevent the sauce from seeping into the dough and creating a crust that stays pliable even after being frozen. Modified corn starch is frequently used to create a moisture barrier between the sauce and crust. And despite its many challenges, frozen pizza has become a widely popular product. In addition to the reoccurring classic cheese and pepperoni varieties, there are now more dietary-restriction-conscious options than ever before. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free pies have also been introduced to the market.