Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Taste Team takes frozen pizza for a spin


Meijer brand scores a slam dunk against seven competitors

By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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In March, we're absolutely mad about watching college basketball tournaments on television. There's something about the bounce of the ball, come-from-behind victories and a chance to win office betting pools that keep us glued to the screen. We're so into watching basketball, we sometimes only leave the tube room for the bare necessities. Often, that doesn't include cooking.

Pizza is the convenient, crowd-pleasing meal solution. And frozen, ready-to-bake pizza can be the best option. It's there when you want it, no need to order takeout. You can shove the frozen pie into the oven on the shortest commercial break. And, frozen pizzas cost less than delivery, especially considering there's no tip involved.

Most importantly, some of the frozen pizza brands can back up claims their products taste just as good - if not better than - as delivery pizza.

To find the best-tasting frozen pizza, we asked the Taste Team to blindly sample eight brands, all pepperoni. (We chose pepperoni because we didn't want the team to be distracted by too many ingredients, and because people love pepperoni.)

The panel of seven rated the pizzas on appearance, flavor and texture of crust and toppings, and overall flavor - how did the crust complement the topping and vice versa.

UPPER CRUSTS
The Taste Team rated nine brands of frozen pepperoni pizza on a 1 to 100 scale.
Here are the top finishers, with average scores in ( ).
1. Meijer Self-Rising Crust (87)
2. Kroger Self-Rising Crust (86)
3. (Tie) Freschetta (75)
(Tie) Tombstone Original (75)
Many will be surprised by the winner of our taste test - a little like Akron upsetting Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Meijer's Self-Rising Crust Pizza won with an average score of 87 out of 100. The Taste Team loved the crisp texture of the Meijer pizza's crust, the snappy flavor of the toppings, even its tantalizing smell.

Meijer edged another store brand pizza, Kroger's Self-Rising Crust, by only one point. The good news for basketball and pizza fans is that these store-brand pizzas cost as much as $1.50 less than DiGiorno, Freschetta and other big-name frozen pizzas. National brand Tombstone, which tied for third, was among the least expensive pizzas sampled, at $3.

But more often than not, you do get what you pay for, whether it's cars, clothes or frozen pizzas. At $1.79, the Totino's pizza was the cheapest and lowest-scoring pie in our test, earning a score of 38 and disdainful comments such as "nothing tastes real."

To find out if frozen pizza tastes just as good as delivery, we did try to sneak a delivered LaRosa's pepperoni into our blind sample. (In our last frozen pizza taste test, in 1998, a frozen DiGiorno pepperoni beat a delivered Papa John's pizza.)

But the Taste Team sniffed out the LaRosa's almost immediately. And because we felt the team couldn't be objective about rating the delivered pizza against the others, we decided not to include its scores.

E-mail cmartin@enquirer.com




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