Don't get me wrong, I have good memories of going to the Hut as a kid, my Book It! coupon in hand, ready to claim my hard-earned personal pan pizza after weeks of tearing through some Ann M. Martin or R.L. Stein. It's because of Pizza Hut that I treated reading like a sport, and I was the LeBron of elementary school literacy.
That being said, it's been literally decades since I ate Pizza Hut, partly because their pizza is basically a very bad quiche, and because they don't allow women in their 30s to participate in the Book It! program, no matter how much you beg. And if the Used To Be A Pizza Hut blog is any indication, I'm not the only one who abandoned the restaurant chain known for its buffet and terrible signature dessert pizza.
But being Pittsburgh's own trash vegetarian, it's my sovereign duty to try every fast food non-meat option that comes down the pike. So of course, I had to break my 20-plus year streak of not eating Pizza Hut to sample their new Beyond pie.
The Hut announced its partnership with Beyond Meat earlier this month, touting itself as the “first national pizza company to bring a plant-based meat pizza to the masses with the nationwide launch of new Beyond Pan Pizzas, the Beyond Italian Sausage Pizza and the Great Beyond Pizza.”
In a press release, David Graves, chief brand officer for Pizza Hut, challenged anyone to tell the difference between real sausage and the [Beyond] product, saying “Beyond Italian Sausage is rich, juicy and has the signature Pizza Hut flavors—pizza lovers everywhere are going to love it.”
Here's the catch, though – I don't like sausage on pizza. I'd always found the topping unwieldy, the little balls of meat sitting precariously on top of the slice, barely anchored down by the cheese. It's a nasty, greasy, impractical alternative to the far superior pepperoni.
So already, I was going into the Beyond pizza with two strikes against it – my dislike of both sausage and Pizza Hut in general.
Opening my delivery box was like a blast from the past. The pizza had not changed one bit from my childhood. The crust, puffy and yet somehow dry. The bottom, a hardened layer of grease. The slices, so perfectly triangular, like the plastic toy pizza you'd get with a play kitchen. The veggies, tasteless and cooked within an inch of their lives. I was 10 years old again and making terrible choices.
If it was not already apparent, the pizza itself was barely edible, and that's coming from someone who has destroyed her fair share of Domino's. “Worse than Domino's?” you gasp. I didn't think it was possible either.
On its own, the Beyond sausage works. It's savory and spicy, with a nice hit of sage. It has the texture of ground-up sausage. Much like other plant-based meat products I've tried, it passes for the real thing, only in this case, the flavor and consistency are quite pleasant. It's a shame it had to come on a Pizza Hut pizza.