Stove Top Frozen Pizza Science Experiment

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Stove Top Frozen Pizza Science Experiment

Do you think it's possible to cook a frozen pizza on top of a stove? Let's experiment and find out!
Do you think it's possible to cook a frozen pizza on top of a stove? Let's experiment and find out!. Anne Helmenstine

Are you interested in a fun and edible science experiment? Let's find out whether you can cook a frozen pizza on top of a stove. This is a practical science project that will either result in a ruined pizza or a tasty treat!

Apply the Scientific Method To Cooking Pizza

You can apply the scientific method to practical matters, not just to experiments in the lab. Here are the steps of the scientific method:
  1. Make observations.
  2. Form a hypothesis.
  3. Design an experiment to test the hypothesis.
  4. Perform the experiment.
  5. Analyze the data and determine whether or not to accept your hypothesis.
Unless you have never cooked before, you probably have made some observations about cooking frozen pizzas and might have an opinion about how likely it is you can cook this type of pizza on a stove rather than in an oven. For example, you may have observed that stove top cooking directions are lacking on the frozen pizza packaging. What do you think that means? Also, you have some experience cooking food on the stove. Usually you cook in oil, water or some other liquid. What might you expect, if you heat a dry ingredient in a pan? What differences do you see in food that is cooked while covered on the stove top compared with uncooked food? Are there certain brands of frozen pizza that seem more/less likely to cook properly on the stove?

You could hypothesize that you can't cook a frozen pizza on the stove top, but if you are a bad enough cook, it's likely you will ruin the pizza even though another "chef" might cook a decent pizza. Therefore, if your experiment supports this hypothesis, it doesn't prove that pizza can't be cooked on the stove. This result simply supports the hypothesis.

On the other hand, if you hypothesize it is possible to cook a frozen pizza on a stove and do succeed in cooking a pizza you can stand to eat, do you think this proves your hypothesis? If you ruin the pizza, does that disprove this hypothesis?

As you might imagine, experimental design is critical! Chances are, if you put a frozen pizza on a pan, set it on the stove and crank the heat to high, you'll have a fire department call on your hands and not dinner for two. What cooking conditions might offer you the best chance for success?
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How To Cook Frozen Pizza on the Stove Top in a Skillet

Place the frozen pizza in a skillet and cover it with a lid.
Place the frozen pizza in a skillet and cover it with a lid. Anne Helmenstine
A lot of science comes about from a person needing to achieve a goal. In my case, I was hungry, had a frozen pizza, but did not have an oven. I did have a stove and some basic kitchen utensils.

Observations

I had observed many, many frozen pizzas cooked in ovens and I had tried to microwave a few in the past. I knew I wanted a relatively high temperature in order to get a crisp crust, yet if I cooked the bottom of the crust too quickly I could expect to get a soggy, disgusting center crust and undercooked toppings. As far as stove top cooking went, I figured covering the pan might lock in heat to help heat the pizza, yet would also lock in humidity that might make the pizza too soft. Other observations led me to think boiling or steaming the pizza would be a bad plan.

Hypothesis

The null hypothesis would be:

You cannot cook a frozen pizza on the stove top.

Thus, any frozen pizza you successfully cook this way would disprove the hypothesis.

On the other hand, if you hypothesized it would be possible to cook a pizza on the stove you can gather data to support the hypothesis, but ruining your pizza really doesn't disprove the hypothesis. It could just mean you're a bad cook!

Pizza Experiment

Here is what I did:
  1. Remove frozen pizza from box.
  2. I tried to place the pizza into the frying pan or skillet, but it was too big for the pan so I broke it into quarters using my hands.
  3. I set a piece of pizza into the pan, turned the stove on low (thinking this might help to thaw the pizza without burning it) and covered the pan (trying to trap some heat). My goal was to avoid starting a fire while cooking the pizza enough that the crust wouldn't be doughy and raw.
  4. This seemed to be going very slowly, so I increased the heat to medium. A good scientist would have noted exactly how long I cooked the pizza and probably would have jotted down some notes about the temperature and characteristics of the pizza.
  5. Once the crust seemed crisp, I turned off the heat. I did not remove the pan from the burner, nor did I remove the lid. My goal was to complete the cooking of the crust and melt the cheese.
  6. After a few minutes, I put the pizza on a plate and proceeded to evaluate my results.
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Stove Top Frozen Pizza - How It Turns Out

Here's what you get if you cook frozen pizza on a stove top.
Here's what you get if you cook frozen pizza on a stove top. Anne Helmenstine
Here's what to expect when you cook a frozen pizza on the stove top, using my "experimental technique."
  • Crisp, browned bottom of the crust.
  • Chewy, fully-cooking middle and upper portion of the crust.
  • Hot pizza with melted cheese.
In short, I deemed this a tasty frozen pizza, possibly even better than I would have gotten had I cooked it in the oven, although the cheese was not browned (which I like). Yet, I'm sure you can see holes in my experimental method, where it might be difficult to reproduce the results. I should take more data, to determine whether or not this pizza was typical of what I can expect from this project.

Conclusion

If my null hypothesis was that it was impossible to cook a frozen pizza on the stove top, then I would reject this hypothesis. In fact, you can get a pretty tasty pizza this way!

Questions To Explore

  • I had a Red Baron cheese pizza. What do you think would happen if I used a different brand or variety of pizza? What difference would it have made if I had thawed the pizza to room temperature before cooking it?
  • Do you think it matters what type of pan I used to cook the pizza? Would it turn out equally well on a gas stove?