Americans adore pizza.
According to a 2014 study by the US Department of Agriculture, about one in eight Americans eat pizza on any given day. That’s a lot of pizza.
Acolytes of the Pizza Big Three are steadfast in their preferences: Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s.
And as discussion of NFL national anthem protests impacting pizza sales drags the Big Three into the fray, the humble pizza slice has never been more politicized.
But the question is, from which chain to order?
We decided to take the matter into our own hands and test the Big Three pizzas head-to-head to see, hands down, who has the best pizza.
Who is crowned the classic-cheese champion, and who snags the supreme-pizza prize? Keep scrolling to see the results.
Our test has three categories: the classic cheese pizza, the supreme pizza, and breadsticks -- the pizza palace essentials.
The smell of mozzarella and tomato fills the room. No matter how disappointing, all pizza is still good, so this will prove tricky. Are any pizzas truly bad?
Papa John's cheese pizza looks great right from the start, with a solid-looking crust and glistening cheese. Of note is Papa John's dipping sauces -- a big plus. In New York City, this large cheese pizza comes out to $US13.99.
The cheese tastes delicious, and I believe their claim of 100% mozzarella. The crust underneath is sturdy but thin, allowing the cheese and sauce to come through. Also, it's surprisingly not that salty.
Next up, Pizza Hut. This pizza looks thick, and the crust is a golden brown. Their large offering costs $US12.99 here.
The crust feels crispy, but it has give -- a tell-tale sign of a good crust. One bite in, and I'm impressed. The crust takes over the taste at first, but it quickly gives way as Pizza Hut's crushed-tomato marinara sauce comes through.
It's a vibrant and fresh tomato flavour, complemented by a strong cheese blend. From the gooey, cheesy start to the salty, crispy, crusty end, this is one good cheese pizza.
The crust is doughy and thick, and a little too spongy for my taste. But the top of the cheese looks browned to perfection.
Admittedly, the crust overwhelms a lot of the flavour at first bite. It's just a thick crust. There's not a lot of sauce, but what's there is delicious. The cheese comes off as a little bland in comparison to the previous choices.
So, who wins the classic cheese round? My money's on Pizza Hut. The cheese is strong and melty, and the tomato sauce is surprisingly flavorful and vibrant -- it tastes fresh. And the crust is by far the best of the three: salty, crispy, and crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside.
Domino's, while not too impressive in the cheese round, pulls out all the stops for its supreme pizza. The 'ExtravaganZZA Feast' pizza -- Domino's version of the supreme -- is heaped with toppings: black olives, green peppers, Italian sausage, beef, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. A large of this beast costs $US18.99.
... clearly, some things fall off. But the potential mess is worth it, as this slice is completely delicious. The toppings work well together, and the pizza is salty enough without going too far. The sausage is slightly spicy as well, which is a nice surprise. This is truly a supreme -- and quite the pizza extravaganza.
Pizza Hut's classic supreme pizza, at $US16.99 for a large, comes with pepperoni, seasoned pork, beef, fresh mushrooms, fresh green bell peppers, and fresh red onions on top of their fantastic sauce.
And while the topping list is long, the actual amount on the pie is a little bit of a letdown. Not a huge disappointment, but in the face of Domino's, it's a tad disheartening.
The cheese seems weak in the midst of the mix, and the veggies seemed a little dry on top of the slice -- maybe ever so slightly overcooked?
Finally, Papa John's supreme, simply called The Works. A large costs $US18.99, and it comes with the signature pepperoncini pepper and dipping sauce for the crust.
The amount of toppings is promising -- not as much as Domino's, but more than Pizza Hut's supreme. The toppings -- pepperoni, Canadian bacon, spicy Italian sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and black olives -- are spread throughout the pizza, on top of the cheese and under it.
The cheese is rich and dense, enveloping much of the toppings. There's almost too much cheese -- and I hesitate to ever say such a thing.
The winner here is Domino's ExtravaganZZA Feast as the ultimate supreme pizza. The huge amount of toppings takes it to the top here, and the quality is hard to beat.
Finally, the breadstick brawl. They're the ultimate in dipping snacks, and each chain has their own distinct twist on the humble breadstick.
Pizza Hut's breadsticks are quite the sight, baked golden brown and dusted with garlic and parmesan. They come with marinara sauce for dipping, which we've already determined is delicious.
But they're baked a little too crispy, with little sponginess or give in the middle. Not even the magic combination of garlic and parmesan with marinara sauce can give back the soft center these gorgeous breadsticks deserve.
Next up: Domino's. Their breadsticks come in something of a bread loaf, brushed with a blend of garlic, Romano cheese and parsley and what I'm assuming is either butter or olive oil. Either way, superb.
Also served with marinara sauce, these are softer than Pizza Hut's, but they lack a certain crispiness.
Finally, Papa John's breadsticks. These look impressive, if only because they look like true baked breadsticks that aren't formed or frozen.
And while they have no fancy-flavour injection or herbal dusting, these simple, crispy yet doughy sticks of bread are perfect. They're bread, plain and simple. And combined with Papa John's arsenal of dipping sauces -- pizza marinara, garlic, and cheese -- the choice is up to you. These take the breadstick title, for sure.
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