This week, I dug into a new — and we’ll see if improved — Original Pan Pizza from the world’s No. 1 pizza twirler, Pizza Hut, with 18,000 restaurants and take-out joints spanning the globe.
The Hut debuted its iconic pan pizza in 1980, and this is the first time they’ve tinkered with the blueprint. So this is big news. You never see McDonald’s messing with its Big Mac, or KFC adding a 12th herb or spice, or Coke saying, maybe it's time we came up with a New Coke. Strike that last one.
Here’s the new Original Pan Pizza breakdown: a thick-ish, buttery, chewy crust topped with a new blend of cheese and new, bolder sauce. Pizza Hut didn’t make a few, barely noticeable changes — it literally blew up its most famous pizza creation. They better not have made a mistake.
Total calories: 370 (for a large slice with pepperoni and mushrooms). Fat grams: 18. Sodium: 680 g. Carbs: 36 g. Dietary fiber: 2 g. Protein: 15 g. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $7.99 for a limited time only if you order online.
Some of the changes are technical, some flavorful. A new pan, which took Pizza Hut three years to develop, produces a crispier crust on the outside, yet retains pan pizza’s trademark chewy texture inside.
The cheese is different and applied differently. For nearly 40 years, Pizza Hut used whole milk mozzarella, and spread it evenly across the pie’s surface. Now the Hut is laying part-skim milk mozzarella, more than before, especially in the middle. That’s so, when you get your piece of the pie (thank you, George Jefferson), there’s a glop of cheese hanging on for dear life. Optics, baby. Gooey cheese looks delicious. The sauce is new, too, a definite upgrade.
Pizza Hut needed to do something to fire up its fan base. Last year, for the first time, Dominos, with 16,000 units worldwide, sold more pizzas than Pizza Hut. That’s not good news, any way you slice it.
Bottom line, is the Hut’s new Original Pan Pizza a true-to-life breakthrough, or just a publicity stunt? Sure, there’s a difference, mainly the crust is crispier, which is important. More cheese is always a good thing.
But here’s all you need to know … it’s still a Pizza Hut pizza, a chain pie. That’s not a dig. We’ve all grown up eating Pizza Hut — it’s still a decent product for a good price, great in a pinch, and the go-to pizza for children’s parties and youth sports celebrations.
Ken Hoffman reviews a new fast food restaurant item every Wednesday. Have a suggestion or a drive-thru favorite? Let Ken know on Twitter.