The Battle of Pizza Chains: Unveiling the Best Cheese Pizza

Pizza: a universal favorite that comes in countless variations, sparking never-ending debates. From the war between Midwestern deep dish and folded East Coast slices to the arguments over sauce and cheese combinations, regional preferences and brand distinctions make all the difference. But when it comes to national chain brands, which one reigns supreme in the realm of plain cheese pizza?

To settle this question once and for all, a panel of tasters from different corners of the country gathered for a blind taste test. They sampled original pizzas from seven major national chains, evaluating them on their signature pies that gained them nationwide recognition.

The Methodology

To ensure a fair comparison, the pizzas were picked up individually, mimicking the delivery experience. The panelists tasted each pizza three times at different temperatures: warm out of the box for that day-of freshness, cold as “breakfast slices,” and reheated in a convection oven for the fresh-baked experience. This rigorous methodology aimed to account for different preferences and eating styles, providing a comprehensive evaluation across all three scenarios.

Little Caesars

As the famous meme goes, Little Caesars is known for its “hot and ready” promise. However, it fell disappointingly short in this taste test. The crust lacked the rough grains of cornmeal that used to add texture and flavor, leaving it flat and dull. The rubbery consistency and weird aftertaste of the cheese didn’t help its case either. Unfortunately, this national chain’s baseline cheese pizza failed to impress.

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Marco’s Pizza

With hopes high, Marco’s Pizza didn’t live up to expectations. Despite using fresh and never frozen ingredients, the pizza fell short in terms of taste and texture. The crust was soft and chewy, sometimes unevenly cooked. The sauce leaned towards a sweet flavor reminiscent of jarred tomato sauce, and the overall experience was underwhelming.


Domino’s made a bold move in 2008 to revamp its pizza after criticism of its crust and sauce. While the changes improved the overall experience, it still didn’t secure the top spot. The crust had its issues, separating easily and tasting floury. The sauce and cheese offered some sharpness but were not enough to distract from the crust’s letdown. The lack of commitment in the original recipe left the panel feeling that something was missing.

Papa John’s

Papa John’s signature flavor divides opinions. While some found their extra-large hand-tossed pizza satisfying, others were not impressed. The slightly sweet, yeasty crust resembled a hot supermarket bagel. The sauce had a distinctive savory taste, but some felt it was too sweet. The cheese was mild and unremarkable. Inconsistency undermined the defense that regional variations exist, making it challenging to rank Papa John’s at the top.

Costco/Kirkland Food Court

Surprisingly, Costco’s food court pizza stood out among the major chains. Its generous 18-inch size and $9.99 price made it impressive, but it was the quality that set it apart. The hand-stretched dough, covered in a layer of gooey mozzarella and provolone, created a rich and flavorful pizza. The crust improved upon reheat, becoming crispier while maintaining the silky cheese and balanced sauce. Costco’s pizza proved that value and taste can go hand in hand.

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Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut, known for its iconic pan pizzas, delivered on their promise. The thicker crust had a perfect crunch on the surface while remaining soft inside. The buttery and divine aroma added to the overall experience. The cheese and sauce were well-balanced, satisfying even the most critical palates. Pizza Hut’s nostalgic charm combined with its delicious taste earned it high regards among the panelists.

Jet’s Pizza

Jet’s Pizza showcased its signature Detroit-style pie, featuring a crust with cheese spread to the edge of the pan. The abundance of cheese and the perfect balance of all elements made Jet’s Pizza a standout. The crust had a slightly sweet, doughy texture that complemented the moistness and richness of the toppings. The clean-tasting cheese and simple sauce elevated the overall experience. Jet’s Pizza proved that quality and thoughtful crust enhancements can take a pizza to the next level.

The Takeaway

While all national chain pizza options have their merits, the taste test revealed distinct winners. Freshness alone doesn’t guarantee a great pizza experience. It’s the combination of high-quality ingredients, proper proportions, and skilled techniques that make the difference. The standout pizzas shared a common theme: a rich and indulgent bite. Creamy, gooey cheese or a buttery crust provided the ultimate satisfaction. In the end, it’s the commitment to flavor and texture that sets the best chain cheese pizzas apart.

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