Cooking up a spread from scratch is always impressive, but sometimes you want a few shortcuts along the way to help you be able to enjoy the game faster. Frozen foods are a great way to cut down cooking or prep time and offer perfect canvases for adding flair.
So, I asked my creative colleagues how they add a twist to their favorite Game Day frozen foods. Here’s what they said.
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Chili Cheese Tots
Lately, I’ve been on a potato-tot kick. The tots crisp up perfectly in our favorite air fryer toaster oven, though an oven or toaster oven will also work. Then, you can do all sorts of things to them.
I’m partial to chili-cheesing my tots for movie night. I freeze 8-ounce portions of Best Ground Beef Chili for just this purpose (OK, also for nachos). I reheat and ladle the chili over the cooked tots and top with both torn American cheese singles (for meltiness) and a grated flurry of our favorite extra-sharp cheddar (for flavor).
You could make one of our excellent nacho sauces if you’re feeling fancy, but I usually am not. Add some chopped onion or scallion, put some sour cream on the side if you like. . . It’s a meal and a half.
—Miye Bromberg, Senior Editor
A frozen stash of beef chili (left) really took these cheesy, savory, ultrasatisfying tot-chos over the top (right).
Mozzarella Sticks with Homemade Dipping Sauce
I’ve been told that mozzarella sticks are “kid food,” so I guess I never grew up. My family and I love mozzarella sticks, and there are some impressively good frozen options on the market.
While I personally don't make any changes to the sticks themselves (a virtually perfect food), I like to go all out on the dipping sauce front. If we have a small bit of leftover pasta sauce, either from my favorite jarred brand or something I've made from scratch, I like to freeze it and save it for mozzarella-stick dipping.
If you really want to make it an occasion, whip up a delicious aioli or pesto, crisp up those mozz sticks in your air fryer toaster oven, and treat yourself to a deliciously cheesy game-viewing experience.
—Chase Brightwell, Associate Editor
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Fried Pickles with Buttermilk Ranch
When Sawyer asked the team about our favorite frozen apps, I didn’t have a go-to but was determined to find one. I threw everything that looked good in the freezer aisle into my cart and recruited my family to help taste. My 7-year-old niece whipped up a tasting sheet that rivals our professional ones (at least in style points) and we got down to business.
We were a bit worse for wear by the end but emerged with a unanimous crowd favorite: fried pickles. They were deliciously golden brown and crispy with a nice slash of tang that cut through the richness. Great in a regular oven, they’d be even better in a convection oven or air fryer if you have one. We ate them with blue cheese and ranch dressing. Store-bought was fine, but for the main event itself (Rihanna’s halftime show, naturally), I'm serving them with a homemade buttermilk ranch dressing because she’s worth it and so are we.
—Hannah Crowley, Executive Editor
My niece's tasting sheet (left); the fried pickles were crispy and tangy—our clear winner.
Garlic Naan Buffalo Chicken Flatbread
Buffalo wings are a Super Bowl staple, but sometimes I want buffalo chicken flavor without all prep work. My go-to quick fix is to use Trader Joe's garlic naan to make buffalo chicken flatbread. Inspired by this recipe made with lavash, I use rotisserie or frozen grilled chicken. I sauté the chicken with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper in a nonstick skillet for a few minutes.
Next, I'll stir in this buffalo sauce, which has a sweet tang that pairs nicely with the garlicky naan. I layer the chicken and some Monterey jack cheese over the naan and pop it in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet until the bottom is nice and crispy and the cheese is melted. Once it's out of the oven, I garnish it with baby arugula and a drizzle of ranch. Bon appétit! Quick individual flatbreads made in no time.
—Sawyer Phillips, Assistant Editor
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Spring Rolls with Nước Chấm
I don’t regularly buy premade frozen food, but I might have to start! I recently held a tasting of fish sauce in the office, and we paired nước chấm with frozen basil-and-chicken spring rolls. Although I’ve dipped a toe into frying at home, I hate the clean up, so I appreciate how these delivered crispy, perfectly greasy results without having to wrangle a pot of hot oil—you just bake them in the oven for 20 minutes!
That leaves you plenty of time to focus on the aforementioned dipping sauce, nước chấm. It’s not a bad idea to use a higher-end brand of fish sauce here, as the raw application will let the deeply savory flavors shine. It just gets mixed with water, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chiles.
Do yourself a favor and make a double batch: Having this leftover sauce in the fridge will amp up any meal in seconds. The tart, sweet, umami flavor of the nước chấm will perfectly contrast the meaty spring rolls.
—Sarah Sandler, Assistant Editor
Frozen spring rolls (left) and salty-sweet nước chấm are a match made in snack heaven.
Leveled-Up Frozen Pizza
Not that anyone really needs reminding: While nothing beats homemade pizza, frozen pizza is pretty good too and can be dressed up as much or as little as you like. Maximum convenience, maximum customization.
Start with a plain pie—I like the four-cheese DiGiorno Rising Crust pizza—then add the toppings of your choice. Pepperoni and onion and mushroom? A pie with spinach, feta, and artichoke? Done in 20 with no proofing, shaping, or tricky dough unloading required. Your friend wants a Hawaiian, but you want a meat lovers’ special? Split the pie and everyone wins. For the crispest crust, bake on a baking stone or steel.
—Miye Bromberg, Senior Editor
Frozen pizza (left) taken to the next level with bacon, onion, feta, and escarole.