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Mar 18, 2014

The Great Pizza Chain Buffalo Wing Off!

Clockwise from the bottom: Domino's, Papa John's, Pizza Hut
Each of the Big Three pizza chains (Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's) has their own version of Buffalo wings so I tried them all to see which one would come out on top (I was pretty sick of wings at the end of all this).

In a fit of hubris or supreme confidence, Pizza Hut volunteered to foot (most) of the bill for the wings.

Let's see what somewhat logical but still completely arbitrary categories I come up with this time...

The prices for the wings were fairly uniform and as follows:

- Pizza Hut - $7 for 8 wings
- Papa John's - $7 for 8 wings
- Domino's - $5.99 for 8 wings if you buy two orders of 8 wings (I went with this option and also got BBQ wings for another comparison to come); otherwise it's $6.99 for 8 wings

P is for Pizza Hut, D for Domino's, and J for Papa John's
I got the Buffalo Burnin' Hot (they also have Medium and Mild) Traditional Bone-in Wings from Pizza Hut, the Hot Wings from Domino's, and the Spicy Buffalo Wings from Papa John's.

Price

By the normal price, the wings cost the same but both Papa John's and Domino's throws in a cup of sauce for dipping for no charge, while Pizza Hut charges you 50 cents if you want one.

If we throw in promotions: Papa John's is still $7 for an order; Domino's is down to $5.99 as long as you buy two; and Pizza Hut just introduced a deal where theirs is $6.

Value's a bit of a wash. You have to buy two to save a buck at Domino's, Pizza Hut is currently slightly cheaper but doesn't include sauce, and Papa John's doesn't offer any deals on their wings.

Size

Domino's wings were by far the largest and meatiest of the bunch. They were definitely heavier as well. Pizza Hut and Papa John's wings were roughly the same size and weight.

Domino's Hot Wings
Domino's wins as far as size goes. It's like they used wings from mutant chickens that could actually fly.

Texture


Pizza Hut's wings were surprisingly crispy! They appeared to be either lightly breaded or not breaded at all and are the only one out of the three that were fried (Domino's and Papa John's are both oven-baked). By the time, I had finished getting all three wings from all three places and taking pictures they were already going from warm to lukewarm, but Pizza Hut's were still crispy. They were even crispy an hour and a half later; not so much a day later though.

The oven doesn't treat Domino's and Papa John's wings very well. Domino's goes with a lot of breading, which was soggy throughout, which made for a fairly thick and mushy sauce-flavored layer to get through before getting to the meat.
Pizza Hut's Burnin' Hot Buffalo Wings
Papa John's was the same experience but with only a layer of soggy skin to contend with, which made it a slight step up from Domino's wings.

I'll go for crispy over soggy any day. Pizza Hut wings win for texture.

Taste

Pizza Hut is the only one of the three chains that offers levels of heat on their Buffalo wings and I went with the spiciest ones they had. There was a good amount of heat to the wing sauce; it made my nose run, but I wasn't sweating nor did my eyes tear up. I did drink a bit of milk though. I would't say they were "burnin' hot" but plenty of heat for most eaters. Heatseekers who carry around their own bottles of hot sauce probably should look else where though.

There's a light Buffalo flavor to the sauce; not much in the way of seasoning but a good amount of tanginess with a touch of sweetness.

The chicken was moist, juicy, and flavorful. It was the only one that felt recently cooked and not reheated. Domino's chicken in particular wasn't heated all the way to the bone (on account of the size I'm guessing) and while meaty didn't have as much flavor. Papa John's chicken was heated through (but smaller) and had a nice flavor as well.

Papa John's Spicy Buffalo Wings
Papa John's Buffalo sauce was super tangy, lightly seasoned, and graced with medium kick; not enough to make make the nose run but good for a little bit of tongue burning.

Domino's hot Buffalo sauce was barely hot and the mildest of the three. It seemed less tangy than the other two until I tried just the sauce by itself. Apparently, the added skin and breading tempers the sauce a lot because it was sour on its own.

In terms of sauce, they weren't so different that I have a strong preference for any particular sauce. Obviously, if you're looking for something decently spicy, Pizza Hut is it, but otherwise it's pretty hard to screw up cayenne peppers and vinegar.

The chicken though, I would say Pizza Hut, Papa John's and Domino's in that order from top to bottom.

Overall

When you think about it, crispy fried wings are going to win over soggy over-baked ones, so it's not much of a surprise that Pizza Hut has the best Buffalo wings out of the Big Three pizza chains. I can't vouch for their crispy or boneless wings though because I remember trying Pizza Hut's boneless wings (on a side note, I think my spicy tolerance has gone up since then) and they were just as soggy as Domino's and Papa John's. If you're going to go oven-baked, try and ask for the sauce on the side for the best chance at some crunchiness.

I also tried and compared each chain's barbecue wings but I'll save that for tomorrow...


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