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There’s just something so universal about major fast-food pizza chains like Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa Johns. Each of these brands boasts thousands of locations across the United States, ensuring that pizza lovers everywhere almost always have somewhere to snag a consistently tasty pie. And sure, pizza purists might balk at choosing Pizza Hut, Domino’s, or Papa Johns when there are so many great slice shops around the country, but I’d argue that fast-food pizza is its very own crave-worthy pizza category.
So which of these rival chains offers the absolute best fast-food pies? I recently set out to answer that question by trying and comparing the pepperoni pizzas from all three. I chose pepperoni because it is the most popular pizza topping among Americans in 2023, according to a recent YouGov survey. When scouring social media to find out which pizzas were fan favorites at all three chains, pepperoni was also one of the most frequently praised.
I judged each pizza by the taste, texture, and quantity of its key elements. I wanted the crust to be the perfect combination of soft and crunchy. I wanted a thick layer of well-seasoned, flavorful sauce. I wanted the pepperoni to be plentiful, salty, and a little crispy around the edges. I wanted the cheese to be not too thick and not too thin. Though based on my past experiences with fast-food pizza, I wasn’t expecting to get the Instagram-worthy cheese pull you find with more traditional, authentic pizzas.
Here’s what I thought about each option, ranked from my least favorite to my favorite!
I ordered Domino’s basic pepperoni pizza with a hand-tossed crust, which is garlic-seasoned and boasts a “rich, buttery taste.” A large pie cost me $17.99.
The look: Domino’s pepperoni pizza looked sort of messy, but overall pretty standard. The crust was a nice light golden brown color and the cheese was a little blistered from the oven, which I love. Whoever cut the pizza did it pretty unevenly, so some slices were massive and others were miniscule. The pepperoni coverage was a little uneven, but I could see that the pepperoni slices had developed some deliciously crispy edges during the cooking process.
The taste: I’ve truthfully never had any major issues with Domino’s pizza when I’ve eaten it in the past. But when I got the opportunity to directly compare Domino’s to Pizza Hut and Papa Johns, I knew straightaway that it would be my least favorite. While the crust wasn’t necessarily bad, it was a little too soft and bready for my tastes. The actual sauce also tasted…off. It was weirdly sweet, almost metallic, and didn’t really taste like tomatoes or even pizza sauce for that matter. I did enjoy the salty, rich flavors that the cheese and pepperoni added to the pizza, but Domino’s missed the mark on everything else.
I ordered Papa Johns’ Original Pepperoni Pizza on the classic crust, which is hand-tossed and never frozen. A 16-inch pie cost me $19.
The look: Papa Johns was definitely the most attractive of the bunch. The crust was deeply browned, while the pepperoni was very plentiful and crispy around the edges. The cuts were also a little uneven on this pizza, but not as bad as what I got from Domino’s.
The taste: If I was only judging by the actual flavor, Papa Johns would have won this taste test hands down. The pizza packed a punch of salty, garlicky, and herby flavors that both of the other pizzas lacked. The sauce was a little sweet and well-seasoned, making it a vast improvement over Domino’s sauce. The one area where Papa Johns failed to deliver—and the reason it came in second instead of first—was the crust. I like when pizza crust has a little bit of a bite, but this crust was slightly tough and harder to chew through than the other pizzas. I still think that this is a great option when you’re craving fast-food pizza, but the real winner was a little better in totality.
I ordered Pizza Hut’s Original Pan Pizza with pepperoni. The pan crust is fluffier and slightly thicker than Pizza Hut’s hand-tossed crust. A large pie cost me $19.89.
The look: Pizza Hut was visibly the most pillowy out of all the pizzas I tried thanks to that thick pan crust. The pie had a beautiful ring of golden brown dough around the outside—and I could tell it was well-baked from the heat-blistered cheese. My one complaint was that I would have liked more pepperoni. Pizza Hut put on the fewest slices of all three chains. I counted only 35. Domino’s gave me 40. Papa John’s piled on 60!
The taste: Pizza Hut was always my family’s go-to spot whenever we wanted fast-food pizza, and it tastes just as good to me now as it did when I was younger. Pizza Hut’s pillowy, slightly crispy crust was the best of both worlds between the too-soft Domino’s crust and the too-tough Papa Johns crust. The pizza sauce was sweet and flavorful. The cheese wasn’t too thick or too thin, while the pepperoni slices added the perfect salty, savory flavors and an extra textural bite. While I did think Papa Johns tasted a little better seasoned than Pizza Hut, Pizza Hut was the undeniable winner when taking taste, texture, and that all-important nostalgia into account.
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