Welcome to In Poor Taste, a column about decadent food trends delivered with the intellectual curiosity of a Michelin critic and the care of a mukbang enthusiast. In today’s debut edition, we’re unpacking the mystery surrounding Pizza Hut’s Mozzarella Poppers Pizza, a pizza with a crust tastefully decorated with fried cheese cubes.
Many of the foods now associated with opulence were once viewed as squalid, only fitting for the poor. Lobster was originally subsistence food fed to prisoners in New England; European settlers were turned off by the abundance of the crustacean and their tendency to quickly rot on shore. Nowadays, Monkfish can be found at fine dining restaurants around the world, though it was once considered akin to garbage. (With a face like that, who can blame ‘em.) Clearly, the food industry is cyclical and complicated, coincidentally the same words I would use to describe a recent culinary innovation: Pizza Hut’s Mozzarella Poppers Pizza. May the rich get into this apparent abomination soon, because based solely on appearance, I’ve found the latest luxury trend.
A few weeks ago, Pizza Hut’s Mozzarella Poppers Pizza was unavoidable, possessing the same sort of temporal ubiquity of Bloomberg ads on your parents’ favorite television channels. (I can’t say this with total confidence, but I personally saw it everywhere. The algorithm knows I am a woman of refined taste.) The concept seemed simple enough: instead of bombarding chain pizza eaters with the faithful “would you like to add XYZ-appetizer” page right before online checkout, they would bake the tasty treats directly into the crust and charge you a couple more dollars. The pizza gets smaller and more expensive, and the customer somehow feels like they walked away with a deal.
Reader, I did.
On a Sunday afternoon after a late night on the town, my boyfriend and I decided to follow our devilish instincts and order the Mozz Pop pizza. We opted for extra cheese and jalapeños. I figured, if we’d boarded the express train to heartburn city, we might as well ensure our autopsies show that some vegetal... something... was consumed. Forty-five minutes and three-fourths of an episode of Succession later, the glorious primo/il secondo hybrid arrived at my doorstep. My immediate thought was that the box weighed more than any pizza box I’ve ever been handed in my life. My second was a sense of relief when I realized they included two customary marinara dipping sauces for each of us to dunk our mozz sticks.
I began by removing a single mozzarella popper. It lifted from its concave crust womb with ease—clearly, it was baked with the rest of the pizza after being squished into soft dough instead of being attached to it. I almost felt guilty for ripping it from its individual indentation in order to destroy it. Guilt was replaced with disappointment after I took a bite to find no cheese pull. It was as if each mozzarella square was encased in ice and presented to me in its panko prison to ensure absolutely no movement. The bite itself was thick and delightful—nutty, fruity, and sweet, like the fake mozzarella di bufala campana I frequently pick up at the dollar store. I assume they’re using the good stuff at a place that claims “no one out-pizzas the hut.”
The pizza sauce was surprisingly peppery—a wonderful way to cut through the creamy cheese—if not understated. The jalapeño was an unnecessary addition, but gave a delightful bite to, well, every bite. Salt, fat, acid and heat were well represented, and I assume that is all anyone could hope for from a dinner food. At least, that is what I have learned from this blog.
About five minutes into the meal, I began to feel nothing, and then heaviness—there was too much cheese, but my refined plate clocked it as possessing an umami flavor—that, or there was so much dairy I was beginning to choke on it. Either way, what a way to go out, you know? Coronavirus is going to come for us anyway.
If I were to give Pizza Hut’s Mozzarella Poppers Pizza a rating, it would be seven out of ten napkins—and ten out of ten naps—because that’s what is required to consume three slices. I aspire to one day get so hungover again I can convince a friend to order this with me once more.