Which Chain’s Version of Hawaiian is Worth Putting Pineapple on Your Pizza For?January 12, 2018
With the dawn of the new year is the opportunity to make new beginnings—to take risks, to step out of your comfort zone, and to open your mind to the oft-disdained things. Which is why we say: give a chance to pineapple on pizza. In its most popular incarnation, the tropical fruit is combined with ham or bacon to form the classic combination known as Hawaiian pizza: a creation that originated not from its namesake land, but from Canada in the mid-1950’s, as a then-novel way of giving American-style comfort food a Chinese-inspired, sweet-and-sour twist. Today it’s considered a classic, forming part of the quintessential pizza chain flavor lineup—but it’s one notoriously polarizes pizza fans, having elicited the most radical of responses especially in the past year.
It’s an ambitious task to try and resolve the debate ourselves, but the fact of the matter is that pizzas with pineapples exist and has its fair share of fans—including the author, who favors the way the sweet, juicy fruit melds with the saltiness of the ham and the gooeyness of the cheese. But who does it best? We rounded up pies from four popular pizza chains in the country in hopes of finding out—and maybe even convince hardcore pineapple-pizza skeptics in the process.
Note: To narrow down the selection, we chose the Hawaiian (or Ham-and-Pineapple) variants on each chain’s most basic, flagship crust—excluding thin-crust varieties. Two sessions of tastings were held: one for dine-in at their respective stores, immediately as the pizza is served; and another for delivery, reheating the pizzas as necessary.
Pizza Hut – Hawaiian Supreme Pan Pizza
Pizza Hut’s flagship variant is of the pan pizza sort, giving you a crust that’s thick, crisp on the bottom, and soft and bread-y within that it’s a dream to sink the teeth into. It’s showered with a generous amount of mozzarella, which can feel a tad one-note in flavor but melts to pleasure-inducing puddle of goo. The resulting pizza base, in effect, feels redolent with oil, as is evident in its buttery taste and in the grease marks it leaves on your fingers. But you get a good balance of toppings: while their ham—a rubbery contraption with little flavor—leaves a lot to be desired, it’s made up for by the tart tomato sauce, which comes specked with herby and peppery notes. The said sauce is sweetened just a touch; just enough to still highlight the pineapple chunks, which are concentratedly sweet but have a slight smoky char on the edges. All in all, this pie is the quintessential junk-treat sort of pizza—the hefty, gut-busting kind we’d go for when we really feel like pigging out—and as far as its rendition of the Hawaiian combo is concerned, it’s a very classical-tasting one.
Shakey’s – Hawaiian Delight, Hand-Tossed Crust
Bearing a more rustic appearance, Shakey’s stands out from the crust alone—theirs carries a relative complexity in yeasty flavor and great contrast of crisp, charred exterior and chewy, airy interior, similar to Neapolitan-style versions. They do an equally good job on the toppings front: while the ham, as with the other brands’, is still a spongy disappointment (albeit with a degree more firmness and peppery taste that makes it feel slightly more realistic), it’s well balanced out by everything else. There’s the cheese, seemingly of the cheddar sort with a satisfying sharpness; and the tomato sauce, which (though buried under the other toppings) is also geared towards a tangy profile. Notably, the pineapples on their pies taste less sweet and more tangy than the others on the list. As a whole, Shakey’s version errs more toward tangy and salty than sweet, which amazingly wins over even the pineapple-pizza haters on the team.
Domino’s – Hawaiian Classic, Hand-Tossed Crust
While Domino’s branches are a relatively rarer sight in the Metro than the other contenders on the list, they do have their fair share of fans—for good reason. Holding up their take on Hawaiian pizza is a crust that’s crisp and dry on the bottom (“like crusty pan de sal,” according to a taster), yet fluffy and chewy on the inside. Though bland by itself, the crust does the job and comes at a thickness that well supports the generous amount of toppings without taking over. Representing the cheese is ooey-gooey mozzarella that contributes ample milkiness and lick-your-lips saltiness, while the sauce is a sweet-tangy tomato-based number with a welcome peppery zing that really brings out the sweetness of the pineapples. But we found their ham to taste oddly sweet and fatty, with an even spongier, easily-disintegrating consistency compared to the others—and though the other components are great individually, they fail to balance the bad ham out.
Greenwich – Classic Ham & Pineapples, Double
The sole Filipino chain on the list delivers a Hawaiian that toes the line between classic Western-style chain pizza and Filipino-style “pizza pie”. The crust is dry outside, its bottom coated with what seems to be bits of cornmeal; inside, it carries a shorter crumb that still feels soft when warm and bears a salty, doughy flavor. The cheese is standard mozzarella that does the job; and while the sauce is on the sweet side (a member of the team says it tastes distinctly “like Del Monte [brand pizza sauce]” or even “ketchup”), it still has a distinct herby tone that adds aromatic complexity. The ham—a spongy, fatty-tasting contraption—isn’t the best, but it adds the right amount of savoriness to compliment the sweetness of the pineapple. The resulting flavor leans toward sweet—and while we understand this rendition’s appeal, truth be told, it’s our least favorite of the bunch.
The Verdict: Shakey’s
With a pie that features the essential Hawaiian pizza elements, but in a more rustic, not-too-sweet manner, we have to give the award to Shakey’s. It’s the kind of Hawaiian that not only pleases pineapple pizza lovers, but even the non-believers with its restrained application of the said tropical fruit—and its stellar crust makes it an excellent pizza overall, no matter which way you slice it. Domino’s version, also balanced in its own way, would come close if not for the off-putting ham—but it’s still a tasty pie with a peppery profile and decent take of the other components. For a more sinful slice that quells the craving for greasy, cheesy carbs with a hint of fruity sweetness, Pizza Hut’s pan pizza is your best bet. And if you dig a sweeter take (no shame in that), Greenwich makes a great version that combines the best of both Filipino and American chain pizza styles. Either way, give pineapples on pizza a chance, and you might just see why it’s here to stay.