[Photographs: Casey Barber]
For bookworms of a certain age, Pizza Hut’s new Big Pizza Sliders will likely elicit flashbacks to the Book It! reading program that was all the rage in elementary schools in the mid-’80s (and apparently still exists, though in modified form). As a voracious reader who earned her share of personal pan pizzas—I think I was up to one a week when the program was going full steam—tearing into one of these even-more-personally-sized pies took me right back to the days of smeary vinyl gingham tablecloths and deep-dish indulgences.
If you’re already a Pizza Hut fan, the sliders aren’t going to take your love of pan pizza to a whole new stratospheric level. If you’re not a fan, these aren’t going to be the Pizza Hut product that changes your mind. The sliders are merely 3 1/2-inch personal pies. They’re not pizza bagels; the disc is flat with no center hole. And they’re certainly not changing the way you eat pizza forever. They’re just small pizzas, folks!
Actually, they’re mostly a thick puck of bread crust with the requisite golden brown, faux-buttery bottom. I’ll admit that the crispy pan edge, slightly oozing with grease, is my favorite part of a Pizza Hut pizza. It’s like “butter flavor” on your movie popcorn: you know it’s not good for you, but the combination of salt, fat, and carbs is too hard to resist.
The sauce is that immediately identifiable salty Pizza Hut sauce, with its melange of garlic and herbs, and the cheese is that congeal-y, gooey-in-a-plastic-kind-of-way Pizza Hut cheese. Nothing revolutionary, no new formulas to be found, and hence, no surprises or disappointments…
…Until we come to the toppings. You can customize each batch of three sliders with up to three toppings, and in the name of science, I went three ways with my 9-piece order ($10): ham and green pepper (my childhood go-to combo), black olive and pineapple (my long-time favorite), and pepperoni, jalapeño, and mushroom, for kicks. But the pathetic smattering of bits across all nine of my sliders—a few sad strips of green pepper, minuscule bits of desiccated mushrooms, scattered ham slices—looked more like afterthoughts than the main event.
My beloved black olive-and-pineapple fared the best of the three, with a healthy, even dusting of both toppings across the batch. Taste-wise, the combinations satisfied when I was able to get a full bite of all the flavors together (the pepperoni and jalapeño in particular being something I’ll return to for a home-cooked pizza). Overall, however, it was an underwhelming showing for what seemed to be the biggest selling point for the sliders.
The most enthusiastic reaction to the pizza came from Harry, my 15-pound porker of a cat, who had previously established a taste for Totino’s Pizza Rolls. Otherwise a gentleman, when Harry sees a piece of food he wants, he lets you know—loudly—that he’s about to stake his claim. Launching onto the chair and sniffing out his prey, he dragged a half-eaten carcass of pizza from the plate to the floor and attacked with gusto. Even if he managed to down a jalapeño during his sneak attack, he had no complaints.
For families with a Pizza Hut preference who are sick of mediating the toppings fight between their picky kids, the sliders will no doubt find favor. But for the love of pete, Pizza Hut, could you be a little less tightfisted with your toppings? The sad showing on these sliders left a bad taste in my mouth. (Not my cat’s, though.)