We Tried the Most Popular New Fast-Food Pizzas and This Is the Best One
If there's one thing quarantine has been good for, it's creativity. And fast-food pizza chains are no exception—they've been getting creative with their new offerings. As dining areas shuttered and the general public clamored for something—anything—more interesting than their home-cooked dinners, purveyors of pizza stepped up.
By the end of last summer, Domino's led the charge, announcing two new pies being added to the permanent menu after nearly a decade. They may have been the first to tout a pandemic menu addition, but they weren't the last. By the end of the year, Papa John's was promising customers a gooey new epic stuffed crust, and Blaze Pizza was throwing their hat into the cheesy bread ring, too. Before we even had time to wonder what Pizza Hut was cooking up during this 'za renaissance, they started off 2021 with an answer: Detroit-Style Pizza.
So, while there might not be a lot going on in anyone's social life right now, the fast-food pizza world is packed with innovative excitement. I took to the delivery apps to try each of the new menu items. Here's how the pies stacked up in the taste test. For more, check out the 6 Most Anticipated Fast-Food Menu Items Launching This Year.
Papa John's Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza
Cheese and bread is a classic combo that has an inherent power to whet our appetites, so I had high hopes for Papa John's new stuffed crust.
Unfortunately, there was disappointment on both the cheese and the bread front, hence this epic new menu addition's lower ranking. Maybe it's just my unaccustomed palette, but the bread was alarmingly sweet. The sugary, buttery coating, combined with a lack of crispy texture, made the crust taste less like pizza and more like a croissant.
The mozzarella rolled up in that crust was a flavorless, albeit perfectly cylindrical, little slab of tough cheese. No gooeyness to speak of. And, since the crust around it was so potently sweet, the mozzarella just ended up taking on the sweetness instead of holding its own cheesy notes. All in all, the epic stuffed crust tastes like a built-in dessert at the end of your slice.
The only saving grace here? Papa John's hooked me up with complimentary garlic sauce. Even the blandest bread-and-cheese combo gets better when drenched in that oily specialty.
Domino's Chicken Taco Pizza
Domino's seems to follow the cardinal rule: the crust maketh the pizza. The chain has their base component down to a perfect, salty science. With just enough crisp and so much flavor that it literally gets all over your hands, Domino's crust alone already puts the pie miles ahead of most competition.
The chicken taco pizza's signature flavor depends almost entirely on the heavy-handed use of taco seasoning. I was, at first bite, impressed by the inventiveness of this pie. Sandwiched between the cheese and the bread where the red sauce would be, taco seasoning lies as the main flavor-maker. You can smell it before you even begin eating, and after you've finished, the flavor sticks around.
The toppings were a positive! Bits of grilled chicken atop my pizza were robust, moist, and had a much more authentic texture than expected. The veggies—green peppers, onions, and diced tomatoes—added a prominent layer of flavor.
Ultimately, though, this new menu item didn't rank higher for two reasons. First, by the time you've finished a slice, the salty crust combined with the salty taco seasoning ends up being too much (have a glass of water ready.) And second, I was left craving a crucial taco aspect: the crunch. Perhaps fearing the soggy pitfalls of delivery, Domino's doesn't even try to incorporate a crunchy component into this pie.
Pizza Hut's Detroit-Style Pizza
It just might ring true that no one out-pizzas The Hut—their new Detroit-style pizza seems almost unbeatable. In theory. In reality, we stuck it squarely in the middle of this ranking. Why? To account for the good (the boldness, the commitment, the design) and the bad (the flavor, the execution, the design).
Maybe it's due to regional differences, but as a New Yorker my first and final issue with this pizza was the structure. Instead of layering crust-sauce-cheese-toppings, Detroit-style pies layer crust-cheese-toppings-sauce. This inversion looks interesting and honestly tasted good. It just didn't taste like pizza.
Without the sauce-seeping-into-crust phenomenon, this went down like a flavorful cheesy bread that had been doused in marinara. I opted for the pepperoni variation (Pizza Hut promises 80 pieces of pepperoni on each pie!) and was impressed by the new cup-style 'ronis, which add a spicy and crispy texture. With cheese reaching from edge to edge, and oozing down the sides, the corner pieces were indisputably the best ones.
Overall, the Pizza Hut basics are still a little sweet for me. Their crust, while better here than on other offerings, is more sugary than salty, and their sauce definitely has a sweet aftertaste. That said, if you're already a Pizza Hut fan, definitely give this one a try.
Domino's Cheeseburger Pizza
I ordered this newbie alongside the chain's Chicken Taco Pizza, and my first issue was that, in person, the two pies don't look all that different. Once I deduced which pizza was the cheeseburger one, though, my problems ended.
This pie was truly epic when it came to flavor: eyes-closed, you might actually mistake it for a McDonald's cheeseburger. Domino's piled on hamburger beef, sautéed onions, refreshing diced tomatoes, and three kinds of cheese (including American, which is perhaps the most crucial here). The consistency of the slice overall was reminiscent of a cheeseburger, and while the taco pizza was overly salty, this one melded the sweet and salty notes flawlessly.
The real magic, when it came to the cheeseburger 'za, was the base layer. In place of red sauce, Domino's coated the crust in a ketchup-mustard sauce. This sauce was by far the most convincing aspect of the pie—you smell it the moment you open the box, and its flavor permeates the entire slice. Just like any good fast-food cheeseburger, this pizza mostly tastes a lot like ketchup—in the best way.
Blaze Pizza's Cheesy Bread
Blaze Pizza marketed this new offering with the slogan "The best things in life are cheese." While that statement remains up for debate, we can confirm that, at the very least, this cheesy bread is the best new item in the pizza category this year. And yes, I know this isn't an actual pizza, but the quality and flavor of this cheesy bread, made with the chain's pizza dough, beat out all the other pies and had to be included.
Blaze may have had a leg up from the get-go, as their notably high-quality ingredients set them apart from other chains. But with this cheesy—which is quite literally half a pizza—going for under $5, they are more than welcome to play in the fast-food pizza space. The "fast and fired" joint does what other fast-food spots haven't: makes authentic food accessible.
And everything about this new cheesy bread, in particular, is authentic. The crispy, rip-apart dough puts even Domino's crust to shame, and the mozzarella, oregano, and oil toppings ooze off the top. When you break off a piece you can see a layer where the oil seeps into the bread beneath the cheese, and you can smell the fresh-fired realness of the entire half-pie. The new menu item comes with an oversized side of sauce, and is absolutely best when dipped.
For more, check out the 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are.