We Tried Pizza Hut’s Updated Pan Pizza to See if it’s Any Good
First, the good news: This isn’t a New Coke situation.
This week it was announced that Pizza Hut -- which has recently mostly trafficked in revivals of old-schoolfan favorites -- had revamped its iconic Original Pan Pizza for the first time in 40 years, effective immediately. The announcement was pretty vague. New crispier crust! New cheese blend! New sauce! New lack of actual descriptions of what’s changing! That last part caused a little concern among Hut loyalists who have been down with OPP for decades.
This is, after all, a pizza that very much defined pizza is for generations upon generations of Americans, especially in pizza deserts where Pizza Hut is a beacon. Consider the untold masses of people whose very picture of a pizza party involved cashing in on the Book It! Program, trading boring literacy for a taste of that buttery, crunchy, greasy personal pan pizza. Did nobody think of the Ninja Turtles when they were tinkering with this carryout icon?
The announcement came in under the radar. Some outlets blurbbed it, regurgitating the details from that mystery release. Pizza Hut isn’t even advertising it on its site as of this writing, instead just offering a delivery deal on the Original Pan. A call to a local store to ask whether it was available was met with a “what crust?,” followed by a long pause, then a “um, yes.”
So I ordered one, since I was already on the phone. Now, I’m no Hut Lover. I'm a Hut shrugger. I’ve had my share of bottom-shelf pizzas, and consider Pizza Hut’s a decent delivery choice, but not my first. Still I ordered an Original Pan only a few weeks ago, consuming it in its natural habitat of a nondescript hotel room in the middle of nowhere. So it was fresh in my memory when I got the new version delivered for lunch.
The verdict is… yup, it's Pizza Hut.
The pizza was remarkably similar to what I had eaten a few weeks ago. There were some subtle differences though. The sauce seemed just a little more acidic, and was dolloped on with a little lighter hand. The cheese was a bit stretchier, and had solid coverage. More importantly, the cheese just seemed better: Generally, I find Pizza Hut’s cheese to be a bit on the grainy side, as if it got some sawdust in the mix (I have the same issue with Domino’s). Here, the cheese was much firmer, saltier, and more texturally pleasing.
The crust is where I detected the biggest difference. According to the Hut, much of this redesign is attributed to some sort of innovation in the pan they’re using. And, yeah, I suppose there was something a little different about the resultant pie. The trademark dense, buttery bottom remained, practically dripping oil and offering up a solid base. But there’s a lighter crunch than before, giving way to a very pillowy center. It was fluffier, but a little raw-tasting. The crisp exterior struck a nice balance with the hard, buttery bottom, coming a little closer to the ideal middle ground between pizza and breadstick.
But here’s the thing: Pizza Hut, more than most chains, can taste slightly different depending on who’s making it, where you got it, and when you ordered. This new pizza tasted like a slightly undercooked, slightly fluffier version of the one I’m used to. That could have been intentional, maybe not. There was cheese that spilled over the crust and caramelized against the pan, and it was the best bite… but it could have been an accident. The sauce was minimal: that could have been happenstance. Or maybe they were all intentional, and this is what Pizza Hut tastes like now. But if you were expecting the Pizza Hut equivalent of the Domino’s overhaul from earlier in the decade -- in which the delivery giant completely revamped its pizza and adopted a slogan that was basically “Hey, we’re not shitty anymore" -- you’re going to be left scratching your head.
The new Pizza Hut Original Pan is a lot like the old Pizza Hut Original Pan. If anything, it tastes like somebody tried to mate Pizza Hut' Original Pan and the Domino’s Handmade Pan Pizza, another recent innovation that also frequently tastes a bit undercooked (pro tip, order either well done). But frankly, if Pizza Hut just decided to gaslight its customers and say something was different while changing nothing, it’d probably work, and internet dummies like me would be trying to figure out distinct ways it tastes different. Point is, this doesn’t taste like an overhaul so much as a subtle tweak. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is largely dependent on your affinity for the chain to begin with. Die hards might notice. For everyone else, it's just Pizza Hut as usual.