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(Please excuse the fact that I don't make my own pizza...)

I have a thawed (originally frozen-bought) pizza of about 25.5cm diameter, a microwave, and a convection toaster-oven, whose internal space' dimensions are 38cm x 30cm x 23cm WxDxH. The pizza is neither super-thick nor super-thin.

When I heat my pizza in the convection oven, I can't get the different parts of it to be done simultaneously: Either the surrounding crust has its brown color slightly deepening, so it's a bit toastier than originally but not totally dry - but then the middle is still barely warm and very much liquid-laden; or the surrounding crust has blackened, charred, and is inedible, while the middle is just about properly done.

You might be wondering what temperature I'm using. Well, it's 180 degrees celsius or so, but actually I have no idea what to set it to. I was wondering perhaps playing with this setting would help, but I don't even know whether to increase or decrease it.

  • Just to be clear, are you heating a previously cooked delivery pizza, a previously cooked frozen pizza from the grocery store or never before cooked frozen pizza from the grocery store? – Ross Ridge Dec 31 '17 at 17:46
  • @RossRidge: Bought frozen from a store. Edited to clarify that. – einpoklum Dec 31 '17 at 20:46
  • If it's never been cooked before (eg. the cheese has never been melted) you just need to follow the instructions on the box. – Ross Ridge Dec 31 '17 at 21:24
  • @RossRidge: That's what I did, actually. That didn't even properly get the crust done. The box is fake news! – einpoklum Dec 31 '17 at 21:34
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The key here is that you said you’ve thawed the pizza. Frozen pizzas are designed to be baked from frozen. The instructions on the box should reflect this.

  • But wouldn't doing so only excerbate the problem? I mean, the edges have less water content, so they would take less time to defrost, while the middle would take even more time to defrost and evaporate the water. I mean, I could try it, but what's the rationale here? – einpoklum Jan 2 '18 at 9:32
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    @einpoklum When baking from frozen, the water in the ice evaporates as it melts, which allows the crust to crisp and the cheese to melt, leaving you with a fully cooked, delicious pizza. However, if you thaw the pizza first, the water from all the melted ice soaks into the pizza itself. That means that when you bake it, you have to remove water from a soggy pizza, which is much harder to do than simply melting the ice in an environment hot enough to evaporate the resulting water almost immediately. Starting with a soggy pizza, you'll never get the entire thing crisp before something burns. – senschen Jan 2 '18 at 12:51
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    It usually doesn't help to second-guess what food manufacturers tell you about their products. Modern industrially prepared food is highly engineered and they know exactly what works for their products, and have invested time in writing simple instructions for user-friendly processes (sometimes even to create the products in such ways that they are suitable for these user-friendly processes). You can still try some variations out of curiosity, but if they don't work out, sticking to the original instructions is the way to go. – rumtscho Jan 2 '18 at 14:37
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How big is the pizza in relation to the toaster-oven? If it takes up most of the interior area I could see this possibly happening. Have you considered cutting the pizza into smaller dimensions to see if you get a more even cook?

  • I've edited my question with the oven dimensions and corrected the pizza's diameter. I haven't considered cutting it up before because it seems it's mostly the crust-vs-filling difference, and because of aesthetics. – einpoklum Dec 31 '17 at 16:02
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    A little bit of fussy work (as Cooks Illustrated likes to say), but have you considered forming a protective "collar" of tin-foil to put around the perimeter and remove it partway through cooking? – Lorel C. Dec 31 '17 at 17:30
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    @LorelC.: No, but you could make that an answer I suppose. – einpoklum Jan 2 '18 at 9:33
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In general, when the edges are burning (or even just overcooking) while the inside is undercooked or raw, you can usually improve things by cooking at a lower temperature for longer.

A higher temperature means a higher temperature gradient, you see, because ovens/heating elements are always hotter than the food (to get things up to temp quicker), and it takes time for the food to come up to temperature from the outside in, so the higher temps will give more of a contrast, and lower temps have time for a more even heating.

You'd need to do some experimenting to get things right, ovens, dishes, and preferences all differ, but you can start moving the temp down (in F I'd suggest going by 50 degree increments, in C maybe by 20 degrees?) and start checking at the same time it used to be done, you'd only need to keep an eye on it a few times till you start to get an idea of how long it will take.

Another technique, a bit more limited but still effective, is to turn off the oven just a little early, and letting the pizza sit in the heated oven a little longer - effectively letting the food cook in the indirect leftover heat instead of using the directional heating from the oven elements. You can actually get quite a bit of cooking done this way, especially if you've a large oven, or a heat sink like a baking stone, but because the effects are finite it's best to use this for fairly minor tweaking. (I could for example, get a pizza to go from kinda watery to deep brown, smooth&dry [yes, a bit much], or cook three tortilla-base pizzas in the time between turning an oven off and when it cools - though as I said, that is my large and strong oven with a baking stone).

And third technique, if you're mostly happy with the outcome of the pizza base and it's just the toppings that are a bit watery or pale, is use a broiling or top oven element for a bit right at the end of cooking. The heating will be surface-stuff, especially in the middle (ie, won't make the insides hot), but it will work to give some nice browning or surface drying or toppings-cooking if that's your primary complaint.

  • Useful suggestions, but TBH - in my case it was the thawing that was my mistake. – einpoklum Sep 5 at 8:01
  • @einpoklum - It can be a mistake or it can be a choice, depending on circumstances. If it works for you to cook from frozen, good, if you decide to cook from thawed again because reasons, also good, and these kinda suggestions may be helpful for more than pizza. I've done and will continue to do both - I tend to thaw when not cooking the whole thing at once (easier to cut to personal portions), cause I like fresh-cooked better than leftover, or when it thawed cause I was busy and didn't get it to the freezer in time, and I cook from frozen when sharing or if it's small sized. All is well – Megha Sep 5 at 23:39

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