It can’t be Christmas without a must-have item. And this Christmas, for us at least, that must-have item is Pizza Hut’s Triple Treat Box (listen, we’re in a pandemic; it’s perfectly appropriate to want to eat our feelings for the holidays).
Its sheer volume is impressive enough — two medium one-topping pizzas, five breadsticks and ten Cinnabon Mini Rolls (an unholy fast-food alliance whose road to hell is most certainly paved in trans fat). But its packaging is seemingly an architectural marvel, with each item neatly stacked atop the next (the mini rolls and breadsticks sharing a box) and stuffed inside an even larger gift box, the red hue of which is both conveniently festive and on brand. Better yet, in the ads, the gift box appears to function as some kind of pizza filing cabinet — delicious and organized.
And so, we couldn’t not have it, as well as not taste all that grease for ourselves. Consider it our gift to you.
One Topping Just Isn’t Enough
Ian Lecklitner, Staff Writer: My experience ordering and eating the Triple Treat Box began with a major decision: It comes with two medium one-topping pizzas, and as a supreme devotee, I had no clue what to order. Just meat sounded disgusting. But all veg seemed inadequate. Seeking the variety of a supreme slice, I ordered one with sausage and another with green pepper. I went with the garlic butter blend crust, too, hoping it would boost the flavor of my very plain pizzas.
Despite my initial topping troubles, I have to give it to Pizza Hut for accepting my online order and having a Triple Treat Box at my door within 20 minutes. How they managed to do that, I don’t know. But when the snappy delivery driver handed me my box, the literal weight of my decisions landed upon me, and I just about dropped the cumbersome crate down the stairs leading up to my apartment.
Cracking open my Triple Layer Box, I had a few immediate thoughts: The packaging is impressive, and they clearly thought everything through — the Cinnabon Mini Rolls are on top to avoid pizza drippings, and each box has an extra layer of cardboard on the bottom just in case. My other thought was, the Mini Rolls look a lot more mini than in the picture, but that’s probably for the best.
Upon actually inserting everything into my mouth, I can’t say I was mad about it. The pizza tasted like whatever they serve at laser-tag parties for 10-year-olds, which I liked (though, as anticipated, the green pepper pie severely lacked flavor). The garlic butter blend crust definitely helped, and my girlfriend was a big fan of the breadsticks. All of the Cinnabon Mini Rolls were eaten, too, so they couldn’t have been that bad.
All in all, my biggest complaint about the Triple Treat Box is that, as everything begins to cool down — which happens very quickly — it all becomes hard as a rock. So being able to eat without breaking your jaw really is a race against the clock.
Over a period of 24 hours, I ate almost the entire Triple Treat Box, proving that I’m not a pizza elitist and will never be too good for Pizza Hut. My girlfriend, on the other hand, crawled into bed that night and said, “We should never do that again.”
She’s probably right.
A Very Fraudulent Presentation and Very Real Acid Reflux
Brian VanHooker, Staff Writer: Growing up, I was a Pizza Hut loyalist. Not only did they have the pizza buffet and free personal pan pizzas for book reading, but they also sponsored the immensely creepy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Coming Out of Their Shells tour, which would forever earn Pizza Hut a place in my heart.
In my adulthood, however, I’ve mostly switched to Domino’s for the simple fact that they deliver, and because when I was last at a Pizza Hut two years ago, I was immensely disappointed by the pizza and by how absurdly long it took for me to get it. All of which is to say, I was more than a little skeptical of the Triple Treat Box — a skepticism that proved appropriate when I got my order only to find that it didn’t come in the advertised gift box. They had a display of the gift box inside the restaurant where I picked up my pizzas, but they just handed me three boring-old Pizza Hut boxes.
As far as the pizzas go, they were pretty much what I expected. The breadsticks were the same buttery, crispy delicious breadsticks I enjoyed as a book-reading youth. (I’ve always felt that Pizza Hut’s breadsticks surpass every other fast-food pizza chain, and I continue to stand firm on this.) My pepperoni pan pizza — also my frequent order back in the day — was tasty and glistening with its trademark level of grease. I tried the Backyard BBQ Chicken Pizza as well, which was topped with barbecue sauce, chicken, bacon and onions. I was pleased with its sweet, barbecue-y flavor, and I noticed that the hand-tossed pizza was measurably less greasy than the pan pizzas (though I will note that the pizza lacked the structural integrity to hold its own toppings). I also had the little Cinnabons, which really just made me want an actual Cinnabon because they were so small and weirdly chewy.
I did have a violent case of acid reflux and a bit of indigestion afterwards, but I feel like that’s par for the course with Pizza Hut. The only thing that still bothers me is not getting my damn gift box. Come on Pizza Hut, the Ninja Turtles would want you to be true to your word.
A Greasy Hit of Nostalgia
Lauren Vinopal, Staff Writer: I’ve loved Pizza Hut ever since I’d pretend to read in an effort to win Land Before Time puppets in the late 1990s. Sure, it’s not the best pizza by any means, but it’s among the most edible fast foods out there. And the fluffy pan crust makes me feel like I’m under a red roof, with ill-advised pudding nearby, and that will always be my vibe. So the fact that the Triple Treat Box is essentially a pizza advent calendar designed to be eaten in one sitting only makes me love it more.
After grazing all day and smoking a bunch of weed in preparation, I was even more psyched to find out that I could customize my pies, and that I didn’t have to get the sausage and pepperoni pizzas as pictured in the ad. To cover most of the food groups, I did half veggies, half cheese on one, and half sausage, half pepperoni on the other.
I’ll be honest, I struggled a bit with how the sweet smell of the cinnamon rolls didn’t necessarily overpower the smell of the pizza itself, but formed a combined scent that landed somewhere between a mall food court and airport. Nonetheless, I pressed on, starting with a slice of veggie pizza, my salad if you will, with a breadstick dipped in marinara on the side. The sauce (or gravy) was sweeter than I remembered, but in a good way. I moved onto the cheese slice, which was everything I had hoped for — a little too salty, gooey and capable of maintaining enough warmth to not require a trip to the microwave.
I hit an impasse with the sausage slice, though. This is where my more traditional Italian-American sensibilities came into play. In particular, I strongly believe Italian sausage has to be good, and in fairness, Pizza Hut sausage can never really transcend below average to fine. Thankfully, the pepperoni tasted like the pizza parties, school dances and sleepovers of my youth. Holding a slice while walking around my apartment felt like the kid-equivalent of holding a beer at a bar.
By the time I moved onto the Cinnabon, I was too full to enjoy it, but relieved to have something sweet on-hand to cap off a night of overindulgence. They were about as good as the sausage, but I ate two just to be sure.
Something Broke Out — But It Wasn’t Nostalgia
Joseph Longo, Staff Writer: I should’ve known the Pizza Hut triple-decker box and its allure of a filling, flavorful three-course meal was a charlatan when I willingly traveled 40 minutes by subway to the closest Pizza Hut location near me. I could feel the eyes of usually unobtrusive New Yorkers on me as I carried this red-and-white box on the 3 Train and smelled up the car with a powdery yeast odor.
Finally arriving home, I opened the package to find three pizza boxes stacked atop one another in reverse order: Cinnabon mini rolls on top, sausage and onion pizza in the middle and a plain cheese pizza at the bottom. I hadn’t eaten all day in preparation of the carb-heavy meal, so I immediately filled my plate with a slice of each pizza, a few breadsticks and two Cinnabon rolls.
As a Domino’s and Papa John’s loyalist, I haven’t tasted Pizza Hut in nearly a decade. The last (and quite possibly first) time being when I was with my dad one summer in Benton Harbor, Michigan. I, probably 11 or 12 years old, picked out the restaurant because I liked their big red roof. Bless my dad’s heart for appeasing a precocious child with a big appetite.
I’d like to say the Pizza Hut holiday box sent me on a nostalgia-filled meal of weekends on the shore of Lake Michigan. It didn’t, however. As the youngest brother of a large Chicago family, dinners are defensive. There was little time to ponder the taste of a bite. You had to get as much food on your plate and down your windpipe as possible, or you’d be too late for a second serving. I still eat this way 10 years later. So, no, I don’t really remember the taste of either pizza, Cinnabon rolls or breadsticks.
What I do remember, traumatically, is the large grease stains softening each box. My pores screamed at the sight of what I was about to subject them to. Worse yet, I’m still seeing the negative effects — redness and a few rogue pimples — on my skin a week later. Now, excuse me, while I go put an Ordinary peeling solution.
It’s Not a Revolutionary Pizza Box, It’s a Pizza Tomb
Quinn Myers, Staff Writer: There is, of course, that famous old adage about pizza. It goes more or less like this, “Pizza is like sex. When it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad… it’s still pretty good.” Well, Pizza Hut’s Stupid Holiday Box is here to burn that all down.
I should’ve known that this whole thing was going to go to shit when the box came, and unlike what’s shown in the ads, it was just three normal Pizza Hut boxes stacked on top of each other in a bigger box. You pull them out, and you quickly realize, “Oh, this is just regular old Pizza Hut.” Admittedly, I was very excited that this was going to be more like little pizza drawers in a pizza dresser. But it’s not a pizza dresser with little pizza drawers, it’s a pizza tomb.
I was so pissed by the presentation (or lack thereof) and the mediocre pizza (it essentially tasted like DiGiorno) that I didn’t even try the breadsticks. Fuck those breadsticks. That said, I did enjoy the cinnamon rolls. Or better put, I allowed them to help me swallow my anger.
Don’t Believe What You’ve Heard About the Original Pan®, the Thin ‘N Crispy® Is Where It’s At
Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor: Of all the ways to entice me to eat something, “Here is a big, hot, heavy box of food” isn’t high on the list. Nevertheless, that’s how the Pizza Hut® Triple Treat Box® was presented to me when the delivery guy brought it to my door. I can’t really be snide about it, though, because I’m a sucker for fast-food packaging gimmicks like this. Anything to make massively unhealthy sustenance look more appealing is cool with me.
Since I got to pick two pizzas, I decided to experiment, selecting one Original Pan® and one Thin ‘N Crispy®. Once I started digging into the pizzas, I quickly realized which one is superior. What’s so weird about the Original Pan® is that it’s Pizza Hut®’s default pizza setting. It’s the one the chain is best known for. It’s also the reason why people hate Pizza Hut®, because it’s an awful pizza. It’s like a big sponge made of bread, and it doesn’t matter how many toppings you put on it — and I put a ton — the Original Pan® just tastes fatty and gross. It’s soggy without being wet.
Then there’s the Thin ‘N Crispy®, which is actually really good. Why? Very little bread. Pizza Hut® should consider renaming its flagship pizza Fat ‘N Puffy® to better illustrate the differences between the two styles. But the Thin ‘N Crispy® gave me exactly what I want in fast-food pizza. It’s hot and gooey and has a lot of meat on it. (I ordered extra meat toppings, not realizing that you get charged for each topping after the first one. What kind of “treat” is that, Pizza Hut®?)
Before I go on, let me acknowledge this: The Triple Treat Box® would be a lot worse if it wasn’t warm. Big chains are terrible, but since the pandemic started and I’ve had to order more delivery, I’ve noticed that places like Pizza Hut® are almost scarily efficient in getting your food to you fast. Presumably, the strategy is, “We’ve got to shove our terrible pizza in their mouths as quickly as possible before they think better of doing this to themselves.”
I was able to finish the Thin ‘N Crispy® almost in one sitting, while I put most of the Original Pan® in the fridge to give another try later. (Turns out, it’s a little better as leftovers. But eat it cold rather than reheated — the sponginess isn’t as noticeable that way.) If the bread on the Original Pan® was tough to take, though, there’s no comparison to what I believe are supposed to be breadsticks, which were also included.
When I was placing my order, I decided to get the regular sticks as opposed to splurging on ones with cheese inside of them. Well, I regretted that choice, not because I’m convinced they would have been better with cheese, but because I’m certain they could not have been worse. The breadsticks were absolutely stiff. I tried half of one, hated the experience and never thought about them again. (They come with a thing of marinara sauce. I used that for pizza-dunking.)
And why are they in the same box as the Cinnabon® Mini Rolls? They have absolutely nothing in common, other than the fact that neither are pizza. People love to make fun of Cinnabon®, but the bite-sized rolls are actually pretty yummy. Are they sugary and goopy and almost guaranteed to shorten your lifespan? Oh, definitely. But if you eat mini rolls, they don’t feel as heavy as those monstrosities you find at the mall or the airport. Who says Cinnabon® isn’t concerned about portion control?
My other question is, “How many people is the Pizza Hut® Triple Treat Box® supposed to serve?” It’s too much for one person — at least in one sitting — so I guess it’s meant for a couple, with each lovebird getting his or her own pizza. (You’ll have to share the breadsticks and Cinnabon®, though.) So… is the Pizza Hut® Triple Treat Box® intended to be a date-night treat? Or something you and your platonic roommate can order as a team?
It’s been a hard year, but Pizza Hut® is here to bring the world together during the holidays. Enjoy your big, hot, heavy box, America. And never forget: