Pizza Hut has cemented itself as one of the most prominent pizza chains in the world. With over 18,000 restaurants globally, it has become ubiquitous with pizza itself for many consumers.
A heated debate amongst pizza aficionados centers around two of Pizza Hut’s signature styles: the Original Pan Pizza and the Hand Tossed Pizza. While both remain beloved menu items, fans passionately argue over which reigns supreme.
This debate highlights how consumer preferences evolve over time. Pizza Hut strives to respond to shifting tastes by diversifying its pizza offerings. Analyzing the nuances between the Original Pan and Hand Tossed provides insights into the art and science of pizza-making.
What Is Original Pan Pizza?
The Original Pan Pizza launched Pizza Hut’s rise to fame in 1980. Its ingenious panstructured crust set it apart from typical flatbread pizzas. Each Original Pan Pizza gets pressed into a well-greased pan before baking. This gives the crust its distinct:
- Thick, golden-brown exterior that retains a pleasant fried flavor
- Soft, doughy, airy interior with a medium density
- High-edged, pan shape for holding abundant cheese and toppings
The Original Pan Pizza became an instant hit nationwide. Its unique texture and heartiness appealed to many as a crossover between pizza and quiche. Pizza Hut’s popularity boomed among families, youth, and college students. The style evoked a fun, indulgent feel.
By baking the dough in a pan, moisture gets locked in to prevent drying. Oil from the pan further tenderizes the crust for a melt-in-your-mouth experience. Original Pan Pizza’s texture landed a sweet spot between the crispy thin crust and dense deep dish pizza styles also gaining traction in the 1980s.
What Is Hand Tossed Pizza?
In contrast to the distinct pan-baked Original, Hand Tossed Pizza represents authentic, old-world Italian pizza craft. “Hand tossed” refers to the way pizza chefs would manually stretch and shape dough balls by tossing them in the air.
Key attributes of Hand Tossed Pizza include:
- Thinner crust stretched by hand, without baking pans
- Texture is denser, firmer, and crispier than Original Pan
- Outer crust has a noticeable charring with leopard spotting
- Less defined crust edges since it bakes flat
While the pan pizza seemed novel, Hand Tossed Pizza better aligned with traditional Naples-style pizza making. Customers perceived it as a more “authentic” comfort food option. Its crispness and light char appeal to those desiring a classic pizza parlor experience.
Cultural Significance of Pizza Styles
The emergence of signature regional pizza styles stems from cultural influence. Traditional Neapolitan pizza bakeries used wood-fired ovens and simple ingredients of flour, yeast, salt, and water. The fast, high heat of wood ovens enabled pizzas to bake quickly with a soft interior and blackened perimeter.
As Italian immigrants brought pizza across the Atlantic, local twists emerged. New York-style pizza gained favor for its hand-tossed thin crust with just the right degree of chewiness. Deep dish pizza became a Chicago staple for its thick, casserole-like dough filled with abundant layers of cheese and sauce.
Pizza Hut cleverly designed the Original Pan Pizza to align with American tastes. Its dough has higher fat and sugar than Neapolitan dough for increased tenderness. The longer bake in gas convection ovens ensures the center bakes fully without charring. The result caters to American preferences for softer, thicker crust.
Do They Use the Same Dough?
Pizza Hut does not use identical dough recipes for its Original Pan and Hand Tossed pizzas. Since the preparation method varies greatly, the dough formulation itself requires adjustment.
The Original Pan Pizza dough undergoes a relatively short fermentation time compared to Hand Tossed dough. It contains extra fat from oil for greasing the pans and a touch of sugar for enhanced browning. This dough gets pressed into oiled pans, spread to the edges, and partially proofed before topping and baking.
Alternatively, the Hand Tossed dough undergoes a longer fermentation period. It lacks the added fat and sugar since it bakes directly on the oven surface. Hand tossing and stretching the dough enables gases to release slowly. This extended proofing process develops complex flavors in the crust.
Impact of Dough Fermentation on Flavor
Fermentation duration dramatically influences pizza dough flavor. Yeast feed on the natural sugars in dough, producing carbon dioxide gas and alcohol. Gas pockets create the airy, chewy texture. Alcohol and organic acids yield subtle, tangy flavors.
The Original Pan Pizza’s abbreviated fermentation generates just enough gas to aerate the dough. Quick baking traps the gases inside, creating a fluffy texture. But less fermentation means fewer flavor compounds like alcohols develop. So the crust has a milder, simpler taste.
Since Hand Tossed dough proofs more slowly, fermentation generates far more complex flavors. Extra enzymes break down proteins and carbohydrates into sugars, augmenting the food for yeast. This produces a tangier, more sourdough-like flavor with greater depth.
How Are They Made?
Making the Original Pan Pizza involves:
- Mixing water, flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and oil into dough.
- Kneading dough until smooth then allowing to rest and rise briefly.
- Pressing dough into greased pans and proofing for 30-45 minutes.
- Spreading pizza sauce and covering evenly with cheese and toppings.
- Baking at 425°F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Making the Hand Tossed Pizza involves:
- Mixing water, flour, yeast, and salt into dough.
- Kneading thoroughly then allowing dough to proof and ferment for 24-48 hours.
- Hand tossing individual dough balls to stretch and flatten.
- Topping stretched dough with sauce, cheese, and desired toppings.
- Baking at 500°F for 8-10 minutes until the crust blisters and chars.
Cooking Time and Temperature
Oven settings differ significantly based on the dough style. Original Pan Pizza bakes at a lower 425°F since the dough proofs briefly. This slower bake ensures the interior cooks through without burning. Baking takes 15-20 minutes to guarantee proper doneness.
The Hand Tossed Pizza bakes at a blistering 500°F. The quick, high heat mimics the effects of a traditional wood-fired pizza oven. It firms up the exterior creating that signature char while melting and bubbling the cheese. This style only takes 8-10 minutes to bake since the stretched dough is quite thin.
Is There Any Difference in Taste and Crust?
The taste and texture profile indeed varies between the two pizza types:
Original Pan Pizza:
- Crust has tender, pillowy interior with fried, golden brown exterior.
- Subtler yeast flavor with mild sweetness.
- Outer edges resemble deep dish crust with distinct pan shape.
- Oil coats the crust keeping it soft and chewy throughout.
Hand Tossed Pizza:
- Crust is crispier and denser with noticeable charring around the edges.
- Tangy, complex yeasty flavor like sourdough.
- Less defined crust edges since dough gets stretched thinner.
- Exterior crisps up during high-heat baking while interior remains chewy.
Toppings and Sauce Compatibility
Certain toppings and sauce styles pair better with each pizza dough:
Original Pan Pizza:
- Pairs well with sweeter, thicker sauces that bake into the crust.
- Heavy toppings like meatballs and extra cheese suit the thicker crust.
- Vegetables release more liquid to soak into the dough.
Hand Tossed Pizza:
- Tangy tomato sauces complement the zestier crust.
- Lighter toppings like sliced peppers and thinly sliced meats work best.
- Excessive moisture makes the thin crust soggy.
Cheese: Does It Make a Difference?
Cheese choice significantly impacts the eating experience of both pizza types. Pizza Hut uses a proprietary blend of mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, and parmesan for all pizzas. But cheese ratios and preparation vary.
For Original Pan Pizza, a lower moisture shredded cheese gets mixed into the dough during preparation. This essentially bakes the cheese right into the crust! It guarantees excellent melting without waterlogging the pan crust.
The Hand Tossed Pizza showcases cubed whole milk mozzarella. Less cheese gets used to prevent a soggy crust. The quick high heat bake creates the desired meltiness. Whole milk mozzarella offers superior stretching with each bite.
What About The Shape Difference?
The round pan shape of the Original Pan Pizza creates a clear advantage for retaining abundance. The high walls logistically permit loading up the pizza with lots of cheese, sauce, and toppings. Diners can easily pick up a slice for mess-free eating on the go.
The flat shape of the Hand Tossed Pizza makes it more vulnerable to toppings sliding right off. But the thin floppy slices do allow for that satisfactory New York-style fold to trap everything inside. The flat shape also cooks more evenly since no edges get shielded from the oven’s heat.
Ease of Eating and Serving
The portability and shareability of pizza plays a big role in its sustained popularity. In this regard, the Original Pan Pizza again stands out as the winner.
The baked-in rigidity of the pan crust means slices hold their shape intact for easy grabbing and passing around a group. The theater of pulling a slice from the complete pie enhances the fun.
While Hand Tossed Pizza certainly delivers on nostalgia, slicing up a floppy thin crust pizza does take some finesse. Picking up a hot slice with loose toppings requires strategic folds and plate sliding. But families and groups who master the ritual enjoy the communal experience.
Availability and Popularity by Location
Pizza styles echo local tastes. Pizza Hut’s Chicago locations sell the most Original Pan Pizza to satisfy deep dish pizza cravings. Hand Tossed does well on the East Coast where thin, foldable NY-style pizza dominates.
But overall, the Original Pan Pizza edges out Hand Tossed in national popularity and availability. Most Pizza Hut locations sell it exclusively because of its broad appeal. Customers desiring crispier, thinner crust get recommended the Hand Tossed, if available.
Future Trends in Pizza Preferences
Changing lifestyle and diet preferences continue influencing pizza styles. Expect to see more alternative crust options showcasing vegetables or cauliflower. Vegan cheeses will offer plant-based takes on pizza for those avoiding dairy.
Gluten-free and keto-friendly pizzas cater to carb and health-conscious audiences. While specialty pizzas come and go, Pizza Hut’s core offerings will always pay homage to the origins of pizza while continuing to innovate.
Pizza Hut Original Pan Pizza Vs. Hand Tossed: Which Is Better?
The Original Pan and Hand Tossed pizzas shine in different circumstances. Original Pan wins for sheer abundance and fun. The thick, moist crust provides that nostalgic comfort food experience. It thoroughly hits the spot when craving traditional flavors.
For a classic pizza parlour sensation, Hand Tossed takes the trophy. The zingy crust with charred bits oozes authenticity. It delivers on customizability allowing each diner to showcase their ideal toppings. Thin enough for a satisfying fold, it also makes for a lighter, crispier meal.
At the end of the day, Pizza Hut has mastered both styles to appeal to every preference. There’s no wrong choice when it comes to pizza! Allowing personal tastes and each unique occasion to guide the decision promises the highest satisfaction.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do prices compare between pizza types?
Pizza Hut’s menu prices both Original Pan and Hand Tossed 10″ small pizzas at $7.49. The 14″ large comes in at $13.49. Overall, both offer similar value.
Which pizza style is healthier?
The Hand Tossed Pizza contains fewer calories and fat since oil gets added directly to the Original Pan Pizza dough and baking pans. But both share the same basic ingredients. Customizing toppings provides the biggest opportunity to boost nutrition.
Why are Pizza Hut’s pizza styles so consistent nation-wide?
Pizza Hut utilizes meticulous proprietary recipes, employee training procedures, and industrial equipment to ensure uniform results across all locations. This level of quality control garnered success, so altering it risks diminishing a proven formula.
Can I request any crust with any pizza type?
Yes! Diners looking for the ultimate custom pizza can request an Original Pan crust baked with Hand Tossed toppings or vice versa. Pizza Hut aims to fulfill any diner preferences that enhance their enjoyment.
Pizza Hut’s Original Pan and Hand Tossed pizzas represent masterful achievements in translating Italian classics for widespread American enjoyment. Their storied origins and exacting preparation techniques demonstrate true passion for the art of pizza-making.
Hopefully this deep dive provided helpful insights into how minor tweaks result in major differences. From dough recipes, to shaping technique, to bake time, every step contributes to that perfect slice.
What’s your preference when it comes to pizza crusts? Share your special hacks for customizing your pie. The joy of pizza lies in celebrating every style and making each bite your own!
Bobby Kelly is a bartender at Molly Magees, an Irish pub in Mountain View. He’s been working there for two years and has developed a following among the regulars. Bobby is known for his friendly demeanor and great drink specials. He loves interacting with customers and making them feel welcome. When he’s not at work, Bobby enjoys spending time with his friends and family.