Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's are three of the biggest pizza chains in the US in terms of retail sales.
All three chains are go-to choices for pizza lovers across the US, and the world for that matter.
But which chain offers the tastiest dishes? We set out to decide for ourselves.
We ordered similar items from each store: a medium pepperoni pizza, ...
... a garlic bread side order, ...
... an 8-piece order of wings, ...
... and a chocolate dessert.
The prices for each menu item we tried were similar between the three chains, except for the pizzas. Each pizza was divided into the standard eight slices ...
... and a medium pizza at both Papa John's and Pizza Hut cost about $17, whereas Domino's charged $14.49.
The dipping sauces were priced similarly — Domino's and Papa John's charged 65¢ for each, and each cost 50¢ at Pizza Hut.
We were able to have our orders delivered from Pizza Hut and Papa John's, but not Domino's, which we felt was strange since all three chains were in close proximity to each other. Domino's apparently had a shorter delivery range.
So we ordered carryout at Domino's and went to pick it up from the store.
Because of that, the bill at Domino's was just $42.46 versus $71.93 at Pizza Hut and $56.75 at Papa John's, since there weren't any delivery costs.
But if we had chosen carryout instead of delivery at Pizza Hut or Papa John's, the costs would have been closer to $56 and $47, respectively, so Domino's still would have cost less.
We could still use Domino's handy tracker though — our order was ready in no time. There was also a nifty tracker in the Papa John's app that helped us keep tabs on how far out our order was.
Pizza Hut didn't have a tracker, but it did offer to send tracking updates via text message, which we opted for. Pizza Hut was quick too — we placed our order at 5:58 p.m., received a notification that it was out for delivery at 6:12 p.m., and then met our delivery driver at 6:22 p.m.
Finally, all of our orders were laid out in front of us — and it was time to feast.
First up were the garlic-y side dishes. We ordered Garlic Knots from Papa John's, Pizza Hut's Stuffed Garlic Knots, and Garlic Bread Twists from Domino's.
The Garlic Knots from Papa John's are made with freshly baked dough and seasoned with garlic and parmesan, according to the website. A container of "pizza sauce" was included for dipping.
In a word, they were good. The texture of the bread struck a solid balance of doughy and crunchy, but the pizza dipping sauce wasn't anything too spectacular.
At the other end of the table,the garlic and marinara dipping sauces from Domino's (the Garlic Bread Twists come with one sauce free of charge, but we added another for extra) were winning our hearts over. The marinara specifically was perfectly thick with a hint of rosemary.
In fact, the Domino's marinara sauce was the best sauce out of the three chains' garlic bread sides.
As for the Domino's garlic twists, they were yummy.
But nothing, and we mean nothing, can come close to the perfection that was Pizza Hut's Stuffed Garlic Knots.
The dish comes with 10 garlic knots filled with melted cheese and encrusted with garlic and parmesan.
They were doughy and warm and melted in your mouth. We were fighting over these until the very last one was gone.
It's not that the garlic bread dishes from Domino's or Papa John's weren't good, because they were.
But the fact that Pizza Hut's were stuffed with melted cheesy goodness gave it a significant edge.
Though, in defence of Domino's, the chain does have a Stuffed Cheesy Bread option that we bet would put up more of a fight against Pizza Hut's supreme Stuffed Garlic Knots.
But we chose not to test the Stuffed Cheesy Bread dish since we felt it wouldn't cut it for garlic-bread enthusiasts. Garlic isn't even in the dish's name, and the bread only comes with "a touch of garlic," according to the website.
And so Pizza Hut wins the battle of the garlic bread.
On to the main course!
We kept it simple with only pepperoni on all of our pizzas, since you can't go wrong with the topping.
And as it turns out, many Americans feel that way — more than a third of pizzas sold in the US come adorned with pepperoni.
We took a whirl with Papa John's first.
At first glance, the crust looked fluffy, the pepperoni placement was on point, and the cheese seemed generous ...
... but we soon realized that maybe it was a little too much cheese.
Biting into a Papa John's slice resulted in an overwhelming mouthful of it. The balance of cheese to dough to pepperoni felt off.
Apart from the cheese overload, the pizza was doughy and, for the most part, yummy.
The pizza also came with two dipping sauces: buffalo and garlic, which were both tasty.
And the chain's signature pepperoncini accompaniment was a nice touch.
But overall, we concluded that we weren't jumping at the opportunity to order another Papa John's pizza in the future.
We thought that with Papa John's, we'd already found the loser for this round out of the three chains ...
... but we were very, very wrong.
The crust on our Pizza Hut pizza was lacking in texture, and the flavors in each slice called to mind what one would find at a roadside gas station.
On the flip side of our Papa John's experience, which had way too much cheese, the cheese on our Pizza Hut pizza was extremely slim, which was strange given that Pizza Hut is one of the largest cheese buyers in the world, using over 300 million pounds of cheese annually.
And so we ask: why couldn't more of all that cheese make its way into our pizza?
Finally, we sunk our teeth into Domino's, which was the culinary equivalent of a breath of fresh air.
No overpowering cheesy goo, no emaciated crust — nothing about Domino's pizza reminded us of gas station cuisine.
And the crust was exquisite: fluffy yet crunchy and flawlessly toasted.
Domino's took home the trophy for this round.
Cheers to that!
We somehow still had enough room to taste test the next category: the wings.
We ordered Pizza Hut's plain boneless wings, unsauced roasted bone-in wings from Papa John's, and plain wings from Domino's, which also came bone-in.
And with each dish, we ordered a side sauce: we chose ranch, BBQ, and sweet mango habanero at Domino's, ranch at Papa John's, and buffalo sauce at Pizza Hut. Some came with our wings orders and some cost extra.
Papa John's immediately stuck out for its presentation — the wings were nestled snuggly in its foil wrapping within its cardboard box.
They also tasted superb. They looked like they were a bit fatty, but their roasted flavor made up for it.
The wings category was the closest race out of all four courses. Domino's and Papa John's wings were neck-and-neck ...
... but the reason Domino's wings were better was because of its distinct smoky flavor.
We would absolutely order wings from both Papa John's and Domino's again because both were mouthwateringly tender and delicious, but the wings from Domino's were just slightly more memorable.
What we can say for certainty is just how unappealing Pizza Hut's wings were.
They were the only wings out of the three chains that came without bones, which made them easier to eat, but they were more reminiscent of a frozen aisle bag of chicken nuggets than an order of wings from one of the country's largest pizza makers.
Tried as we might, we couldn't finish all of them.
And last but certainly not least, we turned to our chocolate desserts: the Papa John's Chocolate Chip Cookie, Pizza Hut's Ultimate Hershey's Chocolate Chip Cookie, and the Domino's Marbled Cookie Brownie.
Domino's Marbled Cookie Brownie was the closest thing to a cookie cake that the chain offers.
And it was good, but nothing that stood out against, say, a bag of brownie mix that you could find at the grocery store and make yourself.
The same goes for the Papa John's cookie dish. It was good, but it wasn't anything noteworthy.
What stuck out the most was Pizza Hut's dessert, made with Hershey's chocolate.
Maybe it was the chocolate chip placement, which ensured there were chips both within and on top of the cookie cake, but the cookie was gooey and delicious in every bite.
It was a good way to wrap up our taste test.
In each category, there was a clear winner.
Pizza Hut's Garlic Knots were out-of-this-world delicious.
The Pizza from Domino's blew its competitors out of the water.
The Domino's wings, though closely matched by Papa John's, reigned supreme.
And Pizza Hut's Ultimate Hershey's Chocolate Chip Cookie took the cake, if you will.
Final count — Domino's: 2, Pizza Hut: 2, and Papa John's: 0.
It's easy to declare the outright loser.
The Papa John's wings were good, but everything else was either mediocre or deemed not worth ordering. The pizza, especially, was a huge letdown.
So, sorry Papa John's — third place for you.
But which is the winner of our taste test?
That title belongs to Domino's, and here's why.
Yes, technically Domino's tied with Pizza Hut in the number of wins among the four menu items. But the difference between the two chains is that everything we tried from Domino's was good.
Nothing, even the chain's garlic twists and dessert, which lost out to its competitors, was lacking in quality or proved to be a poor fast food offering.
Pizza Hut, on the other hand, shone brightly in two categories — garlic knots and dessert — but the chain's wings and pizza, which is arguably the most important part, were wildly unsatisfactory.
On top of that, Domino's cost the least out of all three chains, without sacrificing quality.
It's easy to see why Pizza Hut was dethroned by Domino's as the largest pizza seller in the world.