Food & Drink

The Simple Secret to a Lifetime of Better Pizza

Well-Done Pizza
Sean Cooley/Thrillist

The old trope about pizza and sex is such well-worn territory at this point that I won't even bother repeating it, but I will say this: just because something is generally good, doesn't mean it can't be better.

When it comes to pizza, there's a simple request you can (and should!) make at most garden-variety pizza joints that far too few people realize is available to them: order your pizza well-done.

"Well-done?" you say incredulously. "That's how you order a steak if you hate flavor or if you're the president -- what does it have to do with pizza?"

To put it simply, asking for a standard delivery pizza well-done can often upgrade a run-of-the mill-pie, or an edge-above-average one towards transcendence. The crust gets a little more savory depth. The cheese has more of those delightful browned spots. Basically, the maillard reaction has had a little more time to do its thing, which means more flavor for you at zero extra cost, save for maybe a couple more minutes of waiting time while they cook it up.

I'm a Chicago-area native (calm down, deep dish isn't even a part of this discussion), and a well-done order does particularly wondrous things for your standard square-cut Chicago-style thin crust, browning up the cracker-y crust just a little bit extra and making sure the cheese is in possession of its fullest flavor. One time I forgot to make the well-done request from our family favorite (shout out to Ledo's) and my brother was NOT pleased. It still tasted good -- but it wasn't everything it could have been.

I firmly believe there are pizza lovers out there who stand to benefit from this information.

This approach can also do wonders for your basic chain pizza. Some chains (looking at you, Jet's!) even give you the option to check "well-done" on their online ordering platform. But if not, a simple "well-done, please" in the special instructions field, or requesting it verbally over the phone if you're over 50, will invariably improve your pizza eating experience.

I'm definitely not the first one to trumpet the virtues of this pizza tactic (dare we call it a hack?!). Serious Eats founder and man who's forgotten more about pizza than I'll ever know Ed Levine was making the case for it more than a decade ago. But based on my conversations with friends and colleagues, and the fact that I wasn't really employing this move until a few years ago when I overheard a friend making the request, I firmly believe there are still pizza lovers out there who stand to benefit from this information.

Now, to be clear, I'm not saying you should ALWAYS pull this move. I wouldn't ask for it at some fancy neapolitan joint with a fourth-generation pizzaiolo working the wood-fired oven -- those generally come out more than adequately cooked, and I'd hate to insult Giuseppe! Basically, if it's "special occasion" pizza in one way or another, you probably don't need to drop the special order. But it's a nice tool to have in your kit when it comes to enhancing the kind of "we need to feed a big crowd for under $50 bucks" utility pizza that we'll all consume plenty of in our lifetime.

So next time you're deep into Netflix and desperately need a pizza in 30 minutes or less, try asking for it well-done. Even if it takes 33 minutes to get there, the wait will be worth it.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, get Eatmail for more food coverage, and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Senior food editor Matt Lynch would absolutely try pieces of medium-rare steak on a well-done pizza. Follow him @MLynchChi.