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 two 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.
The dipping sauces were priced similarly — 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. The bill at each was $71.93 and $56.75, respectively.
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.
There was a nifty tracker in the Papa John's app that helped us keep tabs on how far out our order was. It took 25 minutes for our order to be delivered, which is what the tracker estimated.
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, 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 and Pizza Hut's Stuffed Garlic Knots.
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.
But it doesn't matter because they were no match for Pizza Hut's exquisite 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 dish from Papa John's wasn't good, because it was.
But the fact that Pizza Hut's were stuffed with melted cheesy goodness gave it a significant edge.
And so Pizza Hut wins the battle of the garlic bread.
On to the main course!
We kept it simple with only pepperoni on both 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 two 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?
So as imperfect as Papa John's pizza was, it wins this round by default since Pizza Hut's pizza was so hard to stomach.
We somehow still had enough room to taste test the next category: the wings.
We ordered Pizza Hut's plain boneless wings and unsauced roasted bone-in wings from Papa John's. And with each dish, we ordered a side sauce: we chose ranch and BBQ 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.
Pizza Hut's wings, however, were a totally different story.
They were the only wings out of the two 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 and Pizza Hut's Ultimate Hershey's Chocolate Chip Cookie.
First up was Papa John's cookie dish, which was rich and 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 winner.
Pizza Hut's Garlic Knots were out-of-this-world delicious.
The pizza from Papa John's, though not perfect, was clearly better than Pizza Hut's.
Papa John's wings reigned supreme.
And Pizza Hut's Ultimate Hershey's Chocolate Chip Cookie took the cake, if you will.
Final count — Pizza Hut: 2 and Papa John's: 2.
So which is the winner of our taste test? That would be Papa John's.
Yes, technically Papa John'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 Papa John's was at least bearable to eat, even the extremely cheesy pizza.
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.
So despite its pizza's cheesy goo, Papa John's wins for its overall quality across each category.