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Pizza Hut’s Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza tests the limits of snack food fusion

Illustration for article titled Pizza Hut’s Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza tests the limits of snack food fusion
Photo: Aimee Levitt

There was great curiosity in Takeout land when we learned that Pizza Hut was planning to release a Stuffed Cheez-It pizza. Would the Cheez-Its be scattered across the top, like Doritos on a Quad Cities pizza? Or would they be pulverized and pressed together to form the base, like a graham cracker pie crust?

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Pretty true-to-life, actually
Pretty true-to-life, actually
Photo: Pizza Hut

Then, one morning during our daily video call, we spotted the first official, Pizza Hut-sanctioned photo of this pizza. Kate made some interesting noises. Allison and I were concerned. But she had no words. Instead she sent us a picture of what looked like a dementedly large Cheez-It.

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“This is not a pizza,” Allison said.

“It looks like a toasted ravioli,” I said.

Somehow it was decided that since I was the resident Midwesterner and had, furthermore, lived in St. Louis for several years, I was the expert on toasted ravioli and should be the one to conduct this taste test.

And so it was that early in the afternoon on the day the Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza made its first public appearance, I found myself standing in front of the counter at my local Pizza Hut. Amazingly, there was not a line out the door. In fact, I was the only one there.

“It’s not a pizza,” the guy behind the counter warned me.

But I already knew that.

Unlike a lot of fast food items, the Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza looked just like its promotional photo. Each Stuffed Cheez-It was larger than a regular toasted ravioli, about the size of the palm of my hand. They come four to an order, with a small cup of marinara. This costs $6.49. (On Sept. 24, the Cheez-It Pizza will be added to the $5 N’ Up Lineup and will cost $6 when you buy two or more $5 N’ Up Lineup menu items, per Pizza Hut.)

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The good news is that the exterior crust actually does taste like a Cheez-It. It has that same sharp, artificial cheddar flavor that we know and are so strangely addicted to. The interior tastes like Pizza Hut cheese and pepperoni: slightly plastic, very salty, a little spicy from the pepperoni. (The Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza also comes in plain cheese.)

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At first it was too much: too much salt, too much cheez. Then I dipped it in the marinara, which was the standard Pizza Hut product, watery and very sweet. And somehow that balanced the whole bite. It was the sort of moment that restores my faith in fast food: They know what kind of monsters we are and know how to satisfy our basest urges.

The only true flaw was the crust. The other thing that makes Cheez-Its so compulsively snackable, besides the cheez, is their crunchiness. The contrast between the crust and the cheese is also one of the things that make pizza—and also true toasted ravioli—so great. There was no crunch here. The Stuffed Cheez-It Pizza is too soggy to attain true snack greatness, or to ever rival a well-made toasted ravioli.

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Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

Tried it tonight, was one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. It’s like mixing  those dollar store frozen pizzas with a box of cheez-its, and the employee even admitted that would be a far better experience. I’m used to real food to be fair, but the whole bite just tasted like I wasn’t eating real food. Went out and bought a box of cheez-it’s and put it between string cheese and was far better off.