When I got wind of Pizza Hut's new Stuffed Crust Pan Pizza, I knew I had to try it. Problem is that in NYC, we only have Pizza Hut Express locations and the weird combination Pizza Hut–Taco Bells--all with limited menus and staff members who get flustered at any order beyond Personal Pan Pizzas. The Hut does what it does best in the suburbs, and I wanted to give this new pizza a fighting chance at impressing us all. So I turned to Slice correspondent Philip Given (of The Susquehanna Photographic), asking him for his take on the cheesetastic creation. This is his story. --The Mgmt.
"Oh! One thing ... do you think you could do a Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pan Pizza review?" Of COURSE, Adam. As Slice/Serious Eats' resident small town correspondent, I suppose it's my duty to report on the newest disc of cheesy goodness from "America's Favorite Pizza" place--Pizza Hut.
According to Pizza Hut's chief marketing officer, Brian Niccol, "The arrival of Stuffed Crust Pan Pizza is the biggest news to hit our Pan Pizza in nearly three decades... I didn't think it was possible to make our Pan Pizza any better, but with the addition of a ring of melted cheese stuffed deep into the crust, we've created a pizza that hits the jackpot."
Jackpot, eh? Pizza Hut is introducing this pizza at $10.99, including one topping, which ends up being $3 to 4 cheaper than a regular single-topping Pan Pizza. [Loads and loads of gooey, cheesy photos and opinion, after the jump.]
Say what you will about Pizza Hut--they're an evil chain, the pizza is too greasy, blah blah blah--but there is one thing that is pretty much universally accepted to be great: the breadsticks. Just like in the days of our youth, we decided to start the meal off with a basket of the famous sticks. They were everything we remembered them to be: long, golden, crisp, and lightly dusted with Parmesan and oregano. They came out hot with a crunchy outside and soft, fluffy inside. They were complemented perfectly by the bright-red marinara sauce that they came with. Sound like an adult novel yet?
It was just a short wait while we watched the employees set up the buffet until our pizza arrived. As soon as it got to our table, the aroma of the crisp, grease-cupping pepperoni combined with the milky-white cheese and robust sauce was instantly recognizable. Flashing through my head were images of the Book-It Club, Saturday mornings, and four-inch-diameter Personal Pan Pizzas. This was a time in my life before Di Fara, before Motorino, before Neapolitan-this and artisanal-that. A simpler time.
And then I saw it.
It was the signature characteristic of the Stuffed Crust Pan Pizza (SCPP): the cheese ring. An almost disturbingly perfect ring of white, string cheese–like substance.
It was just sitting there on top, as if it were a cheesier version of the Berlin Wall, separating the crust from the rest of the pizza in a standoff to last the ages. Where is the love, cheese ring?
Honestly, if you've had a Pizza Hut Pan Pizza--even if it was when you were in 4th grade--you get the gist of this pizza. And let's be frank in regards to the newest addition to the Hut's classic: It's not a stuffed crust.
A ring of cheese acting like a moat defending a pizza castle? Yes. A stuffed crust? No. All previous incarnations of the Stuffed Crust model at Pizza Hut have consisted of the crust hiding the cheese within its walls. In contrast, the SCPP proudly displays the ring of cheese as if to say "Yep. You gotta get through me first before you enjoy this crust."
All that aside, the cheese was hot and gooey and, like most of Pizza Hut's crusts, best enjoyed when dipped into the remaining marinara.
Pizza Hut, what are you doing? Are you just trying to think of the various weird cheese shapes you can throw on top of your classic pies? There's a reason something becomes a classic: It is time-tested, simple, and good just the way it is.
Most of this pizza was just how we remembered it--fluffy, cheesy, and satisfyingly greasy with a bottom just crisp enough to support the mass above it. The ring of cheese, however, will forever be burned into my mind as an intrusion on the 30-year-old favorite.